News Digest: Week of February 15

February 15

Border: A massive fire at the Iran-Afghanistan border was extinguished after burning for three days. The fire erupted on February 13 when a fuel tanker exploded at the Herat border crossing. The explosion was large enough to be viewed from space. At least 20 people were injured by the blast. 

Nuclear: Iran threatened to block IAEA snap inspections if the U.S. did not lift sanctions by February 21. "All these steps are reversible if the other party changes its path and honors its obligations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. The government specified that it would stop complying with the Additional Protocol – a voluntary agreement that gives IAEA inspectors more intrusive access to nuclear sites. Iran ratified the Additional Protocol as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.


February 16

Diplomacy: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the "path to diplomacy" with Iran was open, but Tehran had to first comply with the 2015 nuclear deal. "Presumably, Iran still has incentives to get what it bargained for in the deal, which was some sanctions relief given the state of its economy," Blinken told NPR. "So I think there's still interest on both sides — including among our negotiating partners in Europe, also Russia and China — to do this."

Iraq: Tehran denied any involvement in a rocket attack in Erbil by an Iraqi militia group. “Iran considers Iraq’s stability and security as a key issue for the region... and rejects any action that disturbs the peace and order in that country,” the foreign ministry said. 

Military: The Iranian and Russian navies held joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean. The exercises involved a simulated pirate attack on a merchant ship and nighttime firing drills. 


February 17

Nuclear: German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged President Hassan Rouhani to reverse Iran's breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal. “It is now time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution,” Merkel told Rouhani in a phone call. 

Natural disaster: A moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 hit southwest Iran. No fatalities were reported, but gas and electricity were cut off in Sisakht.