Insider news & Analysis in Iran

On a trip to Bahrain alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis, US Navy Commander William Urban reiterated earlier reports about the change in the posture of Iranian naval forces toward American vessels transiting the Persian Gulf. The Associated Press quoted Urban as saying there had been no “unsafe and unprofessional” actions by those forces since last August. Up to that point in 2017, there had been 14 close encounters between the US Navy and the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This compares to 35 such incidents in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

On Wednesday, the global media featured a number of different reactions to the previous day’s news that Rex Tillerson would be replaced in the position of US Secretary of State by the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo. The move has predictably met with opposition from critics of the Trump administration but praise from supporters of its assertive policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, because Pompeo’s views seem to align more closely with those of the president.

On Tuesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) published a statement by Hossein Abedini, a member of its Foreign Affairs Committee, regarding that day’s celebrations of the ancient Iranian fire festival of Chaharshanbe Suri. The statement declared that Iranian authorities “anxiously expect new anti-regime protests in the coming New Year,” starting with gatherings on Chaharshanbe Suri, which precedes Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, by one week.

It was widely reported on Wednesday that Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division, had boasted of the ongoing expansion in the size and capability of Iran’s ballistic missile program. Reuters quoted the IRGC senior commander as saying, “Our production has increased three-fold compared to the past.” He was not specific about the time period for this increase, by a number of Iranian officials have insisted in recent months that the Islamic Republic will continue to pursue missile development at full scale and will not agree to any negotiations over its military capabilities.

On Monday, Reuters reported upon the visit to Tehran by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and pointed out that the European officials was facing a “delicate mission” to safeguard the 2015 nuclear agreement against threats from the White House while also conveying shared concerns over the Iranian ballistic missile program and related activities. The report quoted one source as saying the French government is not interested in serving the interests of either side in the ongoing and escalating war of words between Washington and Tehran.

While visiting Iran on Thursday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino took the opportunity to comment on the escalating war of words between the Islamic Republic and its Saudi Arabian adversaries, and specifically on the impact that that diplomatic strife has had on the sporting world. As Agence France Presse reported, Infantino called attention to the fact that Saudi soccer clubs have been refusing to compete in Iran since January 2016, coinciding with the suspension of diplomatic relations between the two countries following attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad.

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