◢ Iraq could bear the brunt if conflict intensifies between Iran and the United States, a think-tank study said Wednesday. The International Crisis Group, which researches ways to prevent war, interviewed officials around the world including Iran for an extensive report on the state of the 2015 denuclearization accord between Tehran and major powers.
◢ French auto giant Groupe PSA, which makes the Citroen and Peugeot brands, reported record vehicle sales Tuesday as the acquisition of General Motors' Opel unit helped offset a sharp downturn in key markets China and Iran. PSA sold 3.88 million vehicles, up 6.8 percent from 2017 when it acquired the Opel business which includes British-based Vauxhall.
◢ Iran launched a satellite criticized by the United States as a breach of a UN resolution on Tuesday but it failed to reach orbit, the telecommunications minister said. Iran's arch foe Israel swiftly condemned the launch, which it charged was cover for the testing of the first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
◢ The White House demanded that the military draft plans for strikes on Iran after attacks in Iraq last year, sparking concern at the Pentagon and State Department, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The report said the move came after a mortar attack launched by an Iran-linked group on the Baghdad diplomatic quarters home to the US embassy in September. No one was hurt by the shells, which landed in an open lot.
◢ A military cargo plane overshot a runway, crashed and caught fire during a botched landing near the Iranian capital Tehran, killing 15 people, the army said Monday. The plane was carrying meat from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan when it crashed near the capital Tehran, the army said in a statement.
◢ Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Sunday for wide-ranging talks, including on US sanctions against Tehran. The visit came just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise stop on his regional tour to urge Iraq to stop relying on Iran for gas and electricity imports.
◢ Iran's foreign ministry summoned Poland's top diplomat in the country to protest its decision to host what it called an "anti-Iranian" summit, a spokesman said Sunday. Poland's charge d'affaires was summoned to "protest the anti-Iranian so-called peace and security conference," ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on his Telegram channel.
◢ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Thursday the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria, and urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran. "It's time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region," said Pompeo at a keynote address in Cairo.
◢ Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said some US officials are "first-class idiots" in a speech on Wednesday. "Some US officials pretend that they are mad. Of course I don't agree with that, but they are first-class idiots," he said in the speech in Tehran, quoted on his official Twitter feed.
◢ Iran was likely behind the murders of two Dutch citizens believed to be dissidents against the regime in Tehran, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said Tuesday. The Dutch secret service "has strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in Almere 2015 and in The Hague in 2017," Blok said in a letter to parliament.
◢ Iran will boost trade with India as the European Union struggles to find a way to circumvent a fresh US embargo on Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tuesday. Brussels is working on a payment mechanism to keep financial transactions flowing with Iran, after the US ditched the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran earlier this year and reintroduced a raft of sanctions on the country.
◢ Iran's parliament will investigate claims by a labor protest leader that he was tortured in prison following strikes at a sugar factory, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday. Alireza Rahimi, a member of parliament's presiding board, said his request for an investigation had been accepted by speaker Ali Larijani, according to ISNA.
◢ An Iranian arbitration body gave its approval on Saturday to an anti-money laundering bill seen as crucial to maintaining international trade and banking ties, the official IRNA news agency reported. "The bill on amending the law to counter money laundering was approved with certain changes and will be sent to the parliament speaker to be communicated to the government," Expediency Council member Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghadam told IRNA.
◢ Norwegian Air Shuttle said Friday one of its Boeing 737s has been stuck in Iran for three weeks after an unscheduled landing due to engine problems, as US restrictions reportedly create headaches for the airline and possibly passengers. The aircraft was en route from Dubai to Oslo with 192 passengers and crew members on board when it carried out a "safety landing" in Shiraz in southwestern Iran because of engine trouble.
◢ The United States on Thursday warned Iran of consequences if it goes ahead with plans to send off three space launch vehicles, charging despite Tehran's denials that the move would violate a UN resolution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran's satellite-delivery rockets used technology "virtually identical" to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which could eventually include long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.
◢ Iranian theatre director Hossein Parsaee calls Victor Hugo's classic a "masterpiece without borders" but his groundbreaking production of "Les Miserables" that has hit the stage in Tehran has a few unique twists. It was a mainly young, well-heeled crowd when AFP visited recently, and they could barely control their excitement at a rare chance to attend a musical in their home city.
◢ Iran's intelligence ministry said Monday it had arrested 11 "economic disruptors" who misappropriated some USD 400 million earmarked for essential goods and smuggled the money out of the country. Authorities have been cracking down on those seeking to exploit the collapsing rial, which has lost around half its value against the dollar this year, in part due to the return of US sanctions.
◢ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Arab countries viewed Israel as an "indispensable ally" fighting Iran and the Islamic State group. That evaluation, he told Brazil's Globo TV during a visit to Rio, has caused "a revolution in relations with the Arab world."
◢ Hundreds of Iranian students held protests for a second day on Sunday, calling for university officials to resign over a bus crash that killed 10, state news agency IRNA said. The demonstrating students reportedly carried photos of victims of Tuesday's crash at a square leading to the university, in a rare display of dissent at Tehran's Islamic Azad University.
◢ A regional boss of Iran's state broadcaster IRIB has been fired after inadvertently letting a Jackie Chan sex scene slip through its tight censorship rules, local media reported on Monday. Viewers on Iran's Kish Island were shocked when their local TV station showed the martial arts star having sex with a prostitute in one of his films.
◢ Ten people have been killed in a bus accident at one of Tehran's largest universities, Iran's conservative news agency Tasnim reported Wednesday. The bus was carrying 30 students along a mountainous road within the science research campus of Islamic Azad University in northwestern Tehran when it came off the road and hit a concrete column on Tuesday.
◢ Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a grand ayatollah who headed Iran's judiciary during fierce crackdowns on dissidents, journalists and activists, died on Monday at the age of 70 according to the state news agency IRNA. Shahroudi was a student of Iran's revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini who went on to hold some of the most powerful positions in the Islamic republic.
◢ Iran executed a trader known as the "Sultan of Bitumen" on Saturday over charges of fraud and large-scale smuggling of the oil product, the judiciary's news agency Mizan online reported. Hamidreza Bagheri Dermani is the third businessman to be executed since an anti-corruption drive was launched over the summer.
◢ A British-Iranian scientist detained in Tehran in April for his alleged role in an "infiltration network" has returned to London, the Foreign Office said Tuesday. "We can confirm that a British-Iranian dual national who was detained in Tehran has returned to the UK," the Foreign Office said in a statement, when asked about Abbas Edalat.
◢ President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday unveiled Iran's first annual budget since the return of US sanctions, saying it had been adjusted to take account of Washington's "cruel" measures. The president announced a 20 percent increase in public sector wages in a sign of the economic challenges the Islamic republic has faced since the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year.
◢ A French court on Friday fined oil giant Total EUR 500,000 for corruption after finding it guilty of paying bribes while bidding for a huge gas contract in Iran in 1997. The French company was accused of paying USD 30 million in bribes to middlemen, in return for help in securing the lucrative South Pars gas concession. In 2013 the company paid USD 398 million in the US to settle a similar case before it went to trial.
◢ The United States has granted Iraq a 90-day extension to an exemption from reimposed sanctions on Iran to keep on importing energy, a government source said on Thursday. President Donald Trump reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions on Iran's energy and finance sectors on November 5 following his May decision to abandon a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.
◢ An Iranian member of parliament denounced the arrest of several striking workers following weeks of protests at a steel plant in southwestern Iran, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Wednesday. "A number of workers of the National Steel Group who had work-related complaints were arrested two days ago," Alireza Mahjoub, head of parliament's labor faction, said in a speech to lawmakers.
◢ 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. 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.
◢ Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday said US sanctions will have no impact on the policies of the Islamic republic at home or abroad. "It is obvious that we are facing pressure by the US sanctions. But will that lead to a change in policy? I can assure you it won't," Zarif told the Doha Forum policy conference in Qatar.
◢ The appointment of President Hassan Rouhani's son-in-law as head of Iran's geological survey has renewed accusations of nepotism and led on Sunday to the resignation of a senior official, according to conservative media. The appointment of Kambiz Mehdizadeh, in his early thirties and reportedly married to Rouhani's daughter in a low-key wedding this August, was widely criticized by Iranians on social media.