China National Petroleum Corp. has pulled out of a $5 billion natural-gas project in Iran as escalating tensions threaten to sever Beijing's trade with Tehran, a key lifeline for the Islamic Republic. The exit by Beijing-which had vowed to resist U.S. restrictions on Iran-is a blow to Tehran's attempts to fight growing economic isolation and comes after Washington brought new sanctions on Chinese companies still trading with Iran.
Serious questions have emerged about the International Atomic Energy Agency's and the European powers' silence regarding a series of German intelligence reports documenting the Iranian regime's illegal attempts to obtain nuclear weapons technology as late as 2018. Emily B. Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Fox News that the material in the German documents necessitate "confronting Iran with the intelligence and asking hard questions."
Iran has not drawn back to a less threatening military posture in the region following the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Arabia, the top U.S. admiral in the Middle East told Reuters, suggesting persistent concern despite a lull in violence. "I don't believe that they're drawing back at all," Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said in an interview.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrooz Kamalvandi, on Sunday warned Europeans that Iran would drop more of its nuclear commitments if they do not assist the Islamic Republic to economically benefit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran will continue to reduce its commitments" if the remaining parties to the deal do not realize their own commitments, Kamalvandi was cited as saying by official IRNA news agency.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran will not succumb to U.S. pressure and will use every possible way to export its oil, Iranian Oil Ministry's website SHANA quoted Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh as saying on Sunday. Iran's crude oil exports were reduced by more than 80% when the United States re-imposed sanctions on the country last November after President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. "We will use every possible way to export our oil and we will not succumb to America's pressure because exporting oil is Iran's legitimate right," Zanganeh said.
The spokesperson of U.S. Department of State has welcomed a decision by China's national oil company CNPC to withdraw from a gas exploration deal with Iran. Morgan Ortagus tweeted October 6, "Chinese company, and more than 100 others, have made the wise decision to stop doing business with Iran. It's not worth exposing your assets to U.S. sanctions." CNPC and France's TOTAL were both committed to develop Iran's South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf waters; the largest gas field in the world.
Iran's total exports to Turkey, including oil and gas in the first eight months of 2019 has amounted to nearly $2.9 billion, which shows a 43% decline compared with the previous year, Turkish official statistics show. The reason behind the significant drop is the substantial decrease in Iranian oil exports to its western neighbor. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TSI) has published the data concerning the eight-month trade with Iran.
Iran still has many tools to push back against U.S. national security interests. The recent agreement between Iran and the P5+1 has, presumably, tabled the question of Iranian nuclear weapons for the next ten years, and perhaps longer. However, Iran retains a set of lethal tools for pursuing its interests in the Middle East. Iran's regional presence has always amounted to more than the nuclear weapon threat; before the Revolution, Iran played a central role in the politics of the region.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Australian couple detained in Iran for several months have been released and are being reunited with their families after charges against them were dropped, the Australian authorities confirmed on Saturday. "I'm pleased to be able to advise that the Iranian government has released Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin from custody and has dropped the charges against them," Marise Payne, minister for foreign affairs, told reporters in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday afternoon.
Dozens of Iranian lawmakers have demanded an investigation into violent protests in the central Iranian town of Lordegan. In a letter Sunday, the lawmakers demanded a "comprehensive report" on Saturday's clashes, during which protesters attacked the local governor's and health department's offices claiming improper health care caused an increase in HIV infections in a nearby village. Health authorities say the increase in recent months was the result of unsafe practices by drug addicts and in sexual relationships.
Australia will not extradite an Iranian academic to the United States, Australia's attorney-general said over the weekend, following a 13-month detention of the researcher for allegedly exporting American-made military equipment to Iran. Attorney-General Christian Porter said in a statement that "in all the circumstances of this particular case" the academic, Reza Dehbashi Kivi, should not be extradited."
Iran has arrested an Instagram celebrity famous for drastically altering her appearance through cosmetic surgery, the semi-official Tasnim news agency has reported. The social media star known as Sahar Tabar was detained on the orders of Tehran's guidance court, which deals with "cultural crimes and social and moral corruption", Tasnim said late Saturday. She faces charges including blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging youths to corruption, the news agency added.
A poetry reciter in Iran has received a six-month prison sentence for reciting a poem, which mentioned corruption, discrimination abusing power and stealing public funds. Hossein Jannati, who once even recited a poem in the presence of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was charged with "propaganda against the regime", and a higher court confirmed the verdict on October 5.
Iran has faced increasing pressure to lift the ban on women attending men's matches. Now, according to a state-run news agency, the Islamic Republic has "guaranteed" that 3,500 female football fans will be allowed in the stands for the Iran-Cambodia 2022 Football World Cup qualifier on October 10. The report said that the tickets for women were sold out within minutes.
As the Trump administration speaks of placing "maximum pressure" on Iran, my brother Ali Alinejad has become another victim of Iran's perpetual maximum pressure on its own citizens. Two weeks ago, Intelligence Ministry agents raided his home in Tehran and blindfolded and handcuffed him in front of his two small children, and dragged him away. He is now being interrogated at Iran's notorious Evin prison. His only crime is being my brother.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Government-backed Iranian hackers reportedly attempted to crack President Donald Trump's re-election campaign website Friday, reminiscent of Russian cyber interference in the 2016 election because I guess we're just stuck in the Groundhog Day of American politics at this point. Microsoft issued a warning Friday that it detected "significant cyber activity" aimed at a then-unnamed 2020 presidential bid believed to be the work of a hacking group that "originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government."
Iranian media affiliated with various parts of the country's political spectrum have been trumpeting a rhetoric that blames U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel for the widespread protests in Iraq. This comes while protesters and most observers believe Iran-aligned Iraqi ruling factions have mismanaged the country and tolerated corruption, driving desperate people to come out into the streets with more than 70 killed so far.
The Trump administration's disregard for the unprecedented September 15 Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia's oil refineries and fields is reminiscent of the actions - or lack thereof - taken by former US president Barack Obama in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta al-Sharqiya, in the country's southwest, which left hundreds of people dead.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Enraged people in a village in southwest Iran stormed the Friday Prayer Imam's office, set it on fire, and attacked the Governor's building. At least 300 people, including children, are believed to have been infected with HIV in the province by a medical assistant using a contaminated syringe, furious people say. Based on the latest reports, protesters burned the health network facilities on Saturday, October 5. Local health clinics are run by the country's health ministry.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made three claims about the state of Iran's economy in his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 25 - all highly questionable. He announced to the world that the Islamic Republic of Iran's economy has had the highest growth rate in the world in 2017 and amazingly it was accompanied by a decreasing inflation rate. Meanwhile, he claimed that the economy has returned to a trend marked by stability and growth since 18 months ago, that is Spring 2018.
Iran and the United States are as close to direct conflict as they have been for three decades, since Operation Praying Mantis in 1988 which was, at the time, the largest surface naval engagement since World War II. A lot of ink has been spilled and oxygen expended discussing the matter, some of it good and some of it simplistic.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran wants to improve ties with all the countries in the Middle East, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Sunday, adding that China's national petroleum company had pulled out of developing phase 11 of the country's giant South Pars gas field. "We want to be friends with all regional countries. Out mutual enemy is outside the Middle East... I have no problem to meet with Saudi Arabia's oil minister. China has pulled out of developing the phase 11 of the South Pars field and Petropars will carry out the job," Zanganeh said, the ministry's SHANA website reported.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran has confirmed the arrest last week in Tehran of a Russian journalist, saying the case was a matter of a visa violation. Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters that Yulia Yuzik's case is under "quick review" by authorities and wasn't related to matters concerning the "counter-espionage" department. The Russian Embassy in Tehran said on Friday that Yuzik flew into Tehran the previous Sunday and that Iranian officials seized her passport at the airport for unknown reasons. She was arrested from her hotel room on Wednesday.
The conflict between Iran and the US that has created tensions throughout much of the Middle East is now also being felt in Lebanon, where Washington has slapped sanctions on Iran-backed Hezbollah and warned they could soon expand to its allies, further deepening the tiny Arab country's economic crisis. The Trump administration has intensified sanctions on the Lebanese terror group and institutions linked to it to unprecedented levels, targeting lawmakers for the first time as well as a local bank that Washington claims has ties to the group.
A senior Israeli official recently said that Israel's top priorities are to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon and to thwart Hezbollah's precision missile project. Those are the biggest security challenges Israel faces but there is a huge difference between them.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken steps towards indirect talks to defuse tensions in the Middle East, with Riyadh asking Iraq and Pakistan to speak with the Iranian leadership about de-escalation, according to the New York Times. In a report on Saturday, the Times said Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) asked the leaders of Iraq and Pakistan to intervene in the wake of the attacks on two Saudi oil facilities on September 14.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran is calling on the Iraqi people to show restraint, an Iranian government spokesman said on Monday, after six days of unrest in Iraq in which more than 100 people have been killed. "Iran will always stand by the Iraqi nation and the Iraqi government. We are calling on them to preserve unity and to show restraint," government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference. The unrest is the biggest security and political challenge for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's government since it took power a year ago.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "enemies" were trying to drive a wedge between Tehran and Baghdad following deadly unrest in neighbouring Iraq. "Iran and Iraq are two nations whose hearts & souls are tied together... Enemies seek to sow discord but they've failed & their conspiracy won't be effective," Khamenei was quoted as saying on his office's Twitter account. State news agency IRNA said the supreme leader was reacting to recent violence in Iraq.
A hashtag is making the rounds on social media networks in Iraq, saying: "The Marja' does not represent me." This, of course, is in reference to the Iran-born Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, the highest Shiite religious authority in Iraq, who delivered a Friday sermon dividing blame equally between the young angry protestors, who took to the streets of Baghdad last week, and the security forces who responded to their demands with live amm unition, killing 42 and wounding no less than 1,600.
Iraq Protests: Death Toll Soars As Pro-Iran Militias Accused Of Shooting Protesters | The Independent
Iraqi paramilitary groups close to Iran are suspected of joining attacks on protesters in Baghdad and other cities, leading to heavy loss of life among demonstrators. Some 107 people have been killed and over 6,000 wounded in the last six days, though hospital doctors say the government is understating the true number of fatalities.
Iran is planning to take legal action against the U.S. for numerous alleged cyber attacks and threats on its networks, the semi-official Tasnim news reported, citing an interview with General Gholamreza Jalali commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Passive Defense Organization.