France froze assets of Iran’s intelligence agency and two agents in retaliation for an alleged Iranian terror plot on French soil, seeking to punish Tehran for planning terror activities in Europe even as the French government tries to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. The freeze will apply for at least six months to two officials—Assadollah Asadi and Saeid Hashemi Moghadam—whom European authorities allege were involved in the foiled attack, and the internal security directorate of Iran’s intelligence ministry.
Despite Berlin's pledge to keep the Iranian nuclear deal alive, German banks are so scared of breaching US sanctions that they are refusing to process payments from Iran.
One day after a warning by Amnesty International, Iran has executed Zeinab Sekaanvand, a woman who was convicted for the murder of her husband at age 17. Zeinab had married her husband at age 15, but Amnesty urged Iran not to carry out the death sentence also because “she was subjected to a grossly unfair legal process”.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s independence is paramount and it does not take intelligence presented to it at face value, it said on Tuesday in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s description of a “secret atomic warehouse” in Iran.
Israel accused the UN nuclear watchdog of failing to inspect a suspected nuclear site in Iran Tuesday, pushing back against claims by the agency’s chief that it had checked all relevant nuclear sites in the Islamic Republic.
The Trump administration is pushing international nuclear inspectors to launch a new investigation into evidence Iran has been stockpiling nuclear weapons technology and materials at a secret undisclosed site, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United Arab Emirates, which has a history of talking tough on Iran while still buying its oil, appears to be taking steps to comply with looming U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s energy industry. Dubai is the U.A.E.’s main importer of Iranian oil.
The World Court ordered the United States on Wednesday to ensure that sanctions against Iran, due to be tightened next month, do not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
With the noose of U.S. sanctions already tightening on Iran’s oil exports, buyers and traders of crude are asking who can make up for the expected shortfall in supply. Most Iranian oil is heavier, or more viscous, than international benchmark crudes. That leaves three countries -- Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia -- in the strongest position to fill the gap and profit from Iran’s misfortune. Even the U.S., which produces a different type of oil, could be a potential source of additional supplies.
Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh will again be a no-show at a major energy forum as his country fights to maintain its crude market share in the face of looming US sanctions.
Iran’s currency unexpectedly rallied Tuesday after weeks of depreciation linked to renewed American sanctions, sending Iranians rushing to exchange shops to cash in.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani praised Europe on Wednesday for taking a “big step” to maintain business with Tehran after the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
With the noose of U.S. sanctions already tightening on Iran’s oil exports, buyers and traders of crude are asking who can make up for the expected shortfall in supply. Most Iranian oil is heavier, or more viscous, than international benchmark crudes. It’s also high in sulfur, an impurity.
In an eye-popping commentary on Monday, Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper urged businesses to stop trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran because of its terrorism and the regime’s goal of obliterating the Jewish state.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States on Tuesday accused Iran of recklessly firing missiles into southern Syria, an area where American troops are operating, but said the missiles did not come close to hitting U.S. forces. A Pentagon statement called the Monday attack “reckless, unsafe and escalatory.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Syria’s foreign minister said in remarks broadcast Tuesday that the Iranian ballistic missile attack on militants in eastern Syria the previous day was part of “legitimate” cooperation between the two countries to combat terrorism.
Israel has information about other secret Iranian and Hezbollah facilities in Iran and in Beirut and will reveal it when the time is right, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday.
French police detained three people and seized weapons during raids of a dozen homes and the headquarters of a Muslim association based outside the port city of Dunkirk during an anti-terrorism operation early Tuesday, officials said.
The anti-Iran Lebanese Saydet el-Jabal gathering was barred from holding its annual meeting at Beirut’s Bristol Hotel. The gathering includes members of the former March 14 camp and was set to discuss ending Iranian hegemony in Lebanon.
Thousands of residents of the Dahieh suburb south of Beirut, an area controlled by Hezbollah, received anonymous mobile phone notifications warning them they live in close proximity to a weapons storage compound that has the potential of exploding at any moment, the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Wednesday, implying Israel is responsible for incident.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah thanked President Michel Aoun for the positions he presented to the the international community, which expressed a sense of sovereignty that ‘touched the hearts of the Lebanese,’ Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad said Wednesday.
Tensions between Israel and Lebanon continued on Tuesday when Lebanese President Michel Aoun threatened to confront any “Israeli aggression” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the United Nations with “proof” of three underground missile production facilities near Beirut belonging to Hezbollah.
Moscow is interested in continuing cooperation with Iran, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Saudi prosecution charged on Monday a national with defaming the Prophet Mohammed and his companions and supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah party and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. He was also charged with glorifying the Iranian Khomeini revolution, violating Saudi Arabia’s unity and stability and describing the Kingdom’s senior scholars as “extremists”.
IRAQ & IRAN
Kurdish moderate Barham Salih was named Iraq’s new president Tuesday, immediately setting to work by tasking veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul-Mahdi with forming a new government, nearly five months after national elections were held, state TV reported late Tuesday… [Abdul-Mahdi] is not allied with either of the two Shiite-led blocs that each claim to have the most support after May’s elections, in which no party won an outright majority. He was previously a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a large Shiite party with close ties to Iran.
As the Trump administration takes an increasingly tough stance against Iran, a country it calls the world’s number one state-sponsor of terrorism, one small government agency is working strategically to untangle other countries who have developed a deep dependency on Tehran - namely Iraq.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Tehran called on Tuesday for talks with Paris to clear a “misunderstanding” over an alleged bomb plot targeting an exiled opposition group near the French capital.
Hamas offered its condolences to Iran after an attack on a military parade killed dozens of people, including members of the Revolutionary Guard, and some see the gesture as an attempt to cozy up to the Islamic Republic.
An Iranian Kurdish rebel group is the latest faction to jump on Washington’s anti-Tehran bandwagon. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an armed group with communist origins exiled in northern Iraq, registered with the Justice Department late last month as a lobby aiming to “establish solid and durable relations” with the Donald Trump administration.