U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called on the European Union to condemn Iran and hold Tehran accountable after he said oil from Iranian tanker Adrian Darya had been offloaded in Syria. "Oil from the #AdrianDarya1 has been offloaded in Syria, proving that Iran lied to the UK and Gibraltar ... EU members should condemn this action, uphold the rule of law, and hold Iran accountable," Pompeo wrote in a post on Twitter.
Iran's nuclear chief said Monday the country will start using 30 advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, again violating terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and ramping up pressure on Europe to save the accord. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (AEO), told Iranian state television that additional IR-6 centrifuges will be used in the coming weeks. The centrifuges can enrich uranium 10 times faster than IR-1 centrifuges. The country is now producing up to 13 pounds of enriched uranium every day, according to Salehi.
Iran's army began an unannounced military drill in the northwest of the country bordering Turkey, Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Wednesday, as Turkish troops prepare to enter the territory of Iran's ally Syria. ISNA said the drill included rapid reaction units, mobile and offense brigades, and helicopters from the Army Ground Force's Air Unit.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran will soon introduce a set of 30 modern IR-6 centrifuges within the next 2 or 3 weeks as the latest development in its nuclear program. Salehi added that a new part of the heavy water reactor in Arak in central Iran will become operational within the next two weeks. This comes while Iran is bound by its 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) not to employ more than 30 of this model of centrifuge until 2023.
Iranian pressure on its European partners to counterpoise the US sanctions has increased one month before the end of its third chance given in the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tehran is now flagging a high-level violation compared to the first three in the path of its gradual withdrawal from the nuclear deal by reducing commitments. This step comes after its European partners signaled to resort to a trigger mechanism if Tehran continues to reduce its commitments.
Things are about to get worse on the Iran nuclear front. That's essentially what Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promised in a speech on Wednesday before commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's most infamous military force. Per Khamenei, Iran is slated to continue reducing its adherence to the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), until "the desired result" is achieved.
Despite having nuclear technology, Iran has never pursued building or using nuclear weapons, which its religion forbids, the country's highest political authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday. "Building and stockpiling nuclear bombs is wrong and using it is haram (religiously forbidden) ... Although we have nuclear technology, Iran has firmly avoided it," State TV quoted him as saying. Iran has repeatedly denied ever having sought to build a nuclear bomb.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh has confirmed that US sanctions triggered the withdrawal last week of China's state oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), from a major development project in Iran's energy-rich south. "Conditions brought about by the sanctions created a situation in which they were no longer able and willing to continue their activities in Iran," Zangeneh declared Oct. 8 in reference to CNPC and the French energy giant Total. The latter's exodus from the same project occurred last August.
Tehran has many missiles it could use to hit U.S. forces or bases. Like the rest of the Iranian Armed Forces, the Iranian Air Force was crippled by postrevolution purges. Although numerically and technologically superior to the Iraqi Air Force, Iran was unable to achieve air superiority and unable to accurately strike targets deep within Iraq. In response, Iran purchased a number of Soviet R-17 ("Scud B") short-range ballistic missiles from the Libyan government.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Russia says that Iran has released a Russian journalist who has been detained for nearly two weeks over a visa violation. The Russian Embassy in Tehran tweeted that Yulia Yuzik was freed and left Iran on Thursday morning on an Aeroflot flight and that she will arrive in Moscow. Yuzik arrived in Tehran on Sept. 29 and was detained Oct. 2 in her hotel room. Last week, Iranian authorities said the case concerned a visa violation, and wasn't related to counter-espionage.
Three young women who posted their own dance videos on Instagram were arrested in Iran on October 8 and will be tried in court. Dancing in public is strictly forbidden in the Islamic Republic of Iran but uploading footage of one's dancing on social media is a faux pas that takes it a step further and turns the "crime" into an "enemy plot." The conservatives in Iran have repeatedly insisted that the "enemy" (the U.S.A. and its allies) is encouraging Iranian youth to publish "disgraceful" posts, such as dancing, on social media.
Protests have rocked a small town in southwestern Iran following rumours that people had been infected with HIV during a diabetes screening programme. Demonstrators have unleashed their fury at government offices - including local health centres - in Lordegan, in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, since Saturday, accusing authorities of infecting as many as 300 people with the deadly virus.
A human rights organisation has received more than £1 million in charity cash despite being run by self-declared Islamist revolutionaries closely aligned to Iran who say that the West is "the enemy" and Britain a "Stasi state".
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Recent developments show that Iran is succumbing to international pressure - just not the kind the Trump administration has been exerting in the form of economic sanctions. Last week, in surprise reversals of two long-standing policies, Iranian women were - for the first time - granted the right to pass their citizenship to children fathered by non-Iranian men. Then authorities quietly lifted the ban on women entering soccer stadiums when they began selling tickets to the Oct. 10 match between Iran and Cambodia's national teams.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it bizarre that the Republican leadership is (rightly) going nuts over President Trump's betrayal of the Kurds in Syria while it's ignoring his betrayal of the U.S. Constitution at home. If only Lindsey Graham & Co. were as eager to defend our democracy as they are the Kurds. But I digress. If you think Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria will make the Middle East more explosive, you're correct. But there's far more going on.
US Accuses Iran Of Lying About Oil Delivery To Syria | Financial Times
The US has accused Iran of delivering oil to Syria despite denials from Tehran that the Adrian Darya 1, a tanker seized by British commandos and released weeks later, had been sailing to Syrian ports to sell crude in violation of US and EU sanctions.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Houthi rebels in Yemen have recruited at least 30,000 child soldiers to bolster their ranks in the country's five-year war, a senior Yemeni official said on Tuesday, warning of the dire consequences the issue could have on the country's future.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian women will be allowed to watch the national soccer team play on Thursday for the first time in over 40 years, but campaigners are not convinced the match against Cambodia heralds a wider opening up of sports by the government. Under pressure from world governing body FIFA, Iranian authorities have allocated seats to women in four sectors of Tehran's 78,000 capacity Azadi Stadium. FIFA stepped up pressure on Iran to meet commitments allowing women to attend World Cup qualifiers following the death last month of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire to protest against her arrest for trying to get into a match.
In Iran, when the fall months of Muharram and Safar arrive, people hold ceremonies to pay homage to the decedents of the Prophet Muhammad, especially his grandson Imam Hussein ibn Ali and a number of other Shiite imams. These months, which roughly correspond with September and October, are sacred for Shiites. But the mourning ceremonies have become opportunities for hard-liners to advance their political agenda. Eulogists, or religious singers, are paid huge amounts of money, and the practice has drawn public scrutiny.
I grew up in the Iranian city of Shiraz after the 1979 revolution. Girls like me were barred from going to stadiums to watch sports because, our religious leaders said, it would be an improper mixing of men and women. Still, I grew up loving soccer. I would watch matches on television with my family, cheering on our favorite teams and players. My brother Masoud is a gifted player and became Iran's national-team captain. He has played in three FIFA World Cups. But my mother, sister and I have never seen a game in our home country.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The United States is unhappy with the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah, a western diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday. "The situation has not changed. There are still two armies in Lebanon, one of them being illegitimate and taking orders from abroad," the diplomat, who was not identified, said.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has invited the Lebanese public to submit any information on the whereabouts of Hezbollah member Salim Ayyash to the court through an audio-visual and audio public service announcement, and as a poster with info on the accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In an attempt to draw European support for Lebanon as it grapples with financial unease, Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raed threatened the bloc with the sensitive issue of Syrian refugees. "All we have to do is wave the card of Syrian refugees and all the European countries will kneel before us," Raed said Tuesday, mirroring the comments of Turkish President Recep Erdogan who threatened to reopen the route for refugees and migrants into Europe if he does not receive adequate international support.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran's foreign minister says his country could turn into a "companion" for Saudi Arabia if the kingdom ends its war in Yemen, where the archrivals support opposite sides. The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Tuesday Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying if Saudi Arabia solved "problems in the region at the negotiating table, and not by killing people, it would definitely have the Islamic Republic of Iran as its companion."
Either all Gulf countries enjoy security, "or they will all be deprived of it," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday in an opinion piece in the Kuwaiti Al Rai newspaper. Saudi Arabia, which is locked in several proxy wars in the region with arch foe Iran, has blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil plants on Sept. 14, a charge Iran denies. The kingdom has said it prefers that its differences with Iran are resolved politically rather than militarily.
IRAQ & IRAN
Since they erupted a week ago, the deadly protests in Iraq have been tracked closely in Iran where they are seen as a plot to undermine ties between the neighbours. Tehran has close but complicated relations with Baghdad, holding significant clout among its Shia political groups. The two countries fought a devastating war from 1980 to 1988 and Iran's influence in Iraq grew after the US-led invasion toppled longtime ruler Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Nearly 11,000 members of Iran's special police units will be present in the Arbaeen Pilgrimage, a Shi'ite religious ceremony annually held in Iraq. Speaking to the state-run Mehr news agency on Monday, the Special Unit Chief Commander, Brigadier General Hassan Karami said that 7,500 of his forces, forming 24 battalions, will be "directly involved" in the ritual. Furthermore, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps General (IRGC) noted that 3,000 of his troops would be on stand-by until the end of the week-long ceremony.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called on Turkey on Wednesday to show restraint and avoid military action in northern Syria, as Ankara's forces were poised to advance into an area there being vacated by the U.S. military. As Rouhani spoke, Iran's Army Ground Forces began an unannounced military drill in the northwest of the country that borders Turkey, the Iranian Students' News Agency ISNA reported. Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies will push into Syria "shortly", a Turkish official said on Wednesday, in an operation world powers fear could open a new chapter in Syria's ruinous eight-year-old war.
Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani has cancelled his scheduled trip to Turkey, Iranian state TV reported, after Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria on Wednesday. "Larijani was invited by his Turkish counterpart to attend a parliamentary meeting in Turkey. His trip has been cancelled," TV said, without elaborating.
A recent hacking attempt by Iran targeting a U.S. presidential campaign highlighted the vulnerability of email accounts heading into the 2020 elections. Microsoft revealed last week that it had tracked an Iranian group named "Phosphorus" attempting to access the email accounts of an unnamed presidential campaign, along with accounts tied to journalists and former and current U.S. officials.