Eye on Iran: Iran Completes Facility to Build Centrifuges: Nuclear Chief

TOP STORIES

Iran Completes Facility to Build Centrifuges: Nuclear Chief | Reuters

Iran has completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief was quoted on Sunday as saying, as Tehran prepares to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses after the United States exits.

U.S. Wish for Zero Oil Imports from Iran Granted by S. Korea | Bloomberg

South Korea has become the first of Iran’s top-three oil customers to fulfill a hard-line U.S. demand that buyers cut imports to zero.

Rising Violence In Basra Highlights U.S.-Iran Fight for Influence in Iraq | Wall Street Journal

The firing of rockets toward American diplomatic missions in Iraq after protesters torched the Iranian consulate in Basra raised tensions as the U.S. and Iran vie to shape the country’s next government.

UANI IN THE NEWS

On Syria, the U.S. Can Drive a Hard Bargain With Russia | UANI Senior Adviser Dennis Ross for The Wall Street Journal

Syrian President Bashar Assad has launched his opening salvo to take back Idlib, the last major stronghold of organized rebel forces. The northwestern province is teeming with internally displaced Syrian civilians who have fled other parts of the country—Aleppo in December, Eastern Ghouta in April, and Daraa in June—under the weight of indiscriminate bombing by Russia and the Syrian regimes. U.N. officials say 800,000 people may be forced out of the city and the province in the assault. Refugees are running out of places to go.

Va. State Senator Who Met with Assad Says British Are Planning Fake Chemical Attack | The Washington Post

“Wrap your head around this: an elected American official is parroting Russian/Assad Regime/Hezbollah propaganda on a TV channel closely affiliated with (if not under the direction of) a designated foreign terror org, Hezbollah,” tweeted David Daoud, a Washington-based research analyst at the think tank United Against Nuclear Iran.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS

Iranian Oil Exports Plunge Despite ‘Creative Solutions’ | OilPrice.com

Iran’s oil exports have been falling much faster than expected, but Tehran is hoping to avoid the worst, deploying some creative solutions to keep exports from crashing too much. Iran’s oil exports may have plunged as much as 600,000-700,000 bpd in August, falling as low as 1.66 million barrels per day (mb/d), according to the Wall Street Journal and SVB Energy International.

Iran Resorts to Ill-Defined Packages, Rationing to Tackle Impact of Sanctions | Radio Farda

The head of Iran's Planning and Budget Organization, Vice-President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht says his organization will introduce five economic packages to tackle the impact of renewed US sanctions and to control drastic fluctuations of the exchange rate. Meanwhile, administration-owned daily newspaper Shahrvand on Saturday August 9 has quoted Anoshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, the caretaker of Iran's Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare as saying that the government is considering several plans including the introduction of "electronic coupons" to help the “fair” distribution of essential commodities; euphemism for "rationing."

U.S. Energy Chief to Meet Russian, Saudi Counterparts Ahead of Iran Sanctions | Reuters

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will meet his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Russia starting on Monday, sources familiar with the matter said, as the Trump administration encourages oil-producing countries to keep output up two months before it is due to renew sanctions on Iran’s crude exports.

India May Not Be Able to Cut Iranian Oil Imports, Despite U.S. Sanctions Demands | CNBC

Washington's demand for countries to cut all Iranian oil imports is going to be a massive headache for India. As the world's third-largest oil importer and the second-largest buyer of Iranian crude after China, complying with the U.S. sanctions — enacted following President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — will require India to find new sources of crude at a higher cost.

Iran Battles to Keep Old Aircraft Flying As U.S. Sanctions Block Path to New Planes | Dominic Dudley for Forbes

With new U.S. sanctions now starting to bite, Iran’s airlines are being forced to return to old habits by patching up their aging planes rather than firing up the engines on newer models.

Iran Lets Money Exchange Houses Import Foreign Bills As Rial Sinks | Reuters

Iran gave permission to money exchange offices on Saturday to start importing foreign currency banknotes, state media reported, in an apparent attempt to stop the rial from plunging to a new low against the dollar.

Iran, North Korea and Venezuela Turning to Cryptocurrency to Bypass US Sanctions, Experts Warn | Fox News

America's rivals are increasingly turning to bitcoin-style cryptocurrencies after their economies were brought to their knees thanks to crippling U.S. sanctions, experts have warned. Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela are all investing in the technology in an attempt to counter American economic might – and an expert says these nations are forming alliances through the technology.

Iran Sanctions Are Fueling OPEC Tensions | Bloomberg

Two months before renewed U.S. sanctions on its oil exports take effect, Iran has already suffered a sharp drop in sales and lost key buyers in Asia and Europe. That slump will continue in coming weeks. Meanwhile, rising output from other OPEC members is fueling tensions within the producer group that could come to a head at a meeting in Algeria later this month.

Iran Says to Refund Total When Phase 11 of South Pars Gas Project Operational | Reuters

Iran will reimburse French oil and gas major Total for its investment in the South Pars natural gas field but not until phase 11 of the multibillion-dollar project becomes operational, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Saturday.

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Jailed Dual Nationals May Be Victims of Iranian Agents' Rivalry, Row Suggests | Guardian (U.K.)

An extraordinary propaganda film released by Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards has revealed deep splits between the country’s parallel intelligence agencies and suggested that imprisoned dual nationals could be victims of the infighting.

Iran Executes Three Kurdish Prisoners Accused of Militant Attacks | Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iran executed three Iranian Kurdish men accused of belonging to a militant group and taking part in attacks against civilians and security forces in the Kurdish region of western Iran, the judiciary’s news service reported on Saturday.

Iran Detains Artists Over Shakespeare Performance | Associated Press

Iranian authorities have detained two artists over a theatre production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

Rouhani: U.S. Asks Iran 'Every Day' to Begin Talks | Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that the United States continually sends messages to Iran asking it to begin negotiations.

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS

U.S. Navy Conducts Military Exercises in Gulf Amid Iran Tension | Bloomberg

The U.S. Navy is conducting exercises this month to ensure its readiness to guarantee freedom of movement through Persian Gulf and Red Sea waterways amid escalating threats from Iran to disrupt shipping across important choke points.

Khamenei Urges Iran's Military to 'Scare Off' Enemy | Reuters

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iran’s armed forces on Sunday to increase their power to “scare off” the enemy, as the country faces increased tension with the United States.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

Conflicts Hinder Iran Efforts to Counter Dust Storms | Agence France-Presse

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s efforts to counter worsening dust storms have been hampered by conflicts in the region, the deputy head of the environment department said on Saturday.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN.

U.S. Says Syria Plans Gas Attack in Rebel Stronghold | The Wall Street Journal

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has approved the use of chlorine gas in an offensive against the country’s last major rebel stronghold, U.S. officials said, raising the prospects for another retaliatory U.S. military strike as thousands try to escape what could be a decisive battle in the seven-year-old war.

Putin Rejects Calls for Truce In Idlib As Syria Readies Assault on Rebel Stronghold | Washington Post

The three foreign powers negotiating an end to Syria’s conflict failed Friday to agree to a cease fire that would have halted a decisive but potentially devastating battle for the country’s last rebel stronghold. The Russian, Turkish and Iranian presidents convened in Tehran for a high-stakes and ultimately tense summit to discuss a deal for Idlib province, where Syrian government forces are threatening an all-out assault on a region housing some 3 million civilians.

U.S. Lacks Leverage As Assault on Syrian Enclave Looms | Associated Press

Despite dire U.S. warnings and fears of a humanitarian disaster, the Trump administration has little leverage to stop Russia, Iran and Syria pressing ahead with a massive military assault against Syria’s northwest Idlib province. Washington has threatened military action in case of a chemical weapons attack but its mixed messaging on retaining a U.S. presence in Syria and a cut in aid has diminished its already limited influence over the seven-year conflict.

Erdogan Warns of ‘Lake Of Blood’ As Putin Rejects Syria Deal | Bloomberg

Russia rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call for a cease-fire in Syria after he warned of a looming “catastrophe” as the Damascus regime’s forces prepare to fight the last major battle of the seven-year civil war.

Israel’s Secret War Against Iran Is Widening | Jonathan Spyer for Foreign Policy

It has recently become clear that Israel is engaged in a secret war against Iran in Syria. The war is conducted mainly by means of air power, presumably combined with the intelligence work necessary to provide the country’s airmen with the relevant targets; there is also evidence that targeted killings are among Israel’s tactics in Syria.

Iran and Russia Can Work Together to Restrain America: Iran Supreme Leader | Reuters

Iran and Russia can work together to restrain America, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, according to Fars News.

'No Progress' on Financing of Russia-Iran Wheat Deal: Iran Industry Group | Reuters

Plans for a deal under which Russia and Kazakhstan are to supply wheat to Iran have stalled as “no progress” has been made in its financing, the secretary general of the Iran Federation of Food Industry Associations said.

Hezbollah Minister Meets with Syrian Counterpart, Push for Stronger Ties | Al Bawaba (Lebanon)

Hezbollah's caretaker Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan met with the Syrian economy minister Wednesday to push for stronger economic relations between Lebanon and Syria, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Ex-Deputy Mossad Chief: IDF Didn't Fully Stop New Hezbollah Rocket Tech | Jerusalem Post

The IDF’s many successful attacks on the transfer of improved rocket technology to Hezbollah missed significant transfers, former deputy Mossad chief Naftali Granot said on Thursday.

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN

Bahrain Arrests 14 Iranians That Entered Country Illegally | Associated Press

Authorities in Bahrain say they've arrested 14 Iranians they allege entered the island nation on "forged Asian passports."

IRAQ & IRAN

Iraqi Protesters Set Fire to Iran Consulate In Southern City | Associated Press

Angry protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Basra on Friday, setting a fire inside amid a wave of demonstrations that have turned deadly in the past few days, a security official and eyewitnesses said.

Iran Guard Claims Missile Attack on Separatist Kurds In Iraq | Associated Press

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Sunday claimed responsibility for a missile attack targeting an Iraqi base of a Kurdish separatist group. Iranian state television aired footage of surface-to-surface missiles launching Saturday toward the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan base in Iraq, as well as drone footage of the base in the aftermath of the strike, which the separatists say killed at least 11 people and wounded 50.

Iraq Protests Strikes as Iran Confirms Attacking Kurdish Rebels | Bloomberg

Iraq’s foreign ministry protested an attack on its territory as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed they’d attacked rebels in the Iraqi Kurdistan area.

Iran’s Attack on Kurds Is a Message to Washington, Riyadh and Jerusalem | Seth Frantzman for the Jerusalem Post

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran claimed credit for a missile attack on Kurdish opposition groups in Koya in northern Iraq. The attack on Saturday killed a dozen and wounded numerous others. It was the first time Iranian forces had used this kind of precision missile attack deep inside Iraq.

Iraqi Militant Qayis Khazali Warned Us About Iran. We Ignored Him. | Bill Roggio for the Weekly Standard

Iran has its tentacles all over Iraq, and the United States has no one to blame but itself.

MISCELLANEOUS

German Governor Opens Israel Office, Refuses to Ban Hezbollah, Iran Trade | Jerusalem Post

Armin Laschet, the powerful governor of the largest German state North Rhine-Westphalia, wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel on Thursday, with the opening of his state’s first trade and culture office in Israel, but he refused to outlaw Hezbollah and stop trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Labour Probing Claims Two Iranian Sympathisers 'Infiltrated' Party to Oust Pro-Israel MP | Daily Mail (U.K.)

Labour was last night probing claims that two Iranian sympathisers ‘infiltrated’ the party to try to oust a pro-Israel MP.