Scrambling to save the nuclear agreement with Iran, European foreign ministers declared Monday that Iranian breaches so far were not serious enough to take steps that could lead to reimposed international sanctions and a collapse of the accord. That conclusion, reached at a meeting in Brussels, effectively extended a lifeline for the 2015 nuclear agreement in defiance of pressure by the Trump administration. The agreement has been increasingly imperiled since the United States abandoned the accord more than a year ago and renewed its own sanctions on Iran.
The arrest of a French-Iranian academic has thrown a new obstacle in the path of European diplomats trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal and defuse tensions in the Gulf. France's foreign ministry said on Monday that Fariba Adelkhah, an international affairs expert with Sciences Po university in Paris, had been detained in Iran at the start of June and that France was seeking answers from Tehran about her case.
Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. It isn't clear what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late on Saturday night.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran's return to full compliance as part of its nuclear deal is a "very easy" task and wouldn't require more than "a few hours" if the country decided to do so, according to First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri. "But in this current context, the Europeans -- instead of telling us to return to full compliance -- should tell the Americans to let go of their sanctions on Iran," Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the state-run Iranian Students News Agency.
European foreign ministers said the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran can still be saved, despite recent U.S. and Iranian threats to further undermine the agreement. "We are looking to find a way to preserve the nuclear deal, which we think is the best way of keeping the Middle East, as a whole, nuclear-weapon free," U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday as he arrived in Brussels to discuss the nuclear deal and Iran's military actions in the Middle East.
European Union nations were looking to deescalate tension in the Persian Gulf area and call on Iran to stick to the 2015 nuclear deal despite the pullout of the United States and the re-imposition of sanctions. At their regular monthly meeting, the EU foreign ministers were also looking to drum up further support for their barter-type system to trade with Tehran and get around possible U.S. sanctions. Ten nations are already on board the mechanism, known as INSTEX.
Iran will stay committed to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers at the same level that the other signatories stay committed, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Mousavi also said that Iran expected Europe to take operational steps to fulfill the deal.
The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran's breaches as significant non-compliance and have not indicated any intent to trigger the accord's dispute mechanism, the European Union's foreign policy chief said on Monday. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has confirmed that Iran earlier this month violated the accord by enriching uranium to 4.5% fissile purity, above the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 deal, and exceeding limits on its stock of low-enriched uranium.
Iran is threatening to restore its nuclear program to its status before Tehran signed the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers. "If the Europeans and the Americans don't want to carry out their duties ... we will decrease our commitments and ... reverse the conditions to four years ago," the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted an atomic agency spokesman as saying. "These actions are not out of obstinacy. It is to give diplomacy a chance so that the other side [can] come to their senses and carry out their duties."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington's sanctions have had a strong impact on Iran, and Iran's behavior has united unlikely allies in the Middle East against Iranian hegemony. In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on June 15, Pompeo agreed with his host about the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian economy and added that critics who predicted sanctions would not work without European participation came out to be wrong.
A Russian bid to defy U.S. sanctions on Iran appears to have failed, with Russian energy experts saying Moscow has made no recent purchases of Iranian oil as part of a sputtering 2014 deal with Tehran. Russian state media have said that under the August 2014 memorandum, which was never published in full, Moscow agreed to buy Iranian oil in order to deliver it to international customers, while Iran would use the payments received from Russia to buy and import Russian goods. Iranian state media have said only half of the received Russian funds would be used to buy Russian imports.
Iran's foreign minister has suggested for the first time that the Islamic Republic's ballistic missile program could be up for negotiations with the U.S., a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing nuclear deal. Mohammad Javad Zarif offered an initially high price for such negotiations - the halt of American arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf. But the fact that he mentioned it at all potentially represents a change in policy.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran is the highest-ranked soccer team in Asia, a position that underlines the Middle Eastern country's status as a regional favorite to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, to be held in nearby Qatar. Thousands of Iranians are expected to make the short journey to cheer on their team, just as they did when the tournament was held in Brazil in 2014, and in Russia last year. Many were women who live in Iran, yet are prohibited from attending men's soccer matches in their home country.
Iran's judiciary on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of French-Iranian scholar Fariba Adelkhah, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue with Tehran. Macron demanded an explanation on Monday from Iran after the arrest last month of Franco-Iranian dual national Adelkhah, an incident that complicates French efforts to defuse tensions in the region.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday demanded an explanation from Iran after the arrest last month of Franco-Iranian dual national Fariba Adelkhah, an incident that complicates Paris' efforts to defuse tensions in the region. Adelkhah, an academic researcher, was arrested in Iran in June by the Revolutionary Guards for allegedly spying, according to media reports over the weekend.
The Iranian Human Rights News Agency (HRANA) reported that Iranian security police arrested and jailed Moloud Hajizadeh, an Iranian journalist and women's rights activist in Tehran on July 15. According to HRANA, Hajizadeh was summoned to the IRGC Intelligence Organization several times in recent weeks. Several Iranian journalists also tweeted the news of Hajizadeh's arrest. According to one, Hajizadeh was arrested when she reported to a court at Tehran's Evin Prison for investigation.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United Nations told the United States it is concerned by tight travel restrictions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during his visit to New York this week, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday. Zarif arrived in New York on Sunday after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the visit amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is not allowed beyond a six-block radius during his visit to New York City, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, adding that Zarif was only given a US visa as part of the US's obligation toward the UN- being that it is the host country of the organization's headquarters. Zarif and the Iranian delegation arrived in New York on Sunday morning to attend a UN Economic and Social Council ministerial meeting.
China does not want a conflict between the United States and Iran, and continues to call for restraint as the two parties are locked in a dispute over the nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. However, despite their good relations with Tehran, the Chinese could consider the creation of a US-led military escort force for shipping in the Persian Gulf as the lesser of two evils.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Islamic Republic spent government money meant for essential medical supplies on cigarette imports, while Iranians use over two metric tons of narcotic drugs daily, Radio Farda reported. The "official" exchange rate of the Iranian rial is subsidized by the Islamic Republic at a rate far above the open market rate, according to Al-Jazeera. The official rate is 42,000 rials to every $1 and is only used to import essential goods. The open market rate stood at about 130,000 rials per dollar in the beginning of July.
CONGRESS & IRAN
The Trump administration has doubled down on sanctions against Iran. The latest round targets senior officials of Hezbollah, which most think is a proxy terror group bankrolled by Iran, and President Trump has threatened that sanctions will be increased "substantially" as Iran surpasses uranium enrichment limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal. The return to the "maximum pressure" campaign is more proof of Trump's reluctance to start another war in the Middle East, following his last-minute decision to cancel a military strike last month.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Netanyahu responds angrily to the European Union's statement that Iran's non-compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal is "reversible" and will not trigger European sanctions. "Apparently, there are some in Europe who won't wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles land on European soil," he accuses, in Hebrew on his social media accounts. "Then it will be too late."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
As the United Nations' partial suspension of aid to Yemen's capital Sanaa enters its fourth week - with no hope of resumption - Um Ahmed, 60, sees little hope of feeding her two sons and providing them with the medical treatment they need. The aid suspension across Sanaa has left parents like Um Ahmed destitute and perplexed as they watch their children waste away. "I have two sons suffering from health problems. One has cancer and the other suffers from a mental illness," Um Ahmed told Al-Monitor as she drove on a minibus June 28 in the Shoob district.
The Saudi-led coalition involved in a war in Yemen announced on Sunday that two drones heading toward the kingdom were intercepted Turki Al Maliki, spokesman of the coalition, said in a statement released by Saudi Press Agency that the two destroyed drones were launched by Houthis to target civilian sites in the Saudi city of Khamis Mushait. Some parts of the destroyed drones fell and damaged several buildings and vehicles but no injuries were reported, he said.
CHINA & IRAN
Iran is hoping to attract up to one million Chinese tourists from next month in a bid to shore up its falling economy, badly hit by US sanctions. Vali Teymouri, Iran's deputy director for tourism affairs, told the South China Morning Post that the Iranian government's new visa waiver program for Chinese visitors - first announced in June - could be implemented as early as the end of this month.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned on Tuesday that the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker on July 4 in Gibraltar will not be left unanswered, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "England carries out maritime piracy and steals our ship ... they commit crimes and then legitimize them ... the Islamic Republic will not leave these actions unanswered," Khamenei warned.
The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.