Eye on Iran: Iran Says It Shot Down A U.S. Drone

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Iran Says It Shot Down A U.S. Drone | The New York Times

Iran shot down a United States drone after it entered its airspace, state media reported on Thursday, the latest escalation in the tensions between the two countries. Press TV, a state-run news outlet in Iran, said that what it called a "spy drone" had been shot down in the province of Hormozgan, along the country's southern coast on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The United States disputed that account. "No U.S. aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today," said Bill Urban, a spokesman for Central Command...

U.S. Navy Says Mine Fragments Suggest Iran Behind Gulf Tanker Attack | Reuters 

The United States sought on Wednesday to bolster its case for isolating Iran over its nuclear and regional activities by displaying limpet mine fragments it said came from an oil tanker damaged in an attack last week and saying the ordnance looked Iranian in origin.  Separately, a senior U.S. official said U.S. intelligence had confirmed that Iranian vessels had approached the damaged tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, as well as a second one, the Front Altair, prior to explosions that damaged their hulls last week. 

US Point Person On Iran Says Trump Wants To Negotiate | Associated Press 

The U.S. special envoy says President Donald Trump's Iran policy is ultimately aimed at bringing Tehran to the negotiating table. Brian Hook briefed lawmakers at a House panel Wednesday amid concerns from some in Congress that the situation in the Middle East could escalate into military conflict. Hook said, "no one should be uncertain about our desire for peace or our readiness to normalize relations should we reach a comprehensive deal."

UANI IN THE NEWS

Iran And US Do Not Want War | Sky News

UANI Senior Adviser Norman Roule: Well, we should worry that the nuclear deal has begun to unravel. Iran is likely to continue to take steps which will allow it to exceed the agreement while still staying within the general framework of the deal itself. It's very unlikely Iran will undertake steps to build a nuclear weapon, it's very likely Iran will attempt to exceed these paramaters so it can bring pressure upon other countries to compel the United States to cease its sanctions.  

Trump Is A Belligerent Isolationist. But On Iran, He Needs Allies | UANI Board Member Dennis Ross For The Washington Post 

President Trump is a belligerent isolationist. In keeping with what was historically a real, if fringe, strain of thinking about America's approach to the world, Trump favors unilateralism over alliances that carry obligations and responsibilities. The paradox, of course, is that anyone who disclaims any interest in being the world's policeman needs allies. Nowhere is that more evident than in the escalating tensions with Iran. 

Iran: Back To Square One | Ahram Online 

...For Jason Brodsky, policy director for United Against Nuclear Iran, JCPOA "isn't working for many constituencies, mostly because Iran is not receiving a bang for its buck", which necessitates forcing it into a new negotiation "where all issues are fair game - nuclear and non-nuclear". "Iran has a history of exhibiting 'heroic flexibility' during international crises, when acquiescence outweighed resistance in order to preserve the regime. We've seen it before in Iran's decision to accept the ceasefire ending the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 and when Tehran came to the negotiating table during the height of international sanctions, pre-nuclear deal in 2012."

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Iran Talking To Russia And China In Case EU Nuclear Deal Efforts Fail: TASS | Reuters 

Iran is in talks with Russia and China on a possible settlement mechanism in case discussions with EU over a nuclear deal fail, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security council, Ali Shamkhani, said, according to Russia's TASS news agency. Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with China, Russia and other world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States' decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.

UK, France And Germany In Last-Ditch Effort To Save Iran Deal | The Guardian 

Britain, France and Germany are to mount a last-ditch effort to dissuade Iran from effectively quitting the nuclear deal, warning time was running out for negotiations and the risk of war in the region "has not been averted". The diplomatic offensive includes a forthcoming visit by the UK's new Middle East minister, Andrew Murrison. 

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS   

EU May Be Slow To Sanction Iran Deal Violations, Sources Say | CNN

As the Trump administration continues its hardline approach on Iran, the European Union -- in a bid to preserve the Iran nuclear deal -- is reluctant to impose sanctions for potential violations of that deal, two diplomatic sources told CNN.  Federica Mogherini, the top EU foreign affairs official, has conveyed this sentiment in meetings over recent days, the sources said, even as Tehran has said it would scale back its commitment to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Suspected Iranian Oil Caught In Sanctions Trap | The Wall Street Journal 

Italy's oil giant SpA has rejected a cargo of suspected Iranian crude, as energy companies grapple with sophisticated techniques used by Iran to evade U.S. sanctions. The cargo, which was intended for the Milazzo refinery in Sicily, remains on board a Liberia-flagged vessel named White Moon, after Eni said the specifications didn't match those of its contract for Iraqi oil. The ship's documents show that the cargo, which Eni bought from the trading arm of Nigeria's Oando PLC, was Iraqi, an Eni spokesman said.

Huawei Iran-Sanctions Evidence Deemed Too Risky For China To See | Bloomberg 

Some evidence used to charge Huawei Technologies Co. with bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions on Iran was deemed so sensitive that the Chinese telecom giant's lawyers must now take unusual steps to review the information -- and even then, the company may never see it. While specific evidence wasn't disclosed, prosecutors convinced a federal judge that releasing too much would pose a risk to national security and other governmental concerns. 

MISSILE PROGRAM

Iranian Military Official Claims Country's Missiles Can Take Out Aircraft Carrier | CNN 

One of Iran's top military commanders reiterated longstanding claims that the country has ballistic missiles capable of taking out an aircraft carrier, as President Hassan Rouhani said the country did not seek to wage war against any nation.  Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the country's development of ballistic missile technology had changed "the balance of power" in the region.

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

She's On A Hunger Strike In An Iranian Jail. He's Joining In, From London | The New York Times

A British-Iranian woman held in a Tehran prison for years and her British husband began a joint hunger strike this week to demand her unconditional release, even as the relationship between the two nations has grown increasingly strained. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, began their campaign on Saturday, and Mr. Ratcliffe set up a small campsite on the sidewalk outside the Iranian Embassy in central London.

Wrong To Remove World Cup Fans Advocating For Iranian Women - FIFA | Reuters 

World soccer governing body FIFA says it was wrong for stewards to intervene and remove two fans at a women's World Cup match in France on Saturday because they advocated for Iranian women to be allowed into stadiums in the middle eastern country.  Two supporters were forced to leave a match in Grenoble because they wore t-shirts which had slogans demanding Iranian women be allowed access to stadiums and messages relating to the enforcement of hijabs (headscarves worn by Muslim women). 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

Iran Has Ties To Al Qaeda, Trump Officials Tell Skeptical Congress | The New York Times 

The Trump administration is telling Congress about what it says are alarming ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill. Briefings by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, backed up by other State Department and Pentagon officials, have led Democrats and some Republicans to ask whether the administration is building a case that the White House could use to invoke the war authorization passed by Congress in 2001 to battle terror groups as legal cover for military action against Iran.

U.S. Envoy For Iran Traveling To Middle East -State Department | Reuters 

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook will travel to the Middle East on Wednesday for meetings in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain to discuss "Iran's regional aggression," the State Department said.  "He will also share additional U.S. intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region," the department said in a statement.

Trump Is Right To Face Down Iran's Empty Threats | New York Post Editorial Board

Know how you can tell the Trump administration's tough approach on Iran is working? Tehran is acting out in a bid to remove the pressure. Iran's rulers pointedly announced Monday that they'll soon cross a red line of the 2015 nuclear deal by exceeding its limit on stockpiles of highly enriched uranium. This comes a week after an attack on two fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman - attacks that the Trump administration has laid at the feet of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, though Tehran says it's been framed.

Iran's Grand Strategy Tests U.S. And Its Allies Yemen, Iraq, Syria - Analysis | Seth J. Frantzman For The Jerusalem Post

An air strike hit Tel al-Hara in Syria on June 12. The mountain contained an observation area for the Syrian regime and its allies, including groups linked to Iran. The next day, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are accused of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Yemen. The incidents were several thousands of kilometers apart, and help us to understand the scale of the battlefield that links Iran and its allies, pitting them against America's allies.

Trump's Critics Wary Even As They Agree Iran Is At Fault In Attacks | Bloomberg 

From Democratic lawmakers in Washington to Germany's chancellor, skeptics of Donald Trump's foreign policy are starting to agree the evidence is strong that Iran was behind attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. It's an acknowledgment that came with criticism of the American president's confrontational stance toward Iran and concern that the U.S. may be headed toward war with the Islamic Republic.

Lindsey Graham: If Iran 'Attacks Shipping Again,' US Should Consider 'Taking Out Their Navy, Oil Refineries' | Fox News 

The Trump administration should consider taking serious action if Iran further disrupts shipping activity, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The situation in the region is getting worse and American ally Israel would be in danger if Iran's nuclear program progresses much further, Graham told Bret Baier Wednesday on "Special Report." "It's getting more dangerous by the day," he claimed, adding Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should not be allowed to "develop a nuclear bomb."

US Point Person On Iran Says Trump Wants To Negotiate | Associated Press 

The U.S. special envoy says President Donald Trump's Iran policy is ultimately aimed at bringing Tehran to the negotiating table. Brian Hook briefed lawmakers at a House panel Wednesday amid concerns from some in Congress that the situation in the Middle East could escalate into military conflict. Hook said, "no one should be uncertain about our desire for peace or our readiness to normalize relations should we reach a comprehensive deal."

Iranian Official Downplays Possibility Of Military Confrontation With U.S. | National Review 

A top Iranian official on Wednesday predicted that no military conflict with the U.S. was coming, despite the Trump administration's decision to send more troops to the Middle East amid tensions with Tehran. "There will not be a military confrontation between Iran and America since there is no reason for a war," said Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, according to state media outlet IRNA.  

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Why The U.S. Is Targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard | Ladane Nasseri For Bloomberg

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is Iran's premier military force. It's also much more. As the official protector of the 1979 revolution that overthrew Iran's monarchy and established an Islamic Republic, the Guard exerts political and economic power and has a direct line to the country's highest authority. Through the years it's been accused of supporting militant organizations and terrorist activities around the world. Most recently it's been accused of involvement in the explosions that damaged two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM  

Accused Terrorists Use Loopholes To Tap Frozen Funds | The Wall Street Journal

Loopholes in U.N. Security Council sanctions procedures are allowing blacklisted al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists and their supporters to tap their bank accounts despite a U.N. asset freeze, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter. Those gaining access to their funds include Khalifa al-Subaiy, a Qatari financier who the U.S. says long provided financial support to senior al Qaeda leadership, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Tehran Police May Allow Some Night Life Under Pressure From Businesses | Radio Farda

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi appears to have changed his mind about night life in Tehran in what seems to be a U-turn from his previous hardline position. Police Chief who had ruled out any night life in Tehran after 1 PM in an interview earlier this week, said on Wednesday June 19 "The police has not made its final decision yet," adding that his men are currently addressing traffic and security aspects of the matter.

Iran Chief Justice Dismisses 60 Judges To Uproot Internal Corruption | Al Monitor 

The Iranian judiciary has dismissed 60 judges since early May in an anti-corruption drive launched by Ebrahim Raisi, the recently appointed conservative chief justice. During a presser in Tehran, Raisi's first deputy, Gholam-Hossein Ejei, announced that the sacked judges came from a wide range of ranks in the judiciary. An unspecified number of those fired have also been barred from any future appointment in the wider public service.

IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION

Iran And Egypt Reportedly In Secret Talks Over Regional Tensions | Radio Farda 

Citing unidentified "high-level Egyptian sources", Iranian state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported on Tuesday, June 18 that Tehran- Cairo contacts have recently taken place as a result of escalating tensions in the region, including the attack on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman last Thursday. "Cairo has recently opened a line of communication with Tehran, revealing that Iranian officials visited the Egyptian capital last week, and held talks with senior leaders of the General Intelligence Service," MNA asserted.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN

Israel Holds Large Military Drill Amid US-Iran Tensions | Associated Press

Israel wrapped up its largest military drill in years on Wednesday, with thousands of troops from the army, navy and air force simulating a future war with the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group amid fears that Iran would draw its Shiite proxy into the recent growing tensions in the Persian Gulf. The Israeli military said the four-day exercise had been planned long in advance and focused on the immersion of all branches against threats emanating from Israel's north. 

Russia And Iran Turn To Barter Trade | Radio Farda 

Iran imports Russian equipment and agricultural products in exchange for crude oil it had already sold to Moscow, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said on Tuesday, June 18, in Tehran. Novak arrived in Tehran Monday to hold talks with the Iranian Oil Minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh. The Islamic Republic state-run monopolized TV&Radio news agency (IRIB) cited Namdar Zanganeh as saying ahead of the meeting with his Russian guest, "we are discussing bilateral relations and Iran-Russia global cooperation."

Iran Determined To Arm West Bank Palestinian Factions | Al Monitor 

Tehran is well aware that Israel has a weak spot when it comes to the winding West Bank border, making the West Bank a strategic location in the conflict between Iran and Israel. Iranian officials have repeatedly declared that despite the geographical and logistical challenges of delivering weapons to Palestinian factions in the area, arming these groups remains a priority.

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN

OPEC Wrangle Over Meeting Date Exposes Deepening Saudi-Iran Rift | Reuters 

OPEC's month-long wrangle over a date for its next meeting has highlighted a changing dynamic in the group with decisions increasingly driven by long-time leader Saudi Arabia in tandem with non-OPEC Russia, angering member states like Iran. Decision-making has never been easy in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which groups 14 Arab and non-Arab oil producers, some of which have longstanding rivalries. 

Saudi Plant Struck By Missile, Apparently From Yemen | The Wall Street Journal

A Saudi desalination plant was struck by a missile that appeared to come from within Yemen, according to a senior U.S. official. It wasn't clear if there were any casualties in the attack, the official said. Senior officials from a range of U.S. government agencies were called back to the White House to meet Wednesday evening, the official said. "The President has been briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. "We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies."

IRAQ & IRAN

Iran Already Turning Iraq Into Battleground Against US | Al Monitor

As tension intensifies between Washington and Tehran, attacks against US interests in Iraq are increasing quickly and significantly. A short-range Katyusha missile on June 19 hit the Burjesia site that houses the operations and residential headquarters of several global oil companies, including US energy giant ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell of the Netherlands and Italy's Eni. The complex is west of Basra in southern Iraq, near the Zubair oil field and the Iranian border.

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS   

France Sends Top Diplomat To Iran For Talks To Reduce Tensions | Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron's top diplomatic adviser traveled to Iran on Wednesday to hold talks with local officials as part of European efforts to reduce tensions in the Gulf region, a presidency official said.  "The diplomatic adviser did indeed travel to Iran on June 19...to hold high-level talks with the objective of contributing to a de-escalation of tensions in the region," the official said, confirming information from two diplomatic sources.