A special European Union initiative to protect trade with Iran against newly reimposed U.S. sanctions faces possible collapse with no EU country willing to host the operation for fear of provoking U.S. punishment, EU diplomats said. The main European powers - Germany, France and Britain - will raise pressure on Luxembourg to host the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) after Austria refused to manage the plan, threatening its viability.
The head of Iran's naval forces has said he plans to soon send a fleet to visit Italy, where the U.S. Navy and the U.S.-led Western military alliance have critical command posts. Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, commander of the Iranian navy, expressed the desire during a meeting with Italy's deputy naval commander on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in the southwestern port city of Kochi, India.
The Trump administration hopes that the US-backed fight against ISIS in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months but American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, said the United States believes the way forward in Syria includes defeating ISIS, reinvigorating the political process and winding down the long-running civil war.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
In theory, the devaluation of the Iranian rial this year—to date, the currency has lost about 70 percent of its value against the dollar—should have been good for Hormoz Hematian. The founder of Tehran’s contemporary art gallery Dastan’s Basement, Hematian spends a significant portion of his time traveling the world to show his artists’ paintings, sculpture, and installations to an international audience; he’s been to six different fairs or exhibitions in 2018 alone.
South Korea’s October imports of Iran oil remained at zero for a second straight month ahead of U.S. sanctions against Iran that came into effect on Nov.5, customs office data showed on Thursday. In September, South Korea’s imports of Iran oil fell to zero for the first time in six years as South Korean buyers halted purchases from the Middle Eastern due to uncertainty over whether they would receive a waiver from the U.S. government.
Global oil prices are already adjusting after being hit by uncertainty about Iran’s production, the head of Russia’s No.1 oil firm Rosneft said on Wednesday, when asked about the need to cut output. Igor Sechin, speaking to reporters in Singapore, declined to give a forecast for oil prices. Sechin said it would be “silly” to make predictions about oil prices as it was unclear what action the United States might take, and what other major oil market players, including Saudi Arabia, could possibly do in terms of adjusting production.
It’s been days since the fourth crisis which the Iranians have caused in terms of forming the Iraqi government or finalizing its formation. The first crisis was replacing Abadi and they succeeded in that under the impression that the new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was independent. Abdul Mahdi submitted his credentials and repeatedly stated that Iraq is not part of the system of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran.
Six months after its withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, the United States has reimposed sanctions on flag carrier IranAir — including every aircraft in its fleet. The move will directly target the safety of ordinary Iranians while at the same time imposing an extra burden on a civilian airline already laden with numerous problems in its structure and business model.
On November 5th, Ahmad Amirabadi, a member of the Iranian parliamentary board of directors, posted an exasperated tweet: “Almost all the individuals and entities that were active in bypassing the previous [US] sanctions [during the Obama administration] are included [in the new list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons]. The question is, how this information has fallen in enemy’s hands. The security forces should investigate.”
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Workers of the Ahwaz Steel Factory continued their ongoing strike for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday chanting slogans against the Iranian regime. The workers took the streets in Ahwaz and protested in front of the governorate and chanted slogans like “We will not leave from here, until we receive our rights” and cried out that “no nation has seen this much injustice”.
Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities to “immediately” disclose the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of Ahwaz minority detainees, who are being held without access to their families of lawyers. In the last few days, Ahwazi Arab activists outside Iran have told Amnesty International that 22 men, including civil society activist Mohammad Momeni Timas, have been killed in secret.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned Iran's execution on Wednesday of a gold trader and his accomplice as "abhorrent" and said it followed a "grossly unfair show trial". Vahid Mazloomin and accomplice Mohammad Esmail Ghasemi were executed after being found guilty of "corruption on earth", Iran's most serious capital offence, the judiciary's Mizan website said.
More than 1,000 Iranian civil society activists have signed a letter to Iran’s judiciary chief urging him to resolve the case of eight environmentalists jailed since January and February on suspicion of being spies. Iranian authorities detained seven of the environmentalists in January and the eighth in February. The seven detained in January are members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
Iranian teachers have gone on a nationwide strike for a second consecutive day to demand better working conditions for their poorly paid profession, one month after their last mass protest. Photos posted on the Telegram channel of the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) showed elementary and high school teachers staging sit-ins and holding protest signs in and outside their offices in at least 27 Iranian cities Wednesday.
Iran could imprison and flog those who opt for “un-Islamic” plastic cosmetic surgery as part of a crackdown on people altering their appearance, a senior MP has said. Hassan Norowzi, a spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s judicial committee, said surgeons offering procedures including “cats eyes” and “donkey ears” could also be stripped of their licenses.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Vice President Mike Pence said that the U.S. would be prepared to engage in cold war to get the concessions Trump wants from China. That would be bad enough in itself but, worse, the U.S. might not win an escalating conflict with Beijing. According to a new study commissioned by Congress, national defense isn’t up to snuff to America’s modern challenges.
U.S. IRAN RELATIONS / NEGOTIATIONS
US President Donald Trump nominated retired general John Abizaid as ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has opposed the Iranian nuclear program, but also urged Israeli restraint in confronting it. As an observer for the UN in 1985 Abizaid saw some of Hezbollah’s first terror attacks and has spoken about the threat of terrorism in the region. His nomination comes at a crucial juncture for US-Saudi relations and also Riyadh’s role in the region. Abizaid will fill a spot that has been open for several years.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The internal power struggles in Iran have not stopped since 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah’s regime and was monopolized by the religious establishment that controls all joints of the Iranian government. The conflict between the wings of the reformist and militant regime has reached bloody levels against the backdrop of the Green Movement of 2009, which would have almost overthrown the hardliner conservatives loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, had the bloody crackdown by reformist not been suppressed.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Sanctions “hurt Iranians.” That was the unstartling revelation by an American think tank personality and “friend of Iran” in a recent radio interview. Well, of course they do. But the larger goal is to force the behavior of the regime; regrettably, but to be brutally honest, “hurting Iranians” is part of the process to pressure the leadership. The think tank interviewee’s other non-insight was to suggest that “Tehran’s strategy is to wait Trump out.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
At an Iranian government-owned car plant near Homs, the small number of vehicles on the assembly line underscores the obstacles hobbling Tehran’s economic ambitions in Syria. The plant was set up before Syria’s war began as the two allies tried to bring their economies closer together and was restarted in 2016 on Tehran’s orders after having closed early in the conflict.
Sassy, pint-sized Iranian pop artist Golazin Ardestani, an up-and-coming star of the underground pop scene back home in Iran, has a surprising anecdote to share. Giggling and running a hand through her short, peroxide-blonde hair as she plunks herself down on a plush bar couch, she says her mom and dad used to call her their “Israeli baby.”
Iranian military chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri referred Thursday to the recent escalation in the south. "The last victory in Gaza turned over a new leaf for the resistance. The victories will continue until the Zionist entity ceases to exist. The Zionist enemy's cotton dome has failed, and now it is more concerned about Iran's arrival in occupied Palestine," he asserted.
IRAQ & IRAN
Baghdad has agreed with Tehran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian energy supplies and has requested permission from the United States to extend its sanctions waiver to allow the deal to proceed, Iraqi officials have been quoted as saying. Two unidentified Iraqi government officials told the Reuters news agency on November 14 that the country needed more time to find alternative sources to Iranian gas supplies to fuel its electrical stations and avoid a "real power crisis."