Bahman 6 1399 - January 25 2021
Iran Hawks Begin Effort To Undermine Joe Biden's Diplomacy

President Joe Biden and his top foreign policy aides have promised to move carefully to achieve one of his main diplomatic goals: restoring the 2015 international agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program, which former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from in 2018. Iran hawks like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are determined to quickly stymie Biden's plans. -Akbar Shahid Ahmed, Huffington Post 1/25/21

Sanctions, visas, and the pandemic: One Iranian student's bumpy path to SF State

Visa interviews at consulates surrounding Iran - which has no United States embassy of its own - are hard to come by during the pandemic, but Hasti Jafari Jozani managed to nab one in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in October, in a process that required her to quarantine there for two weeks. So when her visa was granted to study at San Francisco State University this spring, after she had already deferred fall admission and a prestigious scholarship, she jumped with joy. -Ida Mojadad, San Francisco Examiner 1/25/21

How the US and Europe can show restraint in the Middle East

As the Biden administration sets out its views on foreign policy, including relations with Europe and the Middle East, the European Parliament adopted its annual report on EU common foreign and security policy. While the document duly reflects the panoply of liberal internationalist themes, from a need to counter Russian and Chinese disinformation and to bolster cybersecurity and climate diplomacy, European lawmakers took some noteworthy positions on the Middle East. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 1/25/21

Spiralling poverty in Iran adds to pressure on regime

This time last year, Mohammad could still just about afford fruit and chicken for his three children. But as US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the economy and spurred inflation - almost tripling the price of fresh fruit - the unemployed 47-year-old and his family survive on bread, potatoes and eggs and only then because he has received state "bonuses", sold some home appliances and dipped into his savings. -Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times 1/25/21

Iran's Oil Sector is Breaking Out

In August 2019, Mike Pompeo took something of a victory lap. Speaking to MSNBC, he declared that the Trump administration had "managed to take almost 2.7 million barrels of [Iranian] crude oil off of the market."... Today it is Iran's Oil Minister Zanganeh who is taking a victory lap. He told reporters last week that Iran's oil exports are "much better than many assume," and the oil ministry has announced that it would begin ramping-up oil production. -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Bourse & Bazaar 1/25/21

Iran seeks clarification from Indonesia on seizure of its tanker

Iran requested more information from the Indonesian government on Monday on the seizure of one of its fuel tankers accused of illegally transferring oil. Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran had heard "contradictory" details about the seizure of its MT Horse vessel on Sunday and is seeking clarification from Jakarta. 1/25/21

Petition to U.S. President Joe Biden: End Sanctions on Iran

In violation of legal bans on collective punishment, U.S. sanctions on Iran harm ordinary people, not the Iranian government. These crippling sanctions have robbed the people of their livelihood, violating individuals' right to health, making the Coronavirus pandemic more lethal, and causing unnecessary suffering and death. Many members of the U.S. Congress have expressed their urgent concern. -Action Network 1/22/21

Toward an Inclusive Security Arrangement in the Persian Gulf

The incoming Biden administration's hint that it will seek an inclusive security dialogue in the Persian Gulf is a welcome first step toward shifting the burden of security to the regional states themselves. For such an effort to be successful, the United States should play a supporting role while urging regional states to take the lead. -Trita Parsi, Quincy Institute 1/22/21

These Photos Capture What Life's Been Like in Iran Under Trump's Sanctions

As Donald Trump's term as president ends, people around the world are anticipating what the incoming administration of President Joe Biden means for them. Nowhere is that more true than in Iran, where 80 million people have been labouring under the reality of economic sanctions for years. -Mohammed Rasool, Vice 1/22/21

The effect of US sanctions on Iran was global - and a global effort must end them

For nearly three years, the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has hung precariously in the balance. The Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, arguing that a policy of economic coercion, dubbed "maximum pressure", would deliver an improved agreement. But all it achieved was the hollowing out of the existing one. Europe, which has played a key role in preventing the JCPOA's total collapse, now must seize the opportunity to help revive and even strengthen it. -Ali Vaez, Guardian 1/22/21

Iran, pressured by blackouts and pollution, targets Bitcoin

Iran's capital and major cities plunged into darkness in recent weeks as rolling outages left millions without electricity for hours. Traffic lights died. Offices went dark. Online classes stopped. With toxic smog blanketing Tehran skies and the country buckling under the pandemic and other mounting crises, social media has been rife with speculation. Soon, fingers pointed at an unlikely culprit: Bitcoin. -AP 1/22/21

Making New friends: Meet an Iranian

The United States and Iran have spent decades in a tumultuous relationship, including: US overthrowing their elected leader in 1953, Iranian revolution with American hostage-taking, sanctions, diplomatic breakthroughs and a nuclear treaty, US exiting the treaty, coupled with the start of yet more sanctions. President Biden hopes to re-enter the nuclear treaty with Iran, which was working well, according to all international arms inspection organizations. -David Powell, Counterpunch 1/22/21

Amid crippling sanctions, Iran traders seek lifeline in Iraq

Piles of plush carpets line the floors of a northern Iraq shopping center hosting traders from neighboring Iran who hope the spangle of their ornate handicrafts might offer a lifeline out of poverty. In their own country, the economy is in tatters amid crippling U.S. sanctions. -AP 1/22/21

Iranians demand a COVID-19 vaccine, not politics, from their leaders

When Iran's supreme leader banned U.S. and other Western-made COVID-19 vaccines this month, he did so even as his country's pandemic death toll nears 60,000 and its total caseload surpasses 1.3 million, making it one of the Middle East's worst-hit country and the 16th-most afflicted nation in the world. Khamenei's decision has sparked outrage, with a group of opposition politicians and activists insisting that a decision on the quality of available vaccines "should be the sole domain of the country's experts" -Los Angeles Times 1/21/21

Joy, Relief, and Healing as Biden Ends Trump's Racist Muslim Ban in Day One Executive Order

Muslim, African, and Arab Americans, and people around the world Wednesday celebrated President Joe Biden's rescinding of the racist Trump-era travel ban that mostly targeted immigrants and visitors from Muslim countries. The lifting of the so-called Muslim ban was one of numerous executive actions taken by Biden shortly after his inauguration and fufills a campaign promise he made to end the prohibition on "day one" of his administration. -Common Dreams 1/21/21

Iran's Rial Strengthens on Trump Exit and Prospect of U.S. Thaw

Iran's currency strengthened to a five-month high against the dollar as Joe Biden prepared to take office with a plan to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and provide sanctions relief for the Islamic Republic. The value of the U.S. dollar on Iran's unregulated, open market was down to 228,000 rials on Wednesday -- giving the beleaguered rial a 17% gain against the greenback since Jan. 6, according to currency trading website Bonbast.com. -Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg 1/21/21

World leaders hail 'new dawn' under Biden as Chinese media says 'good riddance'

World leaders have voiced relief at Joe Biden's inauguration, with European officials hailing a "new dawn" for US relations, and Chinese state media saying "good riddance" to Donald Trump, but there were also warnings that the world had changed after four years of Donald Trump's presidency. -Guardian 1/21/21

Israel and Saudi Arabia set to push Biden away from the Iran nuclear deal

Israel has been working closely with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that are concerned that Biden will do as he has promised and re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, based on a return by both Iran and the United States to full compliance with the 2015 agreement. The anti-Iran coalition led by Israel and Saudi Arabia is determined to convince Biden to use the sanctions that the Trump administration imposed to squeeze more concessions out of Iran... -Mitchell Plitnick, Responsible Statecraft 1/21/21

White House says Biden will be discussing Iran with foreign partners

he United States seeks to lengthen and strengthen the nuclear constraints on Iran through diplomacy and the issue will be part of President Joe Biden's early talks with foreign counterparts and allies, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. -Reuters 1/21/21

"Suffering" Iranian Retirees Joining Nationwide Protests Against Chronic State Failures

On January 10, 2021, Iranian retirees gathered in front of government buildings in at least 19 cities including-Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Yazd-to protest the government's lack of response to their demands. The protesters, who receive retirement checks from the State Welfare Organization's (SWO) pension fund, chanted slogans against state policies and officials at well-organized rallies. -CHRI 1/21/21

Iran's Rouhani hopes Biden will return to Obama-era nuclear deal as he dubs Trump a 'tyrant'

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has called on United States President-elect, Joe Biden, to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions imposed on Tehran by Donald Trump's administration. Speaking at a televised cabinet meeting Wednesday, Rouhani said the ball was "in the US court now." -CNN 1/20/21

Iran's telecom minister appears before prosecutor

Iran's judiciary released the country's telecom minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on bail Wednesday after he was summoned for prosecution by Iran's general prosecutor, state TV reported. The office of the general prosecutor had summoned Jahromi for prosecution over his refusal to block Instagram and other foreign social media messaging systems, according to earlier reports. It was unclear how much bail money Jahromi posted or when he might have to appear again. -AP 1/20/21

Boston-based political scientist accused of acting as an unregistered agent of Iran

A Boston-based political scientist and author has been arrested and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Iranian government. Federal prosecutors said Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, 63, was to make an initial appearance in US District Court in Massachusetts Tuesday after his arrest one day earlier at his home in Watertown on charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and acting as a foreign agent without registration. -CNN 1/20/21

Iran imposes symbolic sanctions on President Trump

Iran on Tuesday imposed sanctions on President Donald Trump and a number of members of his administration over their alleged role in support of "terrorism," according to its foreign ministry website. Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that besides Trump, sanctions were imposed on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, CIA chief Gina Haspel and six other ranking U.S. officials. -AP 1/20/21

Iran holds fifth military drill in two weeks amid tension with US

Iran's army has conducted another drill along the country's southern coasts days after the United States flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Middle East. In what is the fifth military show of force in two weeks, the army's ground forces held land, air, and sea war games along the coast of Makran and the Sea of Oman. -Al Jazeera 1/19/21

Analysis: Saudi overtures to wary Biden team driven by worries over Iran, economy

After months out of the global spotlight, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has swept back to centre stage with eye-catching diplomatic and economic moves aimed at showing the new U.S. president he is a valuable partner who can get things done. -Reuters 1/19/21

Biden Names Iran, Ukraine Veterans To Top State Department Posts

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Wendy Sherman, the country's lead negotiator of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, to be the No. 2 official at the State Department. Sherman was the lead U.S. negotiator in talks that led to the agreement between Tehran and world powers under which Tehran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions. 1/18/21

B-52 US bombers fly over Middle East; Iran condemns intimidation

The United States again flew B-52 bombers over the Middle East with Iran responding it should spend its military budget on healthcare for Americans rather than intimidation tactics. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Sunday the "presence patrols" were flown "as a key part of CENTCOM's defensive posture". -Al Jazeera 1/18/21

Iran's Zarif tells France: Avoid 'absurd nonsense' about Tehran's nuclear work

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday dismissed a claim by France that Tehran was in the process of building up its nuclear weapons, calling it "absurd nonsense". "Dear colleague: You kick-started your cabinet career with arms sales to Saudi war criminals. Avoid absurd nonsense about Iran," Zarif said in a Twitter post, in which he tagged his French counterpart @JY_LeDrian. 1/18/21

Iran jails U.S. businessman, possibly jeopardizing Biden's plans for diplomacy with Tehran

Only weeks after the U.S. election and three days after an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, Iranian authorities convicted a U.S. businessman on spying charges, a family friend said. The man, Emad Shargi, 56, who is Iranian American, was summoned to a Tehran court Nov. 30 and told that he had been convicted of espionage without a trial and sentenced to 10 years, a family friend said. -CNBC 1/18/21

No time for softballs: 10 questions we want to Tony Blinken to answer

2. The Obama administration achieved the JCPOA, but little time existed to move beyond that to address America's other challenges with Iran in the region. If the nuclear deal is revived through compliance-for-compliance, and if add-on agreements successfully address remaining challenges, will your administration seek a new relationship with Tehran, perhaps even normalization? -Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Responsible Statecraft 1/18/21

Iran asks watchdog not to publish 'unnecessary' nuke details

Iran urged the United Nations' nuclear watchdog to avoid publishing "unnecessary" details on Tehran's nuclear program, state TV reported Sunday, a day after Germany, France and Britain said Tehran has "no credible civilian use" for its development of uranium metal. The report quoted a statement from Iran's nuclear department that asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to avoid publishing details on Iran's nuclear program that may cause confusion. -AP 1/18/21

Iran Deems Signal 'Criminal Content,' Removes From Local App Stores

Iran has ordered the removal of the private encrypted messengering application Signal from local application stores after it reportedly was deemed "criminal content" by the Islamic republic's filtering committee. Iranian media reported on January 14 that local app stores Cafebazaar and Myketappstore confirmed the removal of the Signal app. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 1/18/21

Iranian government submits 'violence against women' bill to parliament

The Iranian government has submitted a long-awaited bill for the protection of women against violence to the parliament. The bill titled, Protection, Dignity, and Security of Women against Violence, had been under review since September 2019. It criminalizes any act or behavior that causes "physical or mental harm" to women "as a vulnerable gender". 1/15/21

Germany To Iran: Don't Waste Chance For Rapprochement With U.S.

At a panel convened to discuss the state of the Iran nuclear deal, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Iran to take advantage of the opportunity presented by a new American presidential administration to re-enter diplomatic talks over its nuclear program. Maas' overture comes as the virtual panel brought together leaders and diplomats from many of the countries still committed to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). -Gabriel Gluskin-Braun, Organization for World Peace 1/15/21

Iran's capital suffocating amid blame game over pollution

For nearly a month, residents of the Iranian capital have been exposed to record-high air pollution amid the government's confusing explanations and failure to work out a solution. -Al Monitor 1/15/21

Iranian Guard drones in drill mirror those in Saudi attacks

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Friday that saw "suicide drones" crash into targets and explode, triangle-shaped aircraft that strongly resembled those used in a 2019 attack in Saudi Arabia that temporarily cut the kingdom's oil production by half. -AP 1/15/21

What's behind the significant build-up of US firepower in Persian Gulf

The last few weeks have seen a sharp build-up of American combat power in Persian Gulf. Already home to the formidable 5th Fleet - based in Bahrain - the US Navy recently sent a powerful Ohio-class submarine, the USS Georgia, escorted by two guided-missile cruisers - the USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea - through the Strait of Hormuz into Persian Gulf. -Alex Gatopoulos, Al Jazeera 1/15/21

The last days of Pompeo: secretary of state lashes out as reign comes to an end

The finale of Mike Pompeo's reign at the state department has been as controversial and clamorous as the rest of his 32-month tenure, but it is unclear what traces will remain after he has gone. The last days of Pompeo have been played out in a blizzard of self-congratulatory tweets, at the rate of two dozen a day, as he seeks to write his own first draft of history. -Julian Borger, Guardian 1/15/21

Iran Films One Of America's Most Powerful Submarines Lurking Near Its Military Exercise

A video has emerged that reportedly shows an Iranian Navy Sea King helicopter flying over what looks to be a U.S. Navy Ohio class guided-missile submarine sailing a periscope depth somewhere in the North Arabian Sea This very likely the USS Georgia, which made an unusually public transit into the Persian Gulf, sending a clear signal to Iran, last month. -The Drive 1/15/21

A Malevolent Decision That Will Kill Countless Yemenis

The Foreign Policy report characterizes this as a "victory" for Pompeo's "anti-Iran strategy," but like all other so-called Pompeo victories this one is empty and comes at a high price in the blood and suffering of innocent people. Designating the Houthis doesn't hurt Iran in the slightest, but it will kill countless innocent Yemeni civilians as outside aid and trade are cut off. We know from other sanctions regimes that it is the sick, the poor, children, and the elderly that suffer most from these policies. -Daniel Larison, American Conservative 1/14/21

Iran works on uranium metal for reactor fuel

Iran has started work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog and Tehran said on Wednesday, in the latest breach of its nuclear deal with six significant powers as the country presses for a lifting of US sanctions. -Al Jazeera 1/14/21

Iran's Navy cruise missiles successfully hit targets during drill

Additionally during the drill, the domestically-made Fateh (Conqueror) submarine for the first time fired torpedoes that struck their targets, the commander said. Drones, he added, were also used on different reconnaissance and combat missions during the exercise. -Press TV 1/14/21

Angering Many, Daughter Of Iran's Ex-President Says A Second Trump Term Could Have Helped Iran

The daughter of one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran has raised a ruckus in Tehran by saying she would have preferred a second term for U.S. President Donald Trump. Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Iran's former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, says she supported the Trump administration's campaign of so-called "maximum pressure" against the clerical establishment in Tehran. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 1/14/21

Swedish trial paves the way for accountability for Iran's human rights violations

On November 9, 2019, an Iranian national arrived in Sweden and was arrested by local authorities for his suspected involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in Iran during the summer of 1988. The arrest has the potential to become the first step towards accountability for an event that is often described as one of the darkest chapters in the history of the forty-one-year-old Islamic Republic. -Aida Samani, Atlantic Council 1/14/21

Pompeo trashes counterterrorism on the way out

To achieve a trifecta of abuse of the terrorism issue, Pompeo has picked this same week to foment a misbelief that Iran and Al-Qaeda are, in Pompeo's words, an "axis" and "partners in terrorism." If this sounds a lot like an earlier supposed partnership between Al-Qaeda and another Middle Eastern state starting with the letter "I" - as well as an earlier "axis of evil" - it should. The Iranian regime, Shia and Persian, is no more of a partner with Al-Qaeda than was the secular regime of Saddam Hussein. -Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft 1/13/21

Bitcoin, Blackouts and Smog Are Exacerbating Iran's Virus Woes

Cities across Iran have been cloaked in thick layers of toxic smog and darkened by blackouts, as the alleged use of low-quality fuel and power-sucking cryptocurrency mining deepen the country's hardships. Tehran's Hamshahri newspaper, the country's most-read daily, ran the headline, "20 Days Living in Smoke," on Wednesday over a photo of the capital covered in smog. -Golnar Motevalli and Arsalan Shahla, Bloomberg 1/13/21

Russia Slams US Claims About Iran Becoming 'Safe Haven' for al-Qaeda as Baseless

Washington's claims about Iran becoming a "safe haven" for al-Qaeda are baseless, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zamir Kabulov said in a statement on Wednesday. "It seems that Mr Pompeo, at the end [of Donald Trump's presidency], wants to do something else to hurt Iran. But this is absolutely unsubstantiated and unreasonable. There is absolutely no information", Kabulov said when asked if Moscow had any info about Tehran's possible links to al-Qaeda. -Sputnik 1/13/21

Khamenei's Ban On Western Vaccines Blasted As A 'Politicization' Of Iranians' Well-Being

Despite a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 56,000 Iranians, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned Western coronavirus vaccines, claiming they're untrustworthy. "The import of American and British vaccines is banned," Khamenei said on January 8. The surprise announcement was met with anger by Iranians who have in past weeks called on their government to purchase safe vaccines as soon as possible. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 1/13/21

Iran unveils its largest military vessel during missile drill

Iran's navy has officially inducted the country's largest military vessel into its fleet during a maritime missile drill in Sea of Oman at a time of heightened tensions with the United States over its nuclear programme. The indigenously-made forward base ship IRIS Makran, which is said to be able to carry up to five helicopters, joined the fleet with another ship that is capable of firing missiles. -Al Jazeera 1/13/21

Israel Wants to Derail Biden's Plan to Rejoin Iran Nuclear Deal

Israel is already plotting how to derail one of Joe Biden's signature foreign-policy promises. The high-profile campaign that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waged against the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran failed to block the 2015 agreement. Officials are now weighing whether that sort of public crusade or behind-the-scenes engagement will be the most effective strategy with Biden, a senior Israeli official said, emphasizing that no decision has been made. -Bloomberg 1/13/21

'Better Chance Finding a Unicorn': Pompeo Claims It is Impossible to Normalise Relations With Iran

The Trump administration abandoned the hard-negotiated Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and re-introduced hefty sanctions against Tehran, threatening to punish any country for continuing to do business with the Islamic Republic. Washington's policy was heavily criticised by other signatories to the deal and led to Iran ramping up its uranium enrichment. -Tim Korso, Sputnik 1/13/21

How the Mad King can burn it all down

A likely scenario is a conflict with Iran, initiated by either side. Trump could order a limited strike on the underground enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz. Such strike packages are known to be included in STRATCOM's nuclear war plan (OPLAN 8010-12), likely delivered by missiles and bombers on one to two dozen targets. These weapons could destroy underground facilities that conventional bombs cannot easily reach. In this case, tens of thousands, not billions, would die. -Joe Cirincione, Responsible Statecraft 1/13/21

'Going Back to the Cheney Playbook': Fears of War Grow as Pompeo Plans to Accuse Iran of Ties to Al Qaeda

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reportedly planning to accuse Iran of links to Al Qaeda in a speech Tuesday, an allegation critics described as a rehashing of a Bush administration lie that served as part of the rationale for the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003. -Jake Johnson, Common Dreams 1/12/21

Iran-Iraq Annual Trade To Reach 20 Billion Dollars

Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian, who is the head of the Iran-Iraq Join Economic Committee, said on Tuesday that the two countries' annual trade is going to be increased to $20 billion. Ardakanian made the remarks in the opening ceremony of the two countries' fourth Joint Economic Committee meeting in Tehran, which he co-chaired with the Iraqi Trade Minister Alla Ahmed Al-Jubouri 1/12/21

GOP Sen. Susan Collins thought the mostly white pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was 'the Iranians' at first

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a new op-ed said she initially thought "the Iranians" were attacking when a mostly white, pro-Trump mob descended upon the Capitol on January 6. -John Haltiwanger , Business Insider 1/12/21

EU warns Iran enrichment moves could imperil nuclear deal

The official supervising the agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions is warning that Tehran's decision to ramp up uranium enrichment could undermine efforts to keep the deal alive amid diplomatic efforts to bring the United States back on board. -AP 1/12/21

I was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic and can't stop thinking about sanctions against Iran

After studying how U.S. sanctions have wreaked havoc on the Iranian people and working with diplomats in Europe, rather unsuccessfully, to lessen the damage, I can attest to the fact that Iran's public health emergency began long before the pandemic. It is no secret, as international media has been riddled with horrific stories about cancer patients and others in Iran dying preventable deaths over the last few years because the healthcare system has been strangled by onerous U.S. sanctions. -Sahil Shah, Responsible Statecraft 1/11/21

Cuban Researchers To Test COVID-19 Vaccine In Iran

A Cuban state-run research institute says it has signed a deal with Iran's Pasteur Institute to test the Caribbean state's most advanced COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Iran. The Finlay Vaccine Institute's (IFV) January 9 announcement came one day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned any import of U.S.- or U.K.-produced vaccines, which he called "untrustworthy," to stop the coronavirus. 1/11/21

William Burns, Joe Biden's CIA Pick, Condemned Donald Trump's 'Aggressive' Iran Policy

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate veteran diplomat William J. Burns to be the next Director of the CIA, succeeding agency Director Gina Haspel. A press release sent out Monday by the Biden transition team said Burns will bring "a deep understanding of the threats we face and tireless dedication to protecting the American people," and will-if confirmed-be "the first career diplomat to serve as CIA Director." -Newsweek 1/11/21

Iran tells South Korea not to politicise seized vessel, demands release of funds

Iran said on Sunday that South Korea should avoid politicising the seizure of its vessel by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf, Iranian state media reported, while pressing Seoul to release $7 billion in funds frozen amid U.S. sanctions. Iran has denied allegations that the seizure of the tanker and its 20-member crew amounted to hostage taking, and said it was Seoul that was holding Iran's funds "hostage". -Reuters 1/11/21

Iran's Khamenei Bans Imports Of U.S., British Coronavirus Vaccines Due To 'Trust' Issues

Iran, the country worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, has reported more than 1.2 million COVID-19 cases, with nearly 56,000 deaths. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced a ban on imports of U.S. and British coronavirus vaccines, saying he does not "trust" the two countries. 1/8/21

Iran's Revolutionary Guards unveils underground missile base on Persian Gulf shores

Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami, has unveiled one of the strategic underground missile cities that the country has built all along its southern Persian Gulf coast. "Our logic is to defend the territorial integrity and independence of the country and the achievements of the Islamic Revolution," Salami said during a ceremony on Friday, with Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the IRGC Navy, and a number of high-ranking Iranian military figures in attendance 1/8/21

Experts urge swift return to Iran nuclear deal

A group of more than 50 international relations and Middle East experts have signed onto a letter urging President-elect Joe Biden to swiftly return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. President Donald Trump had broken with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, replacing it with an economic and military pressure campaign aimed at the Iranian government. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 1/8/21

Donald Trump's parting gift to the world? Signs suggest it may be war with Iran

President Trump's incitement of criminal mob violence and occupation of the Capitol makes clear there is no limitation whatever on the abuse of power he may commit in the next two weeks he remains in office. Outrageous as his incendiary performance was on Wednesday, I fear he may incite something far more dangerous in the next few days: his long-desired war with Iran. -Daniel Ellsberg, Guardian 1/8/21

How an assassination led to a wave of Iranian nationalism and a downed airliner

In the early morning hours of January 8, 2020, I was boarding a plane at the Tehran airport to return to Europe after participating in "Tehran Dialogues," an international conference organized by Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On an otherwise deserted tarmac, I saw a lonely aircraft belonging to Ukrainian Airlines parked at the terminal. Shortly before boarding, I learned that Iranian security forces had launched a series of strikes on an American base in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the charismatic and influential Iranian commander of Al-Quds, the elite force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 1/8/21

A year on, questions haunt Iran's downing of Ukrainian plane

When Navaz Ebrahim learned that a Ukrainian plane had fallen from the sky near Iran's capital, she didn't realize her older sister was on the flight. They had just spoken on the phone. Niloufar had promised her, like she always does, that everything was going to be alright. -AP 1/8/21

Iran's Rouhani demands justice for downed plane victims

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said those involved in last year's missile attack that brought down a Ukraine passenger plane outside Tehran should face justice. "There is no doubt that the judiciary will prosecute all the perpetrators," Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting Jan. -Al Monitor 1/7/21

Photos: Second day of Iran Army's drone drill

The Iranian Army held the second day of its large-scale drill, involving combat unmanned aerial vehicles. Hundreds of domestically-manufactured drones practiced combat missions during the two-day exercise. -Mehr 1/7/21

European powers say Iran enrichment move puts new diplomacy with U.S. at risk

Britain, France and Germany warned Iran on Wednesday that its decision to restart uranium enrichment at 20 percent risked undermining hopes of reviving diplomacy when a new United States administration takes over later in January. Tehran said earlier this week it was pressing ahead with 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal. -Reuters 1/7/21

Iraq issues arrest warrant for Trump over Soleimani killing

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for outgoing President Donald Trump in connection with the killing of an Iranian general and a powerful Iraqi militia leader last year, Iraq's judiciary said. The warrant was issued by a judge in Baghdad's investigative court tasked with probing the Washington-directed drone strike that killed Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the court's media office said. They were killed outside the capital's airport last January. -AP 1/7/21

Advancing developer freedom: GitHub is fully available in Iran

All developers should be free to use GitHub, no matter where they live. At the same time, GitHub respects and abides by US law, which means government sanctions have limited our ability to provide developers in some countries the full range of GitHub services. Today we are announcing a breakthrough: we have secured a license from the US government to offer GitHub to developers in Iran. -Nat Friedman, GitHub Blog 1/6/21

Factbox-Countries where Iranian oil and gas revenues are blocked

Iran has been unable to obtain tens of billions of dollars of its assets in foreign banks, mainly from exports of oil and gas, due to U.S. sanctions on its banking and energy sectors. -Iran has repeatedly asked the countries for access to the blocked revenues, even offering barter deals. But its efforts, including attempts to buy humanitarian goods and medicine which are exempt from U.S. sanctions, have mostly failed. -Reuters 1/6/21

In Pictures: Iran's military holds first-ever drone drill

Iran shows off locally made drones one year after a US drone assassinated its top general. Iran's military on Tuesday kicked off its first-ever drill for locally made unmanned aerial vehicles. Hundreds of drones were showcased and tested as part of a two-day event held in the northern province of Semnan. -Al Jazeera 1/6/21

Arab states agree to end three-year boycott of Qatar

A three-year boycott of Qatar by four other Middle Eastern countries that disfigured Gulf cooperation and raised concerns in the west about a strengthened regional role for Iran and Turkey has come to a stuttering close. -Guardian 1/6/21

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