Eye On Iran: US Says Iran Can't Access Nearly Half Of Its Oil Export Earnings Due To Sanctions

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AP: "The U.S. has concluded that nearly half of Iran's monthly earnings from crude oil exports are accumulating in accounts overseas because of sanctions that restrict Tehran's access to the money. The estimates, provided to The Associated Press by a senior U.S. official and never released before, are the latest indication that new sanctions imposed in February are deepening Iran's economic distress and making it increasingly difficult to access billions of dollars in vital oil revenues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of sanctions policy. The U.S. estimates that about $1.5 billion in crude oil revenues is piling up in restricted foreign accounts every month. Crude revenues overall averaged about $3.4 billion monthly in the first half of year, according to the assessment. That means Iran is not able to either spend or repatriate about 44 percent of its crude oil income." http://t.uani.com/194OGpF

WSJ: "Iran and the Lebanese political and militant group Hezbollah are debating whether to retaliate on behalf of Syria in the event of a strike on their close ally. The two, which along with Syria help form what they call an 'axis of resistance' against the West, are discussing whether to attack Western interests, and if so, whether to do so openly or covertly and through proxies. People with knowledge of the discussions in Iran and within Hezbollah said the Syrian allies are considering whether to deploy long-range missiles against Israeli and American warships or military bases in the region if the U.S. attacks Syria in response to what America and its allies say was a deadly chemical attack by Damascus last week." http://t.uani.com/1a5fnPy

Bloomberg: "Excluding Iran from the global oil market increased the shortfall between worldwide supply and demand, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. Global petroleum use averaged 2.2 million barrels a day more than output in July and August when Iran is excluded from the calculations, the EIA, the Energy Department's statistical arm, said in a report today. Iran can help reduce the deficit by 1.5 million barrels a day as the country's production outpaced demand, the EIA said. ...Global petroleum production excluding Iran averaged 85 million barrels a day in July and August and consumption averaged 87.2 million, the EIA said. Iran produced 3.4 million barrels a day of fuels and used 1.9 million." http://t.uani.com/15E7hZN

Nuclear Program & Sanctions

Washington Free Beacon: "Iran is on course to test around 1,000 new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, renewing concerns that Tehran is quietly marching toward a nuclear weapon as the West turns its eye to Syria, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations' top nuclear watchdog. UANI spokesman Nathan Carleton said the IAEA report provides clear proof that Iran is taking great steps forward on the nuclear front. 'Unsurprisingly, this report shows that Iran's nuclear program keeps advancing,' Carleton told the Washington Free beacon. 'The recent political changes in the country have not changed that trajectory, nor should anyone expect them to.' Iran remains committed to its nuclear program despite the election of Rowhani, Careton said. 'The same regime is still in charge, and the international community must not fall for a Rowhani-led charm offensive while the centrifuges keep spinning...'" http://t.uani.com/16W45s9  

Syria Conflict

RFE/RL: "U.S.-led military attack on Syria will inevitably cause collateral damage, and one casualty could be rising optimism for rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. President Hassan Rohani's election victory in July was widely seen as an opening for improved relations between Iran and the United States. Rohani took a relatively moderate position on policy issues during his campaign, pledging to improve ties with the West and try a different approach in negotiations over Iran's contentious nuclear program. That was welcomed by Iranian voters keen on seeing international economic sanctions lifted, and by many U.S. lawmakers open to talks that could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says a U.S. intervention in Syria would considerably complicate such efforts." http://t.uani.com/15py2wT

Human Rights

Fox News: "Secretary of State John Kerry called on Iran to "work cooperatively" to help return three Americans, including Pastor Saeed Abedini, whose eight-year prison sentence was upheld days ago, to their families. In his most extensive public comments to date concerning Abedini, the 33-year-old Christian being held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Kerry called on new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to free him and imprisoned former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and to help locate a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who was last seen in Iran in 2007. 'These men belong at home with those who love them,' Kerry said." http://t.uani.com/17rboai  

Domestic Affairs

NY Times: "At the top of the agenda of Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is fixing the country's crumbling economy, and promoting international tourism is part of his solution. Mr. Rouhani wants the number of foreign visitors to more than double, to 10 million from 4 million, each year, according to a report last month in The Washington Post. Such an increase, The Post reported Mr. Rouhani as saying, would 'create jobs for 4 million people, solving the problem of 3.5 million unemployed people in this country.' That goal is welcome news to Hamid R. Tavassoli, founder of Iranian Tours, a Tehran-based agency that runs guided trips to cities like Yazd and Shiraz. 'I believe the Iranian culture, nature, hospitality and infrastructure very well deserves a much larger number of tourists to visit the country,' he said." http://t.uani.com/1dxq3aV  

Foreign Affairs

WSJ: "India is making progress with Iran in resolving a dispute over an Indian oil tanker that was detained by Iranian naval authorities more than two weeks ago, an executive at state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd., the tanker's owner, said Friday. 'We are very, very hopeful. The ship may be released by [this] evening or tomorrow,' the executive, who has knowledge of the negotiations, told The Wall Street Journal. Iran detained the ship carrying crude oil from Iraq to India on Aug. 13, saying it was polluting Iranian waters. India has denied the allegation and according to Shipping Corp., the vessel wasn't in Iranian waters when it was detained." http://t.uani.com/1a58vld

Opinion & Analysis

Meir Javedanfar for Al-Monitor: "To Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Arak is much more important than Assad. Arak, the site of Iran's heavy water reactor, as well as Iran's other nuclear installations at Natanz and Fordo would become dangerously exposed to a potential future attack if Iran goes into war against the United States to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. With Russia dismantling and scrapping the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles which Iran bought and made a down payment on in 2007, Iran needs to keep what remains of its anti-aircraft system at home. It cannot afford to send them to Syria to help Assad's army. The same goes for Iran's missiles and fighter aircraft, especially the latter, because sanctions have reduced their numbers and quality over the years. Sending them abroad to help Assad against the United States would risk their loss, knowing full well that it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to replace them. These are important reasons why, in case of a military attack by the United States against Syria, there is little chance that Iran will become directly involved. This is despite Iran stating that it would consider such an attack as crossing its 'red line.' There are also historical reasons which back the theory that Iran is likely to stay away. Despite several reported attacks by the Israeli air force against Assad's military and in one case nuclear installations, Iran never became involved in a war against Israel to defend Assad. Iran's military leadership is well aware that such a war would have exposed its nuclear installations and its military hardware to attacks by the Israeli air force. If Iran did not want to confront Israel because of Assad, its very unlikely that it would want to confront the United States, which has a far bigger and more powerful military arsenal. Its also quite unlikely that a US-Syria conflict would lead to Iran permanently breaking off nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Here again, the reason is related to Iran's own pressing priorities, which are most likely to win the day over those of Bashar al-Assad." http://t.uani.com/12SQRf3

Brian Murphy, AP: "For more than a generation, Iranian papers have regularly posted the announcements: Another veteran from the 1980s war with Iraq has died of complications blamed on exposure to chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein's arsenal. Each one is buried with a hero's honors. The claims now that Iran's Syrian allies used similar tactics, including possibly unleashing sarin gas, has forced Tehran's leaders into perhaps their most difficult juncture of the nearly 30-month civil war. Iran's rulers could face an uncomfortable backlash at home - and possibly stir upheavals inside its powerful Revolutionary Guard - if they're seen as ignoring allegations and U.N. investigations into possible chemical attacks by Bashar Assad's regime. Yet Iran remains, for the moment at least, solidly behind Assad and seeks to shift attention to efforts at blocking possible Western military action against Syria. Damascus is a critical ally for Tehran as a major foothold in the Arab world and its pathway to funnel aid to its main proxy militant, Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran's strategy includes a series of warnings that Israel could be drawn into a wider conflict - most likely by Hezbollah offensives - if the U.S. and others launch attacks on Syrian government sites. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier this week described possible Western attacks as 'a spark in a gunpowder store.' Tehran also is using its diplomatic leverage with Russia and China to try to slow the momentum toward possible military action. On Thursday, Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, called possible military strikes on Syria an 'open violation' of international laws. The comments, reported by state TV, followed talks by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rouhani repeated his blanket condemnations of any use of chemical weapons. But he also tried to appeal to political blocs in the West, including the U.S., that are wary of a rush