Iranian officials said Monday that within weeks they could exceed an internationally agreed cap on their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, as tensions between Iran and the U.S. escalated. Iran threatened earlier this month to step up its nuclear program, saying it would initially stop respecting limits set on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, both of which can be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone. "I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government needs more powers to push back against the "economic war" the U.S. is waging, while vowing his nation will stand fast against the Trump administration's campaign rather than submit to its demands. During Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s, a wartime supreme council was set up and "held all powers, and even the parliament and the judiciary did not intervene," Rouhani told a gathering of clerics, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran's atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after President Donald Trump and Iran's foreign minister traded threats and taunts on Twitter. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.
Iran is ramping up its uranium output, a provocative step that threatens to further inflame simmering tensions with the United States and deepen regional conflict following a series of dangerous escalations in the Middle East. Iranian production of low-enriched uranium has recently increased fourfold, putting the nation on a path to exceed limits on nuclear materials set out in a 2015 agreement with world powers, a spokesperson for Iran's atomic energy agency told Iranian news outlets on Monday.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Oil prices edged up on Tuesday on escalating tensions between the United States and Iran and on signs that producer club OPEC will continue withholding supply this year. However, gains were checked by concerns that a prolonged Sino-U.S. trade war could lead to a global economic slowdown. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $72.03 per barrel at 0118 GMT, up 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, from their last close.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
President Trump on Monday played down tensions with Iran, saying his administration currently has no signs of threatening actions by Tehran but that if that changes, the United States "will have no choice" but to respond forcefully. "They've been very hostile. They've truly been the No. 1 provocateur of terror," Trump told reporters as he exited the White House for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump is a "crazy president" whose threats against Tehran aren't going to work, a senior Iranian official said Monday, adding that if the President wants to talk, he'll not only have to show some respect, but come up with a consistent message. Trump is "crazy" and his administration is "confused," Iran's director of foreign affairs for the country's parliament, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, told CNN in an exclusive interview Monday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he favors talks and diplomacy but not under current conditions, state news agency IRNA said late on Monday. "Today's situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only" IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying. U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier on Monday that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East, adding that Tehran has been very hostile toward Washington.
Top officials from President Donald Trump's administration will brief the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about Iran on Tuesday afternoon, congressional aides said, after lawmakers clamored for more information about tension between the two countries. The briefers will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford and an unnamed representative of the intelligence community, congressional aides said.
Ordered by the White House to the Persian Gulf, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier has become a 100,000-ton barometer of the tensions between Iran and the U.S. So far, the Lincoln and its accompanying ships have yet to enter the gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. It has been filmed by the U.S. Navy on Friday carrying out exercises with other American warships in the Arabian Sea, which is over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away.
Leading Iraqi Shiite figures warned Monday against attempts to pull their country into a war between the U.S. and Iran, saying it would turn Iraq into a battlefield yet again, just as it is on the path to recovery. The warning came hours after a rocket slammed into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported and no group immediately claimed the Sunday night attack.
Whatever other assets and liabilities he brings to the table, President Trump certainly offers this: He is a master at sowing uncertainty, so neither friend nor foe really knows what he's up to. And so it is right now with Iran, where Mr. Trump and his aides have in the past two weeks alternately raised and lowered fears about armed conflict. American warships moved toward Iran amid intelligence reports on pending Iranian attacks on U.S. targets in the Middle East.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says America "needs to engage more in the world and intervene militarily less." Mattis, a retired Marine general, spoke on Monday night at a previously unannounced speech before a Ramadan lecture series in honor of Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. According to a report in the state-linked newspaper The National, Mattis stressed that "Iran's behavior must change."
As tensions grow between Tehran and Washington, the British foreign secretary warned Iran not to test the United States' resolve; the EU called on both sides to calm down and Iraqi politicians expressed concern over Baghdad being dragged into a possible conflict as rockets landed near U.S Embassy. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif angrily responded to U.S. President Donald Trump's Tweet in which he had said Sunday evening, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran, and warned," Never threaten the United States again!"
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday that national security adviser John Bolton had briefed him on escalating tensions with Iran, and urged President Trump to "stand firm." "Just received a briefing from National Security Advisor Bolton about escalating tensions with Iran. It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq," Graham said in a pair of tweets.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday night to threaten Tehran: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." The statement came two weeks after the US deployed an aircraft carrier to the region, and just over a month after the Trump administration blacklisted Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity.
Iranian activists on social media have been sharing a video purporting to show Iranian Revolutionary Guards transporting made S-300 air defense systems to areas along the Gulf. According to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, an activist group, the vehicles transporting the defense systems and other military equipment in the coastal city of Asaluyeh in the southern province of Bushehr.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Jorf News, a Syrian news site, reported that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a naval combat training course in Latakia province in northern Syria. Latakia is where Russia's Khmeimim airbase is located. A "source" told Jorf News that 100 men from the Afghan Fatemiyoun were involved in the training along with members of the Shi'ite Imam Muhammed al-Baqir brigade and also IRGC members. The report said it was the first course of its kind. The report claims that the "IRGC share many positions with the [Syrian] regime's forces and its officers and members wear the uniform of the regime' soldiers and raise the Syrian flag."
Hundreds of lawmakers led by senior members of the House and Senate foreign policy committees have written to President Trump calling for a new U.S. strategy in Syria to counter Russia and Iran, deter terrorists and safeguard Israel. The letter, sent Monday and which was signed by a bipartisan complement of nearly 400 members of the House and Senate, warns "pockets of ungoverned space have allowed terrorist groups, such as [Islamic State], Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates, to keep parts of Syria in their stranglehold."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that it had intercepted two missiles in Mecca province fired by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis, who earlier denied having targeted Islam's holiest site. The foiled strike comes at a time of heightened tensions between Tehran and Gulf Arab states and a roughly four-year conflict in Yemen largely seen as a proxy war between the two sides.
Saudi Arabia intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles launched towards Makkah and Riyadh on Monday after the Yemeni rebels said they planned to strike at hundreds of Saudi and UAE targets. Air defences destroyed the missiles above the western cities of Taif and Jeddah, Saudi media reported. Yemen's internationally recognised government condemned the rebel attack and accused Iran of ordering the strikes.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
As long-simmering tensions heat up between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, a look at the various countries or players involved, and what could happen: The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops scattered across military bases in the Middle East. It recently sent the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and strike group to the region, as well as B-52 bombers.
The foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday as tensions rise between the Islamic Republic and the United States and its Gulf allies. Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah discussed regional and international issues with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian state news agency IRNA said. However, IRNA gave no details and it was not known if the visit was aimed at calming Iran-U.S. tensions.