Eye on Iran: Deep In the Desert, Iran Quietly Advances Missile Technology

TOP STORIES

Deep In the Desert, Iran Quietly Advances Missile Technology | New York Times

When an explosion nearly razed Iran’s long-range missile research facility in 2011 — and killed the military scientist who ran it — many Western intelligence analysts viewed it as devastating to Tehran’s technological ambitions… [But this spring, weapons researchers] stumbled on a series of clues that led them to a startling conclusion: Shortly before his death, the scientist, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, oversaw the development of a secret, second facility in the remote Iranian desert that, they say, is operating to this day… [A]n analysis of structures and ground markings at the facility strongly suggests, though does not prove, that it is developing the technology for long-range missiles, the researchers say.

Doubts Emerge over EU Attempts to Counter U.S.-Iran Sanctions Threat | Bloomberg

European Union efforts to circumvent U.S. sanctions on companies with business in Iran showed signs of unraveling as some member states questioned whether measures to counteract the penalties would do more harm than good.

U.S. Widens Iran Sanctions for Supplying Missiles to Yemen’s Houthis | Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on five Iranian officials it said are responsible for providing Yemeni rebels with long-range missiles being used to target Saudi Arabia.

 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

 

Iranian Officials Split over Response to U.S. Demands | Reuters

 

For all of Iran’s fierce verbal response to fresh U.S. threats of tougher sanctions, some senior officials in Tehran believe the door to diplomacy should stay open.

Poland Breaks with EU, Voices Empathy with US Stance on Iran | Associated Press

Polish leaders are planning to defend the U.S. government's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal within the European Union, where the decision has been strongly criticized.

Iran Tells Europe to Step Up and Save Nuclear Deal | Reuters

Iran poured scorn on threatened U.S. sanctions on Tuesday and told European powers to step up and salvage its international nuclear deal - though Germany signaled there was only so much it could do to fend off Washington’s economic clout.

Europe Has Little Wiggle Room to Keep Iran Deal Alive | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

While European powers are determined to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after the Trump administration’s unilateral exit, it is far from certain if they will find effective ways to do so. The accord’s survival hinges upon the EU’s ability to incentivize Tehran with lucrative business deals to remain compliant, but the far-reaching U.S. sanctions will deter major European companies and banks from investing in the Islamic Republic.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS

In First Move Since FX Crackdown, Iran Lowers Rial vs. Dollar | Reuters

In a sign that it will allow some flexibility in exchange rates under threatened U.S. sanctions, Iran has lowered the official value of the rial versus the dollar for the first time since it tried to stamp out a free currency market last month.

BP Delays Rhum North Sea Work Over Iran Sanctions Clarity | BBC News

BP has delayed work on its Rhum field in the North Sea while it seeks clarity over US sanctions on Iran.

Austria's OMV Stands By Iran Project But No Investment Yet | Reuters

Austrian energy group OMV is continuing with planned Iranian energy projects despite the United States’ withdrawal from a nuclear pact with Tehran, but said on Tuesday it had made no investments there yet.

Iran Slams U.S. Sanctions Push, Syria Rejects Idea of Iranian Withdrawal | Reuters

Iran on Wednesday kept up a drumbeat of opposition to U.S. demands for sweeping change in its foreign policy and nuclear program, and Tehran’s ally Damascus dismissed out of hand a U.S. call for a withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria.

American Oil Boom Seen Tempting Ships to Steer Clear Of Iran | Bloomberg

The latest standoff between the U.S. and Iran may be leaving oil-tanker owners in more of a bind than in previous years. As the U.S. reimposes sanctions on the Islamic Republic, firms that help ferry Iranian oil risk losing access to the American financial system, similar to earlier in the decade when such measures were enforced. Additionally, this time around, they’ll have to contend with being cut off from the booming business of transporting crude pumped from shale fields in Texas or wells in the Gulf of Mexico, according to shipbroker Braemar ACM.

Russian, Saudi, Emirati Oil Ministers to Meet on Iran Sanctions | Jean-François Seznec for the Middle East Institute

The energy ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia will meet this week on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum to discuss the potential impact of renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Speculation Mounts over US Push for Iran Regime Change | Agence France-Presse

Speculation is swirling over the prospect of US willingness to push regime change in Tehran, as US officials including Washington's top diplomat urge Iranians to "choose for themselves" their government.

The United States Finally Has an Aggressive Plan to Defang Iran | UANI Advisory Board Member Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz for Foreign Policy

Ever since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this month, the commentariat has been aghast at the lack of a new plan. Critics said that the administration was all instinct and no insight, and that coercion without purpose was its only strategy. On Monday, in one of the most important speeches on Iran ever delivered by a secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in his first major policy address since taking the role, put that criticism to rest as he laid out an aggressive plan for defanging the theocratic regime.

 

Pompeo Raises the Price for Iran to Rejoin International Community | Eli Lake for Bloomberg

 

If you ever wanted to know what the opposite of Barack Obama's Iran strategy would look like, I recommend Mike Pompeo's speech Monday at the Heritage Foundation. In his first major address as secretary of state, Pompeo outlined a new strategy that overturns three key assumptions that underpinned the Iran policy of Obama and his top diplomat, John Kerry. These are: that America can live with Iranian regional aggression in exchange for temporary limits on its nuclear program; that the 2015 nuclear bargain expressed the will of the international community; and that Iran's current elected leadership can moderate the country over time.

Iran, Recoupled | Weekly Standard Editors

Pompeo is right: You can’t separate a rogue regime from its roguery.

 

SYRIA, RUSSIA, ISRAEL & IRAN

 

Iran Frustrated by Assad-Putin Meeting in Sochi | Alex Vatanka for the Middle East Institute

Bashar al-Assad’s May 17 visit to Russia is generating much dismay in Tehran. Shortly after Assad’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, the Russian envoy for Syria urged all foreign military forces to leave the war-torn country. This, Alexander Laverentiev insisted, includes Iran and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah. It was explicit, and Tehran’s wiggle room to downplay Moscow’s call has been limited.

IAF Commander: Israel Still Striking Targets in Syria | Jerusalem Post

Israeli jets have continued to strike targets in Syria following the recent Iranian missile barrage against IDF posts in the Golan Heights, a senior Israel Air Force officer said on Tuesday.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Security Forces Kill Three Protesters in Southern Iran As Demonstrations Continue | Tzvi Kahn for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Protests in Iran have largely faded from Western news reporting, but not from the country’s streets, with more than 400 in April alone. Last week in the southern city of Kazeroon, police opened fire on demonstrators, reportedly leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured. Authorities arrested more than 100 others… Both the White House and Congress should draw attention to the waves of protests shaking Iran, and encourage U.S. allies to follow suit.

Meet the Woman Whose Hair Scares Iran | Benny Avni for the New York Post

Masih Alinejad’s hair scares Iran’s leaders, and Washington is finally taking notice.

IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION

Morocco's Foreign Minister Warns Iran Is Seeking Foothold in North Africa | Fox News

During Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s first major policy speech on Iran Monday, he warned Tehran that the U.S. would work closely with regional allies to deter its meddling. One country that has recently experienced such Iranian interference is Morocco, and Nasser Bourita the minister for foreign affairs, spoke to Fox News about the problem last week.

 

NORTH KOREA & IRAN

Before Meeting Kim, Trump Had to Repudiate the Iran Deal | Tod Lindberg for the Wall Street Journal

Otherwise North Korea could have demanded the same lenient terms, and negotiations would fail.

HEZBOLLAH & LEBANON

New Lebanon Parliament Re-elects Hezbollah Ally Berri As Speaker | Agence France-Presse

Lebanon's new parliament on Wednesday elected veteran speaker Nabih Berri to a sixth consecutive term, making him one of the longest-serving parliamentary heads in the world… Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement and is a close ally of the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Lebanon Parliament Elects Hezbollah Ally Ferzli Deputy Speaker | Reuters

Hezbollah ally Elie Ferzli won at least half the votes in Lebanon’s parliament on Wednesday, securing his election as deputy speaker.

 

IRAQ & IRAN

 

Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Victory in Iraqi Elections Raises Alarm in Tehran | Ahmad Majidyar for the Middle East Institute

 

Firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s surprising lead in Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections has raised alarm in Tehran. The Iranian press expressed the concern that Sadr would seek to undercut the Islamic Republic’s influence in Iraq by marginalizing Iran’s allies and allowing regional Sunni countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, to make inroads into Iraqi politics and economy at the expense of Tehran’s interests.