International inspectors said on Monday that Iran was ramping up its production of nuclear fuel, following through on a threat to begin walking away from restrictions agreed to in a 2015 nuclear accord that President Trump has abandoned. The announcement of Iran's actions came from Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for verifying Iran's compliance with its obligations under the 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
The Trump administration is weighing sanctions against the Iranian financial body set up as a go-between for humanitarian trade with Europe, a move likely to sever the economic and humanitarian lifeline that France, Germany and the U.K. have sought to create for Tehran. The U.S. measures would target the Special Trade and Finance Institute, which Iran established as a counterpart to the European mechanism known as Instex, according to a senior administration official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
Germany's foreign minister made a bid to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, reassuring leaders in Tehran of Europe's commitment to the pact and showcasing European support for Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic is locked in a high-stakes battle with Washington. Tehran has accused the U.K., France and Germany-who are part of the 2015 accord-of failing to provide the pledged economic support to Iran in return for restrictions on the country's nuclear program.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Israel's ground troops are physically and operationally capable of defeating Hezbollah, but the Iranian-backed militia has waged a psychological war of such effectiveness that the IDF soldiers feel deterred from believing in their capacities against them.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has followed through on its threat too accelerate its production of enriched uranium, the U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday. Iran's nuclear deal with major powers caps the amount of low-enriched uranium Iran can produce. Given fluctuations in production, it was not clear when Iran might reach that limit, Amano told a news conference, declining to elaborate further on the production rate.
The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog urged world powers Monday to continue dialogue with Iran to keep it in the landmark 2015 deal aimed at preventing the country from building nuclear weapons, and to help defuse mounting tensions in the region. After his regular update to the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors in Vienna, Yukiya Amano told reporters that Tehran had increased its uranium enrichment activities as it threatened it would.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
China's imports of crude oil stumbled in May, and while the loss of Iranian cargoes offers a convenient explanation, there are other reasons to be cautious over the strength of demand in the world's biggest oil importer. China brought in 9.47 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, a drop of 11% from April's record 10.64 million bpd, according to calculations based on customs figures released on Monday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
As the Women's World Cup kicks off, female football fans in Iran's capital have been attacked by security guards for trying to watch a men's football match between Iran and Syria. The women managed to buy tickets to watch the game after the official website of the Iranian football federation initially put tickets on sale without blocking the option for women, despite the fact Iranian women are forbidden from watching football matches.
Iran on Tuesday freed Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident and Lebanese national, from prison after nearly four years behind bars, his lawyer said. Zakka was arrested in 2015 and convicted of spying for the U.S. government - charges he denies. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Iranian authorities are setting up text-messaging services to allow self-appointed guardians of morality in the capital turn in their neighbours or strangers for violating murky codes of public conduct, officials have said. Iran's judiciary has provided residents of the capital with a text-messaging service to report "crimes against morality and public chastity," according to the official Mizan news agency.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it "cannot expect to stay safe" after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany's top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions. A stern-faced Mohammad Javad Zarif offered a series of threats over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump's decision over a year ago to withdraw America from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The authorities in Iran have barred the Tehran-based correspondent for The New York Times from working for the past four months, the newspaper said Monday. The correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink, a Netherlands citizen, has reported for The Times from Iran since 2012. He resides in Tehran but has been unable to work since late February, when his press credential was revoked.
Iran has ruled out holding talks with the Trump administration on its ballistic missiles and interventions in Middle Eastern affairs until it receives assurances that the US is ready to offer concessions. After meeting his German counterpart in Tehran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, warned the US that it could not expect to "stay safe" while it imposed an "economic war" against the Islamic republic.
The Donald Trump administration has yet to inform Congress on how long it will keep troops, a carrier group, bombers and missile defense batteries in the Middle East that were recently sent to the region to counter threats from Iranian-backed proxy groups, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said today. Just hours after the commander of US forces in the region publicly hinted at plans to restore a larger American military presence to the Middle East, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said the Pentagon had not "given us any indication of how long this is going to last or where they think they see it going."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A decade has passed since Iran held its most bitterly contested elections ever, the aftermath of which shook the Islamic republic to its core over allegations of mass electoral fraud. Massive demonstrations and counter demonstrations by protesters and state supporters raged across major cities for 19 months, nowhere more so than in the capital Tehran, in what was later described by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "edge of the abyss".
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A British lawmaker is calling for answers after it was revealed at the weekend that authorities swooped on a Hezbollah "bomb factory" in London four years ago - just weeks after Britain, the U.S. and others concluded the nuclear deal with the regime in Iran, Hezbollah's chief sponsor and patron.
The ongoing military assault in Idlib - spearheaded by the Syrian army and supported by Russia - may be the first significant military operation in which pro-Iranian militant groups have not taken part. The main attacking units of the government forces are pro-Russian structures within the Syrian army: the Tiger Forces division, led by Suheil al-Hassan, and Zayd Salih's 5th Volunteer Assault Corps.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif in a video released on Monday, calling him a serial liar. Netanyahu said that it is "Iran who is openly threatening to destroy [Israel]." He also called out against Iran attempting to establish a military presence in Syria and pointed to a Monday release that the Islamic republic is speeding up its nuclear program. Netanyahu said that Iranian nuclear capacities "will endanger us and the whole world," and Israel will not allow it to happen.
The UK's MI5 and the Metropolitan Police uncovered the foundations of a Hezbollah plot when they raided four sites in London in September 2015, according to a shocking report in The Telegraph. Although then prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May were briefed on the raid, it was "kept hidden from the public," the report says. This fits a disturbing pattern of attempts by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to track Hezbollah's global activities, only to have them met with the cold shoulder at political levels.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Yemen's Houthi rebels have launched at least two drones targeting a southwest Saudi city that's home to an air base. The Houthis' Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported early Tuesday the rebels launched Qasef-2K drones to strike the city of Khamis Mushait. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday, quoting military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki, that soldiers "intercepted" two drones launched by the Houthis.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Lebanon's security chief is due to escort a detained Lebanese man home from Iran on Tuesday after Beirut secured his release from an Iranian prison, with Iranian officials saying it was due partly to their close ties with Lebanon's Hezbollah group. Lebanon's president and foreign minister had urged Tehran to grant an amnesty to Nizar Zakka, who also holds U.S. residency and was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine for "collaborating against the state".
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on a visit to Tehran this week, in a bid to ease tension between Washington and Iran that experts called a bold move for a Japanese leader. Tension has escalated a year after Washington pulled out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.