Iran
November 28, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said Iran would not leave the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran's top nuclear scientists whom Israeli and American intelligence officials suspected led Tehran's nuclear weapons program, "unanswered." Rouhani blamed Israel for the assassination — "once again, the evil hands of global arrogance and the Zionist mercenaries were stained with the blood of an Iranian son," he said — and warned of retaliation "in due time."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei didn't mention Israel in his response, but he said Iranian officials must commit to "pursuing this crime and punishing its perpetrators and those who commanded it."

Israel hasn't publicly commented on the incident, but U.S. officials told The New York Times that Jerusalem was indeed behind Friday's attack. It's unclear how much the U.S. knew before it took place, but the two countries are close allies and often share intelligence on Iran.

Although there was no official word from the Israeli government, the country reportedly put its embassies on high alert around the world. The military, however, reportedly remains on "routine footing," perhaps indicating that Israel expects a potential Iranian retaliation to be on a smaller scale. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 27, 2020

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist suspected of leading Iran's nuclear weapons program, was shot and killed Friday while traveling in a vehicle east of Tehran, Iranian state media said. He was apparently taken to the hospital for treatment, but doctors were unable to save him.

Fakhrizadeh has long been a top target of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly singled him out in 2018. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif believes Jerusalem was behind the assassination, but a spokesperson for the Israeli military refused to comment. Hossein Dehghan, a military commander and adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed retaliation against whomever the perpetrators are. "We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action," he tweeted.

Not much is known about Fakrizadeh, believed to be 59, but a 2007 CIA assessment said his role as a physics professor was likely a cover story, and it later became clear he was in charge of Iran's warhead development, The New York Times reports. Iran has denied ever seeking a nuclear weapon, but an Israeli mission in 2018 uncovered documents detailing such a project that was in place 20 years ago. Even after that was seemingly abandoned, Israeli and American intelligence officials say, it appears Fakhrizadeh was covertly overseeing the program.

The alleged assassination will likely add another roadblock for the incoming Biden administration, which already faced an uphill climb in its hopes of at least partially re-establishing some sort of nuclear pact with Iran, the Times notes. Read more at The Guardian and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

August 5, 2018

The Trump administration is prepared to restore on Monday sanctions on Iran that were previously removed by the Iran deal. However, in a tweet Saturday afternoon, President Trump suggested Iranian leaders might avoid the punitive measures by agreeing to meet with him:

Most of the sanctions to be imposed Monday are "fairly modest stuff," Richard Nephew, principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy during the Obama administration, told The Hill.

"One of the things I've heard an awful lot of over the course of the last couple of months is whether or not this is still all a feint and all intended to rejuvenate the diplomatic process that had otherwise been stalled," Nephew added. "I think that come Monday, a lot of that speculation, a lot of that wishful thinking will have been put to rest when those sanctions are back in place."

Tehran has so far rejected Trump's diplomatic overtures since he withdrew from the Iran deal. On Sunday, Iran said its troops are practicing war games to prepare for "confronting possible threats." Bonnie Kristian

July 30, 2018

During a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday, President Trump announced he would "certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet."

Trump said he believes Iran "will probably end up wanting to meet. I'm ready to meet whenever they want to. No preconditions. They want to meet, I'll meet, whenever they want." He defended offering to meet with Iran, saying that "speaking to other people, especially when you're talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things — you meet. There's nothing wrong with meeting."

Earlier this month, Trump responded to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's statement that the U.S. "must understand that war with Iran is the mother of all wars," tweeting that if Rouhani threatens the U.S. again, "YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE." Catherine Garcia

May 21, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with a string of new demands in a Monday speech, following President Trump's recent decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal.

To deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Pompeo said, the U.S. will impose "the strongest sanctions in history" and create military pressure. "We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them," said Pompeo. Bloomberg reports that the secretary of state listed 12 "basic requirements" that the U.S. would demand before lessening up the "sting of sanctions." Other demands included releasing Americans held captive in Iran, ceasing support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, and withdrawing military forces from Syria.

The U.S. would eventually be willing to lift Iranian sanctions in exchange for a major change in behavior, America's top diplomat added. If Tehran verifiably ended its nuclear weapons program and stopped its "destabilizing activities in the region," said Pompeo, the U.S. would consider offering "relief." Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

September 12, 2016

On Saturday, Iran threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft flying near Iranian territory, three U.S. defense officials told Fox News on Monday.

Officials say a P-8 Poseidon with a crew of nine and an EP-3 Eries with about two dozen crew members were flying a reconnaissance mission in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, 13 miles off the coast of Iran. Per international maritime law, Iran's territorial waters extend 12 miles into the sea, and at one point, the Iranian military warned the planes that if they didn't change course, they were at risk of being shot down. One official told Fox News the aircraft ignored the warning, remaining in international airspace but near Iranian territory, because "we wanted to test the Iranian reaction. It's one thing to tell someone to get off your lawn, but we weren't on their lawn. Anytime you threaten to shoot someone down, it's not considered professional." Intelligence reports show there were no Iranian missile launchers in the area during the confrontation.

In August, there were at least five incidents between U.S. Navy ships and Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf, with one concluding with a U.S. Navy coastal patrol craft firing three warning shots after an Iranian boat ignored its radio calls to change course. Catherine Garcia

August 25, 2016

On Tuesday, four Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) boats approached the USS Nitze near the Strait of Hormuz, two of the vessels slowing and turning course only after coming within 300 yards of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer, a U.S. Navy official told Reuters and CNN on Wednesday night. The vessels harassed the U.S. warship by "conducting a high speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze, despite repeated warnings," the official said. "The Iranian high rate of closure... created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze."

The Nitze tried to contact the Iranian vessels 12 times but received no reply, and fired 10 flares, among other warning signals, the official said. The ship and U.S. officials have determined that the Iranians violated the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, and the U.S would lodge a diplomatic complaint if Iran and the U.S. had diplomatic relations. "For four decades the Revolutionary Guard have been told that America is the greatest threat to the Islamic Revolution," Karim Sadjadpour at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Reuters. "This institutional culture hasn't changed after the nuclear deal." You can learn more, and see footage of the close encounter, in Elise Labott's report on CNN below. Peter Weber

April 20, 2015

Iran is charging The Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, with espionage, "collaborating with hostile governments," and "propaganda against the establishment," his lawyer said.

Rezaian was arrested nine months ago, and his attorney, Leila Ahsan, said this is the first time the exact charges against him have been provided. The indictment says that Rezaian gathered information "about internal and foreign policy" and then gave it to "individuals with hostile intent." The Post's executive editor, Martin Baron, calls the charges "scurrilous" and called for Rezaian to be exonerated.

Ahsan met with Rezaian for 90 minutes on Monday, and it was the first time he had been able to consult with a lawyer since his arrest in July. The Revolutionary Court has not made the charges public, and Ahsan said in a statement that "all of the items and accusations are the ones that I mentioned and I cannot divulge details because the trial has not yet begun." She added that the case file has no evidence to justify the charges, and they stem from his work. "Jason is a journalist, and it is in the nature of his profession to gain access to information and publish them," she said. "My client, however, has never had any direct or indirect access to classified information to share with anyone." Catherine Garcia

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