Iran said on Sunday that within hours it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment set four years ago in an accord with the United States and other international powers that was designed to keep Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon. The latest move inches Iran closer to where it was before the accord: on the path to being able to produce an atomic bomb. President Trump withdrew the United States from the accord last year and in May dealt a crippling blow to Iran's economy by implementing sanctions intended to cut off its oil sales any where in the world.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said Iran "better be careful," hours after Tehran announced it would shortly boost its uranium enrichment above a cap set by a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Speaking to reporters as he departed Morristown, New Jersey for Washington, D.C., Trump also took aim at the British Ambassador to the U.S., Kim Darroch, saying he did not serve the United Kingdom well, after a news report alleged he criticized Trump administration in a series of confidential memos.
While French Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire, said Thursday, July 4, he hoped the first trade transaction with Iran under INSTEX will be conducted in a few days; an Iranian official has insisted that the European special purpose vehicle is merely a "claim" at the moment, and it would not solve any problem. The instrument in Support of Trade and Exchanges, or INSTEX, is a new European payment system for barter-based trade with Iran designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran.
UANI IN THE NEWS
BRODSKY: Yes, [the threat from Iran to enrich uranium] is credible. Iran was enriching around 20 percent before the signing of the nuclear deal so it definitely is credible. And this is what one of the problems was with the Iran nuclear deal - the ease in which Iran could reverse its nuclear program. So this is very concerning.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has surpassed the cap on uranium enrichment set by a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Monday, warning that Tehran would take further steps to reduce its commitments under the accord. Speaking to local news agencies, Behrouz Kamalvandi said Iran has exceeded the 3.67 percent limit and was now enriching uranium at 4.5 percent, a rate far below the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear weapon. He said, however, that there were no obstacles to Tehran enriching at even higher levels.
Iran remains open to diplomacy to save its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but has "no hope" in the international community, the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, as the Islamic Republic broke the limit the agreement put on its enrichment of uranium. Abbas Mousavi said he had no information on how far Iran had taken its enrichment, though a top aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei previously suggested Iran had a need for 5%-enriched uranium.
European powers urged Iran to reverse its latest decision to breach the levels of uranium enrichment under the 2015 nuclear accord but stopped short of threatening sanctions. The U.K. and the European Union said they were concerned about Iran's move to abandon uranium enrichment restrictions. Both said they're in contact with other parties to the accord regarding next steps.
Iran will announce on Sunday that it will raise its uranium enrichment level to 5%, a concentration above the limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, an Iranian official told Reuters. "The main announcement tomorrow will be the increase of the level of enrichment to 5% percent from 3.67% that we agreed under the deal," the official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.
The European Union on Sunday strongly urged Iran to stop actions that would undermine a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was in touch with other parties to the deal and may set up a joint commission to look into the issue. "We are extremely concerned at Iran's announcement that it has started uranium enrichment above the limit of 3.67%," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Iran has broken the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal and must immediately stop and reverse its activities, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said on Sunday. Iran said on Sunday it will boost its uranium enrichment in a few hours above a cap set by the nuclear deal, a move that could eventually culminate in the return of all international sanctions on Tehran. "Iran has broken the terms of the JCPoA," the Foreign Office spokesman said, referring to the deal's formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Israel's energy minister described as moderate on Sunday an announced increase of Iranian uranium enrichment but accused Tehran of breaking out of internationally agreed limitations on its nuclear projects and moving towards a potential bomb. "Iran has begun - while it is a moderate rise right now - but it has begun to raise, to break out of the uranium enrichment curbs that were imposed on it," Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israel's Ynet TV.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday he and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani had agreed to seek conditions for a resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear question by July 15. "The President of the Republic has agreed with his Iranian counterpart to explore by July 15 conditions to resume dialogue between the parties," Macron's office said in a statement.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water that separates Persian Gulf countries like Iran, Iraq and Kuwait from the rest of the world. From May 15 to June 15, more than 1,000 tanker ships traveled the strait. Many were destined for places as far away as China and South Korea. The gulf region has been rocked by instability in recent months, threatening the flow of oil through the strait.
When a respected Iranian scientist left Tehran bound for the U.S. last fall, he had plans to complete the final stage of his research on treating stroke patients as a visiting scholar at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Instead, when professor Masoud Soleimani touched down on U.S. soil, federal authorities armed with a secret indictment arrested him on charges that he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran.
Iran is producing oil at the slowest clip since 1986, making U.S. sanctions on crude sales as effective as the devastating Iraq-Iran war that ended more than 30 years ago. And there is no sign of relief as the Islamic Republic steps up uranium enrichment. President Donald Trump warned Iran of further penalties if it continues to advance its nuclear program, tweeting: "Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!"
Britain's seizing of an Iranian oil tanker last week was a threatening act that will not be tolerated, Iran's Defence Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday in a speech broadcast live on state television. Royal Marines impounded the tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denies the vessel was headed to Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad is an ally of Tehran.
An oil tanker damaged in a bombing that was blamed on Iran is back in business. The ship's first destination: Iran. The Andrea Victory is sailing in the northern Persian Gulf and signaling Iran's Bandar Imam Khomeini as a destination, according to ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The data show the vessel, which was attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May, is full and transporting fuel to Iran. Tanker bombings this year inflamed tensions in the Gulf as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for targeting the vessels and putting oil flows at risk.
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Sunday that he was very hopeful of an improvement in the country's crude exports, state TV reported, in spite of tightened U.S. sanctions on Tehran's main source of income. His comments came as Iran faces further U.S. sanctions after announcing on Sunday it will shortly boost its uranium enrichment above a cap set by a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. "I am very hopeful that our oil exports will improve," Zanganeh told state TV, adding that the price of oil was not Iran's main concern.
Iran will face further sanctions in response to its expected breach Sunday of a uranium enrichment cap, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. "Iran's latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions," the top US diplomat said on Twitter. Iran said earlier it was hours away from breaching the cap set by an endangered nuclear deal reached with international powers but from which the United States withdrew last year.
"If Iran decides to confront you, a missile strike on the Dimona reactor would be enough," said Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani in a sermon addressing the United States and Israel, according to a report by Radio Farda. Movahedi-Kermani threatened that such an attack on the nuclear reactor in Israel's Negev desert would "plow Israel 200 times."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Thousands gathered in Berlin's government quarter on Saturday to protest the Iranian government's use of draconian measures against its opponents. Protesters, who carried pre-Islamic Revolution flags and balloons in the national colors of green, white and red, voiced opposition to both the use of the death penalty and torture in prison. "Down with the regime" was among the slogans chanted, along with: "The West should not enter into any compromise with religious fascism."
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States conveyed a message to Iran warning of a limited strike against the country after its unmanned drone was shot down in the Gulf, Iran's civil defence agency chief was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency on Sunday. "After the downing of its intruding drone, the United States told us through diplomatic intermediaries that it wanted to carry out a limited operation," said Gholamreza Jalali, who is also a senior commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.
The Islamic Republic's Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna has called the U.S. request for a meeting of the nuclear watchdog IAEA a "sad irony". The UN's nuclear watchdog said July 5 it will hold an emergency meeting on Iran's nuclear program next week, days after Tehran breached one of the limits set in a 2015 deal with world powers. The meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s board of governors, which follows a U.S. request, would be held "on 10 July at 14:30," an IAEA spokesman said.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is not looking for war with any country, Iranian army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said on Monday, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency. Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States after the Islamic Republic shot down an American drone last month. Iranian officials have said the drone was in their airspace while Washington has said the drone was flying over international waters.
Egypt's Supreme State Security Criminal Court sentenced on Sunday five defendants to 25 years in jail and another to 15 years on charges of espionage for Iran with the aim of harming Egypt's military, political, and national interests. The court decision included a fine of 500 thousand Egyptian Lira (around $30,000) for each defendant, in addition to confiscating their computer, phones, hard discs, documents and papers and being placed under the authority of the General Intelligence.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The more people give up hope about reforms in Iran, the more likely they gravitate towards subversion, the former President of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Khatami, has warned, adding, "Subversive forces might succeed." Meeting with members of Engineers Association on Saturday, July 6, Khatami called for efforts toward forming an effective strategy for reformists strategy, to attract people to participate in elections.
One of the signatories of a statement demanding the resignation of Iran's Supreme Leader published a month ago says he was attacked by three unidentified assailants. Reza Mehregan, one of the 14 civic-political activists who in June demanded the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei and the overhaul of Iran's constitution, has told Radio Farda in an interview that he was assaulted by a taser and beaten by three plainclothes individuals on July 5.
Iran says a magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit a town in the country's southwest on July 8, damaging several buildings. The report by the official IRNA news agency said that the quake hit near the town of Masjid Soleiman in Khuzestan Province, some 450 kilometers southwest of Tehran. It said at least four people have been reported injured.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The latest intensification of the US-Russian dialogue has revived speculations that Moscow could use Iran as a bargaining chip in its relations with US President Donald Trump. The argument usually goes that Moscow could withdraw its political support for Tehran in exchange for the ease of American political and economic pressure on Russia itself. Yet these suggestions should be taken with a grain of salt.
American diplomats have been quietly mediating a resolution to the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border dispute, an important step to avoiding another war between these two countries. However, even if American mediators can resolve the dispute, Hezbollah's presence in southern Lebanon keeps alive the possibility of a devastating war.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
A fundraising campaign on a Yemeni radio station affiliated with Iran-backed Houthi rebels has collected 73.5 million Yemeni rials for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The campaign on the Sam FM station solicited donations from listeners in the Arab world's poorest nation from May 25 to July 5, reported the rebel-held Saba news agency. It was the radio's third fundraising campaign and the first for Hezbollah. Saba cited the value of the funds as equaling $132,000, likely using a black market rate for the currency.
Houthis' violations of human rights had escalated this year in Sanaa and other areas under their control, confirmed security and human rights sources in Sanaa. They said militias committed about 18,000 violations over the past six months, basing their information on reports from state facilities. The violations varied between killings, kidnappings, house raids, confiscation of properties, and arbitrary arrests at the checkpoints deployed in streets and roads between the provinces.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
An Iranian cleric warned Britain on Saturday about Tehran's retaliation for the capture of an Iranian supertanker by Royal Marines in Gibraltar, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri as saying. "I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran's retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker," said the cleric, who is a member of the powerful clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.
Iran said an oil tanker that was seized by British forces near Gibraltar wasn't destined for Syria. The ship "was navigating in international waters," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said at a press conference in Tehran. He said the tanker wasn't heading toward Syria, without saying where the vessel was going. "We consider this an act of piracy." Grace 1, a supertanker able to haul 2 million barrels of crude, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion that it was going to breach European Union sanctions by delivering crude to Syria. The cargo came from Iran.