Armenia is a tiny landlocked country, home to just 3.3 million people, but it's suddenly squarely in the middle of one of the world's biggest dramas. Iran is aggressively trying to expand its foothold in Armenian banks, in an effort to evade international sanctions, Reuters reports. Armenia recently told a UN body monitoring sanctions that Iran had approached it with plans to open new banks there, diplomats reveal. Those requests went nowhere because of Armenian regulations, but Iran apparently hasn't given up.
The US is leaning hard on Armenia not to give in, and has been warning nations in general that doing business with banned Iranian entities could get them blacklisted, as the diplomatic row over Iran's nuclear program heats up. Iran threw more fuel on the fire today by unveiling an upgraded short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it insisted was only intended "as a deterrence," the AP reports. "We do not seek it for conquest," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. "We do not want it because of defiance."