At least three people have been killed during violent protests over water shortages in Iran, according to state media. The protests started in southwest Khuzestan province and spread to the nearby city of Aligoodarz in western Lorestan province. Authorities are blaming the deaths in Aligoordarz on "suspicious bullets shot by some unknown people who penetrated among peaceful protesters," state media said. People have been demonstrating for more than a week over water shortages during Iran's worst drought in over half a century that has affected households, agriculture, livestock farming, and led to power blackouts.
The United States is considering cracking down on Iranian oil sales to China as it braces for the possibility that Tehran may not return to nuclear talks or may adopt a harder line whenever it does, a U.S. official said. Washington told Beijing earlier this year its main aim was to revive compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and, assuming a timely return, there was no need to punish Chinese firms violating U.S. sanctions by buying Iranian crude, the official said. That stance is evolving given uncertainty about when Iran may resume indirect talks in Vienna and whether incoming Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi is willing to pick up where the talks ended on June 20 or demands a fresh start.
The commander of Iraq's self-styled pro-Iranian "resistance" forces has threatened to mount more attacks on U.S. forces inside the country if they don't withdraw. The threat by the commander, Khais al Khazali, coincided with a drone attack overnight that targeted U.S. forces in Kurdistan. A U.S. coalition spokesman in Iraq confirmed in a statement Saturday that there had been a drone attack on U.S. forces at the Qiyyara base and said there had been no casualties.
UANI IN THE NEWS
With negotiations paused until a new hardline administration takes office in Tehran, the chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal anytime soon are not bright. Moreover, even successful talks might not stop Iran’s leaders from pursuing nuclear weapons. The Biden administration needs to find a better way to deter them. It’s still possible, perhaps even likely, that the desire for sanctions relief will prompt the Iranians to rejoin the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, once they conclude the U.S. will make no further concessions. That would roll back some of Iran’s recent advances, including its enrichment of uranium to 60% purity and its production of uranium metal, used in nuclear warheads.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The U.S. and Iran took a break last month after six rounds of indirect nuclear talks in Vienna. So far Washington has been willing to give up its most powerful sanctions leverage to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but Iranian negotiators are pushing for more. Iran’s latest demand is that the U.S. agree to a clause that makes American withdrawal from the deal contingent on United Nations approval. Iran claims this is necessary because Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 deal. Iran doesn’t care, but such a clause is unconstitutional.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran’s Supreme Leader leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday said he understands protesters’ anger over a drought in the country’s southwest, as a fourth death related to ongoing demonstrations there was reported. The remark, reported by state television, was the first direct comment on the protests by Khamenei since the demonstrations began in the Khuzestan region a week ago. The semiofficial news agency Fars reported that a man was killed by shotgun fire in street violence in the nearby city of Aligoudarz; police blamed the slaying on “counterrevolutionary elements.”
Iran’s judiciary wants to re-examine the cases of protesters that were imprisoned for taking part in widespread demonstrations against a fuel-price hike in November 2019, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the head of Iran’s judiciary, said he’d ordered Tehran’s prosecutor to release or acquit anyone who’d shown good behavior in jail or met certain “qualifications,” without giving details, ISNA quoted him as saying in a meeting with the families of prisoners.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Russia marked the 325th anniversary of the founding of its navy with ship parades at major ports on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the main parade of more than 50 vessels in St. Petersburg, which included ships from the navies of Iran, Pakistan and India. The Iranian frigate Sahand, which sailed down the Neva River in the parade, and the sea-based vessel Makran attracted attention from naval observers due to their unusually long voyages to Russia.
Iranian-made drones and missiles have attacked Jordan in increasing numbers, King Abdullah told CNN on Sunday, as he described the dangers the Hashemite Kingdom and the region faces from the Islamic Republic. "Unfortunately, Jordan has been attacked by drones that have come out that are Iranian signature that we have to deal with," Abdullah told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. He clarified that the drone attacks had taken place over the past year and had increased.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A senior Iranian militia commander, who has been operating in Syria since 2013, was killed in recent days in still uncertain circumstances. “A prominent Iranian Revolutionary Guards leader has been killed in recent hours on Syrian soil, and he is one of the most prominent leaders of the Liwa Fatemiyoun militia,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, reported. The Observatory identified him as Sayed Ahmed Qureshi. Originally from the village of Baraghan, located north of Karaj in Iran, Qureshi previously served in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij force.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region and a matter of concern, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Saturday. Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and its support for militias, must also be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and they should not be limited to reviving the nuclear deal, GCC Secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf said at a virtual Gulf Research Meeting. Representatives of Iran and the five world powers still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been meeting in the Austrian capital since April, with US envoys participating indirectly.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Two US Representatives have introduced a bill that aims to disclose how Iranian leaders funded their wealth in light of US and international sanctions imposed on the regime. “The Ayatollahs, the Mullahs, and the Iranian military are all profiting at the expense of ordinary Iranian citizens and the Iranian people are rightfully calling for accountability,” according to Representatives French Hill and Al Lawson, who reintroduced the bipartisan “Holding Iranian Leaders Accountable Act.” The bill requests the Department of the Treasury to brief Congress on how the funds of Iranian leaders have been acquired and used.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Assessing the danger that Iran poses to the world through its development of nuclear weapons, missiles and other weapons may be misleading. Focusing on its conventional and potential nuclear abilities misses a crucial factor in evaluating the level of danger. The key lies with understanding who in Iran would decide when to use weapons and, more importantly, what motivates them. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a paranoid regime, believing that Shia Islam is under an existential threat and must be defended.
In 2016, she became a teenage hero in her home country after becoming the first woman to win an Olympic medal for Iran. On Sunday, Kimia Alizadeh was a defector, part of a refugee team, with a draw pitting her against an Iranian opponent. Alizadeh, the bronze medalist in the 57-kilogram taekwondo division at the Rio Games, made short work of beating Nahid Kiyani in a bout that was overlaid with far more political intrigue than sporting tension.
Facebook has told Iranian activists that it will allow people to post the words "Death to Khamenei" or feature video of people saying or chanting this phrase for a limited two-week period of time in a bizarre choice that highlights Facebook's power and often confusing content moderation rules. In the last few days, Iranians in the southwest region of Khuzestan have been taking to the streets over water shortages, sparking anti-government protests in Tehran, fuelled also by a fifth wave of COVID-19 and economic struggles due to American sanctions.