The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has resolved nuclear issues with Iran relating to one of three sites being investigated over the presence of uranium particles, Iranian media reported on Tuesday. The agency’s alleged case regarding the findings of uranium particles with 83.7 purity has also been closed, a source told the semi-official Mehr news agency. The IAEA is due to issue quarterly reports on Iran this week, ahead of a regular meeting of its 35-nation Board of Governors next week.
Hours after Iran and Belgium conducted a prisoner swap on Friday, with the help of Oman, details began to emerge on Brussels' mission to free one of its own from a Tehran jail in an operation dubbed “Operation Blackstone”. Once aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, 42, was aboard a military aircraft that departed from Muscat on Friday morning, Belgian government sources gave journalists in Brussels details of their efforts. Mr Vandecasteele was exchanged for an Iranian diplomat serving time in a Belgian jail for a failed bomb plot against an Iranian opposition group.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has put forward a bill that would see Ukraine impose sanctions on Russian ally Iran for 50 years, Zelenskiy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Sunday, a response to what Kyiv says is Tehran's weapons supplies to Moscow. Kyiv and its allies say Iran has been supplying Russia with arms, including hundreds of drones, since Moscow invaded Ukraine last year. Tehran rejects the allegations. If passed by Ukraine's parliament, the bill would stop Iranian goods transitting through Ukraine and use of its airspace, as well as imposing trade, financial and technology sanctions against Iran and its citizens.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…“I think Iran’s leadership to date has calculated the costs of doing so would outweigh the benefits at this juncture — mainly a destructive attack which targets its entire nuclear infrastructure,” Jason Brodsky, policy director of the U.S.-based United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), told Fox News Digital. “But my concern is that calculus risks changing as the U.S. and Europe’s non-response to Iran’s nuclear escalation over the last two years — for example 60% enrichment and production of uranium metal — has emboldened Tehran’s leadership to continue testing international red lines.” Brodsky added that “If that perception is not altered, Iran is likely to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels at 90%.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
“Utilitarianism is knowing where to show flexibility,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, explained in a long article published on his website on March 20, 10 days after the signing of renewed diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “Flexibility“ is not a new term in Khamenei’s lexicon. In 2013 he used the term “heroic flexibility” to explain why he gave the green light for negotiations with Western countries, which gave birth to 2015’s nuclear agreement. Pundits in the West are quick to see the renewed use of the term as a signal that Iran is ready for a new round of talks about a nuclear deal.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Members of the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) – a nine-strong group of central banks including those of India, Pakistan and Iran – are to launch a new cross-border financial messaging system in the coming weeks, as an alternative to the main existing international network Swift. According to officials from Iran – which currently chairs the body – the members of the bloc agreed at a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran on May 24 that they would set up the new system within a month. “The [ACU] countries decided to have a customized system for themselves, considering that Swift is not available to all countries and given that it has its own costs,” said Central Bank of Iran deputy governor Mohsen Karimi, in comments reported by the Iranian state-owned Fars news agency.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told the secretary general of OPEC on Saturday that he hopes oil producers can calm down the market, calling for the unity of OPEC members, Iranian media reported. The secretary general Haitham Al Ghais is visiting Tehran. "I hope that OPEC ... will be able to control (market) tensions and bring calm to the oil market," Raisi was quoted as saying, while calling for unity among OPEC members.
Iran’s decision to test-fire a new long-range missile has raised eyebrows around the Middle East and in the West as it seeks to produce weapons that can carry out precision strikes and also evade radar while achieving high speeds during their flight to target. One of the reasons Iran’s missiles are in the spotlight is the threat to Europe that these longer range missiles pose. Iran has supplied Russia with armed drones and its missile program is increasingly recognized as a growing threat outside the Middle East. The projectile used by Iran in their latest test is a 4th generation Khorramshahr-class missile called Kheibar.
Iran is preparing to unveil a hypersonic missile in the near future, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander said on Monday. This comes after Iran last week unveiled a new ballistic missile capable of reaching a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and carrying warheads weighing over a ton. “The hypersonic missile has passed its tests and will be unveiled soon,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC’s aerospace unit, as saying. “This new missile is capable of passing through all missile defense systems. It targets the enemy’s anti-missile systems and is a big leap in the field of missiles,” he added.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Azerbaijan was planned with even greater levels of security than usual, amid concerns that Iran would attempt to disrupt the visit. The Iranian border with Azerbaijan is about 100 km from the capital, Baku. “Azerbaijan is a neighbor of Iran, a destabilizing force in the region seeking to undermine Israeli alliances of peace and security in the region,” Herzog said on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. The Shi'ite Muslim country, which opened an embassy in Israel earlier this year is “a friendly state, a key state with a lot of areas of cooperation,” Herzog said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian journalist went on trial behind closed doors on Monday on charges linked to her coverage of the funeral of a Kurdish-Iranian woman whose death in custody last year triggered months of unrest, her lawyer told ILNA news agency. The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code unleashed a wave of mass protests across Iran for months, marking the biggest challenge to Iran's clerical leaders in decades. Elaheh Mohammadi covered Amini's funeral in her Kurdish hometown Saqez, where the protests began. The Islamic Republic accused its foreign foes of igniting the protests to destabilise the country.
It was a chilling warning from government agents. A young female journalist based in Tehran recounted the calls and messages she had received: “It said they were at my sister’s place and were there to rape her.” These were the same agents from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who had interrogated her after she had attended one of the nationwide protests that erupted last year after the death in custody of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, who was arrested for wearing her headscarf improperly and then reportedly beaten into a coma.
An Iranian-born model, Mahlagha Jaberi, is dividing the internet after she wore a dress that resembled a noose to raise awareness for a string of executions in Iran. Jaberi, who is 33-years-old, posted a video to her Instagram that she “[d]edicated to the people of Iran” after making an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival. She shared the video with the hashtag, “#StopExecutionsInIran.” Iran has executed multiple citizens by hangings in recent weeks, despite condemnations from the Biden administration and an admonition “not carry out these executions.”
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian media highlighted its use of drones in anti-submarine warfare over the weekend. The article at Fars News didn’t elaborate a lot on Iran’s new capabilities but did say that Iran’s navy commander Shahram Irani has discussed the use of anti-submarine drones for operations. Iran claims it can use these drones out to a distance of 1,000 kilometers. Iran says it uses a weapon known as the Mark 46 torpedo which can be mounted on a drone. The drone can carry several types of torpedo, the article claims. It is not clear if it can carry more than one at a time. “In addition to the anti-submarine torpedo, the anti-submarine drone can also carry an anti-ship torpedo,” the report said.
Tehran on Saturday accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of anti-Iranian propaganda in his call for Iran to halt the supply of drones to Russia, saying his comments were designed to attract more arms and financial aid from the West. Zelenskiy in a video address on Wednesday called on Iranians to stop their slide into "the dark side of history" by supplying Moscow with drones. Iran initially denied supplying Shahed drones to Russia but later said it had provided a small number before the conflict began.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A recently as March, Iran’s national security chief found himself on the front pages of the world’s top news outlets as he shook hands with a Saudi minister in a landmark deal brokered by China. That was perhaps the biggest international moment in Ali Shamkhani’s career – and possibly his last. Almost three months after that meeting, he was replaced. Shamkhani this week stepped down from his ten-year post as the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Iranian media reported. Replacing him is a little-known general from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who analysts say has little experience beyond the military realm.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran wants to boost Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military by upgrading the country's air-defense system, the Fars news agency reported on May 29. In an interview with the news agency, Iranian General Said Hamzah Kalandari said that although Syria had its air-defense capabilities, the "Syrian brothers" will be supported with equipment and tactical upgrades. The general, who is active in the Defense Ministry, said the aim was to contain Israeli attacks. Along with Russia, Iran is Assad's most important ally. Iran has been expanding its political and military relations in the region since the 1990s.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said arrived in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit expected to focus on regional diplomatic and security issues, Iranian state media said, two days after Muscat mediated a prisoner swap between Iran and Belgium. Oman has long been an interlocutor for the West with Iran and has mediated the release of several foreign citizens and dual nationals. On Friday, Oman helped to secure the release of a Belgian aid worker, who was arrested in 2022 and sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on charges including spying, in exchange for an Iranian diplomat sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with a failed bomb plot in France.
Iran’s supreme leader said Monday he’d “welcome” the restoration of full diplomatic ties between Egypt and the Islamic Republic, raising the prospect of Cairo and Tehran normalizing relations after decades of strain. The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came as a series of websites linked to Iran’s presidency bore the images of two leaders of an exiled opposition group Monday, with others showing the pictures of Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi crossed out. Iranian state television quoted Khamenei’s comments as coming from a meeting he held with the visiting sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq.
The Islamic Republic of Iran proxy movement, the Houthis, on Thursday violently stormed a peaceful gathering of the persecuted religious minority community, Yemeni Baha’is, in the war-ravaged Arab county. The raid resulted in the Houthis “disappearing at least 17 people, including five women, “according to a statement from the Baha’i International Community (BIC), which urged the immediate release of those detained. “Across the Arab region we see governments striving to work toward peace, to set aside outdated social differences, promote peaceful coexistence, and to look to the future,” said Bani Dugal, the BIC’s Principal Representative to the United Nations.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran's foreign minister told his Iraqi counterpart on Friday that a reduction in gas exports to Iraq was a technical matter and Tehran had not decided on any cuts, an Iraqi foreign ministry statement said, as the two countries try to resolve Baghdad's huge unpaid bills. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein asked Iranian's Hossein Amirabdollahian during a phone call about Iran's reduction of exports in the past week, which Hussein said "led to a decrease in electricity production and has repercussions on daily life," the statement said.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
The Taliban and Iran exchanged heavy gunfire Saturday on the Islamic Republic’s border with Afghanistan, killing and wounding troops while sharply escalating rising tensions between the two countries amid a dispute over water rights. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted the country’s deputy police chief, Gen. Qassem Rezaei, accusing the Taliban of opening fire first Saturday morning on the border of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province and the Afghan province of Nimroz. IRNA said Iran inflicted “heavy casualties and serious damage.” From the Taliban’s view, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor accused Iran of shooting first.