Startling new evidence from German intelligence reports shows the Tehran regime is working to illegally obtain technology and know-how to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs, despite the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program. A report from the state of Hamburg holds that “there is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic polices in 2016” [after the Islamic Republic signed the JCPOA deal with Western powers in 2015, aimed at restricting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief]. Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program.”
Iran is readying its first round of oil and gas exploration tenders since the easing of economic sanctions, hoping to attract the likes of BP and Gazprom, an Iranian energy official said on Monday. Sitting on some of the world's biggest energy reserves, Iran has already been working on deals to develop existing fields such as South Pars, South Azadegan, Yadavaran, West Karoon, Mansuri and Abe-Timur. France's Total last week became the first major to sign a post-sanctions development deal with Iran. Russia's Lukoil and Denmark's Maersk are also potential investors. Next on the horizon is the search for new oil, with the state national oil company (NIOC) planning to tender 14 oil and gas blocks for exploration in the next two to three months, NIOC's deputy director for exploration blocks, Rahim Nematollahi, said on the sidelines of an energy industry conference in Istanbul.
A separate truce for southern Syria, brokered by the U.S. and Russia, is meant to help allay growing concerns by neighboring Jordan and Israel about Iranian military ambitions in the area, including fears that Tehran plans to set up a disruptive long-term presence there. Such apprehensions were stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias — loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces — toward Jordan’s border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq. The advances are part of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s push to regain territory from rebel groups, some backed by the West, in the southern Daraa province, and from Islamic State extremists in the southeast, near the triangle with Iraq. But Syria’s neighbors suspect that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, including carving out a land route through Syria that would create a territorial continuum from Iran and Iraq to Lebanon.
A partial ceasefire in southwestern Syria agreed between the United States and Russia should be expanded to all of Syria if it is to be successful, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday. The United States, Russia and Jordan announced a ceasefire and "de-escalation agreement" for the southwest on Friday and starting on Sunday after a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg. "The agreement can be fruitful if it is expanded to all of Syria and includes all the area that we discussed in Astana talks for de-escalating the tension," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. In Astana peace talks, Russia, Turkey and Iran tried to finalize an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria but failed to reach an agreement. Russia and Iran are the main international backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Washington supports some of the rebel groups fighting to topple him.
Iran is using the ongoing to offensive against the Islamic State to establish one its top priorities — control over the Middle East from its own borders to the Mediterranean Sea. U.S.-backed forces participating in Operation Inherent Resolve have steadily increased their victories over the Islamic State in the past year, giving Iran an opportunity to create what is known as a “land bridge” to its allies in Syria and Lebanon. As U.S. victories increase, so too does Iranian influence. “Advances by Iranian allies and proxies appear intended to help Iran establish a secure land corridor extending from Iran to Lebanon, enabling Iran to better supply its main regional ally, Lebanese Hezbollah, which supports pro-Iranian forces in Syria,” said the Soufan Group, a strategic security intelligence firm, in a brief published Wednesday.
Iran says it is ready to deal with any "unsavory" and "misguided" step by the US, including a possible violation of a nuclear accord which President Donald Trump has described as "one of the worst ever made". Both on his campaign trail and after election in early 2017, Trump threatened to “scrap” the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but he has markedly toned down his rhetoric since taking office. "Given the dimensions that the JCPOA can have, Mr. Trump and the American leadership do not appear to be capable of unilaterally violating it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday. "That is why the United States has focused on political, economic, and psychological measures in other anti-Iranian bills, and is keen to counteract the positive effects of the JCPOA," he added.
Total is well placed to take a lead role in helping Qatar expand output from the world's largest gas field, largely thanks to its involvement in the Iranian side of the shared deposit, two sources familiar with Doha's thinking said. That puts the French oil major ahead of rivals like Exxon and Shell in the early running for developing the expansion, which the tiny Gulf state announced as it seeks to counter growing isolation caused by a regional diplomatic rift. Total boss Patrick Pouyanne signed a deal this month to develop the South Pars field, as Iran's part of the shared reserves are known, becoming the first oil major to return to the country since the lifting of sanctions. As he was ironing out details of that agreement, he was careful to keep Qatar in the loop. "Of course, I won't go to the same field in Iran without telling Qatar," Pouyanne told Reuters.
Two major Indian conglomerates have bid for supplying key equipment for the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran, while process is on to expand the financial eligibility criteria to attract more bidders, an official said. This comes against the backdrop of India being keen on expediting work on this port, located in the Sistan- Baluchistan province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nation's southern coast that can be easily accessed from India's West coast, bypassing Pakistan. "Two major Indian conglomerates have bid for supplying four key mounted quay cranes at Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar. The bids are under evaluation and a final call will be taken soon," an official who did not wish to be named said. Bids were invited on behalf of India Ports Global Limited (IPGL).
NITC, Iran's leading oil tanker operator, said on Monday its shipments to Europe were increasing daily and it plans to upgrade its fleet to support expansion. International sanctions on Iran were lifted in January 2016 and NITC is looking to come in from the cold after years of isolation. Mohammad Reza Shams Dolatabadi, NITC's head of international affairs, told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy industry conference in Istanbul that the company aimed to replace some of its older tankers with new vessels. He added that the company also planned to acquire liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers, marking a new direction for the company. "We are thinking of an LNG fleet in the future," he said. Dolatabadi said the number of NITC ships calling at European ports was set to increase.
Iran says it is confident that a US-led regime of sanctions that had been imposed against it as a result of disputes over its nuclear energy program “will never return”. Mohammad Khazaei, the deputy finance minister for investment affairs, told a forum on Iran’s investment opportunities in Vienna that a snapback mechanism that could revive the sanctions against Iran “is no longer existent”. Khazaei emphasized that Iran had entered a new era of economic cooperation with the world, stressing that the recent trend of investments in the country testified to that. He added the Islamic Republic had already proven to be an appropriate place for investments, saying this was the reason why investors were already transferring their capitals from certain regional countries to Tehran as a result of recent diplomatic crises in the Persian Gulf.
Addressing a ceremony on the occasion of Iran’s Industry and Mine National Day on Saturday, Iranian First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri referred to market expansion as administration’s top economic priority in post sanctions era, IRNA reported. “To overcome unemployment, the 80-million-people Iran should set other markets than its own”, Jahangiri said in the ceremony held at Tehran’s Summit Conference Hall. Naming attraction of foreign investments as government’s second priority, the VP added that sanctions removal has played a significant role in attraction of foreign investments. He, elsewhere, referred to the newly signed agreement with the French company Total on the expansion of South Pars gas field, saying that prominent international companies are inclined to commence their activities in Iran.
As Iraqi Kurds try to iron out internal differences ahead of their referendum on independence in September, Turkey, Iraq and Iran have all announced their opposition, questioning the timing and fearing the implications of such a move at a time when regional rivalries are at their peak. While Iran is the only country that has long enjoyed close ties with Iraqi Kurds, the upcoming referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan puts it at a crossroads. "The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes some murmurs about holding a referendum in order to separate one part of Iraq," said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June, adding that Iraq "should stay unified." While Turkey and Iraq's opposition is understandable to an extent, Iran's long involvement as well as cultural and historical ties with Iraqi Kurds raises serious questions about the motives for its opposition to the upcoming referendum.
Hundreds of Afghani citizens demonstrated in the southern province of Helmand against statements made by the Iranian President Hassan Rowhani accusing Kabul of mismanagement of dams and demanding a bigger share of water resources in Afghanistan for Tehran. The Afghani website (Khaama Press) reported that civil society activists and politicians had called on citizens in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to participate in demonstrations against Iranian interference in their country. On Saturday, the demonstrators condemned the Iranian president’s recent remarks about the waters of the Afghan Helmand River, calling “Death to the enemies of Afghanistan” in reference to Iran, considering that Rouhani’s statements on Friday were a blatant interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The Iranian president warned last Friday to build dams on the river of Helmand, saying that this destroyed the civilization in the region and the evacuation of families from their homes in eastern Iran because of the drought, referring to the Balochistan region, which is suffering of privation, Baloch activists accused the government of Tehran of being discriminative against them.
Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Saturday that Iran as a victim of weapons of mass destruction fully supports the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons. The remarks by Ambassador Najafi came after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed at a UN conference in New York on Friday. It is the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years. “The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly supports the objective behind this treaty in banning possession or use of nuclear weapons,” Nafafi stated. Pointing to dangers posed by Israel’s nuclear weapons to the sensitive Middle East region, he said, “Iran’s proposal for creating a region without nuclear weapons is an example of efforts being made by our country to remove threats from the region.”
Iran has congratulated Iraq on its declared victory over Daesh (ISIS) in Mosul and offered to help rebuild the country, as Iraqi troops push to clear the last of the militants from the devastated city. "Congratulations to brave people and Government of Iraq upon liberation of Mosul," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote late Sunday in a tweet. "When Iraqis join hands, no limits to what they can achieve." Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in Mosul Sunday, officially marking the end of a difficult campaign to retake the city, where Daesh declared its self-styled caliphate three years ago. Other Iranian officials were also quick to welcome the victory, Iraq's biggest yet against the militants.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
The new administration in Washington has chosen to stand alongside its Arab allies to voice a clear message. This is how this message reads: The regime in Iran is domestically repressive and resorts to flagrant human rights violations, and expansionist outside of its borders, wreaking havoc across the Middle East and beyond. To take the next needed step, an all-out strategy is necessary to rein in Tehran and confront its belligerence inside the country and beyond. Far too long the international community has failed to recognize the fact that the regime in Iran is controlled by aggressive fanatics that will literally stop at nothing to seek their interests, while knowing their internal status is extremely fragile. While it is high time for the United States to lead the West and Saudi Arabia to lead the Arab world in this initiative, there is no need to launch yet another devastating war in the Middle East.
A country that does not take into consideration emotions but rather believes in the death penalty, chooses to play on emotions. A country that pays some of its people to shout “Death to America” on a daily basis, has now its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, objecting on the decision to ban Iranian from travelling to the US and saying that this ban is aimed against Iranian grandmothers. In this same country, if a grandchild decides to visit his grandmother in Iran, he will be put in prison for trying to overthrow the regime because he has an American citizenship. This country, which wants grandmothers to be able to travel to the US, arrested last week, 110 young men and women for participating in a mixed ceremony. The Iranian leadership does not hesitate to exploit everything for its own benefit. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi that “the Americans are against the Shiite Popular Mobilization because they want Iraq to lose its core power.”
After eight years of Barack Obama‘s strategy of “patience” towards Iran, the Trump administration on Iran is basically inverting Obama’s foreign policy. On June 30, 2017, several prominent figures gave their opinions on the current situation during a panel discussion reviewng U.S. policy on Iran…John Baird kicked off the discussion saying that he completely rejects the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran and his claims that President Rouhani is a moderate. He said that there is no moderation in the Iranian government and it was very naïve of Obama to make such claims. He also pointed to the recent presidential elections in Iran, which were anything but democratic. He questioned how an election can be considered democratic when a panel exists to approve and reject candidates. There is nothing democratic about an election in which presidential candidates are only candidates because of their strong allegiance to the Supreme Leader and his vision.