Friday, January 25, 2019

Eye on Iran: U.S. Sanctions Hit Iran-Backed Airlines, Fighters In Syria

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The United States on Thursday targeted two Iran-backed foreign fighter militias in Syria and two airlines that help send weapons to Syria in fresh sanctions as Washington prepares for a military withdrawal from the war-torn country. All four groups are linked to Iran's Mahan Air and Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, both of which are already blacklisted, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. 

Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi spoke on Channel 4 TV in Iran on Tuesday and revealed Iran bought spare parts to replace the items it seemed to destroy during the steps made to ensure a deal with the West, MEMRI reported. "We told no one but the top man of the regime [Khamenei]," he said, "when our team was in the midst of the negotiations, we knew that [the Westerners] would ultimately renege on their promises."

South Korea imported no Iranian crude oil for the fourth month in a row in December, S&P Global Platts reports, citing information from Korea National Oil Corp. During that month, one of the world's top oil importers increased its intake of crude from Kazakhstan and the United States. Iranian oil exports to South Korea for full-2018 dived by more than 60 percent to 58.2 million barrels, according to the Korea National Oil Corp. data, from 147.87 million barrels a year earlier.


In mid-January, Iran launched satellite into orbit. The launch took place at Imam Khomeini Space Center. The two-hundred-pound satellite, called Payam (message in Farsi), was designed and produced at Tehran's Amirkabir University of Technology. According to Telecommunications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, the rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the "necessary speed" in the third stage of its launch. Iranian scientists will analyze this failed attempt and will try again. 

Ahead of next month's international meeting in Poland to discuss threats to the stability of the Middle East, The Financial Times is reporting that Germany, France, and the UK are seeking to shore up support for the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. And yet, according to a recent Reuters report, Iran appears to be doing all it can to alienate these champions of the deal.


The European Commission said it's seeking to launch "very soon" a special purpose vehicle to help European companies bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran, with three European diplomats saying the official unveiling could come as early as Monday. Progress has been slow in developing the SPV, a key element of the European Union's effort to keep Iran from quitting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 accord to constrain the nation's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. 

The Treasury Department added two private airline companies to its sanctions blacklist on Thursday for allegedly aiding Iran, including ferrying weapons from Tehran into Syria. The move, which also targets an Iran-backed militia composed of foreign fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan, underscores the role regional actors play in the Syria conflict and evasion of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

France has announced that a European-backed system to enable non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent US sanctions will finally be set up in the coming days. Will the EU's so-called special purpose vehicle (SPV) be a game-changer in the nuclear and sanctions standoffs between Iran and the US? The EU's concept of the SPV was to help match sanctioned Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods, an effective barter arrangement. When the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May and snapped various sanctions back on Iran in recent months, the Islamic Republic threatened to leave the deal as well.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran has proved one of the most consequential events in the history of modern terrorism. The revolution led to a surge in Iranian-backed terrorism that continues, albeit in quite different forms, to this day. Less noticed, but equally significant, the revolution provoked a response by Saudi Arabia and various Sunni militant groups that set the stage for the rise in Sunni jihadism. Finally, the revolution sparked fundamental changes in American counterterrorism institutions and attitudes.


Women's rights defenders in Iran will continue their fight against the forced wearing of the hijab this year despite a "sinister crackdown" by authorities in 2018 in which dozens were arrested, activists said on Thursday. Iranian women took to the streets holding their hijabs aloft in protests at the strict dress code that quickly spread on social media last year, leading to a "bitter backlash" by authorities, Amnesty International said in a statement.

Amnesty International said Thursday Iran arrested more than 7,000 people last year in what it called a "shameless campaign of repression" as the US released an American anchorwoman for Iranian state television held for days as a material witness. While Iranian officials and state media have widely condemned the arrest of Marzieh Hashemi of the broadcaster's English-language channel Press TV, the figures released by Amnesty highlight the widespread campaign of arrest and harassment those in the media face in the Islamic Republic.


An American detained in Iran in July 2018 is being investigated on possible security charges, an Iranian prosecutor was quoted as saying on Friday, in a case that could further strain turbulent relations between Iran and the United States. Ties between Tehran and Washington took a turn for the worse following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last May to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

A prominent American-born anchorwoman for Iran's state television says she believes the U.S. government jailed her because of her work as journalist and her beliefs, and as a warning to her to "watch your step." Marzieh Hashemi spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday, a day after being released from custody. She was not charged with a crime but was detained for 10 days as a material witness in a grand jury investigation in Washington. Details of the investigation are under seal, and Hashemi said she could not provide details.

Two brazen political assassinations are proof of Iran's disregard for human rights and international law. While President Donald Trump may have his critics, his hard-line sanctions are the only kind of political message Tehran can understand. One evening in November 2017, as Ahmad Mola Nissi returned to his home in The Hague, an assassin gunned him down in front of his door.


Iranian military leaders declared Thursday the Islamic Republic would launch a "massive" set of drills that will include the regime's Army's Ground Force and 12,000 "combat and mobile forces" - and the war games are intended to send a message to Iran's "enemies." According to the semi-official site Fars News, the drills will start Friday.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's administration is hanging high hopes on this Saturday to see whether its bid to join the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) goes through, as it faces a serious pushback from the country's most conservative echelons. Committees at the cleric-led country's Expediency Discernment Council oppose the anti-corruption bill, despite its approval by parliament. 


Political advisers in the country, currently busy promoting Knesset candidates, would give anything for someone to love their clients the way the Israeli media loves its chiefs of staff. The series of blows exchanged between Israel and Iran in Syria earlier this week was described by one newspaper as a resounding Israeli victory, and by another as a brilliant ambush that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, set for his adversary, the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

An Iranian official on Thursday expressed "anger" at Russia's failure to activate the S-300 air defense system deployed in Syria during a recent Israeli airstrike near Damascus. Head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh told IRNA there was serious criticism in Tehran for not activating Russia's S-300 during the Israeli attacks. He said if the system had operated correctly, the Israelis would not have attacked Syria that easily.


The Arab Coalition in Yemen said on Thursday that Houthis have been blocking the passage of four aid ships since 34 days. The ships heading towards the Hodeidah port carry oil and food aid, said the Coalition, stressing on the fact that preventing the ships from unloading will affect the lives of the Yemeni people.


Amidst a backdrop of accusations against Iran of attempting assassinations in Europe, a former Iranian ambassador has caused an uproar by calling those charges hard to deny and suggesting the possibility that they could be at the hands of rogue agents. During a Jan. 22 interview with ISNA, Ali Majedi - a former ambassador to Germany recently forced to retire due to an Iranian law barring the employment of those who are technically retired for senior positions...

As the international community marks the 38th anniversary of the Ayatollah's rise of revolutionary regime, the persistent key question is whether Iran's regional and global security challenges - ranging from terrorism to nuclear ambitions - will continue to persist for the remainder of the 21st century. Make no mistake. The short answer is potentially yes if the current unfolding Teheran's intentions, capabilities, and actions are any guidance.


The US has issued an emergency cyber security directive in response to an ongoing attack attributed to Iran-linked hackers striking during the government shutdown. Prompted by disagreements over President Donald Trump's $5.6bn (£4bn) budget request for a border wall with Mexico, the shutdown has now stretched into its 34th day and become the longest in US history. As no budget has been passed, many federal employees have been furloughed from their jobs, left unpaid and effectively ordered to not come into work, including those who maintain the security of IT systems.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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