On February 10, tensions between two regional rivals escalated after an Israeli combat helicopter reportedly intercepted an Iranian drone that crossed the Syria-Israel border. IDF spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus told CNN that Israel tracked the unmanned craft from its launch from the Iranian T-4 command center near Palmyra, Syria. He said it was the first time an Iranian drone had crossed into Israeli territory since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
On February 11, Iranians celebrated the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The popular uprising, led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, led to the ouster of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi and ended centuries of dynastic rule. Each year, Iranians hold mass rallies across the country and the president addresses the nation.
On February 2, the U.S. Defense Department released a Nuclear Posture Review at the direction of the Trump administration. The document, a product of a year’s worth of analysis and deliberations across government agencies, describes the roles nuclear weapons play in U.S. national security strategy and gives an assessment of the global security environment. It “reaffirms our commitment to arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, maintains the moratorium on nuclear testing, and commits to improving efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism,” President Trump said.
Support for the nuclear deal among Iranians is slipping, according to a new poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and IranPoll.com. Since June 2017, support for the deal fell by 12 points to 55 percent. Three fourths of respondents said the deal has not improved people’s living conditions.
Large majorities of Iranians are critical of the government’s economic mismanagement and want it to do more to fight corruption, according to a new poll by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and IranPoll.com. Half of respondents said unemployment or youth unemployment are the most important problems facing Iran.
On the first of the “10 Days of Dawn,” which commemorate the 1979 revolution and Ruhollah Khomeini’s return from exile, President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech on economic development, Iran’s resistance to outside powers and U.S. intervention in the region. The following are excerpts from his address to people in Sirjan city in Kerman province, which his located 500 miles southeast of Tehran.
On January 30, President Donald Trump expressed support for Iranian protestors and urged Congress to fix perceived flaws in the nuclear deal during his first State of the Union address.
“When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.”
On January 29, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi issued rare criticism of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an open letter. “You have been Iran’s top leader for three decades, but still speak like an opposition,” wrote Karroubi in the letter published by Saham News, the official website of his reformist political party.
On January 22, President Hassan Rouhani gave his first interview since protests over economic grievances and corruption broke out in late December and early January. Rouhani reiterated his support for citizens expressing their opinions, although the interviewer never brought up the demonstrations. “Protest within the framework of the law is accepted but undue tensions and unrest causes concerns for people,” Rouhani said. Reza Rashidpour, a popular TV anchor and Rouhani supporter, conducted the hour-long interview on live state TV.
On January 25, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the United States will take leverage economic relationships to make it more difficult for Iran to fund destabilizing activities in the Middle East. In remarks to the Emirates Diplomatic Academy in the United Arab Emirates, Ryan also expressed support for Iranians who demonstrated against economic hardships and government corruption. He traveled with a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the region. The following are excerpts of his remarks as prepared for delivery.