Signaling increased alarm over Iran's breaches of the 2015 nuclear agreement, the deal's European members took a step on Tuesday that could lead to its possible collapse. In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain, plus the top foreign policy official of the European Union, expressed "deep concern that Iran is pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments" under the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, the top U.S. general said on Tuesday. Under the plan, which has only been finalized in recent days, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition. Allies would patrol waters near those U.S. command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.
The United States is seeking a Congress-approved agreement with Iran to replace the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald Trump abandoned last year, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Al-Jazeera satellite television network. The Trump administration has long argued that one of the flaws of the deal agreed under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama is that it was not formally ratified by the U.S. Congress.
UANI IN THE NEWS
"How can it be that Europe will facilitate Iran's breach of the JCPOA? INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) now becomes a tool for Iran's nuclear program, [the] spread of terrorism, and regional expansionism."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
European powers accused Iran on Tuesday of "pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments" under a 2015 nuclear deal and called for an urgent meeting of the parties to the agreement to discuss Tehran's compliance. Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and Iran are the remaining parties to the deal - known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) - which was abandoned by the United States last year.
Iran welcomes France's efforts to save the 2015 nuclear deal, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday as French President Emmanuel Macron's top diplomatic adviser visited Tehran for talks to help ease the crisis. Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20% purity in a move away from the nuclear accord.
The U.S. called for an extraordinary meeting of atomic inspectors to ramp up pressure against Iran after it violated key restrictions set by the landmark nuclear accord. What it's likely to get is pushback from Russia, China and other nations who blame the Trump administration for precipitating a crisis that has threatened to spill over into war. The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board of governors meets Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. local time in Vienna.
US senator Ted Cruz called on the Trump administration Tuesday to revoke the civil-nuclear waivers issued by the State Department allowing Iran to build up its nuclear program. "As for the civilian nuclear waivers, there are a total of seven. We had partial success, they revoked two of the seven that was a step in the right direction. I am grateful for that. There are still five in place," Cruz said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on three senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon on Tuesday, accusing them of having a "malign agenda" to support the Iranian government. The sanctions were the first to directly target members of Lebanon's Parliament and underscored the White House's intention to ratchet up pressure on Iran by punishing groups with ties to its government. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization even though members of the group have embedded into legitimate parts of the Lebanese government.
Faced with a U.S. campaign to choke Iran of capital and investment, Saeed Mohammed is trying to find ways to keep the lifeblood of his country's economy flowing. As the newly installed chief of Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Base, the engineering arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's ideologically rooted military unit, Mr. Mohammed is seeking to cushion the impact from an unprecedented array of U.S. sanctions.
The US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, told Al Arabiya that imposed oil sanctions on Iran alone will deny the regime 50 billion dollars in revenue annually, adding that the pressure is going to continue. "The oil sanctions alone are going to deny the Iranian regime 50 billion dollars in revenue annually. We've also sanctioned the petrol chemical sector, their industrial metals, their precious metals," said Hook, adding that "pressure is going to continue. This is not sustainable for the Iranian regime."
The Iranian chairman of the joint chamber of commerce of Iran and South Korea says U.S. sanctions against Iran have adversely affected commercial relations with Korea. Hossein Tanhai told Fars news agency that talks with two major Korean home appliance manufacturers have remained futile as the Korean companies are not willing to do business with Iran fearing this would endanger their trade ties with the United States. He did not name the Korean companies.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The former head of Tehran's largest stadium, Azadi, has been summoned to court for allowing women to run alongside men in the Tehran Marathon. Ali Akbar Shabanlou told ISNA on Tuesday July 9 that he had earlier been questioned at a first-instance court and was told that he had been cleared of all charges, but the judges must have changed their minds after photos of the marathon were made public. Shabanlou was replaced in less than three weeks after the Marathon that was held on May 3. In all he held the post for less than six months.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the U.S. needs to stop its "economic terrorism" against his nation as it won't agree to hold talks under duress. "Negotiations are never possible under duress," Zarif was quoted as saying Wednesday in Tehran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "Pressure and economic terrorism against Iran must stop and then we can talk" about implementing the nuclear deal, he said.
Iran's release last month of Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman with U.S. permanent residency, after four years in prison was meant as an opening for U.S.-Iranian talks, according to three Western sources familiar with the issue. The gesture, however, was not enough for Washington, which did not pursue it. "It was a missed opportunity," one U.S. source said of Zakka's June 11 release and the U.S. decision not to pursue talks. "We should have explored whether there was something there."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News Tuesday that the Iran regime needs to be "reined in." "I think you'll see them continue to test these missiles with longer and longer range and accuracy," Rubio said on "The Story with Martha MacCallum." "They sponsor terrorism all over the region, primarily as proxy forces that by the way killed and maimed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. They were the authors and the builders of those I.E.D's that hurt our troops there in the past. And you've seen the recent attacks as well and things they've done in the region.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The United States will move ahead with plans to build a coalition of nations to monitor and deter Iranian threats against commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf area and in a heavy trafficked waterway between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said the Pentagon has developed a specific plan, and that he believes it will be clear within a couple of weeks which nations are willing to join the effort.
Three members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards were shot dead in the western city of Piranshahr on Tuesday, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, citing a Guards statement. The three died "when terrorists opened fire on their car at the entrance to Piranshahr...", the statement said. It gave no further details.
Iran's first government minister born after its 1979 Islamic Revolution is a carefully manicured, charming internet engineer who posts Instagram pictures of his weekends with his family and spends 30 minutes a day reading letters from his constituents. He also used to work for the Intelligence Ministry. Meet Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, whose quick rise through the Islamic Republic's carefully managed political system already is generating speculation he could be a candidate for Iran's 2021 presidential campaign.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
In its latest report the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) says that the "misery index" in the country reached 39% last winter, whereas a year earlier it stood at 19.4%. Misery index is an informal measure of the state of an economy generated by adding together its rate of inflation and its rate of unemployment. Based on the SCI report, the unemployment rate in Iran was 12.1%, while the inflation rate soared to nearly 19.4% in the last quarter of last Iranian calendar year (December 2018-March 2019).
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel has undertaken at least 200 air raids against Iranian targets in Syria since 2017. Mossad head Yossi Cohen said at a security conference in Herzliya recently that Israel's objective is to make Iran "reach the conclusion that it is just not worth it" to continue its project in Syria. Israel's evident intelligence domination in Syria is impressive, as is the prowess of its pilots. But while air power is a mighty instrument, it's applicable only to certain tasks. The Iranian project in Syria is broad, deep and multifaceted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned Iran on Tuesday that it is within range of Israeli air strikes, citing what he described as Iranian threats to destroy Israel. "Iran recently has been threatening Israel's destruction," Netanyahu said at an Israeli air force base, where he viewed a squadron of advanced U.S.-built F-35 warplanes. "It should remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran, and certainly Syria," he said in a YouTube video clip filmed at the base, with an F-35 in the background.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
As news broke that US President Donald Trump stopped a military strike on three Iranian targets June 21, the region came face to face with the prospect of war. Now, with the United States threatening even more sanctions and Iran breaching the 2015 nuclear deal in response to Washington's withdrawal, there is very little consensus over how to deal with this escalation among the Gulf states.
A Yemeni court run by Houthi rebels sentenced 30 people to death on charges of espionage for Saudi Arabia and its allies in the international coalition fighting in Yemen, a judicial source has said. The source, cited by AFP news agency, said that 30 men, mainly academics, trade unionists and preachers, were handed death sentences on Tuesday and six others were acquitted by the criminal court in the Houthi-controlled capital city of Sanaa. The defendants have been detained for a year, the source added.
IRAQ & IRAN
In light of the US sanctions and the exit of foreign companies from Iran, Tehran is seeking to boost its income and hard currency by hosting the largest possible number of Iraqi tourists it can. Iran's economic charge d'affaires in Najaf, Arif Abbasi, said June 22, "The number of Iranian visas issued from Najaf will increase to 5,000 visas daily." Until May, 2,500 entry visas were issued daily by the Consulate General of Iran in Najaf, which began issuing 5,000 a day in July.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's military warned it would retaliate in response to the seizure of one of its tankers by British forces in Gibraltar last week, while several European foreign ministers urged Tehran to return immediately to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. "This move will not remain without response," Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.