Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days, the spokesman for the country's atomic agency said Monday while also warning that Iran has the need for uranium enriched up to 20%, just a step away from weapons-grade levels. The announcement indicated Iran's determination to break from the landmark 2015 accord, which has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the United States is "considering a full range of options" regarding rising tensions with Iran, including military options, but emphasized that President Donald Trump has said that he does not want to go to war. "The United States is considering a full range of options. We have briefed the President a couple of times, we'll continue to keep him updated.
The country's top paramilitary force is maintaining support for armed groups in the Middle East and finding new sources of funding, defying U.S. efforts to curb its activities abroad as tensions between Washington and Tehran soar following fresh attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Iran's government has struggled to support an economy under pressure from U.S. sanctions, but its elite defense force has found new sources of revenue, including recently-signed infrastructure contracts in Syria and Iraq as well as expanded smuggling networks, according to advisers to the Guard and the U.S. government.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Even supporters of Mr. Trump's tougher approach to Iran acknowledge the credibility challenge. Mark Wallace, the executive director of United Against Nuclear Iran and a strong critic of Mr. Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran that Mr. Trump has since repudiated, said the government needs to rely on its career professionals to inform the public about Tehran's activities. "The one way of doing that is place the burden of persuasion and validating the facts on the military and intelligence community that at least is more immune to the politically charged atmosphere that we live in," said Mr. Wallace, who was a diplomat at the United Nations under Mr. Bush. "With Iran, I've been surprised actually that it's been relatively depoliticized."
In the U.S. and Europe, much of the mainstream media has swallowed a narrative about Donald Trump and Iran. While Iran is an aggressive authoritarian state, the story goes, it is nonetheless a victim of American belligerence. Tehran was adhering to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, negotiated by the Obama administration, when the truculent Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned the accord. For more than a year, according to the narrative, the mullahs have shown patience by continuing to abide by the agreement, even with the resurrection of punishing American sanctions.
UANI Senior Advisor Norman Roule: Well, I think we have to separate this from the nuclear process in general. The United States has undertaken a campaign for some time to roll Iran back in the region. Doing so would sooner or later cause Iran to push back, and they're doing so. We're watching this, look at how the attacks too place on boats, ship attacks, Iran does this for several reasons. First, it pays no price. Second, it's one of those things that you could describe as attributable to Iran but Iran can deny it.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A Morristown woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with an Iranian national to smuggle thousands of airplane components - worth an estimated $2 million - to Iran. Joyce Eliabachus, also known as Joyce Marie Gundran Manangan, 52, pleaded guilty in Newark Federal Court to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in connection with her role in an international procurement network.
Iran announced plans on Monday to stop complying with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from last year, leaving the door open to an "unlimited rise" in Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium amid escalating tensions between the two nations. The announcement by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization was the country's latest signal that it will abandon the pact unless the other signatories to the deal help Iran circumvent punishing United States economic sanctions imposed by President Trump.
Iran said it would exceed limits on its stockpile of enriched uranium in 10 days, jeopardizing European efforts to save the international nuclear deal amid heightened military tensions in the Persian Gulf. Iran will go above the cap set in the 2015 nuclear deal for its stockpile of enriched uranium by June 27 and would further increase its production in early July, said Iran's atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi. He said Tehran could reverse that step if European countries revive trade with Iran and curtail the impact of U.S. sanctions.
Iran will announce further moves on Monday to scale back compliance with an international nuclear pact that the United States abandoned last year, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday. "Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation tomorrow at the Arak heavy water site will announce preparatory steps that have been taken to further decrease Tehran's commitments under the deal," Tasnim said, without citing sources. The organization will announce moves to increase stocks of enriched uranium and production of heavy water at Arak, Tasnim reported.
Iran will continue scaling back compliance with a nuclear deal unless other signatories to the pact show "positive signals", the Iranian president said on Saturday as tensions with the United States escalated over tanker attacks in the Gulf region. Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and ratcheted up sanctions on Tehran.
The EU's second most senior diplomat affirmed the bloc's support for the nuclear deal between world powers with Iran, including via the use of a new payment system for barter-based trade designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions. Helga Schmid, the secretary general of European Union external action service, visited Tehran on June 15. She helped negotiate the deal in 2015.
Iran is expected to announce a further retreat from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers today, according to the country's Tasnim news agency. The report says Iran will likely begin increasing enriched uranium stocks and producing heavy water at the Arak facility. Tehran stopped abiding by some obligations of the deal last month.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Two Iraqi officials say the United States has given Iraq a new 90-day extension for an Iran sanctions waiver allowing Baghdad to import electricity and natural gas from Tehran. An Iraqi official told The Associated Press on Saturday that Baghdad was informed about the waiver during a call the previous day between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. Another official confirmed the waiver, saying it will start June 19.
The United States has allowed Iraq to import Iranian gas for its power grid for another three months by extending a waiver to sanctions - but insists that Baghdad seek alternative sources. Iraq has had several extensions to the waiver first granted last year after Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran's oil sector forbidding countries from purchasing Iranian energy. "An additional 120-day waiver was granted to allow Iraq to continue to pay for electricity imports from Iran," the U.S. State Department said in an emailed statement.
Saudi Arabia called for swift action to secure Gulf energy supplies and joined the United States in blaming Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in a vital shipping route that have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Thursday's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman exacerbated the antagonistic fallout from similar blasts in May that crippled four vessels. Washington, already embroiled in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, has blamed Tehran and Saudi Arabia's crown prince also accused Iran on Saturday.
An Iranian government advisor has warned that if US President Donald Trump does not "abandon" sanctions against Iran, the world will be driven into an "unavoidable war." "If American people really don't want to go to war with Iran, the US president should abandon the current course of policy in regard to sanctioning Iran. Otherwise, rising tensions automatically will drive us to an unavoidable war, sooner or later," tweeted Diako Hosseini, a senior analyst at Tehran's Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS), on Friday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A British-Iranian woman who has been imprisoned in Tehran has begun a new hunger strike to demand her freedom, her husband said as he vowed to support her by fasting outside the Iranian Embassy in London. The woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation when she was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her young daughter, Gabriella, after a family visit.
Efforts by hijab enforcers in Iran to oblige women to observe a strict dress code have led to more incidents in public, as citizens resent strangers admonishing them about their appearance. Islamic Republic's religious laws allow any citizen to stop another person who is not observing the proper dress code. But this vigilante activism almost always impacts younger women who prefer the lightest head-covering possible.
Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, says the husband of a dual national, British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran has blocked the doorway to the embassy. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard, spent Saturday night in a tent near the embassy in Kensigton, London in solidarity with her wife who went on hunger strike on the same day at Evin Prison in Tehran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
As Iran and the United States face off in the Gulf of Oman, the risk may not be just at sea, but in Tehran and Washington, where both Iranian and American hard-liners are seizing on the moment for political advantage. The attacks this week on two tankers in the gulf, instantly attributed to Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then President Trump, emboldens the hard-liners in both countries, each able to argue their longtime adversary is itching for war.
One constant in President Trump's malleable foreign policy has been his fierce criticism of Iran and what he described as a weak and dangerous nuclear compact the United States and other countries negotiated with Tehran. Threats and sanctions, and lots of them, have been his go-to response, lately leavened with vague offers of future negotiations. Trump's reaction to attacks on two commercial tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday fits the pattern, but it may also reveal the limits of his administration's strategy...
As more countries openly accuse Iran and its Revolutionary Guards for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, top Iranian officials, religious leaders and media mostly keep a low profile. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have been conspicuously silent about the reports on IRGC's involvement. Rouhani has mainly repeated the usual anti-Washington rhetoric since the attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has once again blamed Iran for the recent attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman but has reiterated Washington is not seeking war. It is "unmistakable" that Iran was responsible for last week's attacks on oil tankers Pompeo said in an interview on June 16. "We don't want war," Pompeo told Fox News, but he added that Washington would "take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise," to guarantee free navigation through the Strait of Hormuz.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked Iranian leaders during his Tehran visit to release Americans detained by the country at the request of US President Donald Trump, a Japanese government source said Friday. At least four Americans, including a navy veteran who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, are being detained in Iran. Abe is believed to have requested the releases during his talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the source said.
So, is America going to war? For the first time in over 15 years, perhaps, that's a very sensible question. The answer is: likely not. At least not in the Middle East. Ships have been attacked in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians have denied responsibility. The Trump administration says it has videos proving otherwise. I was at a conference Friday and ran into Ilan Goldenberg, formerly a top aide to Secretary of State John Kerry (the guy who signed off on the Iran nuclear deal, for better or worse) who now directs the Middle East program at the Center for a New American Security.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's government has no plans to remove Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh from his post, a government spokesman said on Sunday, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA). A senior Iranian lawmaker said last month he was gathering signatures in parliament to support a motion to oust Zanganeh for his inability to counter U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil sales.
Iran's Guardian Council said Saturday it sent a bill that would allow Iranian mothers married to foreigners to confer citizenship on their children back to parliament, citing "security" concerns. In a statement on its website, the council said it did not have an issue with the spirit of the bill, but rather the absence of any clauses allowing authorities to address "security" issues potentially arising from the activities of foreign fathers.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's Houthi movement launched fresh drone attacks targeting Jizan and Abha airports in southern Saudi Arabia, the group's Al-Masirah TV said on Saturday, adding the installations were out of service. The Saudi-led coalition said in a statement that it had intercepted and downed a Houthi drone targeting the southwestern city of Abha. The Iran-aligned group said multiple drone strike targeted control rooms at Jizan airport and a fuel station at Abha airport.
The Houthi militia launched a large attack in Yemen on Sunday, targeting sites controlled by the joint forces in Hodeidah as a new escalation threatens the UN peace efforts in the port city. The Houthis had attacked sites controlled by Al Amalikah Brigades in Kilo 16, east of the city, Arab Coalition spokesman Col Wathah Al Dubaish told The National on Sunday. The rebels also attacked Al Amalikah divisions in Al Fazah, in the south of Hodeidah, pushing towards the coast to try to cut the main route linking the southern districts.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront Iranian threats to its security. He joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival Iran of being behind the attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital trade route for Arabian energy exports. Tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated since the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region in what it says is defensive posturing against alleged Iranian threats.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi Arabia would "not hesitate" to defend its interests as Riyadh joined the US in blaming Iran for last week's attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf. Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto leader, said Saudi Arabia did not want a conflict in the region, but his comments were indicative of rising tensions in the oil-rich Gulf.
Mohammed bin Salman has spoken publicly for the first time since a second attack on Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, blaming arch-rival Iran and vowing that Saudi Arabia "won't hesitate to deal with any threat" to the kingdom's interests. According to an interview for pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, published on Sunday, the crown prince said: "We do not want a war in the region ... But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and called on the international community to take a "decisive stand" but said in an interview published on Sunday that the kingdom does not want a war in the region. Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday, which the United States also blamed on Iran, have raised fears of broader confrontation in the region. Iran has denied any role in the strikes south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route and major transit route for oil.
Houthi rebels in Yemen recently shot down a U.S. government-operated drone with assistance from Iran, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday. Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said the altitude at which the MQ-9 drone was shot down on June 6 marked "an improvement over previous Houthi capability," a fact that led the military to conclude the rebel group had help from Iran.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran on Saturday summoned the British ambassador to Tehran after London blamed it for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the semi-official Students News Agency ISNA reported, a claim denied by the British government. "During the meeting with Iran's foreign ministry official, Iran strongly condemned the unfounded allegations and criticized Britain's unacceptable stance regarding the attacks in the Gulf of Oman," it said.