Iran said it would exceed limits on its enriched-uranium stockpiles before the end of this month, as the U.S. said it would send an additional 1,000 troops to the Mideast in response to "hostile behavior" by Tehran. Iran's threat on Monday came days after the U.S. accused Tehran of orchestrating a second set of attacks on oil tankers near a vital global-shipping route. If carried out, Iran would violate the 2015 nuclear deal by breaching the pact's enriched-uranium cap.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet with U.S. military commanders overseeing American forces in the Middle East after promising to provide more proof that Iran was behind attacks on two tankers last week, the State Department said Monday. Pompeo is scheduled to fly on Monday to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, amid mounting tensions with Iran following the attacks on the two commercial ships last week in the Gulf of Oman, which the Trump administration has blamed on Iran.
Iran said Monday that by the end of June it will exceed the limits it had agreed to on its stockpile of enriched uranium, and the question now is whether Europe will take this lying down. Exceeding the cap would violate the 2015 nuclear deal and force European leaders to decide if they want to acquiesce to Iran or join the U.S. in an effort to pressure Tehran to renegotiate the failed nuclear deal.
UANI IN THE NEWS
...Michael Pregent of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), who witnessed Iran's brutality firsthand while serving in Iraq, wrote in November 2017 that "Iran has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 American soldiers over the years. In August, Brigadier General Esmail Quaani, deputy commander of Iran's Quds Force, boasted to Iranians about the number of Americans the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has murdered, saying, 'Americans have suffered more losses from us then we have suffered losses from them.'
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran said Monday that its stockpile of enriched uranium will surpass limits set by the 2015 international nuclear deal 10 days from now, unless European partners in the agreement do more to help it circumvent U.S. sanctions - a step by Tehran likely to add to growing U.S.-Iran tensions. The announcement, made by the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, was the first time Tehran explicitly said it was on track to violate the agreement.
Iran threatened on Monday to accelerate its nuclear program in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, moving it closer to the ability to build an atomic weapon - something that President Trump has vowed to prevent. But it was Mr. Trump who withdrew the United States from the Obama-era nuclear agreement in May 2018, saying the deal wasn't tough enough. Since then the administration has steadily imposed ever harsher sanctions on Iran as the country's economy has sharply declined.
After coming to office vowing to solve two very different nuclear crises, President Trump finds himself in a bind familiar to his predecessors: careening toward a confrontation with Iran and stalemated with North Korea. Iran's announcement on Monday that it expects within 10 days to blow past the limits on how much nuclear fuel it can stockpile opens a new and perilous phase of its confrontation with the West.
Britain will look at all available options if Iran breaches its commitments around its nuclear activities, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday. "We have been clear about our concern at Iranian plans to reduce compliance with the JCPOA. Should Iran cease meeting its nuclear commitments, we would then look at all options available to us," a spokesman for May told reporters.
The United States says Iran's plan to breach the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium, which was set under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, amounts to "nuclear blackmail" and must be met with "increased international pressure." White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis made the comments on June 17 after Iran followed through on its threats to further scale back its compliance with the agreement that curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The future of oil prices will be decided by how the U.S. and its allies react to new attacks last week on fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman. So far, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran, citing unspecified intelligence, but haven't taken military action in response to Thursday's incident, or to attacks on four tankers last month in the same area.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Monday to step up sanctions against Iran swiftly should it go through with a plan to exceed an enriched uranium limit set by a 2015 nuclear deal. Locked in a stand-off with Washington after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear agreement, Tehran said earlier on Monday it would breach internationally agreed curbs on its low-enriched uranium stock in 10 days.
The global oil market is "unstable and fragile", Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in a meeting in Tehran, Iran state broadcaster IRIB said on Monday. "We discussed the global oil markets and I said the market is highly manipulated by political agendas," Zanganeh was quoted as saying by IRIB.
The Trump administration's Iran sanctions are hurting the country's economy and recent events are exposing Tehran's strategy to deal with the matter, Gen. Jack Keane claimed. In the time since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed the sanctions, Iran has been growing increasingly "desperate," Keane said on "Fox News @ Night." "I think what the Trump administration is doing is fundamentally trying to change Iran's behavior, not just with nuclear weapons, but their aggressive behavior in the Middle East..."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
FIFA says it was wrong for people campaigning for women to be allowed into Iranian soccer stadiums to be removed from a Women's World Cup game in France. Stadium security officials intervened in Grenoble during Saturday's game between New Zealand and Canada when they spotted T-shirts campaigning for women's rights in Iran. In a statement to The Associated Press, FIFA says the "fans should not have been asked to remove their T-shirts or to leave the stadium by local security."
When Pooyeh Nourian tweeted her outrage with a Tehran cab driver she had ordered through a popular ride-hailing app, she probably had no idea that her tweets would open a Pandora's box on Iran's controversial hijab rules. Minutes into embarking on the trip from Tehran's affluent north, the young Iranian woman was criticized by the driver over her failure to observe proper hijab. In the ensuing angry exchange, Nourian was dropped off halfway to her destination, according to her account.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States was quick to blame Iran for last week's attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied involvement, and there is considerable skepticism around the world about American claims. We don't yet know what really happened, and may not for some time. But what the attacks and subsequent fallout show - regardless of who carried them out - is that President Trump's policy of "maximum pressure" is not working.
Iran's announcement Monday that it is stepping up uranium enrichment frames almost perfectly the real story behind the rapidly escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region. What the world is seeing isn't so much a march toward war, but rather a battle for leverage: the considerable leverage the Trump administration has gained over Iran on the one hand, and, on the other, the leverage Iran feels it badly needs to acquire over the U.S. to balance the score.
Iran said on Monday it had exposed a large cyber espionage network it alleged was run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and that several U.S. spies had been arrested in different countries as the result of this action. U.S.-Iran tensions are growing following accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration that Tehran last Thursday attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran denies having any role.
Iran will not wage war against any nation, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, a day after the United States announced the deployment of more troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf on Thursday, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.
The Pentagon plans to send about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran, though President Donald Trump called two recent tanker attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic "very minor." "I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East," Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement Monday evening.
What's on tap today: The United States weighs all options, including military force, after attacks on tankers near the Persian Gulf, the United States readies cyberattacks on the Russian grid, and Turkey displays a mock-up of its own fighter jet a week after the Pentagon announced new steps to cut Ankara out of the F-35 program.
The U.S. face-off with Iran reached a new phase Monday as Tehran's nuclear agency announced it will exceed in 10 days the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile unless Europe intervenes. The announcement ramps up pressure on European officials to try to save an international deal spearheaded by former President Obama that is now on life support.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Standing in the line at a currency exchange shop on a warm afternoon near Ferdowsi Square in Tehran, Nafas Anvari, 26, waited for her turn to change all her savings into U.S. dollars before the value of the Iranian rial dropped even more. "It was the first thing I knew I had to do this morning, because every single day my money loses value," Anvari, an English teacher, told ABC News.
A key member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a body that will select the country's next Supreme Leader to replace Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says "it is not prudent and expedient" to reveal the names of potential successors. Only a few days after another prominent member of the Assembly, Mohsen Araki talked about a top secret list of prospective supreme leaders, Ayatollah Hashem Hashemzadeh Harisi, also a key member of the Assembly said on Monday the names on the list will not be disclosed.
Iranian Reformists are getting serious about boycotting the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections. In the disputed 2009 presidential vote, the camp rallied behind contenders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi as they faced incumbent hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The outcome was shocking for many, leading Reformist candidates to allege the ballot was rigged, with mass protests ensuing. The two Reformist candidates promised supporters they would stick to their commitment to "take back" their votes.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russia told the United States on Tuesday that it should drop what it called provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East or risk war with Iran. The comments, from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Russian news agencies, followed an announcement from Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan who said on Monday that Washington planned to send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes.
Iran's oil minister met his Russian counterpart in Iran on Monday, industry sources said, raising hopes of progress in resolving an impasse over when OPEC and its allies will hold their next policy gathering. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and partners including Russia, an alliance known as OPEC+, have been considering since last month moving the date of their policy meeting in Vienna to July 3-4 from June 25-26.
Iran and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding over cooperation in the energy sector, the Iranian oil ministry's SHANA news agency reported on Monday. The preliminary agreement covering oil, gas, petrochemicals, electricity and nuclear power was signed in Tehran by Iran's deputy oil minister, Amir Hossein Zamaninia, and his Russian counterpart, SHANA said.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran accused its main regional rival Saudi Arabia on Monday of adopting a "militaristic, crisis-based approach" for accusing Tehran of carrying out last week's attack on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday urged the international community to take a "decisive stand" over the attacks - but said the kingdom did not want a war in the region.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he regretted Iran's announcement that it would exceed the allowed enriched uranium limit, but that Paris would hold talks with Iran and its partners to avoid any further escalation in the region. "I regret the Iranian announcements made today, but as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has underlined, Iran is respecting its commitments and we strongly encourage it to be patient and responsible," Macron told a news conference alongside his Ukrainian counterpart.