Iran has condemned new U.S. sanctions targeting its petrochemical industry, saying they prove President Donald Trump is not serious about pursuing negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted by state TV on Saturday as saying the move amounts to "economic terrorism" and is in line with other hostile American policies. On Friday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran's largest petrochemical company for allegedly doing business with the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which the White House branded a terrorist organization in April.
The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said he may recommend a return to a larger U.S. military presence in the area after concluding that the deployment of this aircraft carrier and other capabilities helped curtail Iranian threats. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, asked in early May that the carrier, bombers, troops and an antimissile system be sent to the region after learning of "specific" threats against U.S. and allied forces and interests in Iraq and elsewhere.
Iran's Foreign Ministry says nothing else but the country's landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers will be discussed during high-stakes diplomacy meetings in Tehran this week. Iranian state television quotes spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying that visiting "European officials are not in a position to comment on Iran's issues beyond the nuclear deal." The remarks came after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called Iran's ballistic missile program problematic during a visit Sunday to the United Arab Emirates.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The U.N. atomic watchdog's chief said on Monday he was worried about rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme and called for de-escalation through dialogue, departing from his usual guarded language on the country. Washington has ratcheted up pressure on Tehran over what it sees as its nefarious role in the region. It has tightened already punishing economic sanctions, and deployed an aircraft carrier and other extra hardware to the Middle East in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.
Diplomacy intended to salvage the Iran nuclear deal goes into high gear this week after Tehran threatened to follow the U.S. in abandoning the accord. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas landed in Iran's capital on Monday to meet with his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Tehran on Wednesday for more consultations, while in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency will assess the state of the 2015 agreement that was supposed to rein in Iranian nuclear work in return for sanctions relief.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has once again criticized Europe for "not fulfilling its commitments" under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Speaking at Allameh Helli College in Tehran on June 9, Zarif said, "It is the responsibility of JCPOA's other signatories, including European partners, to normalize Iran's economic relations" that are adversely affected by U.S. sanctions.
As tensions soar in the region already shaken by a standoff between the US and Iran over the nuclear deal, the UAE and Germany on Sunday called for defusing the situation to prevent further escalation and enter into negotiations. "We believe the region - hard-hit by tensions, conflicts and wars - should get a big chance for diplomacy, dialogue and hope for a better future," Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Heiko Mass.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Additional sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States show that Washington's offer of talks is not genuine, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Saturday. The United States placed sanctions on Iran's largest petrochemical holding group on Friday for indirectly supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a step it said aimed to dry up revenues to the elite Iranian military force but that analysts called largely symbolic.
All the formal requirements for a European payment system for barter-based trade with Iran designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions are now in place and it should be operational soon, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Tehran on Monday. Maas is in Iran to meet President Hassan Rouhani and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, as part of a European effort to salvage Iran's nuclear pact with world powers and defuse rising U.S.-Iranian tension.
Iran has no plans to leave the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries despite being treated like an enemy by some fellow members, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in an interview published on Saturday. "Iran has no plans to leave OPEC...and regrets that some members of OPEC have turned this organization into a political forum for confronting two founding members of OPEC, meaning Iran and Venezuela," Zanganeh told the Iranian parliament news site ICANA.
Iran is keeping up oil sales through "unconventional" means to circumvent US sanctions, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in an interview published Saturday. "We have unofficial or unconventional sales, all of which are secret, because if they are made known America would immediately stop them," he said, quoted by the oil ministry's SHANA news agency.
As a result of US sanctions, Iranians can no longer afford the yearly pilgrimage to Iraq's Shiite shrines. The holy city of Najaf is bearing the economic brunt. Judit Neurink reports from Najaf. "Not many Iranians can afford to come, not since Trump's decision, and we are losing money as a result." Badr al-Jilawi owns the Qasr al-Assad Hotel, which stands close to one of the world's most holy Shiite sites, the Imam Ali Shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
Iranian army's air defense has showcased a new generation of Sayyad-3 missiles said to be twice as much powerful than the previous generation Sayyad-2. The new missile has been delivered to the 15 Khordad air defense missile site on Sunday June 9 with Defense Minister Amir Hatami and army air defence commander Amir Sabahi Fard present at the site. According to IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim, the 15 Khordad air defense missile launchers are capable of striking 6 targets simultaneously.
Iran said Sunday that it had unveiled a new domestically produced air defense system, called the Khordad 15 and inaugurated by Defense Minister Amir Hatami. It is named for a protest in 1963 against the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini. This is the latest in a series of local Iranian military endeavors, including new ships, missiles and drones that the country boasts to have built. The new defense system supposedly can intercept up to six "incoming hostile targets simultaneously," according to Iranian state media.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Radicals linked to the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement were found to be stockpiling bomb-making ingredients in London in 2015 in a case that was kept "hidden from the public", the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday. Following a tip-off from a foreign government, British police and the MI5 intelligence service discovered thousands of disposable ice packs containing three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the report said, citing security sources.
Terrorists linked to Iran were caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials on the outskirts of London in a secret British bomb factory, The Telegraph can reveal. Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate - a common ingredient in homemade bombs.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran has received an amnesty request from Beirut for a Lebanese citizen who was detained in 2015 for "collaborating against the state" but has yet to make a decision on the case, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Sunday. Lebanon state news agency NNA last week quoted the foreign ministry as saying that Iran had agreed amnesty for Nizar Zakka, an information technology expert who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016 and fined $4.2 million.
Iran has reportedly bolstered its morality police force, introducing new units to monitor women's headscarves amid a perceived uptick in defiance of the country's mandatory veiling laws. According to a report published in the British Telegraph Friday, officials have launched 2,000 new morality police units made up of six women each in the northern Iranian province of Gilan as part of a pilot program. The units are called "resistance groups for verbal and practical response to bad-hijabi women," the Telegraph reported.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Under a starry sky, U.S. Navy fighter jets catapulted off the aircraft carrier's deck and flew north over the darkened waters of the northern Arabian Sea, a unmistaken signal to Iran that the foremost symbol of the American military's global reach is back in its neighborhood, perhaps to stay. The USS Abraham Lincoln, with its contingent of Navy destroyers and cruisers and a fighting force of about 70 aircraft, is the centerpiece of the Pentagon's response to what it calls Iranian threats to attack U.S. forces or commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf region.
Iran's foreign minister is warning amid tensions between Washington and Tehran that "whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it." Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks on Monday, speaking alongside visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Maas is in Tehran in an effort to salvage Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Germany is a signatory to the accord.
Iran's foreign minister warned the US 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.
In early May, the Iranians and their proxies were at extremely high levels of military readiness with ships, submarines, surface-to-air missiles and drones all prepared, according to two U.S. officials in the region. Now, on Saturday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that the U.S.'s moving the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, plus Patriot missiles and a B-52 bomber task force to the region has had a stabilizing effect on Iran.
A former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and a hardliner politician has warned that if the United States "takes the smallest action, the whole region will be engulfed in fire". Mohsen Rezaee, who is the secretary of the Islamic Republic's Discernment Council, speaking on state television June 8 said that in reaction to a U.S. military move, "nothing will remain" for U.S. allies in the region, including Israel.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian police have shut down 547 restaurants and cafes in Tehran for not observing "Islamic principles", the capital's police chief said Saturday. "The owners of restaurants and cafes in which Islamic principles were not observed were confronted, and during this operation 547 businesses were closed and 11 offenders arrested," Hossein Rahimi said in statement on the policeforce website. Fars news agency said the operation was carried out over the past 10 days.
New legislation passed by the Iranian Parliament approved death sentence for perpetrators of "acid attacks aimed at bringing about terror and instability in the society." Dozens of women in Iran have been attacked with acid in recent years by family members or presumably by hardline supporters of the compulsory hijab. Ministry of Health statistics puts acid attacks at 60 to 70 cases every year.
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is eighty-years-old. For a senior Shi'ite cleric in the Iranian regime, the eighth decade of life does not necessarily mean being closer to death. There are several Shi'ite clergymen in Iran today who are much older than Khamenei, including, to name a few, ayatollahs Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, 100, Hossein Vahid Khorasani, 98, Hossein Nouri Hamadani, 94, Ahmad Jannati, 93, Ebrahim Amini, 93, Nasser Makarem Shirazi, 92, Jafar Sobhani, 90...
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
During its first half-year in office, the Trump administration actively flirted with the idea that it might be possible, under the proper conditions, to "flip" the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin and get it to support American attempts to pressure Tehran. That effort, however, fizzled over time, derailed by the longstanding nature of the strategic ties between Moscow and Tehran, as well as by their close joint military cooperation in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as a result of which both have become deeply entrenched on Syrian soil.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
In May 2017 US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia inked a $110 billion arms deal. Two years later news that Riyadh was seeking to extend its missile capabilities has resurrected claims that the Kingdom is involved in an "arms race" with other countries in the region. However, there has always been an arms race in the Middle East between rival powers and it's not clear that the current expansion is different than past build-ups of military equipment. What might make it different is if Iran actually tried to built a nuclear weapon.
TURKEY & IRAN
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the significance of cooperation between Ankara and Tehran in different fields including security and trade during a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Saturday. "Iran and Turkey can play a greater role in combating terrorism and development of regional stability and security by deepening their interaction and cooperation," Erdoğan said, according to a statement released by the Iranian presidency.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's Supreme National Security Council determined the conditions to ensure the success of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's scheduled visit to Tehran next Wednesday to reduce tension between Iran and the United States. In a note on Saturday, Spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council Keivan Khosravi wrote that the upcoming visit of Abe to Iran will definitely be an important event in consolidating and developing friendly relations between the two countries in various fields.