By Lesley Wroughton and Sam Wilkin WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranians will demand their government spend a windfall from the lifting of economic sanctions on improving the quality of life at home, limiting the degree to which a future nuclear deal could fund Tehran's allies on Middle East battlefields. Since 2012, Iran has given support worth billions of dollars to regional allies, funding and arming mainly fellow Shi'ite Muslims in conflicts that have taken on a sectarian dimension. Its enemies say lifting sanctions will provide it with the means to do even more. Within months of financial sanctions being lifted, Iran will be able to collect debts from overseas banks that may exceed $100 billion, mostly from oil importers whose payments have been blocked, diplomats and analysts said. But with the budget strained by last year's heavy fall in oil prices, and public expectations of improved socio-economic conditions in the event of a deal, the authorities will face pressure to invest new funds at home. "The idea that Iran is going to have its pockets full of cash that it can use for discretionary purposes, I think is exaggerated," Charles Hollis, managing director for the Middle East at FTI Consulting, said. Infrastructure in the vital oil sector has fallen into disrepair during years of mismanagement and isolation, and the oil ministry has lobbied for huge cash injections that will be necessary to bring production back to pre-sanctions levels. Deputy oil minister Mansour Moazzami said in February that the oil industry needed $30 billion of investment a year in order to maintain production and develop new projects, in comments carried by the ministry's news agency Shana. Iranian officials have not speculated in public about how much money they might receive from a nuclear deal, or how it would be distributed. Analysts said any cash windfall would probably be deposited initially in the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), making it relatively difficult for the Islamic Republic's secretive security officials to spirit it away to foreign battlefields. "As soon as there is a sense that the money is there, every government department is going to start looking for flows," said David Butter, a Middle East economic analyst and associate fellow at Chatham House. The establishment will also face pressure from Iran's large and vocal middle class, which turned out in force to elect President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, hoping his agenda of better management at home and pragmatic diplomacy abroad could improve their economic fortunes. "I have to support a family of four. I don't have time to think about politics or the nuclear issue. What people like me need is an improved economy," said teacher Gholamreza Behrad in Tehran. "Hopefully it will happen when the sanctions are lifted." REGIONAL RIVALRY Despite facing economic hardship under sanctions, Iran has ramped up support to allies such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iraq's Shi'ite militias, Lebanon's Hezbollah and, Tehran's foes say, Houthi rebels who have taken over much of Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed alarm at their rival's activities in the region, which they portray as aggressive and destabilizing, arguing that the lifting of sanctions could open to the door to even more Iranian activism. The argument is also made in the United States, where the administration of President Barack Obama faces opposition to its decision to offer to lift of sanctions in return for a nuclear deal. "If Iran gets major sanctions relief... that will mean more money flowing into Iranian coffers and a windfall Iran can use to step up its influence in the region even more," Matthew Kroenig, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. Administration officials downplay those fears. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in April that most of the money Iran received from sanctions relief would not be used to support regional proxies and activities. "Iran will be under enormous pressure to use previously blocked resources to improve its domestic economy," Lew said. Iran's most costly intervention is in Syria, whose government last week requested a new credit line worth $1 billion from Tehran after months of setbacks on the battlefield. Matthew Levitt, a fellow at the Washington Institute and former Treasury official, said Iran's support for regional allies did not depend on whether a nuclear deal is signed, since the leadership would fund them anyway. "Iran has plenty of money right now to be able to fund those foreign policy projects that it considers to be of core interest, even if it doesn't have all the funds in the budget," he said. Iranian paramilitary activities are run by the secretive Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and funded outside the budgetary framework, meaning there are no definitive reports on quite how much money Iran has spent, or how much it has left. Reuters reported in late 2013 that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls a holding organization with assets of around $95 billion. The state news agency denounced those reports as "disinformation". Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, estimated Iran gave between $15 billion and $19 billion worth of support to Syria alone in the two years to the end of 2014. That figure includes the cost of keeping IRGC commanders in the field, probable shipments of arms and ammunition, and financing such as lines of credit and soft loans, he said. The IRGC is used to operating under sanctions and knows how to pursue its goals without relying heavily on Iran's limited foreign exchange reserves. Obama said in an interview with the Atlantic magazine last week that the IRGCs most effective activities in the region actually do not cost very much, adding that he had pointed this out to Gulf Arab leaders at a recent summit. A significant portion of Iran's support to allies, including the salaries of IRGC agents, is paid for in rials. Other aid is provided in kind, such as ammunition. Trade deals are negotiated without hard currency changing hands, a Western diplomat said. Pieter Wezeman, an expert on military expenditure at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, noted that Iran's spending was only a fraction of Saudi Arabia's military budget, which topped $80 billion in 2014. He added that the spending power of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries, which have also funded allies in the region, is likely to check Iran's ambitions because of the threat of escalation. "The key Arab states have heavily increased their spending, and if they see bigger threats from Iran I'm sure they will go further," he said. (Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Washington, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)
- The Independent
John Brennan says ‘there are so few Republicans in Congress who value truth, honesty, and integrity’
- The Independent
‘It’s really sad, who says that?’: Lindsey Graham mocked for thanking Trump for ‘allowing me to be in his world’
‘Morning Joe’ hosts laugh at senator’s continued subservience to former president
- The Independent
5,000 National Guard troops remain in DC amid QAnon frenzy that Trump will be inaugurated again this week
QAnon followers believe that on 4 March, which was once the inauguration date of US presidents, Donald Trump will become president again
- Business Insider
Biden hit with first Cabinet defeat as White House withdraws Neera Tanden nomination for budget chief
Neera Tanden, Biden's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, became known for social media attacks on the GOP- and those on the left.
China was the biggest source of applications for international patents in the world in 2020 for the second consecutive year and extended its lead over No. 2 filer the United States, the U.N. patent agency said on Tuesday. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said China filed 68,720 applications last year while the United States filed 59,230. The rate of increase was higher for China with a 16.1% year-on-year increase versus 3% for the United States, it added.
China’s biggest annual political meetings—known collectively as the “Two Sessions”—will kick off in Beijing Thursday. The unveiling of a new Five-Year Plan means that the upcoming political meetings will be brimming with long-term goals
- Miami Herald
Colombia became the first country in hard-hit Latin America to receive coronavirus vaccines through COVAX, a World Health Organization-backed alliance aimed at getting shots to countries with fewer resources.
- The Independent
Seven government figures blocked from accessing financial assets in the US
- The Independent
Medical examiner is ‘awaiting toxicology results’ before releasing a report on the death
- The Independent
President’s warm tone towards Mexico has translated to substantial policy changes
- The Independent
Anchors on RSBN have been playing conspiracy whack-a-mole, swatting down paranoid comments to which they themselves seem sympathetic.
- CBS News
The Senate majority leader said that the Senate will take up President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill as early as Wednesday.
A Palm Beach mansion owned by the Trump family just hit the market for $49 million, and it's right across the street from Mar-a-Lago
The home was previously owned by Donald Trump's sister, who sold it to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump in 2018.
- Associated Press
Barely a mile from where an SUV packed with 25 people struck a tractor-trailer — killing 13 inside — a cemetery with unmarked bricks is a burial ground for migrants who died crossing the border from Mexico to remote California desert. Authorities are investigating whether human smuggling was involved in Tuesday's early-morning collision that killed the 22-year-old male driver of the SUV and 12 passengers. Seats of the 1997 Ford Expedition were removed except for the driver and right front passenger's, said Omar Watson, chief of the California Highway Patrol's border division.
- The Daily Beast
CBSIf you happened to catch any hour of Fox News over the past couple of days, you may be under the impression that Dr. Seuss getting “canceled” is the biggest news story in America. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s not quite so simple.As Stephen Colbert explained in his Late Show monologue Tuesday night, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided to stop publishing six rather obscure titles from the iconic children’s author because they contain “racist and insensitive imagery.”“It’s a responsible move on their part,” the host argued. “There hadn’t been an earth-shattering outcry, but they recognize the impact that these images might have on readers, especially kids, and they’re trying to fix it, because Dr. Seuss books should be fun for all people—Black, white, straight, gay, Sneetches both star-bellied and plain, Loraxes, Barb-a-loots, all the Whos down in Whoville and the strange, angry creature called Foo Foo the Snoo.”Colbert went on to highlight just a few of the Dr. Seuss books that “teach vital lessons to this day,” including the anti-war Butter Battle Book, environmental Lorax and Hop on Pop, which “warns against the dangers of pop-hopping.”“The Dr. Seuss folks listened to criticism, thought it was reasonable and made what’s called a change,” he added. “Or as it’s known on Fox News: cancel culture.” Trevor Noah Disgusted by Andrew Cuomo’s Creepy Kiss PhotoAfter playing a montage that just scratched the surface of how much Fox has obsessed over the story this week, culminating in a full-on meltdown from Donald Trump Jr., Colbert said, “I’m not surprised Don Jr. loves The Cat in the Hat, I’ve always believed he can read at a second-grade level. Also, I think his dad calls him and Eric ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two.’”Finally, Colbert read aloud from a brand new Seussian book titled “Oh the Books You Can Read,” which began, “So the book news you heard today just got your goose. And now you’re defensive for old Dr. Seuss. If you find that your bookshelf just got a little bit duller, consider these kids books from people of color.”“There’s lots of new stories you might find quite good,” he continued, “like Imani’s Moon by Janay Brown-Wood. Want more suggestions? No need to keep hopin’. Just pick up Firebird by the Misty Copeland. And this one right here is the real real McCoy, it’s Thomisha Booker’s great book Brown Boy Joy. There’s a whole range of books that will make you feel merry, like this one called Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry.”“So don’t be so cancel-y, culture-y, whiny,” Colbert concluded. “Read these books after pulling your head from your hiney.”For more, listen and subscribe to The Last Laugh podcast.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Telegraph
The Duchess of Sussex faced several bullying complaints from members of her staff during her time as working royal, it was claimed on Tuesday night, as tensions between the couple and Buckingham Palace deepened. She was accused of driving two personal assistants out of the household and undermining the confidence of a third employee, The Times reported. A spokesman for the Sussexes told The Telegraph: "The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good." Jason Knauf, the couple's communications secretary at the time, submitted a formal complaint about the claims in October 2018 in an apparent bid to protect his staff. In his email, he said: "I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable. The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards Y."
- The Telegraph
The Duchess of Sussex wore earrings during a royal tour which were a gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who is accused of ordering the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Chopard earrings worn by the Duchess at a formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018 during a royal tour of New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga were a wedding gift from the crown prince according to The Times. Kensington Palace was reportedly instructed to brief the media that the chandelier earrings were “borrowed” and this was reported by outlets covering the engagement. An aide has claimed the Duke and Duchess said the earrings were borrowed from a jeweller. Lawyers for the Duchess told The Times that while she may have stated the earrings were borrowed she did not say that they were borrowed from a jeweller. The lawyer denied the Duchess misled anyone about their provenance.
I received my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in New York City and had to battle a flawed booking system
An Insider reporter struggled to book an appointment and had to wait in line for hours to get the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
- National Review
Senators Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) on Tuesday pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray on the procedures federal law enforcement officials have used to track down those who participated in the January 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol. “I’m anxious to see those who committed unlawful, violent acts on January 6 brought to justice,” Lee said during a Senate Judiciary Hearing on Tuesday. “I also believe that … with this circumstance, like every other circumstance, we have to make sure that the civil liberties of the American people are protected.” The Utah Republican explained that he had “heard a number of accounts” of people who were in Washington, D.C. on January 6 who never went near the Capitol but were “inexplicably” contacted by FBI agents who knew of their presence in the district that day “with no other explanation, perhaps, other than the use of geolocation data.” “Are you geolocating people, through the FBI, based on where they were on January 6?” Lee asked Wray. “I think there may be some instances in which geolocation has been an investigative tool, but I can’t speak to any specific situation,” Wray responded. “But what are you using to do that?” Lee asked. “What’s your basis for authority? Are you using national security letters?” Wray said, “I don’t believe in any instance we’re using national security letters for investigation of the Capitol—” Lee interrupted to ask the FBI director if he had gone to the FISA court, to which Wray responded he did not “remotely believe FISA is remotely implicated in our investigation.” The senator continued pressing Wray, asking if the FBI is “using warrants predicated on probable cause.” “We certainly have executed a number of warrants in the course of the investigation of January 6,” Wray said. “All of our investigative work in response to the Capitol [riot] has been under the legal authorities that we have in consultation with the [Department of Justice] and the prosecutors.” Later, Hawley continued Lee’s line of questioning regarding geolocation data, asking Wray if his position is that he doesn’t know “whether the bureau has scooped up geolocation data, metadata cell phone records from cell phone towers.” “Do you not know, or are you saying maybe it has or maybe it hasn’t? Tell me what you know about this,” Hawley said. “So when it comes to geolocation data specifically—again, not in a specific instance, but just even the use of geolocation data—I would not be surprised to learn—but I do not know for a fact—that we were using geolocation data under any situation with connection with the investigation of [January 6],” Wray said. “But again, we do use geolocation data under different authorities and specific instances.” The FBI, Department of Justice and local police in Washington, D.C. are investigating the origins and execution of the January rioting at the Capitol, with the probe resulting in hundreds of arrests so far. Republicans have expressed concern that the methods law enforcement has used to track down rioters could infringe upon personal liberty. Last month Bank of America sparked outcry after it said it would hand over banking information to the federal authorities for people suspected of having involvement in the riots. In the days after the riot, Bank of America handed over data to the FBI on thousands of customers who traveled to Washington, D.C. around January 6, Fox News reported.
CrossFit has publicly disavowed Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene over the Republican's previous support for QAnon and other conspiracy theories.