Republicans in Congress are pressing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to change his tune on the Iran deal. They want him not to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal it struck with the United States and five other nations, which could pave the way for Congress restoring various sanctions. Four leading GOP senators wrote to Tillerson on Tuesday about the Iran deal, which he is required by law to weigh in on every 90 days. In April, Tillerson disagreed with other Trump administration officials and decided to certify that Iran was in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and that sanctions relief was in the national security interest of the United States. At the time, Tillerson wrote to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to say he still believed that “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods,” but said that the Trump administration was in the middle of its Iran policy review and therefore was not ready to make any big changes to their approach.
A confidential U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement for southwestern Syria that went into effect Sunday calls for barring Iranian-backed foreign fighters from a strategic stretch of Syrian territory near the borders of Israel and Jordan, according to three diplomatic sources. President Donald Trump hailed it as an important agreement that would serve to save lives. But few details of the accord have been made public. U.S. Defense Department officials — who would have responsibility for monitoring the agreement — appeared to be in the dark about the pact’s fine print. The pact is aimed at addressing demands by Israel and Jordan — the latter is a party to the agreement — that Iranian forces and their proxies, including Hezbollah, not be permitted near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which separates Syria from Israel, or along the Jordanian border. But former U.S. diplomats and observers question whether the agreement is truly enforceable, expressing doubts that Russia could act as a reliable guarantor for a cease-fire involving the Syrian regime, Iran, and its proxies.
For the last 38 years, it’s been illegal for women to attend soccer matches in Iran. Two of the country’s most prominent names in the sport say it’s time to change that. “This is the demand of millions upon millions of female fans who’d like to watch soccer matches and other events up close,” Ali Karimi, a former Bayern Munich midfielder and current coach of one of Iran’s most popular teams, said told Iranian news agency ISNA this week (via RFE/RL). “This important issue is not impossible, this dream of female sports fans can be achieved through correct planning.” Karimi’s comments follow those made late last month by current Iranian national team star Masoud Shojaei, who in a video shared by Radio Farda and other sites insinuated that women being allowed in stadiums would benefit the sport.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Senior Iranian and Russian officials have held talks about the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries ahead of a scheduled meeting of the Joint Commission monitoring the implementation of the deal. In a meeting between Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in Tehran on Tuesday, the two sides discussed technical cooperation on civilian nuclear technology, particularity within the framework of the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Araqchi reaffirmed Iran’s full compliance with the JCPOA and said the sustenance of the nuclear deal, as a multilateral international document, requires all sides’ complete fulfillment of their commitments.
The European Union respects the United States' review of the 2015 deal with Iran but will make clear to Washington that it was an international accord endorsed by the United Nations, the EU's foreign policy chief said on Tuesday. "The nuclear deal doesn't belong to one country, it belongs to the international community," Federica Mogherini told a news conference alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "We have the responsibility to make sure that this continues to be implemented." The historic deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of oil and financial sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump said in April it was launching an inter-agency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in the United States' national security interests.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis seriously angered Iran’s radical regime after he called for a change in government in a recent interview. Iranian Minister of Defense Gen. Hossein Dehqan responded to Mattis claiming he “talks like a patient who has hallucinations due to high fever.” “Instead of deciding for other nations, the U.S. defense secretary and the country’s ruling body had better care about the resolution of their own internal problems and examine the underlying causes that, most probably and in the not too distant future, will both wipe out the current U.S. government, and bring more serious challenges for the country’s political system,” said Dehqan on Tuesday, according to Tasnim News, a state-affiliated outlet.
What began as a bill slapping sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile development and human rights violations is being mired in minutiae over a single added word—“Russia.” Leadership in both chambers and parties have expressed resolve about passing sanctions on the Kremlin. But the joint Russia-Iran legislation has repeatedly hit difficulties, in part due to the politically charged nature of its subject. The sanctions bill incorporates penalties on the Kremlin over election interference and would trigger congressional review in case the administration tries to ease or suspend sanctions on Russia. Administration officials have raised concerns that the bill will hamstring the president in talks with the Kremlin. The bill passed the Senate 98-2 in June. Since then, the Senate agreed on a fix to a constitutional issue, raised by the House, which requires that bills dealing with revenue originate in the lower chamber.
Iran's state rail company and its Italian counterpart signed a final agreement worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.37 billion) on Tuesday to build a high-speed railway between the cities of Qom and Arak, the Fars news agency reported. The agreement was signed in a ceremony in Tehran attended by Saeed Mohammadzadeh, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, and Renato Mazzoncini, CEO of Italy’s state rail company Ferrovie dello Stato (FS). A framework of "cooperation agreement" was signed in April 2016, when former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Tehran seeking a strong foothold in a nation hungry for infrastructure investment as it emerges from financial isolation. Iran rejoined the global trading system in 2016 after a deal with world powers to lift crippling sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear activities.
Iran is forming a government commission to oversee its deal with France’s Total to develop the South Pars gas field, the first major Western energy investment in the Islamic Republic since the lifting of sanctions last year. The commission will include representatives from the judiciary, the head of parliament’s energy commission and of its planning and budget commission, speaker Ali Larijani said Wednesday, according to state media. The South Pars project will cost up to $5 billion, including an initial stage of around $2 billion, and production is expected to start within 40 months, the oil ministry said this month. Total will be the project's operator with a 50.1 percent stake, Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNPC will hold 30 percent, and National Iranian Oil Co subsidiary Petropars will have 19.9 percent.
Iran expects to sign deals with Russian companies on exploration and development of its oil and gas resources within the next 5-6 months, Iran's deputy oil minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia told reporters on Wednesday. Zamaninia earlier said Russian firms Lukoil and Gazprom have expressed interest in oil exploration projects in Iran.
A Palestinian parliamentary delegation from the Fatah movement participated July 1 in the annual Iranian opposition conference for the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), in Paris. During the conference, member of parliament Najat al-Astal delivered a speech in which she stressed “supporting the struggle of the Iranian opposition for freedom, democracy and human rights, as well as eliminating the mullahs’ regime in Iran and replacing it with a free democratic regime that will bring justice to the Iranian people.” Palestinians criticized the Fatah parliamentary bloc’s participation in the Iranian opposition conference held recently in Paris, and considered it to be interference in Iran’s internal affairs. The stance the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have taken against the Iranian regime stems from two main points.
The recent changes in Saudi leadership were not a surprise to Iran. “We all knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time,” a senior Iranian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. While the elevation of Mohammed bin Salman was no surprise to many observers in Tehran, his de facto rule over Saudi Arabia is raising serious concerns in Iran. In fact, last October, long before the appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani told a gathering in Tehran, "Mohammed bin Salman, the second crown prince, is in a hurry and wants to set aside the first one [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef], and might even kill his own father to replace him.” The Iranian major general recalled a conversation that allegedly took place between Mohammed and a Syrian official in Russia sometime in 2016, quoting the Syrian official as saying that the Saudi royal “asked about [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, how he is, how his family is.”
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul on Sunday, dressed in a black military uniform, and announced the “liberation” of the city where Islamic State declared its so-called caliphate in 2014. “The world did not imagine that Iraqis could eliminate Daesh,” he remarked, using the Arabic acronym for the group. But this war is far from over. A growing number of Iraq’s Sunnis are disenchanted with the slow pace of reconstruction and frustrated with a Baghdad government they consider too friendly to Iran.
At both The Weekly Standard and the Jerusalem Post, the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Benjamin Weinthal exposes German intelligence reports that suggest that the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to work toward the goal of possessing nuclear weapons...In short, it looks like Iran may be cheating. As I document in Dancing with the Devil, whenever reports of cheating threaten to derail non-proliferation agreements, governments invested in those agreements are willing to bury the evidence to make a quick buck. Often, the State Department is willing to look the other way in order to keep the process alive. That was the case with Iraq in the 1980s, North Korea in the 1990s, and Iran in the first half of the last decade. With regard to Germany, however, the triumph of appeasement over intelligence is déjà vu all over again.