Iran signed the country’s biggest-ever car deal worth several hundred million dollars with French manufacturer Groupe Renault on Monday to produce 150,000 cars a year, the latest advance by a European company into Iran’s sizeable consumer market. The €660 million — or $778 million — deal follows the lifting of the U.N. and European Union sanctions after Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers to curb its controversial uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear weapons.
Iran has mocked the U.S. push for inspections of the country's military sites, calling it a "ridiculous dream that will never come true." This comes after U.S. officials said last month that the Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Tehran struck in 2015 with world powers.
Amid new international sanctions, North Korea's "No. 2" official embarked on a 10-day visit to Iran, a move that could result in the two sides expanding their ties. Iran's official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But given the head of North Korea's parliament is expected to stay for 10 days in Iran, the trip is being seen as a front for other purposes, including expanding military cooperation. At the same time, Pyongyang is looking for ways to counter sanctions and to boost the hard currency for the dynastic regime led by Kim Jong Un.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
A senior Iranian official said on Saturday that Tehran will allow no inspection of its military sites… Last week, the AP reported that Trump administration intends to drum up "foolproof intelligence" inspections of what is claimed to be suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that President Donald Trump desperately wants to cancel.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the U.S. of violating the Iran nuclear deal and stressed the need to continue building cooperation with the European Union, while being sworn in for a second term Saturday… EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who attended Rouhani’s swearing in ceremony in Tehran on Saturday, said the EU wants to make sure the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is fully implemented… Rouhani praised the progress in Iran-EU relations over the past four years and said there’s room for greater investment in Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical sectors. Mogherini confirmed that Iran has fully complied with the nuclear deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was sworn-in for a second term on Saturday, has accused the United States of trying to undermine Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, telling President Donald Trump that it will be his political suicide. Rouhani, who was decisively re-elected in May after promising to open Iran to the world, took the oath of office before parliament in Tehran in the presence of foreign dignitaries including senior European figures.
South Korea's SK Engineering & Construction said on Sunday it had signed a deal with Iran's Tabriz Oil Refining Company worth $1.6 billion to renovate the Iranian company's refinery facility. SK E&C said in a statement that the project involves upgrading Tabriz Oil Refining Company's 110,000-barrels-per-day refinery, which opened in 1976 and is located in the northwest of Tehran. Under the agreement, a consortium of SK Engineering & Construction and Iran’s Oil Design Construction Company would finance and implement the renovation project to increase the refinery's gasoline and diesel production capacity, according to the statement. The project is scheduled to be completed within 36 months once the consortium breaks ground on construction.
Iran’s July gas (LPG) exports reached close to 400,000 metric tons (mt), the highest monthly tonnage in 2017. China and Indonesia were the expanding markets for Iran, providing much of the boost, Platts reported. Iran still does not have a big capacity for LPG exports, but in early July it signed an agreement with the world giant Total for the development of its offshore gas fields, north of Qatar’s well-developed offshore reserves… LPG prices have declined on the world market. Currently, one mt sells for about $450… But with relatively low oil prices, any substantial increase in LPG exports can help boost Iran’s income form fossil fuels.
German and Spanish senior officials in separate meetings with [Iranian Foreign Minister] Zarif on Sun. expressed their respective country’s resolve to back [the] JCPOA in line with expanding cooperation with Iran.
In separate meetings with Iran’s FM Zarif on Sun., Italian and Bosnian officials stressed their respective countries’ keen interest in developing economic relations with the Islamic Republic.
A high-level delegation of Hamas leaders touched down in Tehran on Friday to pay respects at the swearing-in ceremony of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a further sign of rapprochement between the two… Iran - a key backer of Hamas in the past - fell out with the group's leadership because they failed to back Bashar Al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. However recent internal elections of the terror organization's leadership team saw officials with a more Iranian-inclined worldview ushered in, although the group is also reported to have dramatically boosted their engagement with Egypt, which remains antagonistic towards Tehran.
Over the past decade and a half, the United States has taken out Iran’s chief enemies on two of its borders, the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Iran has used that to its advantage, working quietly and relentlessly to spread its influence. In Iraq, it has exploited a chaotic civil war and the American withdrawal to create a virtual satellite state. In Afghanistan, Iran aims to make sure that foreign forces leave eventually, and that any government that prevails will at least not threaten its interests, and at best be friendly or aligned with them.
A gallery of dictators and war criminals joined representatives from Western democracies — including the EU’s top foreign policy representative, Federica Mogherini — in Tehran on Friday, as Iran inaugurated President Hassan Rouhani for a second term in office. At the top of the list of arrivals was Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe — whose serial human rights abuses led the European Union to place a travel ban on him in 2002. Alongside Mugabe was the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, Kim Yong-nam — a key lieutenant of dictator Kim Jong-Un… Terrorists present at the inauguration included Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah — Iran’s Shia proxy in Lebanon and Syria. Western dignitaries present included the former British chancellor of the exchequer, Norman Lamont, who represented the British government, and UK parliamentarian Richard Bacon, the chairman of the Britain-Iran Parliamentary Friendship Group.
In light of new US sanctions on Iran and Russia, the two countries have vowed to enhance their already-deep military cooperation, according to state-run media of both countries. According to Russia Today, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin held talks with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan. The officials reportedly discussed new supplies of Russian arms to Iran. They agreed upon the implementation of deals boosting military and technological cooperation, according to Iran's Fars news agency.
Qatar reportedly sent its Minister of Economy and Trade, Ahmed bin Jassem Al-Thani, as its representative during the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's second term in office. Qatar's participation in Tehran comes in the shadow of its crisis with a number of Gulf and Arab states calling for a series of demands, including a suspension of relations with Iran as well as halting its financial support for terrorist groups across the region.
Indonesia is seeking a commitment from the Iranian government over an agreement signed by state-owned energy company Pertamina and its Iranian counterpart, National Iran Oil Company (NIOC), in August last year on the exploration of the Ab-Teymour and Mansouri oil and gas fields in Iran. Pertamina and NIOC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to carry out a preliminary study on the oil and gas fields.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards clashed with a group of militants in the northwest of the country, killing two of them, the Tasnim news site reported on Sunday. Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Guards ground forces, said that four militants were also wounded and some military material was confiscated, according to Tasnim. The report said the clashes took place in West Azarbaijan province, which borders both Turkey and Iraq, but did not specify when the incident took place. Clashes with Iranian Kurdish militant groups based in Iraq are common in the area. Last month, the Revolutionary Guards engaged in heavy clashes with gunmen on the border with Iraq, killing three of them and sustaining one fatality, the Guards said in a statement.
In a remarkable shift of events, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense added on July 20 a number of Al-Abbas Combat Division troops to its ranks following Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s approval, thus making the brigade the first Shiite faction in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to partially join the Iraqi regular forces. This step underscores the divergence in views and trends among the PMU Shiite factions, which have different viewpoints on the future of the PMU and its relationship with the Iraqi state. While some of them entrench their Iraqi orientation, others are keen to deepen their relations with Iran and be part of its regional plans.
Leading Iraqi Shi'ite clerics are calling for the disbandment of powerful Iran-backed Shi'ite militias now that the nation has retaken its second-largest city, Mosul, from the Islamic State extremist group. Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American firebrand with a large following among Baghdad's urban poor, on August 4 called for the disbandment of Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary organization with an estimated 122,000 troops dominated by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias. Sadr was speaking to thousands of supporters in Baghdad after a rare visit over the weekend to Iran's archrival Saudi Arabia, where he met with the Saudi crown prince.
Iran has declared its opposition to the independence referendum to be held on September 25th in Iraqi Kurdistan. With an 8m strong Kurdish population of its own, Iran will be concerned over the possible crossborder spread of separatist sentiment. Given the fractious nature of Iraqi Kurdish politics and significant international opposition to independence, a full split from Iraq still looks unlikely. However, with a yes vote probable in the referendum, Iraqi Kurdish tensions will rise with both the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq.
The Iranian mullahcracy has long been portrayed by supporters of the nuclear deal as a country in flux, with moderate forces slowly making their way to power at the expense of the old repressive elite. Yet reality paints a very different picture. Just as Hassan Rouhani won the endorsement of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his second term as president on Thursday, Amnesty International published a report that rips to shreds the myth of the rise of moderates in Iran. The organization concluded that rather than taking steps to address the abysmal human rights situation in the country, conditions have steadily deteriorated for peaceful activists under the Rouhani presidency. “Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown against human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists who dare to stand up for people’s rights,” Amnesty International said on Wednesday. “President Rouhani and his administration have so far failed to take any meaningful steps to stop these abuses. On the contrary, they have brushed aside reports of abuses.”
The British husband of a woman imprisoned in an Iranian jail has appealed to the Foreign Office to raise her case during a visit to Tehran this week. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who holds British and Iranian passports, has decorated her cell with pictures from her infant daughter after being sentenced to five years in jail on secret charges last year, her husband told the Guardian. Richard Ratcliffe, an accountant who lives in north London, hopes that the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt will hold talks with senior Iranian politicians about the 38-year-old charity worker, who was arrested in April last year.
Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team on Friday for participating in a match against an Israeli team, Iranian media reported… Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and traditionally, Iranian athletes refrain from playing Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.
It appears that the trend of talented students emigrating from Iran has continued under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, too. On July 11, 2016, the head of the exceptional talent group of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution in an interview with Tasnim news agency noted a 16% increase in the number of talented students emigrating from Iran in the academic year 2014-15.
Members of the Iranian parliament have found themselves under fire for "strange" behaviour involving the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini. She was in Iran for President Hassan Rouhani's inauguration on Saturday when she found herself the centre of attention on the parliament floor. Photos showed Ms Mogherini surrounded by a number of male MPs, taking photos. Many social media users criticised the MPs, ridiculing them or labelling their actions "humiliating".
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Since the 1980s, Tehran has worked diligently to create the infrastructure for both overt and covert operations in the Western Hemisphere. Araki’s visit is part of a well-orchestrated plan to indoctrinate and radicalize existing Shi’a communities while seeking new acolytes among local sympathizers of Iran’s political agenda. Brazil is not the only target of Iran’s efforts. Across the region, Iranian preachers and their local enablers have presented themselves as advocates of human rights and social justice to gain footholds among disenfranchised and marginalized communities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, and Peru. Relying on allies such as Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, Iran has established forward operating bases for the spread of their propaganda.
Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster argue that if Trump decides not to certify Iranian compliance, rather than scuttle the deal he can work to improve it and increase pressure on Iran in other ways, according to sources involved in the discussions… If Trump is determined to get the United States out of the Iran deal, nobody can stop him. But if the majority of his national security team gets its way, Trump will repeat what he did with Cuba: make minimal changes to the policy, then declare he has undone Obama’s “terrible deal” and fulfilled a campaign promise. And if Trump can’t bring himself to certify Iran’s compliance anymore, he should at least minimize the chances his decision will cause a diplomatic crisis and distract the United States from the mission of combating Iran’s other nefarious activities.
America’s policy makers, especially those who still support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, should take careful note. If Tehran’s long collusion with Pyongyang on ballistic missiles is even partly mirrored in the nuclear field, the Iranian threat is nearly as imminent as North Korea’s. Whatever the extent of their collaboration thus far, Iran could undoubtedly use its now-unfrozen assets and cash from oil-investment deals to buy nuclear hardware from North Korea, one of the world’s poorest nations. One lesson from Pyongyang’s steady nuclear ascent is to avoid making the same mistake with other proliferators, who are carefully studying its successes. Statecraft should mean grasping the implications of incipient threats and resolving them before they become manifest. With North Korea and Iran, the U.S. has effectively done the opposite. Proliferators happily exploit America’s weakness and its short attention span. They exploit negotiations to gain the most precious asset: time to resolve the complex scientific and technological hurdles to making deliverable nuclear weapons… For decades the U.S. has opposed attempts by any state without nuclear weapons to develop them. Washington has consistently failed to achieve that objective, and the world has become increasingly nuclearized. Stopping North Korea and Iran may be the last chance to act before nuclear weapons become a global commonplace.
Systematic mishandling of national resources, widespread corruption, allocation of billions of dollars for military conflicts abroad and low foreign investment due to the anti-Western policies of the regime, are among the reasons Iran has become increasingly poorer over the past four decades. Neither the government nor the extremely rich entities under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has created an economic empire -- report exactly how they spend their budgets and revenues.
In the past decade, the Islamic Republic has consistently sought to expand its influence in Africa. Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made significant efforts to enhance Tehran’s relations with African nations to offset Iran’s increasing isolation by the West. While the Rouhani administration’s priority has been to improve Iran’s relations with the West, it has not forgotten Africa and sees it as an important region for Iran’s soft power and hard power strategies. In a meeting with Benin’s new ambassador to Tehran Naim Akibo in June, Rouhani said his administration seeks to boost its relations with African countries, including Benin, and blamed world powers for instability and extremism engulfing the Middle East and Africa. Similarly, Zarif stressed in a meeting with his Sierra Leonean counterpart in May that Africa was of paramount significance for Iran in the political, economic and cultural terms.
Let’s assume President Trump decides the Iran Deal is not a good thing for the United States, which is becoming clearer every day, and he wants to exit. What can he actually do? The answer is: Pretty much anything he wants. Because President Obama flagrantly refused to treat this treaty as a treaty, it has very little legal standing. If he is willing to take the political and diplomatic heat, President Trump could take it out onto the West Lawn at the White House, douse it with lighter fluid and burn it. If he chooses a more conventional method, he has several options and requirements both domestically and at the UN, where President Obama expanded the Joint Coordinated Plan of Action (JCPOA) into a UN Security Council resolution.