• Iran Urges EU To Press Washington On Airbus Deliveries: ISNA | Reuters
Iran called on the European Union on Monday to press U.S. authorities to allow delivery of Airbus passenger aircraft purchased by Tehran, Iran’s student news agency ISNA reported. To upgrade its aging fleet, Iran Air ordered 200 passenger aircraft – 100 from Airbus, 80 from Boeing and 20 from Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR – after a 2015 nuclear deal was reached between Iran and six major powers.
• UN Condemns ‘Severe’ Human Rights Violations In Iran | Associated Press
The UN General Assembly on Monday approved a resolution urging Iran to stop its widespread use of arbitrary detention and expressing serious concern at its “alarmingly high” use of the death penalty. The Canadian-drafted resolution was adopted by a vote of 84 to 30 with 67 abstentions. The resolution “strongly urges” Iran to eliminate discrimination against women in law and practice and expresses “serious concern about ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”
• ‘Israel Urged U.S. To Pressure Lebanon To Help Destroy Hezbollah Tunnels’ | The Jerusalem Post
Israel asked the United States for assistance in destroying Hezbollah-dug attack tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border, according to Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. The report said that Israel had asked the Trump Administration to pressure the Lebanese Army into cooperating with UNIFIL in Lebanon, to locate and destroy Hezbollah’s attack tunnels, while Israel carries out its Operation Northern Shield on the Israeli side of the border.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
• Khamenei’s Man Asks When Is Europe Going To Help Iran | Radio Farda
A former Iranian nuclear official and a confidant of Iran’s Supreme Leader has attacked the policy of relying on Europe to help Iran in trade, essentially circumventing U.S. sanctions. Saeed Jalili, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the influential Expediency Discerning Council (EDC) said, “After seven long months, are the Western Europeans going to run the SPV and save the [nuclear] deal or not?” Jalili was referring to a mechanism designed by EU to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive after Washington dropped it last May.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
• Chilean Prosecutors Allege Possible Iranian Oil Link To Intoxications | Reuters
Chilean law enforcement officials are investigating the delivery of Iranian crude oil to the state energy company ENAP as a possible source of the noxious fumes that caused hundreds of people to seek hospital treatment in August, the prosecutor’s office told Reuters. Police and prosecutors raided ENAP’s oil refinery and maritime port in Hualpen and Talcahuano, two adjoining towns 315 miles south of Santiago, early on Monday morning, ENAP confirmed.
• Iran Claims Its Oil Revenues Surged Despite Sanctions | Oil Price
Iran’s revenues from crude oil and oil products surged by 55 percent between March and October, the first seven months of the Iranian year, compared to the same period of the previous year, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday, quoting data from the Central Bank of Iran. Between March and October, Iran’s oil exports revenues were helped by high volumes of exports early in the period-with Iran’s oil exports at record in April and May, and later on with the high oil prices in the late summer and early fall.
• The Harvard-Educated Woman Helping Lead Iran’s Sanctions Fight | Financial Times
In Iran’s hierarchical political system, it is rare to see an outsider granted a senior position. That is why the Islamic republic’s newest weapon in its battle with US president Donald Trump is so unusual. Laya Joneydi, a 50-year-old academic, is a woman with no ties to conventional politicians and no personal stories from Iran’s revolutionary years. But as Iran’s vice-president for legal affairs she has already secured a rare if symbolic victory over the US on the global stage.
• Why Iran’s Positive OPEC Spin Won’t Last | Tim Daiss For Oil Price
In recent months, it’s been difficult to hear any positive statements coming from Iran’s troubled oil sector, particularly since President Trump decided in May to reinstate tough sanctions over what he sees as Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord it reached with the U.S. and other western powers. However, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh praised OPEC on Saturday over what he claimed was the oil-producing cartel’s ability to reach an oil output agreement despite intense internal political differences.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
• Iran’s ‘Corruption Courts’ Fuel Surge In Executions | Washington Times
The embattled Iranian government is increasingly resorting to the most severe punishment – execution – as it tries to tamp down a wave of financial crimes amid an economic downturn fueled in part by tough U.S. sanctions, according to activists and human rights groups. Newly formed “corruption courts” have overseen high-profile executions, including the hanging of a notorious smuggler whom Tehran’s police labeled the “Sultan of Coins” and his alleged accomplice.
• British-Iranian Dual Citizen To Ask For ‘Conditional Release’ | Radio Farda
The lawyer of an Iranian-British dual citizen imprisoned in Iran told the official news agency IRNA that his client will ask for conditional release from jail. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in April 2016, while visiting her family. She was convicted on an ambiguous charge of “sedition” and sentenced to five years in prison.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
• Iran President’s Son-In-Law Resigns After Nepotism Claims | AFP
Iran President Hassan Rouhani’s son-in-law resigned on Monday just two days after his appointment as head of Iran’s geological survey sparked accusations of nepotism, official news agency IRNA reported. Kambiz Mehdizadeh, in his early thirties and reportedly married to Rouhani’s daughter in a low-key wedding this August, was appointed to the senior position in the industries and mining ministry on Saturday. The move sparked criticism on social media and from some lawmakers.
• Report: Iran Government Control Over Security Getting Increasingly Weak | Al Arabiya
As Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s health waivers, the central government’s control over the periphery appears increasingly weak, a news report has claimed. According to the National Interest report, there are ample signs that Iranian security forces are beginning to lose their grip. The report cites the history of political protests in the country and also lists the various uprisings over the years.
• The Reason Why Iran Won’t Become An Energy Superpower | Omid Kalehsar For The National
In recent years, the Turkmen government has refused to toe the line of the United States and Europe, continuing gas sales to Iran, despite misunderstandings over costs affecting the economic relations of both countries. These issues must be ironed out once and for all if any increase in ties is to be realized at a time when Iran desperately needs allies in the region. According to 2017 figures, the volume of trade between Iran and Turkmenistan has already grown to a value of $1.7 billion. Mahmoud Vazei, the Iranian president’s chief of staff, has set out the goal of pushing this to an overall value of $60 billion.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
• Israel Takes Tunnel Op To World Stage Before Potential Use Of Unprecedented Force In Lebanon | Haaretz
Israel’s efforts against Hezbollah after the discovery of the attack tunnels under the Lebanese border enter the diplomatic sphere Wednesday.
• Russia, Iran And Turkey Seek Deal On New Syria Constitutional Body | Reuters
Russia, Iran and Turkey are close to agreement on composition of a Syrian constitutional committee that could pave the way for drafting a new charter followed by elections, diplomats said on Monday. The foreign ministers of the three nations, who support opposing sides in Syria’s nearly eight-year war, meet for talks on Tuesday in Geneva, where they are expected to seek the United Nations’ blessing for their joint proposal, they added.
• Iran Media On Bashir Trip To Syria: Arab States Have Accepted Reality Of Assad | Al Monitor
On Dec. 16, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the civil war began seven years ago. From Syrian President Bashar al-Assad greeting Bashir at the airport to Bashir’s comments in support of Syria retaking its important place in the region, the meeting was heavily publicized by Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA. Officials said the purpose of the meeting, which lasted for one day at the presidential palace without the presence of journalists, was to discuss bilateral ties.
• Will Iran Ask Hamas To Ignite Gaza Front In Support Of Hezbollah? | Al Monitor
For a brief moment earlier this month, the possibility of a regional confrontation engaging Israel on two fronts appeared to increase, when Israel launched Operation Northern Shield, an open-ended action to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. “[We are] operating decisively and responsibly on all fronts simultaneously … [against] any party that “tries to harm the State of Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hours after announcing the operation on Dec. 4. The Israeli army moved artillery to the north and called up reserves, heightening the atmosphere of uncertainty.
• Are Iran And Hezbollah Digging Toward War With Israel? | Al Arabiya
Israel’s Operation Northern Shield, which recently exposed Hezbollah’s cross-border attack tunnels, has prompted the perennial question: Are Israel and Hezbollah about to go to war in Lebanon? Long before these latest revelations, conventional wisdom held that another war between Hezbollah and Israel was simply a matter of time. While the date remained uncertain, the results were thought to be predetermined.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
• Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Face A Choice Of Military Or Political Power | The National
Yemen’s internationally recognised government vows to include the Houthis in country’s political future if they disarm and cut ties with Iran, with a ceasefire in Hodeidah from Tuesday providing the first test of the rebels’ intentions. A ceasefire went into effect at midnight on Monday, with early reports suggesting sporadic clashes continued in Hodeidah into Tuesday morning. “The Houthis will be a part of Yemen’s political framework,” Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani told The National following the conclusion of peace negotiations in Sweden last week.
• Qatar’s Doha Forum Gives Iran A Platform In Post-ISIS Middle East | The Jerusalem Post
Qatar’s Doha Forum has been criticized for providing Iran’s regime with a platform to push its agenda, including excoriating US policy. In gathering together Iran and Turkey’s foreign ministers, Qatari leaders, US Congressional Democrats, and a plethora of other voices, the forum provided a place for discussions about the Middle East as the region shifts from the ISIS threat to an US-Iranian confrontation.
• Iran, Cyber Warfare Cited As Leading Threats To U.S. For 2019 | Washington Times
High-profile cyber-attacks on U.S. military and civilian infrastructure networks and a possible proxy war with Iran top the list of possible national security threats facing the U.S. in the coming year, according to a new survey of foreign policy and national security analysts. The assessment, released by the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday, said there was a “moderate” chance of one of the two threats occurring in the coming year, but noted that either would have a severe impact on U.S. interests across the globe.
• Iran Hackers Targeted Nuclear Scientists, U.S. Officials | Radio Farda
According to a cyber-security research lab Certfa Iran backed hackers targeted U.S. government officials, think-tank employees and nuclear scientists around the world. The hackers used sophisticated “Phishing attacks through email or social media and messaging accounts of public figures.” The attackers allegedly also managed to breach two-factor authentication.