Iran warned it will take further steps to breach the 2015 nuclear accord in early September if it doesn't receive long-sought relief from U.S. economic sanctions, as it began enriching uranium above limits set out in the deal. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday that Iran is prepared to take harder and more steadfast measures than the modest steps it has recently taken to expand its nuclear program, setting in motion what is likely to become months of escalating tension with Washington.
Iran has enriched uranium beyond a 3.67% purity limit set by its deal with major powers, the U.N. nuclear watchdog policing the deal said on Monday, confirming a move previously announced by Tehran. "(International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Yukiya Amano has informed the IAEA Board of Governors that Agency inspectors on 8 July verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235," an IAEA spokesman said, referring to the fissile uranium-235 isotope.
French President Emmanuel Macron is sending his top diplomatic adviser to Iran this week, seeking to find ways to get the Islamic Republic to dial back its violations of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and avoid escalating tensions with European partners and the U.S. Emmanuel Bonne, Macron's top sherpa, will meet with Iranian leaders in Tehran Tuesday and Wednesday, French officials said.
UANI IN THE NEWS
UANI Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman on Iran's decision to increase its level of uranium enrichment in violation of the nuclear deal: Iran is systematically breaking out of the agreement. To me, this is all about Iran trying to put pressure on Europe to break away from the United States, and I don't think it will work. We should be getting more support from Europe, because to me, Europe is threatened at least as much, probably more than we are, by the radical Islamist regime, a terrorist group that took over a great country, Iran.
...Qatar's support for Iran - breaking regional solidarity - is also an issue some hope Trump will raise with the visitor. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran, told the Fox Business Network on Monday Trump has the opportunity to say to al-Thani, "It's time for you and your country to make a choice; you can't walk on both sides of the street at the same time."
Amid Iran's tantrums over the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign, a consequential anniversary which marked three decades since Ali Khamenei's ascension to the supreme leadership has gone largely unnoticed. After Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman, Ayatollah Khamenei is the second-longest serving head of state in the Middle East and, according to one recent estimate, ranks fifth in longevity of current non-monarchical world leaders.
...It's the latest escalation in the two months since Trump's administration announced the revocation of waivers that had allowed Iran to produce uranium and heavy water, two key materials for a nuclear program, provided that the regime's excess supplies were shipped out of the country. "This is what one of the problems was with the Iran nuclear deal: the ease in which Iran could reverse its nuclear program," Jason Brodsky, policy coordinator at United Against Nuclear Iran, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with ties to the Trump administration, said Sunday.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Monday that Iran had resumed enriching uranium to higher levels than permitted under a 2015 accord with the United States and other world powers. The step inches Tehran closer to having the capacity to build a nuclear bomb. President Trump's administration has vowed to prevent Iran from developing such weapons. The escalating tensions have rattled the region and the oil market, and last month brought the United States to the brink of a military strike on Iran before a last-minute reversal by Mr. Trump.
The United Nations' atomic energy agency has confirmed Iran has surpassed the uranium enrichment limits spelled out in the 2015 nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency said its inspectors verified Monday that Iran has surpassed the 3.67% enrichment limit set in the accord, aimed at restraining Tehran's ability to develop nuclear weapons in return for sanctions relief.
World powers will not be able to negotiate a better deal with Iran than the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday. Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity as its next potential big moves away from the agreement that Washington abandoned last year.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron about Iran's threat to ramp up enrichment of uranium, the White House said. "They discussed ongoing efforts to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and to end Iran's destabilizing behavior in the Middle East," a White House spokesman said in a statement.
The world knows that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said on Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency. Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity as its next potential big moves away from a 2015 nuclear agreement that Washington abandoned last year.
Iran's decision to further challenge the United States by boosting its uranium enrichment beyond limits in its 2015 nuclear deal has deepened fears among Iranians that their country will remain in crisis mode over the long term. The United States' exit from the pact last year, under President Donald's Trump's campaign to squeeze Iran with sanctions, has so far failed to force its clerical rulers to renegotiate. Iran confirmed on Monday it had enriched uranium to a purity beyond that allowed by the pact.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Tests have shown an Iranian supertanker seized in Gibraltar last week was fully loaded with crude oil, the government of the British territory said on Monday. British Royal Marines boarded the ship, Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on Thursday and seized it over accusations it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria. "Her Majesty's Government of Gibraltar can now confirm, after having received the results of comprehensive laboratory testing, that ... the Grace 1, which was detained in the early hours of Thursday morning, is loaded to capacity with crude oil," the government said in a statement.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The human rights global organization Amnesty International has sent a letter to Iran's top judicial official demanding the release of three anti-hijab women activists detained since April. The letter is addressed to Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi), a conservative cleric appointed as head of the all-powerful judiciary earlier this year. Amnesty says in the letter the women, Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavar have been arrested arbitrarily with no access to lawyer.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States will keep increasing pressure on Iran until it abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ceases its violent activities in the Middle East, John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, said on Monday. "We will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear weapons program and ends its violent activities across the Middle East, including conducting and supporting terrorism around the world," Bolton said in a speech. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that the United States is prepared to protect U.S. personnel and citizens in the Middle East as tensions build with Iran over its nuclear program. Pence made his remarks as Iran threatened on Monday to take major steps away from a 2015 nuclear agreement that Washington abandoned last year. "Let me be clear: Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve," Pence said, speaking to an evangelical Christian group that advocates for support for Israel.
For more than a year, Europeans have balanced between Washington and Tehran as they sought to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, under pressure from both sides and trying to avoid angering either. But the next few days could be decisive as Europe desperately tries to hold the agreement together while Iran increasingly flouts it. After Iran announced Monday that it had surpassed the 2015 accord's cap on uranium enrichment - the second breach of the agreement in a week - European diplomats gave themselves another week to encourage Tehran to come back into compliance.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Aficionados of Western classical music have carved out a niche for themselves in Iran, where cultural expression remains tightly controlled by strict rules imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And perhaps surprisingly, musicians in their 20s and 30s perform for overwhelmingly young audiences. Last week, the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, including female musicians in burgundy headscarves on cello, horn and harp, played works by 19th-century Russian composers for an enraptured crowd in the capital's main concert venue, Vahdat Hall.
An official at Iran's Ministry of Education says there are 8 million illiterate people in the country, or 10 percent of the population, but a lower figure than other official estimates. Earlier last April, Iranian parliament's research center had reported that nearly nine million Iranians are suffering from "absolute illiteracy." Nonetheless, the Ministry of Education's director of literacy, Leyla Rezaee insists that there are only eight million illiterate Iranians.
One of the comforting illusions promoted by many critics of President Trump's Iran policy is that his actions have alienated and weakened the regime's moderates. You hear this line from time to time, with the usual caveat that "moderate" and "reformer" in the context of Iran are quite different than what they mean in the West. It is nonetheless the basis of a dream pursued by most of Washington's foreign-policy establishment: If you treat Iran's regime with respect it will bolster those who seek to reform it.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Monday that it carried out drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's Abha airport and Tihama power station, the group's Al-Masirah TV reported. There was no Saudi confirmation of the attacks.
President Trump will be meeting with the Emir of Qatar at the White House on Tuesday, July 9. The U.S. relationship with Qatar has been strained by their continued support for terrorism and ties with the mullahs of Iran. There is also still the ongoing blockade and diplomatic conflict between Qatar and the other Gulf states. Qatari involvement with Turkey has been problematic as well. The Emir is likely bringing promises of significant investments in the U.S. but we cannot let them simply buy their way out of the problems they are causing.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's military vowed to retaliate against the seizure by British Royal Marines of an oil tanker loaded with the Islamic Republic's crude off the coast of Gibraltar last week. "It will be reciprocated, at a suitable time and in a suitable place," Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff for Iran's armed forces, was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The warning highlights mounting risks to shipping in a region that exports about a third of all seaborne petroleum.
The capture of an Iranian oil tanker by Britain has set "a dangerous precedent and must end now", Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter on Monday. "Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo. Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality. UK's unlawful seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil on behalf of #B_Team is piracy, pure and simple. It sets a dangerous precedent and must end now," Zarif tweeted.