◢ Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had carried out a recent test of a medium-range ballistic missile after Western powers sharply criticized a December 1 launch. “We are continuing our missile tests and this recent one was a significant test," the Fars news agency reported, citing Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh.
◢ Iranian police said Sunday that 10 people had been arrested in connection with a suicide attack in southeastern Iran that killed two police officers. Jihadist separatist group Ansar al-Furqan has claimed responsibility for Thursday's assault in which an explosives-laden car was driven into a police station in the port city of Chabahar.
◢ Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said US sanctions were "economic terrorism", as he sought to foster a united front from visiting regional officials on Saturday. Addressing parliament speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey, Rouhani said they had all suffered economic pressure from the US.
◢ Chinese telecom giant Huawei's chief financial officer faces US fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran. Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada's Pacific coast city of Vancouver on December 1 while changing planes during a trip from Hong Kong to Mexico—ratcheting tensions between the United States and China just as the countries' leaders agreed a truce in their trade war.
◢ A suicide bomber killed at least two people and wounded many more outside police headquarters in the port city of Chabahar in restive southeastern Iran on Thursday, according to a revised official toll. Chabahar lies in Sistan-Baluchistan province which has long been a flashpoint, with Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and Sunni Muslim extremists carrying out cross-border attacks targeting the Shiite authorities.
◢ Iran's President Hassan Rouhani struck a defiant stance against US sanctions on Tuesday, renewing his threat to cut off international oil sales from the Gulf. “America should know... it is not capable of preventing the export of Iran's oil," Rouhani said at a televised rally in Semnan province.
◢ France and Britain on Monday requested a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council after charging that Iran test-fired a medium-range missile at the weekend, diplomats said. The meeting is expected to be held Tuesday. The United States said the missile launch on Saturday was a violation of a UN resolution that endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which Washington has withdrawn.
◢ The United States urged the European Union on Monday to apply sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile program, calling it a "grave and escalating threat." Over the weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that Iran tested a medium-range missile capable of carrying multiple warheads and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.
◢ An Iranian fertility expert accused of working with foreign "espionage networks" to downplay the country's population crisis has been arrested, state news agency IRNA confirmed on Sunday. It did not give details of the charges, but quoted a lawyer who named the expert as Meimanat Hosseini Chavoshi.
◢ Iran said Saturday it had finalized a deal with South Korea to trade oil for goods, skirting renewed US sanctions. "A mechanism has been devised for returning oil export revenues from South Korea, by which Iran's oil export revenue will be bartered with imported goods," Hossein Tanhayi, head of the Iran-South Korea chamber of commerce, told state news agency IRNA.
◢ The laborers edge their way across a field of bright purple flowers gathering up the world's most expensive spice, a bounty that makes this dusty corner of Iran a crucial part of global cuisine. The delicate purple leaves of the Crocus sativus plant hold just three or four of the even more delicate red stamen, better known as saffron, that sprouts for just 10 days a year.
◢ Iran is determined to fight against US Donald Trump's anticipated Israel-Palestinian peace plan, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Tuesday according to semi-official news agency ISNA. Trump has dubbed his administration's long-awaited plan the "ultimate deal.” which has already unsettled the Palestinians although no details have yet been disclosed.
◢ The head of Iran's judicial authority on Monday warned restive workers against creating "disorder", while calling on the government to address their problems. Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani spoke amid efforts to resolve a weeks-long strike at a major sugar factory in western Iran and popular discontent over rising prices.
◢ Qatar Airways announced Monday it is expanding operations in Iran, despite US sanctions on the Islamic republic and a Gulf diplomatic rift over accusations Doha was too close to Tehran. The carrier will begin twice-weekly flights to Isfahan in February 2019 and increase existing services to Shiraz and Tehran in January 2019, it said in a statement.
◢ A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Iran's western province of Kermanshah late Sunday, the country's institute of geophysics said, with local officials reporting some 260 people injured. The epicenter of the quake was 17 kilometers southwest of the city of Sarpol-e Zahab, according to the institute, which said it struck at a depth of 7 kilometers.
◢ Iran "strongly rejected" on Friday US accusations that it has a chemical weapons program and accused Washington of breaching its own commitments to the international watchdog. The US allegations are the latest salvo against Iran from the administration of President Donald Trump, who earlier this year pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.
◢ Iran sees no point in fresh nuclear talks with the US without guarantees it will not renege on any deal made, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday. US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May, branding the deal to restrict Iran's nuclear work a"disaster.”
◢ The United States accused Iran on Thursday of failing to declare a toxic arms programme to the global chemical warfare watchdog, in breach of international agreements. US envoy Kenneth Ward told the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague that Tehran was also seeking deadly nerve agents for "offensive purposes.”
◢ The US slapped fresh sanctions on Iran Tuesday, accusing it of creating a complex web of Russian cut-out companies and Syrian intermediaries to ship oil to Damascus, which in turn bankrolled Hezbollah and Hamas. The US considers both Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese militia, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, to be terrorist organizations.
◢ Denmark said Tuesday its ambassador would return to Iran this week, three weeks after he was recalled over Copenhagen's assertion that Tehran tried to kill three Iranian dissidents on Danish soil. "The ambassador is going back to Iran on Thursday," Danish foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Moller told AFP.
◢ Iran's judiciary chief said Monday that government officials must not make accusations of vast money-laundering operations by powerful institutions, which could be exploited by the enemy. The criticism followed statements by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Khabar Online news agency last week in which he said: "Money laundering is a reality in our country, and a lot of people are benefitting from it."
◢ Iran is reintroducing fuel cards that will cap petrol purchases in a bid to combat rampant smuggling, state media reported on Tuesday. Smuggling has boomed in recent months as the rial has plummeted against the dollar in the face of the reimposition of crippling US sanctions following Washington's withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.
◢ EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to examine possible sanctions against Iran over two foiled attacks in Europe blamed on Iranian intelligence, as demands grow for tough action against Tehran. France has hit two suspected Iranian agents with asset freezes over a plot to bomb a rally near Paris, while Denmark has called for a coordinated EU response to a foiled murder bid on its soil.
◢ US officials fined Societe Generale USD 1.3 billion after charging the French bank with violating US sanctions on Cuba, Iran and other countries in a criminal settlement unveiled Monday. The financial penalty is the second largest ever on a financial institution for violating US sanctions.
◢ Cuba hopes a special payment system the EU is creating to get round US sanctions on Iran will help it sidestep its own Washington-imposed trade embargo, a senior official told AFP on Monday. Brussels is working on a "special purpose vehicle" (SPV)—a system for clearing payments to Iran—-as it seeks to keep trade flowing despite Washington reimposing sanctions after ditching the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
◢ Iran's former economy minister, impeached less than three months ago, will head the national oil company as it works to evade renewed US sanctions, local media reported Monday. Masoud Karbasian, 67, was impeached by parliament on August 26 after only a year in the job, over his handling of the country's economic downturn.
◢ Four people were arrested in southwestern Iran on Sunday as locals joined striking sugar workers in mounting protests over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by managers, the official IRNA news agency said. Protests by workers from the Haft Tapeh sugar company in Shush, a city in Khuzestan province, have been building in recent days.
◢ British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was to visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks about the nuclear deal and freeing UK nationals held in Iranian jails. Iran has been abiding by the terms of its nuclear deal with global powers, the latest report from the UN atomic watchdog indicated last week, days after fresh US sanctions hit the country.
◢ Tehran city council on Tuesday elected Pirouz Hanachi, a little-known technocrat, to the politically sensitive post of mayor that has in the past led to Iran's presidency, state television reported. Hanachi is the third mayor of Tehran to be elected by the city council since reformists swept to power in local polls in May 2017.
◢ The resumption of wide-ranging American sanctions on Iran promises economic uncertainty for the Islamic Republic’s neighbors in the Caucasus: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. All three have to various extents relied on Iran for natural gas, and stand to be affected—if only by uncertainty until the exact scope of the sanctions becomes clearer.
◢ Austria has rejected hosting a special payment system designed to help EU countries trade with Iran despite US sanctions, the Austrian foreign ministry said Tuesday. "We were asked if Austria would be prepared in principle to host this special purpose vehicle," foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer said.