Week of December 1 - 8
AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Research Fellow Shiva Darian and Research Associate Bryan Falcone. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.
U.S. - Iran Relations
CIA Director Sent Warning To Iran Over Threatened U.S. Interests In Iraq
The CIA director said on Saturday he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the US would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on US interests in Iraq.
Mike Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran and was this week reported to be under consideration to become secretary of state, said he sent the letter to Gen Qassem Soleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general did not read it.
“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might, in fact, threaten US interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. “He refused to open the letter – didn’t break my heart, to be honest with you. (The Guardian)
U.S. Rex Tillerson Vows To Hold Iran To The Nuclear Deal
The US secretary of state says pressure will continue to be applied to Iran over its commitments to the nuclear deal as the US Congress mulls over whether to re-apply economic sanctions on Tehran.
Rex Tillerson's statement - made in Brussels on Tuesday as part of a joint address with Frederica Mogherini, the European Union's high representative - came after President Donald Trump's October decision to "decertify" the 2015 agreement, which prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.
Trump has described the landmark nuclear agreement involving Iran and world powers as "one of the worst deals I've ever seen". "We discussed ... our joint efforts under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] to hold Iran fully compliant with the terms of that deal and fully enforce that agreement," said Tillerson. (Al Jazeera)
Hungary's Economic Presence In Iran Growing
Hungary’s economic presence in Iran is expanding, the Hungarian daily Politics quoted Economy Minister Mihaly Varga as saying. The Iranian government has expressed interest in boosting bilateral ties in the fields of finance, energy, mining, and food, he said after talks with Iranian ministers in Tehran.
Iran’s Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari has identified potential areas of cooperation as medical equipment, food, and paper industries.
Senior Iranian and Hungarian officials signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage and support investment by the two countries’ private sectors. The MoU was signed by Iranian Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian and Varga in Tehran on Monday afternoon. (Financial Tribune)
Iran Opens $1 Billion Extension At Closest Port To Indian Ocean
Iran opened on Sunday a $1 billion extension of its southeastern Chabahar port which Tehran hopes will help the country become a key transit route to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia, competing with a nearby Pakistani port.
President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the expansion, carried out with an investment of $1 billion including $235 million from India, which has more than tripled the port’s capacity to 8.5 million tonnes a year, state television reported.
India has committed $500 million to the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman which is Iran’s closest to the Indian Ocean and would allow it to bypass rival Pakistan. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the U.S. administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran. (Reuters)
Madrid To Guarantee Spanish Investments In Iran
Spanish Secretary of State for Trade Maria Luisa Poncela said Madrid will guarantee all investments by that country's investors in Iran.
"The Spanish government has announced that it will cover export and investment in Iran under the insurance guarantee, regardless of any restrictions, in order to protect the Spanish companies to participate in the Iranian market and investing in various infrastructure sectors.
Therefore, the Spanish investors will not be concerned about this," she was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency in a meeting with Iranian Deputy Industries, Mining and Trade Minister Mojtaba Khosrotaj in Madrid on Tuesday. (Financial Tribune)
Boris Johnson To Visit Iran To Secure Charity Worker's Release
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson is expected to visit Iran this weekend, intensifying a diplomatic drive to secure the release of a British-Iranian woman detained for 20 months.
Mr. Johnson is calling for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker who is said to be close to a nervous breakdown, to be released on humanitarian grounds.Last month he was forced to apologize after saying she had been “teaching people journalism” when she was arrested.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said she was in fact on holiday. Please use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles. The British government had sought to keep Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case out of the headlines since her detention. But the domestic political furor, combined with news reports on Iranian state media, turned it into a key priority for the foreign secretary. (The Financial Times)
Syria War: U.N. Rebukes Russia And Iran Over Evacuations
The UN's humanitarian coordinator for Syria has rebuked Russia and Iran for not doing more to give aid agencies access to a besieged rebel enclave.
Jan Egeland told the BBC the failure to persuade the Syrian government, their ally, to allow desperately ill children to be evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta showed "complete impotence".
Another two civilians died this week while waiting for permission to leave. Some 400,000 people are trapped in the area, which is just outside Damascus. Dozens of civilians are also reported to have been killed in air and artillery attacks by government forces in the past month, though a ceasefire is now in place. (BBC)
Iran-Sponsored Hackers Have Targeted Israel, Saudis, Turkey Since 2014
Hackers linked to the Iranian government have conducted a long-term cyberespionage operation against government and industry in Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, according to FireEye, a cybersecurity firm.
In a new report, FireEye says the operation by the group it dubs APT34 is "largely focused on reconnaissance efforts to benefit Iranian nation-state interests and has been operational since at least 2014."
The mostly Middle Eastern targets include government agencies and private industries, including financial, energy, chemical, and telecommunications sectors, the company says. FireEye bases its assessment that APT34 works on behalf of the Iranian government on clues that include references to Iran, the use of Iranian infrastructure and targeting that aligns with Iran's interests. (NBC)
Yemen Rebel Missiles Fired At Saudi Arabia Appear Iranian - U.N.
Remnants of four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran, a confidential report by United Nations sanctions monitors said, bolstering a push by the United States to punish the Tehran government.
The independent panel of U.N. monitors, in a Nov. 24 report to the Security Council seen by Reuters on Thursday, said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles, which were likely shipped to the Houthis in violation of a targeted U.N. arms embargo imposed in April 2015.
Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Iran of supplying Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Tehran accountable for violating two U.N. Security Council resolutions. (Reuters)
Obsession With Iran Is Driving the Mideast and the U.S. Crazy
By: Thomas L. Friedman
If there is a common denominator explaining so many recent events in the Middle East - actions by Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Syria, Israel, and Yemen - it can be expressed in one word: Iran.
Everyone has Iran's growing power and influence in the region on the mind - including Iran - and that obsession is making a lot of people crazy.
For instance, the Trump administration, like Barack Obama's, actually wants to get away from the Middle East - as much as possible. Saudi Arabia, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as M.B.S., wants to get ahead in the Middle East and reform his economy for the 21st century - while curtailing as much Iranian influence in the region as possible.