An Iranian exchange has offered investors as much as 6 million barrels of oil so far this year. Only a single deal closed, for the minimum 35,000 barrels. Iran's oil production and exports have slumped after the U.S. reinstated sanctions last year, and new curbs are set to further restrict its exports. Exemptions for importing countries including Japan, China, Turkey, India and South Korea have partially cushioned the blow.
An Israeli air strike in central Syria wounded three combatants early Saturday, the official SANA news agency reported. A Britain-based war monitor said the strike killed several Iranian fighters and wounded 17 Syrian troops and their allies. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the foreign media report. "Around 2:30 am (2330 GMT Friday)... the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Misyaf," in Hama province north of Damascus, SANA quoted a military source as saying.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is "no doubt" that Iran has a financial presence in South America and that Tehran remains a "global threat." "Iranian money remains in South America being used for malign purposes, supporting Hizballah, supporting transnational criminal organizations, supporting efforts at terrorism throughout the region," Pompeo said on April 13 in an interview with Voice of America during a visit to the region.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran protested to France on Sunday over comments by the French ambassador in Washington concerning Tehran's right to enrich uranium after 2025. Tehran agreed under a 2015 deal with world powers to restrict its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions that had crippled its economy. Some of these limits are due to be removed after 10 years, and some others after 15 years.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's economy has been in free-fall since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed strict sanctions on its government. And the administration's unprecedented move on Monday designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization is expected to further damage its economy, Alayna writes.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. lawmakers calling for an even harder sanctions policy against Iran were grandstanding and vowed that the State Department would ultimately "get it right" when it comes to exerting the needed level of pressure. Pompeo's remarks come days after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) urged him not to allow a small group of nations to continue purchasing Iranian oil after U.S. sanctions waivers expire next month.
The White House was looking to shake things up when it designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. It worked. "American terrorists killed in bombing," read a headline in Iran's official Fars news agency, referring to an attack in Afghanistan that killed three U.S. servicemen. That came just a day after the Trump administration's announcement and represented a marked change in terminology by Tehran.
U.S. sanctions on Iran are also hitting some of the Islamic Republic's closest allies. Drivers in Damascus are queuing up for miles to get just a few gallons of gasoline after Iranian oil shipments to the war-ravaged country ended. Syria consumes 100,000 barrels of oil a day and produces about 24,000 barrels, Mustapha Hammouriyyeh, head of the state fuel distribution company, told Al-Ikhbariyya TV.
Iran's oil minister said on Sunday that U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela and tensions in Libya have made the supply-demand balance in the global oil market fragile, and warned of consequences for increasing pressures on Tehran. Oil prices have risen more than 30 percent this year on the back of supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. sanctions on oil exporters Iran and Venezuela, plus escalating conflict in OPEC member Libya.
Iran is likely to award up to five oil exploration and production contracts to local firms, with the first deal expected within months, a senior oil official was quoted on Monday as saying. Foreign energy companies, including France's Total, have suspended plans to invest in Iranian oil and gas projects after the United States reimposed sanctions on Tehran last year.
South Korea's oil imports from Iran fell 12 percent in March from a year earlier, customs data showed on Monday, but the monthly intake was still the highest since the country resumed buying Iranian oil in January. South Korea, one of Iran's biggest Asian customers, imported 1.2 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in March, or 284,639 barrels per day (bpd), versus 1.37 million tonnes a year earlier, the data showed.
An Iranian official announced April 13 that the country's total exports of petrochemical products during the last fiscal year stood at 20 million tons, worth $10.645 billion. Iran's fiscal year ended March 20. Taghi Sanei, the head of Nouri Petrochemical Company -- majority owned by government-- didn't mention whether U.S. sanctions affected this sector or not...
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian woman who removed her obligatory Islamic headscarf in a public protest has been sentenced to one year in prison but pardoned by the supreme leader, her lawyer said Sunday. A court sentenced Vida Movahed in March after finding her guilty of encouraging public "corruption," her lawyer, Payam Derefshan, told The Associated Press. Movahed was arrested in November. Derefshan, who first revealed the verdict to local media on Sunday, said she is on a pardon list but the release procedures are still underway.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran will ask the international community to take a position on the U.S. designation of its Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was cited as saying on Sunday. Iran condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's step last week as illegal. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is a powerful elite force which controls much of the Iranian state and economy.
Iran's parliament approved the outlines of a bill to retaliate for the U.S. designation of the Revolutionary Guards Corp as a terrorist organization, Ali Najafi-Khoshroudi, spokesman for parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, was cited as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The bill declares that U.S. Central Command forces in West Asia and any organizations or bodies working under them against Iran are terrorists.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week described a powerful Iranian military commander as a "terrorist," while discussing options the U.S. government could have to further punish Iran for its destabilizing activities in the Middle East. "Qassem Soleimani has the blood of Americans on his hands ... as does the force that he leads," Pompeo said during an interview with Fox News. "America is determined each time we find an organization, institution or an individual that has taken the lives of Americans, it is our responsibility."
Authorities in Iran expanded flood warnings to five additional provinces Saturday as rescue efforts continue across the western flank of the country already drenched by heavy rain. Residents from the northeast to the south, including islands in the Persian Gulf, have been told to brace for flooding, thunderstorms and heavy showers in the next two days, the semi-official Fars news reported, quoting Ahed Vazife, director of meteorological forecasts and warnings at the Meteorological Organization of Iran.
Floods caused by heavy rain across Iran in recent weeks have caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and agricultural land, state media cited ministers as telling lawmakers on Sunday. The flooding, which began on March 19, has killed 76 people, forced more than 220,000 people into emergency shelters, and left aid agencies struggling to cope. The armed forces have been deployed to help those affected.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved drawing up to $2 billion from the country's sovereign wealth fund for relief and reconstruction after devastating floods, state media reported on Monday. On Sunday, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said the weeks of heavy rain across the country had caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland.
About a year ago, Iran blocked the highly popular messaging app Telegram, an encrypted tool that half the country's 81 million people used for sharing news and information, debating in private, and conducting business. Authorities had reportedly boasted that "the blocking of the Telegram app should prevent users from accessing it via VPN" -- the virtual private networks that create hidden point-to-point connections on existing infrastructure -- "or any other software."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has appointed Abbas Mousavi as its new spokesman. Mousavi's official title will be the Foreign Ministry's spokesman and director-general for news dissemination. He replaced Bahram Ghasemi (Qassemi) and will be the 11th spokesman for the ministry since 1979. Bahram Ghasemi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman. Ghasemi who was the foreign ministry spokesman for two years, was appointed as Iran's ambassador to France in March.
It takes Zeinab about 15 hours to travel from Ahvaz to Tehran by train to watch Persepolis, her favourite football club. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, women have been banned from attending stadium football matches. Despite the ban, female football fans have never given up and have tried different methods to enter stadiums, including disguising themselves as men.
Nearly nine million Iranians are suffering from "absolute illiteracy" a news report compiled by Majles (Iranian parliament) Research Center (MRC) says. Iran's population has risen to 82 million from less than 40 million four decades ago, but the country's economy is struggling with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Statistics compiled by international organizations, such as UNESCO show that the number of "absolutely illiterate" people in the Islamic Republic is much higher, despite the implementation of three strategic plans for eradicating illiteracy in Iran.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Satellite images released by the Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) on Sunday showed the complete destruction of a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria's Masyaf District, allegedly struck by Israel on Saturday. "The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings. The rest of the structures were affected and damaged by the blast," ISI said, adding that they "assess that all the elements and/or equip-ment which were inside are completely destroyed as well."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
When it comes to preaching hate and unleashing terror, the Yemeni rebel leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi stands right beside Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian militia strongman Qassim Soleimani and Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
IRAQ & IRAN
Clashes erupted between the Iraqi federal police and Iran-backed militias in Mosul on Sunday. A gun battle began when Iraqi police stopped the militias entering western Mosul. Two police officers were injured. The militias, also known as Hashed Al Shaabi, were formed in 2014 to assist Iraqi forces defeat ISIS but are accused of exploiting their position and human rights breaches.
A group of Iraq's Shi'ite militia groups said on Saturday that they strongly rejected the designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation by the United States. The groups, backed and trained by Tehran, delivered a statement from the home of Iran's consul-general in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf. They announced their solidarity with the Muslim people and the Revolutionary Guards who they said helped to prevent four or five states from falling to Islamic State militants.
A convoy of 50 vehicles has carried Iraqi Al-Nojaba and Hashd al-Sha'bi militias into Iran's flood-hit western provinces, reported IRGC-linked Tasnim News agency on Sunday April 14. Meanwhile the IRGC commander in Ilam province says a large convoy of Iraqi militia have arrived in the province. The commander, Jamal Shakarami, has characterized the Iraqi militia as an ally of the Islamic Republic.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency reports the foreign ministry has summoned France's ambassador to Tehran over remarks made on Twitter by his colleague in Washington. Ambassador Philippe Thiebaud was being asked Sunday to explain why the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, had tweeted that "sanctions could be reimposed" on Iran once the 2015 nuclear deal expires after 10 years.