Eye on Iran will be suspended on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. It will resume on Tuesday, May 28.
As the Trump administration pressures Iran to cut support for what the U.S. sees as its armed proxies in the Middle East, some of those same militias are lashing out at Tehran's adversaries, risking an escalation the Islamic Republic says it doesn't want. From the Persian Gulf to Baghdad's Green Zone and Saudi oil facilities, Iran's rivals have been targeted in attacks in the past two weeks. The strikes have caused limited damage and no casualties. Iran has denied involvement in all of them.
For years, Iran's supreme leader only criticized the West over Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Now, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is publicly chastising the country's elected president and his foreign minister as the accord unravels amid heightened tensions with the U.S. By naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as failing to implement his orders over the deal, Khamenei is signaling a hard-line tilt in how the Islamic Republic will react going forward.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview Thursday with "Fox & Friends," addressed mounting tensions between the United States and Iran -- saying the threat from the regime is "real" and "credible." "Without getting into specifics, you can be sure that President Trump will ensure that we have all the resources necessary to respond in the event that the Islamic Republic of Iran should decide to attack Americans or American interests," Pompeo said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iraq's top diplomat Friday called on Iran to respect the landmark deal covering its nuclear program, which has been weakened by the U.S. decision to withdraw from it and Tehran's backing away from certain commitments. "We think the JCPOA is a good agreement," said Iraq's Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by Iran in 2015 with Russia, China, Germany, Britain and the United States.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said once again that he did not agree with the way the nuclear deal with the West was implemented. "I have repeatedly warned the president and the foreign minister about it," he said during a May 22 meeting with students. This is not the first time Khamenei evades his responsibility about the 2015 nuclear agreement also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), although he has played the main part in forging the deal at five different points.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Just over a week ago, crude prices were surging as attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil tankers and pipeline network spurred fears that the Middle East was on the brink of military confrontation. In the past two days, however, oil has suffered its biggest losses this year as those concerns are shunted aside by another type of conflict: the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.
Iran's oil storage on land and at sea is on the rise as US sanctions on exports bite and Tehran battles to keep its ageing fields operational and crude flowing, according to data and industry sources. Washington announced in May the end of sanctions waivers for foreign countries importing Iranian oil, hitting Tehran's biggest source of income.
A French newspaper has found that crippling US sanctions on Iran have choked off Tehran's financial support to Hezbollah, one of the country's most important proxies in the Middle East. Le Figaro's report entitled, "Hezbollah put on diet due to the fall of Iranian aid", emphasized that Iran has cut its transfers to the Lebanese group by half, reducing the salaries of party members.
India has officially ended all oil imports from Iran, India's Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to emerge victorious from India's elections, according to the Daily Mail. Shringla was reluctant to say whether India agreed with the United States' stance on the sanctions, but did say that the sanctions have hurt India, who relies on Iran in particular for a sizeable chunk of its crude oil.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The Islamic Republic Cyber Police have blocked several accounts owned by Iranian street musicians on Instagram, local reports say. Two female musicians, Naghmeh Moradabadi and Aso Kohzadi, along with Mehrdad Ahmadi, are among the buskers whose pages on Instagram have been blocked, allegedly for publishing "criminal contents." Iranian cyber police, known by its Persian acronym as "FATA" in Iran, has not elaborated on the nature of the "contents" presumed "criminal."
The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Iranian authorities to release journalist Masud Kazemi and explain or drop the new charges he is facing. "This is yet another clear example of mistreatment of journalists by the Iranian state and specifically the country's judiciary that consistently shows itself to be biased," CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement on May 22.
An Iranian female singer has been summoned by the Islamic republic to appear in court following a public solo performance in the Abyaneh village that was swiftly cut short by the local Cultural Heritage Organization, according to a BBC report. Tasmin News confirmed that the chief prosecutor of the Iranian province opened an investigation into the reports, adding that the woman has not been arrested on the matter yet, but that the case will be pursued by the prosecutors office.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The U.S. military is presenting options to President Trump that would enhance the protection of American forces in the Middle East in response to rising tensions with Iran, and potentially involve sending more troops to the region, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday. Shanahan's comments came as U.S. military leaders were expected to propose during a meeting Thursday to send thousands of additional troops to the Middle East for security reinforcement, according to U.S. officials.
Iran will not surrender to U.S. pressure and will not abandon its goals even if it is bombed, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, stepping up the war of words between the Islamic Republic and the United States. Earlier in the day, Iran's top military chief said the standoff between Tehran and Washington was a "clash of wills", warning that any enemy "adventurism" would meet a crushing response, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he was willing to consider sending more US troops to the Middle East to counter Iran. He said he doubted that the US needs to send additional troops, as he prepared to meet Pentagon officials to discuss it later in the day. US military leaders have discussed sending some 5,000 troops to the region with tensions running high with Iran.
Iran announced Thursday that it will not hold talks with the United States "under any circumstances." "We have said clearly... as long as the rights of our nation are not satisfied, as long as words don't change into action, our path will stay the same as now," said Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman of the Supreme National Security Council. "There will be no talks under any circumstances," he was quoted as saying by the official state news agency IRNA.
President Trump and his national security team have been taking considerable heat from the usual Trump-hating Democrats and many in the mainstream media over cautionary military deployments in response to recent intelligence with respect to Iran. National Security Adviser John Bolton in particular has been called out as looking for a war with Iran, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has fared little better.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's highest-ranking military official offered a stark warning after reports emerged that the U.S. is considering deploying 10,000 troops to the Middle East. "The enemies should know that the Iranian military will not waste even a single moment monitoring the enemies' schemes and adventurism," said Chief of Staff to the Iranian Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri in a statement Thursday, according to Iran's state-run news service.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's supreme leader has defended the Islamic Republic's controversial constitution, saying that politicians and officials are responsible for the shortcomings of the system. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was asked in a meeting with students on Wednesday, May 22 whether the problems Iran faces might be due to its constitution - which was adopted by a referendum in December 1979. "The structure of the constitution is good, but structures need to be studied and rectified," Khamenei said, leaving some room for change.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
New satellite images indicate Iran is building a border crossing at the Syrian-Iraqi border, which would open up a coveted land route from Iran to Lebanon, according to Western intelligence sources. The images, obtained exclusively by Fox News and captured earlier this week, show a new construction in the Albukamal Al-Qaim crossing. The area is under the control of Pro-Iranian Shiite militias. Last summer, Iran increased its presence in the area.
CHINA & IRAN
Closer cooperation between China and Iran, especially on economic matters, is inevitable given they are both now targets of rising US antagonism, analysts said. Washington has become increasingly aggressive in its tone towards Tehran in the past year, with President Trump on Sunday that: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia has called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by taking a firm stand against the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militias after targeting vital populated areas in the Kingdom with ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Such attacks are a flagrant violation of international and humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions, said Acting Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Dr. Khaled Manzlawiy.
Oman is trying "with other parties" to reduce tensions between the United States and Iran, the Omani Foreign Ministry tweeted on Friday. The tweet cited Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate's minister responsible for foreign affairs, who met on Monday in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. "There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world ... Both parties, the American and the Iranian, are aware of the danger," the tweet cited the Omani minister as saying in an interview with an Arabic publication.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan during a visit to the capital, Islamabad, ahead of next week's emergency Arab League meeting called because of escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region. A brief statement from Khan's office says only that bilateral issues were discussed during the meeting on Friday.
Iran told a German envoy seeking to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal that its patience was over and urged the treaty's remaining signatories to fulfill their commitments after the United States pulled out, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday. Jens Ploetner, a political director in the German Foreign Ministry, met Iranian Deputy Foreing Minister Abbas Araghchi. A German diplomatic source told Reuters that talks with other Iranian official were also planned.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran as early as mid-June, NHK national television said on Friday, the first such trip in four decades, as global concern grows about rising tension between Iran and the United States. The United States withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal with Iran, and is ratcheting up sanctions on the Middle East nation, aiming to strangle its economy by ending its international sales of crude oil.