Iran's Currency Rebounds With Hopes Of Biden Reducing Sanctions | Iran International

Iran's Currency Rebounds With Hopes Of Biden Reducing Sanctions

The rial jumped 2 percent against the US dollar and other major currencies in trading Saturday on the Iranian foreign currency exchange market. The National Foreign Exchange Bureau (Sarrafi Melli) announced a new dollar rate at 234,000 rials, 4,500 down since Thursday.

In the past week the dollar has fallen 6 percent against the rial, with a similar fall in the value of gold against the rial, in anticipation of a reduction in US sanctions.

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The Trump administration withdrew from the agreement and imposed heavy sanctions, driving the Iranian currency eightfold lower.

Some traders believe the rial’s upward trend will stop once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, Tejarat News, a financial newspaper, wrote on Friday. But Tejarat News suggested the rial would rise further if Iran could free some of its assets frozen in other countries’ such as South Korea and Iraq and introduce dollars into the market.

Some experts believe the 20-percent drop in the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) in the past month could reflect the rise in rial because export-oriented companies listed on the exchange benefit from a low rial. “The dollar may drop to around 200,000 rials, which will cause a further downward trend in the stock market,” Salman Nasirzadeh, investment expert, was quoted by the government news agency IRNA as saying on January 12.

Biden Extends US National Emergency With Respect To Iran For One Year

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives Friday, President Joe Biden extended the United States’ national emergency with respect to Iran which began in 1995 for one more year.

Biden warned that the actions and policies of the Government of Iran — including its proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities, its network and campaign of regional aggression, its support for terrorist groups, and the malign activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its surrogates — continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.

The declaration continues: For these reasons, the national emergency declared on March 15, 1995, must continue in effect beyond March 15, 2021. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Iran declared in Executive Order 12957.

The executive order must be extended in a period of 90 days before its expiration (March 15 of each year) or it will be revoked automatically.

The order comes as the Biden administration is attempting diplomatic efforts to return to the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Spokesperson for the US State Department Ned Price told the reporters on Thursday that Washington believes the return of both sides to the nuclear deal must be done through direct diplomacy with Iran and deliberation with other members of the nuclear accord.

Iran-Backed Militia Claims It Has Active Cells In Washington DC

The Telegram channel affiliated with Iran-backed militia group Kawtheryoon in Iraq posted in English that the Iraqi “resistance” factions have the capacity to target US forces even in Washington DC.

The group additionally claimed that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support than ever before. The group demanded the United States withdraw all of its troops from Iraq and the Middle East. The post included a picture of caskets containing US soldiers.

Additionally, the post said that the resistance factions have "thousands of men" who can rise to replace Imad Mughniyeh, the slain Lebanese Hezbollah commander. It said: "And you, the Zionist enemy (Israel) we have thousands of men like Imad Mughniyeh."

The post concluded by addressing both the US and Israel, saying that the resistance factions will deal painful blows upon each, and that the killing of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis will not help them escape the "torment" that awaits them.

The threat comes at a time when the Biden administration seeks to directly engage Iran in pursuit of returning to the negotiations over the nuclear deal. Despite these diplomatic gestures, Iran-backed terrorists in Iraq have continued to target Baghdad’s Green Zone and the American embassy and other military bases of the coalition forces.

Saudi-Led Coalition Destroyed Two Explosives-Laden Drones

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted and destroyed two explosives-laden drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis towards Saudi Arabia’s southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jazan, state TV reported early on Saturday.

A Houthi military spokesman said in a Twitter post on Saturday that two drones attacked King Khalid Air Base, in the Khamis Mushait area.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have stepped up cross-border drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities recently, mostly targeting the southern part of the country. The coalition says it intercepts most attacks.

Houthi rebels said yesterday that they fired a missile at an oil facility owned by Saudi Aramco in the Red Sea city of Jeddah – the latest in a series of cross-border missile and drone strikes the Yemeni group has claimed against the kingdom.

Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree on Twitter claimed the rebels hit an Aramco facility in Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile at dawn on Thursday in retaliation for a six-year military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

He posted a satellite image online that matched Aramco’s North Jeddah Bulk Plant, where oil products are stored in tanks. The rebels claimed they hit the same facility last November, an attack the Saudi-led coalition later admitted had sparked a fire at the plant.

The coalition has been fighting the Iran-aligned group in Yemen since 2015.

 

Iran: Assassination Of IRGC Nuclear Official Will Not Go Unanswered.

Three months after the assassination of senior Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) official and a key figure in Iran’s nuclear program Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative in Vienna Kazem Gharibabadi said the Islamic Republic will not leave the assassination of Fakhrizadeh unanswered.

“While the Islamic Republic is strongly committed to pursuing a peaceful nuclear program, another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated,” Gharibabadi said on Friday. “Evidence indicates that Israel is behind the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and must be accountable for it.”

He continued: “Considering the terrible provocative consequences of such a horrible action and its impact on international peace and security, we call on the International Atomic Energy Agency and its members to condemn this action in the strongest way.”

Iran’s ambassador to Vienna also emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh unanswered.

Fakhrizadeh, a senior IRGC official who is characterized by Iranian media as a nuclear scientist was killed on November 27 near Tehran in what looked like an ambush on his motorcade. Unconfirmed reports saud he was assassinated by a Mossad team consisting of Iranian and Israeli agents using a one-ton automated weapon that had been smuggled into Iran in pieces, according to the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, citing anonymous intelligence sources.

 

India Likely To Start Full Operations At Iran's Chabahar Port By April

Indian Minister of State for Ports and Shipping‌ Mansukh Mandaviya told Reuters that he expects full-scale operations at the two terminals developed by India in the Chabahar cargo port in southeastern Iran by the end of May.

India was developing some areas in Chabahar port as a way to transport goods to Iran circumventing the territory of its competitor Pakistan. But the US sanctions on the Islamic slowed down the development of the port and now with the new US administration’s attitude toward Iran, Indian officials are hopeful to move forward with nearly a $500 million of investment.

“I am expecting to visit Iran in April or May for the inauguration of full operations,” Mansukh Mandaviya told Reuters.

India is developing two terminals at the port including the Shahid Beheshti complex and under an agreement signed with Iran, it would run the terminal for 10 years.

Mandaviya said the port had already commenced operations in a limited way and the growth potential was evident.

Chabahar port handled 123 vessels and 1.8 million tonnes of bulk and general cargoes from February 2019 to January 2021, he said.

“This is much higher than our expectations. Imagine the scale of operations and freight saving once it is fully operational,” he said.

Last year amid the pandemic, India used the Chabahar port to send 75,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and 25 tonnes of the pesticide malathion to Iran to deal with a locust invasion.

Reports Of Civil Right Activist's Kidney Failure Due To Torture In Prison

Reports indicate that civil rights activist Yashar Piri has suffered kidney failure after being subjected to torture and heavy beatings by the security forces.

The civil rights activist from East Azarbaijan province of Iran was arrested by security forces in civilian clothing on February 21, the International Mother Language Day, for distributing children’s books in the Azari language, and was taken to an undisclosed location.

He was released on bail from Tabriz prison three days later, on February 24, until his trial. According to his brother Roozbeh Piri, after the arrest, he was transferred urgently from an undisclosed location to Tabriz prison and was later released on bail.

People close to the civil rights activist said in addition to his kidney failure, his lungs have also suffered heavy damage and he has vomited blood several times.

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Piri was previously arrested by the security forces in November 2019 during the country-wide protests in Iran, also referred to as the Bloody November, when an estimated 1500 to 3000 protesters were killed and 10 to 20 thousand were arrested.

Yashar Piri, born in 1991, is a law graduate and a resident of Tabriz city in East Azarbaijan. 

Ethnic minorities in Iran are not allowed to study and publish in their mother tongue. 

UN Condemns Government Killing Of Up To 23 People In Iran's South-East

The United Nations has expressed concern Friday over reports that at least a dozen people and possibly up to 23 have been killed in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province where Revolutionary Guards and security forces have used lethal force against fuel couriers from ethnic minorities and protesters.

The shooting of people carrying fuel across the border on February 22 led to protests that spread from the city of Saravan to other areas in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, including the capital, Zahedan.

"The series of violent events and unrest began on 22 February, when Revolutionary Guards are alleged to have shot and killed at least 10 fuel couriers, known as sookhtbar, in Sistan and Baluchistan Province at the border with Pakistan, after a two-day stand-off triggered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blocking the road to the city of Saravan," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

The killings had triggered demonstrations in several cities across the province, during which the Revolutionary Guard and security forces fired lethal ammunition at protesters and bystanders, he said.

Colville said that it has been difficult to verify the death toll due to disruptions of local mobile data networks, but some unconfirmed reports have estimated that as many as 23 people may have been killed.

"We call on the authorities to immediately restore Internet access in areas that remain disconnected," he said.

Sistan-Baluchistan’s population is predominantly Baluchi Sunni Muslim, while most Iranians are Shi’ite. Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and has been fighting smuggling to neighboring countries. 

Iran's Aviation Protection Guard Says It Foiled A Hijacking Attempt

An attempt to hijack a civilian airliner in Iran Thursday night failed after the hijacker was arrested by security forces, the Aviation Protection Guard said in a brief statement published by news agencies in Iran on Friday.

The passenger plane, a Fokker 100 took off from the southwestern city of Ahvaz at 10:22 local time en route to northeastern city of Mashhad. The hijacking attempt forced the plane to land in Esfahan, central Iran where apparently the hijacker was arrested.

Iran’s Aviation Protection Guard is part of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

The statement refers to one hijacker and says the individual’s aim was to force the plane to fly to “one of the countries in the Persian Gulf”. It provides no details about possible motives or any information on the identity of the hijacker.

Iran’s last case of a plane hijacking took place in late 2001, when three brothers attempted to take over the plane flying out from Ahvaz and redirect it to the United States. Five passengers and a crew member were injured in the incident.

The statement also says no one was injured during the incident. Since last week, there have been anti-government protests and clashes with security forces in Iran’s Sunni populated southeastern region.

Security-related claims by the IRGC and Iran’s Intelligence Ministry cannot be independently verified, as public trials of people accused of terror activities rarely take place and officials often do not issue updates or answer questions by the media.

 

US VP Kamala Harris And Israel's Netanyahu Discuss Iran In Phone Call

US Vice President Kamala Harris in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Washington’s support for Israel and the two sides pledged cooperation over Iran’s nuclear program and its “dangerous behavior”.

Israeli leaders are concerned about the Biden Administrations efforts to return to the Obama-era nuclear deal with also referred to a the JCPOA. Israel has argued that the agreement does not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons after its sunset clauses expire.

Returning to the agreement would also mean lifting sanctions that former President Donald trump imposed after he abandoned the deal in 2018. Critics of the agreement say this would prop up Tehran’s finances allowing it to prop up extremist allies in the region.

Harris "emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security," the statement added.

Harris spoke with Netanyahu to reiterate the Biden Administration’s opposition to an International Criminal Court probe of possible war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, a White House statement said on Thursday.

The call, the first between the two since Harris and President Joe Biden took office in January, came a day after the ICC prosecutor said she would launch the probe, prompting swift rejections by Washington and Jerusalem.

Harris and Netanyahu noted their governments’ "opposition to the International Criminal Court’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel," the White House said.

US Welcomes European Powers Dropping IAEA Resolution Against Iran

The United States State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday [March 4] welcomed the decision by European powers to withdraw a draft resolution censuring Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a move seen as conducive to diplomacy aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Price said the US was committed to “principled, clear-eyed, constructive negotiations in the context of the P5+1 with the Iranians, where we can discuss the very issues that might be at play.” He reiterated that if Iran resumed “full compliance with the JCPOA,” the US would be “prepared to do the same.” He suggested the US was flexible regarding methods of reviving the nuclear deal.

Iran signed the 2015 agreement – the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) − with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), and has suggested that before rejoining JCPOA structures, the US should lift draconian sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump after quitting the JCPOA in 2018. Washington in turn has argued Tehran should first reverse measures taken since 2019 expanding its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits.

While IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Gross said back in December said agreement was needed on synchronizing steps taken by Washington and Tehran to revive the deal, it has been unclear in which forum it might be reached.

“We’re not dogmatic about the format,” Price said Thursday. “What we are dogmatic about is our overarching objective, and that is to ensure that Iran is subject to permanent, verifiable restrictions that prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Israel Updating Plans To Attack Iran Nuclear Facilities: Defense Minister

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, said his country’s armed forces are updating their plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, and if the international community cannot do anything, Israel is prepared to take action alone.

"If the world stops them before, it's very much good. But if not, we must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves," Gantz said in his first sit-down interview with an American media outlet.

Sharing a classified map of targets with Fox News, Gantz said the Iran-backed Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah is in possession of “hundreds of thousands of rockets” and many of them are in civilian areas.

"This is a target map. Each one of them has been checked legally, operationally, intelligence-wise and we are ready to fight," Gantz added.

According to the Israeli army’s annual intelligence report, Tel-Aviv is preparing itself for another “several-days war” with Hezbollah. Israeli media have estimated that in the next potential conflict, three thousand Hezbollah positions will be targeted each day, and 300 Hezbollah fighters will be killed every 24 hours.

The Israeli Defense Minister confirmed the reports from Israeli media about Israel’s efforts to form a defense pact with Arab countries of the region against Tehran but said the issue is not a defense pact but these countries are trying to set up a special security mechanism against Iran.

The head of the Israeli Defense Force recently reported that since the beginning of 2020, Israel has targeted the positions of over 500 Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned the Biden administration against returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.

 

Citizen Arrested in Iran For Protesting the Killing Of Fuel Carriers In Saravan

Videos released on social media show security forces arresting a citizen in Karaj city, near tehran on Wednesday, February 4, for protesting the killing of fuel mules in Sistan-Baluchistan province last week.

The videos show the citizen climbing a charity box protesting the shooting of people carrying small amounts of fuel to Pakistan and the suppression of protesters in Sistan-Baluchistan province. Security forces pulled the man down, arrested and took him away.

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the security forces making the arrest faced protests from the people present at the scene, and one of the security forces, “without facing any provocation or threat of violence attempted to shoot in the air in a populated area of the city in order to cause panic.”

Security forces facing protests by onlookers initially released the man but a few minutes later arrested him again and took him to an undisclosed location.

The protests in Sistan-Baluchistan followed an incident at the border with Pakistan on Monday when at least ten Baluchis were killed and more injured. A video posted on Twitter on Monday showed heavy gunfire in a field. Some social media sources have claimed that more than 35 Baluchis were killed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, after soukhtbar (‘fuel carriers’) tried to take fuel into Pakistan.

Netayahu: I Will Never Allow 'A Bunch Of Ayatollahs' In Iran Wipe Israel Off Map

In an interview with Fox News, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will never allow “a bunch of Ayatollahs” in Iran to wipe his country off the map.

"As the prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, we are not going to let a bunch of ayatollahs... wipe us off the map of history," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s comments come at a time when the Biden administration has begun its efforts to revive negotiations over the nuclear deal with Iran.

As a strong opponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Netanyahu alluded to his friendship of 40 years with President Joe Biden, and called him a friend of Israel, adding that “sometimes you can have disagreements with the best of friends”.

The recent explosion in an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman that has been attributed to Tehran has brought tensions in the Middle East between Iran and Israel to a boiling point.

“The most important thing that I think Joe Biden understands is that my commitment to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is absolute,” the prime minister continued. “And I hope that we see eye-to-eye on everything. But one thing I believe he understands and respects, is that as the prime minister of the one and only Jewish state, we are not going to let a bunch of Ayatollahs wipe us out from the face of the earth or from the map of history. So I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and so far, we’ve been successful.”

 

Iran Gives Positive Signals On Informal Nuclear Talks - French Source

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Iran has given encouraging signs in recent days about opening informal talks with world powers and the United States, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday after European powers scrapped plans to criticise Tehran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Iran has so far refused to take part in a meeting brokered by the European Union between world powers and the United States on reviving its 2015 nuclear deal.

"Things are moving in the right direction and we have had positive signals this week and especially in last few days," the source told reporters. "We are seeing movements we weren't seeing last weekend," he said.

The source added the objective was to get everyone around the table before the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 20, when Iran slows down administratively.

He added that the window would also narrow from mid-April when Iran's presidential election campaign kicks in.

"We are putting all our efforts so that this (meeting) can take place in the days or coming weeks," the source said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his foreign minister both spoke separately with their Iranian counterparts earlier this week.

The source added that another positive indication was that Iran had reportedly suspended its production of uranium metal, one of its latest violations of the nuclear accord, although that had not been verified by the IAEA.

Britain, France and Germany decided to pause the submission of a resolution critical of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday to not harm the prospects for diplomacy and after what they said were concessions gained from Iran to deal with outstanding nuclear.