US sanctions 22 entities connected to Iran and Syria

The US Treasury Department added the names of 22 individuals and companies to the blacklist for providing material for the development of biological and chemical weapons in Syria and sending some goods to Iran without a permit.

This action by the Treasury Department prevents these individuals and companies from purchasing equipment from American companies without a permit.

The 22 individuals and companies are based in Bahrain, France, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Britain.

Al Ras Gate, Bestway Line FZCO, and six other institutions were added to the blacklist for deliberately changing course of the cargo from US to Iran without a permit.

 

Dissident Mir Hossein Moussavi’s top advisor charged with acting against national security

A senior advisor to Mir Hossein Moussavi, one of the incarcerated leaders of the Green Movement in Iran, has been summoned to appear at a court in Tehran charged with ‘intent to act against national security, and propaganda against the Islamic republic’.

According to social media news channel, Emtedad, the charges against Ghorban Behzadian Nejad are related to a statement released by Mir Hossein Moussavi last week. In this statement he condemned the brutal crackdown of the recent Iran protests by security forces, in which hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.

In the statement Moussavi has demanded those responsible for “ordering and carrying out” the bloody crackdown on protesters to be publicly identified and prosecuted.

Mousavi called the widespread use of force against protesters in mid-November “an obvious crime”. In unprecedently harsh words directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said, “agents and shooters of November 2019 were the representatives of a religious government” and their “commander in chief” is the “Supreme Leader with absolute power”.

A former prime minister, who as a top presidential candidate challenged the controversial re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Moussavi, his wife and dissident cleric Mahdi Karoubi have been under house arrest since 2011.

Iran says will continue with its nuclear research ‘‘without Russia’s help’’

 

The spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Behrooz Kamalvandi, said on Monday that his country would be able to continue the production of stable isotopes ‘‘without the Russian help’’.

Kamalvandi told Iran’s state television: ‘‘Our technical knowledge has reached such a position that if we decided to continue this production, we could do it. There is no limit to what we want to do in our nuclear industry.’’

On 5 December, Russian state nuclear company, Rosatom, announced that it was suspending the modernizing of a unit of Iran's Fordow nuclear complex because of an issue with uranium compatibility.

‘‘Uranium enrichment and the production of stable isotopes cannot be carried out in the same room’’, Rosatom said in a statement, adding that the implementation of the project was ‘‘technologically impossible currently’’.

According to a report published in November by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has been enriching uranium at its Fordow site and is now accelerating its enrichment. This activity is Tehran’s latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian female MP withdraws from re-election because of recent crackdown

Parvaneh Salahshouri, a female member of Iran’s parliament, said she will not seek re-election as a Majles deputy for Tehran. She cited not being able to convince her conscience in face of the recent crackdowns on protestors in Iran.

“The Iranian people voiced their protests but were met with bullets and arrests”, Salahshouri said in a tweet.

She added: “In view of the forces that limit the Majles’s power, ignoring the people’s demands and the recent incidents, despite all my religious feelings for the people and their kindness, I have not been able to convince my conscience to take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections and have decided to withdraw from it”.

Ms. Salahshouri was elected four years ago as Tehran's MP and is a reformist politician.

She had previously slammed the Islamic Republic authorities for brutally suppressing mass protests in late December 2017, early January 2018.

In a notable speech in 2018, Salahshouri called for a referendum. She stressed the need to solve problems regarding Iran's foreign policy, the state's TV which is the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Guardian Council's intervention in elections, and the supervision of the Supreme Leader's behavior by the Assembly of Experts.

Iran’s police chief says his forces “are worried about further protests”

 

The commander of Iran’s police forces Hossein Ashtari says his officers are worried about the repeat of the recent nationwide protests but “are ready to deal with them”.

“The recent sedition and security threats were immense and the perpetrators were using the same tactics that are being used by the Hong Kong protesters by setting up barricades and covering the road surface with sands”’ Ashtari said. 

“Our security forces are worried about the unrest in Iraq and Lebanon spill over into our country and we see a repeat of the recent protests. But we are ready to deal with them”, he added.

According to Amnesty International, more than 208 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, several hundred injured and 7,000 arrested during the crackdown against the recent protests in Iran. The NGO adds that the real death toll may be much higher.

Iran and US exchange prisoners

 

Iran and the US have conducted a prisoner swap involving Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, detained in Iran, and Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, detained in the US.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, announced it in a tweet on Saturday. He wrote that Soleimani and Wang would “be joining their families shortly”.

This was followed by an acknowledgement by US President Donald Trump, who stated that Wang "is returning to the United States."

Both Zarif and Trump mentioned that they were grateful for the help of the Swiss government during the negotiations.

American citizen Xiyue Wang has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016 after being accused of espionage.

Massoud Soleimani who works in stem cell research was arrested by U.S. authorities and accused of violating trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran.