An arms depot of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah exploded in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, a security source said, injuring several people and sending a new shockwave across a nation grappling with its deepest crisis in three decades. The security source said the arms depot blast, which sent a huge column of black smoke into the sky, was caused by a “technical error”. The explosion rocked the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, a region that is a political stronghold of the heavily armed and politically powerful group which has fought wars with neighbouring Israel.
After defying U.S. sanctions by shipping its first cargo of oil to Venezuela just last week, Iran is using the same ship to help the Latin American country export crude. The Iran-flagged supertanker Honey, also known as Horse, is loading Venezuela’s top exported grade Merey 16 at Venezuela’s government-controlled port of Jose, according to a shipping report seen by Bloomberg. The shipments offer some relief to the nation’s hobbled oil industry, as most shipowners and oil traders shun business with the country for fear of sanctions.
The U.S. and Iranian presidents on Tuesday took their nations’ dispute to the virtual world stage, trading attacks over the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran’s role in regional security and the U.S. killing of a prominent Iranian military commander in January. The prerecorded remarks played at the United Nations General Assembly came a day after the U.S. unveiled new measures intended to prevent Iran from engaging in weapons trade with China, Russia or nonstate actors, announcing new penalties as part of a “snapback” of U.N. sanctions to which no other nations have said they would adhere.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that dialogue and diplomacy should resolve issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme under international law, with all parties abiding a 2015 international agreement. The United States on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran’s defense ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons programme. They were meant to support Washington’s assertion - disputed by Europeans and others - that all United Nations sanctions against Tehran are now restored.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Grappling with a weakened economy and the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s president delivered a defiant and fiery speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly as he insisted it would be the United States that surrenders to Iran’s resilience. Hassan Rouhani spoke in a prerecorded speech to the virtual summit just days after Iran’s currency plunged to its lowest levels ever against the U.S. dollar due to crippling U.S. sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
Russia said on Tuesday new U.S. sanctions against Iran would have no political or practical consequences for Moscow’s cooperation with Tehran, the Interfax news agency reported, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on Iran’s defence ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons programme to support the U.S. assertion that all U.N. sanctions against Tehran are now restored, a stance which key European allies as well as Russia and China reject.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Europe would not compromise with the United States over Washington's move to reactivate sanctions on Iran, highlighting the growing transatlantic rift over how to deal with Tehran's nuclear programme. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Macron assailed the "maximum pressure" policy of US President Donald Trump, saying it had failed to curb Tehran's interference in the region or ensure it would not acquire a nuclear weapon.
Abu Dhabi: Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime is continuing, as the United States sanctions entities and officials in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes among others, the State Department said. “The US is open to diplomacy but Iran must first end its violence, bloodshed, and nuclear extortion,” wrote US State Department spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, on her Twitter account. In a series of tweets, Ortagus said, “Iranian Minister of Propaganda Javad Zarif returns to the stage at @CFR_Org - again.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Detained charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she is being harassed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while awaiting a second trial under house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe filed a report to prosecutors in the Iranian capital alleging officers from the IRGC had turned up at the house and accused her of breaking the electronic tag she was fitted with after her temporary release from prison in March, The Guardian reported. Her complaint was also sent to Britain’s foreign ministry.
This past weekend, Iran’s most prominent human rights defender, Nasrin Sotoudeh, entered the hospital because of heart and respiratory problems resulting from a nearly six-week-long hunger strike. Sotoudeh is a veteran of this extreme form of protest, but this time the circumstances are much more dire for her and other political prisoners in the country. On Aug. 12, the 57-year-old lawyer stopped eating to protest the scandalous mistreatment of prisoners of conscience currently detained in Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran’s president told the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the United States could impose “neither negotiations nor war” on the Islamic Republic amid heightened tension between the longtime foes over Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. “Iran is not a bargaining chip in U.S. elections and domestic policy ... Any U.S. administration after the upcoming (U.S.) elections will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of the Iranian nation,” Hassan Rouhani told the annual U.N. gathering in a video message.
“President [Donald] Trump ordered the assassination of a national hero for Iran and a hero for the region,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of the killing of powerful Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike back in January. The attack on Soleimani’s convoy outside Baghdad’s International Airport also left several others dead, including pro-Iran Shiite commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Addressing a virtual meeting of the US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations, Zarif called the killing “a great mistake” by the United States, adding that “the book” on Iran’s retaliatory measures “is not closed.”
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze. “One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A top Russian official said today his government will pursue military cooperation with Iran once the United Nations arms embargo on the Middle Eastern country expires in October. “New opportunities will emerge in our cooperation with Iran after the special regime imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 expires on Oct. 18,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. Ryabkov did not elaborate on the nature of the cooperation.
IRAQ & IRAN
On Monday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised the eight-year Iran-Iraq war as "one of the most rational events in Iran's history" and described accepting the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 598, which ended the war, as "the (one of) most rational decisions made." UNSC Resolution 598 was adopted unanimously on July 20, 1987. It called for an immediate ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. Iraq endorsed it immediately, but it took Iran nearly a year to accept it.