A cargo of Iranian gasoline that was seized by the U.S. has arrived in New Jersey, escalating a legal battle over who is its rightful owner. The Maersk Messina is moored at Carteret, New Jersey, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It is the second of two Iranian gasoline cargoes brought to the U.S. after being confiscated earlier this year for breaching U.S. sanctions while en route to Venezuela. Last month, the Maersk Progress discharged 557,712 barrels of Iranian gasoline in New York, according to U.S. Customs data. Four tankers carrying Iranian gasoline were intercepted this summer in an unprecedented move by the Trump administration, which has sanctioned Venezuela’s oil industry in an effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
For the second day in a row, Iran shattered its single-day record for new deaths and infections from the coronavirus, with 272 people confirmed dead among more than 4,200 new cases on Monday. Like in many other countries, the spiraling outbreak in Iran reflects the government's contradictory virus response. This month, as the daily recorded death toll reached the triple digits, authorities announced tighter restrictions for the hard-hit capital of Tehran. Recently reopened universities and schools, as well as libraries, mosques, cinemas, museums and beauty salons, shut down.
Iran’s backing for armed militias in the region is a violation of international law, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN said on Monday. Abdallah Al-Mouallimi voiced his concern at a meeting on disarmament and international security at the General Assembly. Saudi Arabia, the US and many other countries say the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers allowed Tehran the financial and political freedom to pursue its policy of supporting destabilizing proxy forces in the Middle East. The deal had removed sanctions against Iran in return for curbs placed on its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia is “very concerned by Iran’s failure to comply with its nuclear commitments,” Al-Mouallimi said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
While the world looks to next month’s U.S. election for clues on the future of the standoff with Iran, candidates are preparing for another vote that may prove just as pivotal. Next June, Iranians will also elect a new president, as the era of Hassan Rouhani, who staked his career on clinching the historic nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, comes to an end, his legacy upended by hardliners in the U.S. and at home. As always, presidential hopefuls will be vetted by the powerful Guardian Council, whose members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
In his office, Dror Shalom, the brigadier in charge of intelligence research for Israel’s army, keeps a small black and white photograph of the unit’s top team meeting on the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 as a constant reminder of what can go wrong. The gathering of intelligence chiefs decided then that there was “low probability of war”. Yet 24 hours later, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Brigadier Shalom is in charge of preparing an annual national assessment that synthesises information collected by Israel’s entire intelligence community, not only to gauge the probability of a war in the region but to try to predict key strategic developments in the Middle East.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers the sanctions, has targeted 18 major Iranian banks — the entire financial sector — which US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin identified as “an additional avenue that funds the Iranian government’s malign activities.” Mnuchin vowed sanctions “will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs.” This latest punitive measure comes weeks after the US declared a “snapback” of sanctions on Iran that were waived under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program, accusing Tehran of having breached that agreement.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, says that 30,000 marriages involving girls under 14 occur in Iran every year. On Sunday, Ebtekar referred to an amended bill on reforming the age of marriage, saying that Iran does not have a ceiling for the age of marriage, and 30,000 marriages in the current law of women under the age of 14 each year testify to it. The Iranian government official news agency, IRNA, cited Ebtekar as saying that the increase in marriage loans could inadvertently increase girls' and children's sales under the pretext of marriage.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran Monday said the US was facing a "historic" defeat as an arms embargo against Tehran is to be lifted within days despite Washington's bid to have it extended. Addressing the issue at a news conference, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also lashed out at the "insanity" of the latest US sanctions against banks in the Islamic republic. On Sunday the "historic defeat of the United States will be realized, and that came to be despite its attempts, trickery and extrajudicial moves," Khatibzadeh said.
Iran's supreme leader hit out at President Donald Trump and his administration after a new round of U.S. sanctions further constricted the economy of the Islamic Republic, which is increasingly looking toward China and Russia for financial support. In a virtual address delivered to graduating military cadets, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lambasted the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, referring to the U.S. leader as a "scoundrel" whose policies were hurting the peoples of both countries. For Iran, Khamenei said the answer to the country's woes lies from within, not from abroad.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today the country would never retreat in the face of new sanctions. During a video speech delivered to a military university, Khamenei addressed the new US sanctions and the maximum pressure strategy, saying, “We will not ignore the role of the malicious Americans and their sanctions on the economy, which are certainly criminal.” He added that Iran will make them regret their maximum pressure.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran has secured a trade agreement with Iraq that will enable it to access funds trapped in Baghdad because of U.S. sanctions, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Abdolnaser Hemmati, head of the Central Bank of Iran, visited Baghdad on Monday to finalize the deal, which allows Iran to use accumulated payments from energy exports to buy essential goods from Iraq, IRNA reported, quoting Hemmati. He didn’t give any figures or a time frame for the agreement.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iranians are rushing to buy real estate in Turkey to transfer their funds outside the country in light of sharp decline of the local currency. They are transferring their money for better opportunities, taking advantage of the new Turkish law issued during the economic crisis in 2018, which allow foreigners to obtain Turkish citizenship if they are willing to spend at least $250,000 on property. Iranians topped the list of foreign property buyers in Turkey, according to official figures which revealed that their purchases peaked in August, with 640 homes, the highest number since this year’s first quarter.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran said an unidentified drone crashed near its border with Azerbaijan on Tuesday, as Baku and Yerevan accused each other of violating a truce in fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. The drone crashed in a village in Parsabad county, Ardebil province, along Iran’s northern border, deputy governor Behrouz Nedayi told state news agency IRNA. “The drone’s identity and cause of its crash in the area are being investigated,” he said, reporting no damage.