A monitor assigned to HSBC Holdings Plc told federal prosecutors about suspicious transactions linking Huawei Technologies Co. with Iran, adding evidence to a U.S. investigation that led to the arrest of the Chinese company’s finance chief, according to a person familiar with the matter. The monitor, Exiger, was enlisted by the Justice Department to oversee HSBC’s compliance efforts in 2013 following a $1.9 billion deferred-prosecution agreement with the bank that exposed a range of weaknesses in its internal controls.
Iranian officials have announced that a special channel to conduct trade with European countries has been established and will be implemented soon in order to facilitate trade while bypassing US sanctions and keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and one of the top nuclear negotiators of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) said Dec. 6 at the sidelines of a conference in Iran, “For some time, the Europeans have been committed to helping Iran compensate for the damages it has incurred as a result of the JCPOA and to create a mechanism so that Iran can benefit from the economic conditions of the JCPOA.”
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said he wasn’t confident OPEC would reach a deal on Friday to cut oil output as sources said the producer group’s leader had yet to agree on exemptions for sanctions-hit Iran. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries resumed discussions in Vienna at around 0900 GMT, before a meeting later in the day with non-OPEC oil producers led by Russia.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran on Saturday launched a ballistic missile that can deliver nukes — and the near-complete silence of the media aside, it’s a big deal. The latest test revealed, once more, the flaws in the Iranian nuclear deal and the confusion of our European allies, who are alarmed by the mullahs’ behavior but fear losing the deal that enables it.
United States President Donald Trump has vowed not to allow Iran acquire nuclear weapons. "We cannot let the world's leading sponsor of terror, a regime that chants death to America and threatens Israel all the time with annihilation and constantly screams out death to Israel, to possess the deadliest weapon on earth. We will not allow that to happen," the US President told a select Jewish audience Thursday at the White House reception for Hanukkah.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
China’s Iranian oil imports are set to rebound in December after two state-owned refiners in the world’s largest oil importer began using the nation’s waiver from U.S. sanctions on Iran, according to industry sources and data on Refinitiv Eikon. Sinopec resumed Iran oil imports shortly after Tehran’s biggest crude buyer received its waiver in November, while China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC)will restart lifting from its own Iranian production in December, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Iraq needs at least two years to boost the country’s gas production to stop importing Iranian gas used to feed its power stations, a senior Iraqi energy official said Thursday. Hayan Abdul-Ghani, head of state-run South Gas Co., told reporters that Iraq’s gas output is set to reach 1.3 million cubic feet per day by the end of 2020, an increase of 400 mcf/d from current levels. “Iraq’s current production of gas is not enough to meet our power stations’ demand and therefore we are still importing gas from Iran. We need at least 24 months to operate new gas projects and start production,” he said.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer and one of Iran’s largest trade partners might come to enjoy even longer sanction waivers from Washington than the eight countries that scored a 180-day sanction relief last month. The reason: curbing Iran’s influence over its neighbor is a long-term goal, not something that could be done with sanctions inside a year, writes Natasha Turak for CNBC.
Blockchain technologies, especially cryptocurrencies, have become a hot topic in Iran during the past few years, just as in most other countries. Few tangible results have materialized so far, but US officials may have actually done Iran a favor as they have significantly accelerated development of blockchain-based projects. The unilateral reimposition of US sanctions and a local drive for transparency have prompted Iranian authorities to increasingly turn to blockchain and everything it enables.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
At least two policemen died and 48 people were injured in a rare suicide car bomb attack by a Sunni militant group on a police headquarters in the port city of Chabahar in southeast Iran Thursday, state media reported. While suicide bombings are rare in Iran, such groups have carried out several attacks on security forces in recent years in Sistan-Baluchestan province, where Chabahar is located.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran on Thursday executed 12 prisoners in Kerman Central Prison, most of them convicted of drug charges. Four of the executed prisoners were identified as, Abdolghani Ghalandarzehi, Yaghub Ghalandarzehi, Jalil Khodabakhsh and Yousef Jalaledin, all from Iran’s ethnic Baluch minority. According to witnesses, the bodies of 12 people executed today were handed over to their families. More recently, on November 21, the Iranian authorities, hanged three prisoners collectively in public in Shiraz on charge of moharebeh (fighting with God).
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
In February 2008, Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake wrote a letter to his infant son. The neatly scripted, single-page message told little Gage how special the boy was to this first-time father, how the night he left on this second Iraq deployment was the hardest he’d face, how he’d kept picking up the boy, kissing him, putting him back down and then picking him up again. “I never wanted to let you go,” Hake wrote. But the 26-year-old staff sergeant had a mission. He had to go. As he closed the letter, he made promises to his son. “I will be with you again. I will teach you to ride your first bike, build your first sand box, watch you play sports and see you have kids also,” Hake wrote. “I am always with you. Dadda,” he signed off. Those words were read this week in federal court by Kelli Hake, Christopher’s wife.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
On December 4, 2018, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei asked the Majlis (Iran's parliament) to correct its recent bill on retirees saying, "There are some gaps in the law which should be addressed." Although he stressed the necessity and importance of the "No Retirees Law," he said it needed to be modified after some officials asked him to allow a number of retired managers to be reinstated. The rule was approved by parliament in September 2018 and banned retirees from being re-employed in the public sector.
More than 700,000 undocumented Afghans have returned from Iran this year as the Iranian economy tightens, with a knock-on effect on the Afghan economy, according to data from the UN’s migration agency. In a report covering the period up to December 1, the International Organization for Migration said a total of 752,325 Afghans had returned from Iran and Pakistan, including 721,633 from Iran.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Farouk Baakar was on duty as a medic at al-Rashid hospital the day a bleeding man was brought into the emergency room with gunshot wounds and signs of torture. He’d been whipped across the back and hung by his wrists for days. The patient, Baakar learned, had been left for dead by the side of a highway after being held captive in a prison run by the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen. Baakar spent hours removing bullets and repairing ruptured intestine. He tended to the patient’s recovery for 80 days and, at the end, agreed to pose for a selfie with him. Weeks later, Houthi security officials grabbed the man again. They searched his phone and found the photo. Then they came for Baakar.
Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdulatif Al-Zayani said that the Iranian regime had no choice but to reconsider its political path and abide by the basic principles governing relations between States, based on the United Nations Charter and the international law. He noted that Iran’s role in the region would be one of the topics of discussion by Gulf leaders during a summit in Riyadh on Sunday.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran sought to send a high-level official to Yemen peace talks but was rebuffed by the Donald Trump administration, Al-Monitor has learned. The Iranian Foreign Ministry recently informed Sweden, which is hosting this week's UN-sponsored talks, of its desire to send a senior adviser to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the shuttle diplomacy between the Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Stockholm.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq is no stranger to foreign influence in its politics, economy and way of life. It has been the crossroads for trade between Asia, Europe and Africa from time immemorial. Having had only an occasional stint of total independence and local dominance (the Mesopotamian Empire and a few other occasions in the last couple of thousand years), the people of the fertile crescent have had their very DNA imprinted with becoming chummy with the current dominant neighbor and thriving at the same time.