Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Thursday its ballistic missile programme would accelerate despite U.S. and European Union pressure to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. In a significant U.S. policy shift on Oct. 13, President Donald Trump disavowed Iran’s compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and unveiled a more aggressive approach to the Islamic Republic over its missile development activity. “Iran’s ballistic missile programme will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organisation (the Guards),” the IRGC said in a statement published by Tasnim.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to adopt the Trump administration’s comprehensive approach to Iran and address all aspects of its “destructive conduct” – not just the 2015 nuclear deal. She told the council that Iran “has repeatedly thumbed its nose” at council resolutions aimed at addressing Iranian support for terrorism and regional conflicts and has illegally supplied weapons to Yemen and Hezbollah militants in Syria and Lebanon.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not move first to abandon the nuclear deal with world powers, his first statement since U.S. President Donald Trump called the pact into question last week. “We won’t rip up the nuclear deal, as long as the other side doesn’t,” Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, said in a public address on Wednesday.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is stepping out of retirement to criticize a Naperville telecommunications company he says is doing business in Iran. Coriant, which develops software for voice, data and mobile networks and also has headquarters in Munich, is listed as an exhibitor at the Iran Telecom Innovations Show this week in Tehran. Kirk says he's concerned because the conference appears to be supported by the Iranian Communications Regulatory Authority, which remains subject to significant U.S. sanctions… Kirk… recently joined the board of United Against Nuclear Iran, which aims to stop economic and financial support of Iran by businesses until the Iranian regime "verifiably abandons its drive for nuclear weapons."
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Israel is wasting no time in trying to translate Donald Trump’s call for a tougher approach to Iran into action.
President Trump’s decertification of the Iran nuclear deal is kicking up a mini-panic in Europe. The Continent’s leaders warn that Mr. Trump’s move could undermine trans-Atlantic relations, and that no U.S. President can unilaterally walk away from the deal. But Europe was overdue for a moment of truth on Iran, and Mr. Trump is providing one. Europeans embraced the deal even before the final agreement was signed in 2015. Business trips to Tehran started under the pre-2015 interim agreement...
Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the Iran nuclear program, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. In a phone call, held on the initiative of the Israeli side, the two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and the referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan, the Kremlin said in a statement.
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC-MISSILE PROGRAMS
German security officials have accused the Iranian regime of pursuing its goal to build missiles armed with nuclear warheads, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported. “Despite the nuclear agreement [reached with world powers in July 2015], Iran has not given up its illegal activities in Germany. The mullah regime also made efforts this year to obtain material from [German] firms for its nuclear program and the construction of missiles, said security sources,” Der Tagesspiegel wrote on Friday.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards pledged to enhance the nation’s missile program in defiance of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose hardened stance last week included new sanctions on the elite security force. The missile program will be expanded “at greater speed,” the Guards said in a statement carried by the Tasnim news agency on Thursday. Trump’s “hostile stance” toward Iran reflects the inability of the U.S. and Israel to shift the balance of power in the region, and their “anger” at the Guards’ role, it said.
The United States accused Iran on Wednesday of violating several United Nations Security Council resolutions, saying it would no longer "turn a blind eye" and asking the 15-member council of Tehran's behavior: "where's the outrage?" U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow on Friday against a 2015 Iran nuclear deal when he refused to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord curbing its nuclear program, even though international inspectors say it is. "Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat. Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council.
The Trump administration escalated a bitter confrontation with Iran on Wednesday, demanding that the United Nations Security Council punish the Iranian government for what the American ambassador called its “outlaw behavior” across the Middle East. “The United States will not turn a blind eye to these violations,” the United Nations ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, told a Security Council meeting that had been meant to focus on developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ms. Haley used her speaking time instead to deliver a critique of Iran. Her remarks were among the most strident denunciations Ms. Haley has made of Iran since she became President Trump’s ambassador in January.
Iran’s supreme leader has said his country will not take heed of “rants and whoppers of a foul-throated US president”, in a speech that also made clear that Tehran will not be the first to violate the nuclear deal... “The US is the agent of the international Zionism, it was the US that created Daesh [Arabic acronym for Islamic State] and Takfiri movements [Iran’s terminology for Sunni extremist groups].” Khamenei said the US was infuriated by Iran’s role in fighting Isis.
CONGRESS & IRAN
A United States Congress decision on the Iran nuclear deal could clarify Washington’s stance on the international accord and lead to a positive outcome for Total and its planned $5 billion Iranian gas project, its CEO said on Wednesday. Congress has two months to decide whether to reinstate sanctions on Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump last week refused to formally certify that Tehran was complying with the nuclear agreement hailed by his predecessor Barack Obama as key to stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons… Total was the first Western oil major to sign a deal with Iran to develop phase 11 of Iran’s South Pars, the world’s largest gas field. A decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran could jeopardise the project.
Pouyanne has said Total would withdraw from Iran if obliged by law.
Iran might appear to be increasingly isolated on the global stage but the country's deputy oil minister said Tuesday that it is on the verge of signing deals with major global oil and gas companies. Speaking in London, Amir Hossein Zamaninia said Iran was currently negotiating with more than 15 companies from Europe, Russia and Asia to conclude contracts that will open the country to massive oil and gas exploration, development and production. "These are not overambitious figures and expectations," he told the 'Oil and Money' conference in the U.K. capital. "Our policy is to be able to manage and finalize at least 10 contracts by the end of the Iranian year (March 2018)." He said Iran had so far signed "memorandums of understanding" (investment intentions) for 28 different projects with companies including Total, Eni and Shell, Russian firms Rosneft and Lukoil, and China's Sinopec and China National Petroleum (CNPC), among others. Iran's oil and gas development deal with Total is perhaps the most noteworthy.
Renewable energy is booming in Iran, where installed capacity is expected to grow at least sevenfold over the next five years, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's more confrontational attitude towards Tehran. Iran's latest deal was signed on Tuesday, when Norway's Saga Energy concluded a $2.9 billion (£2.2 billion) deal to build solar power plants in the oil-producing country.
US President Donald Trump’s strategy to neutralize Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region includes curbing its support for terrorist organizations and militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan, a US official told Asharq Al-Awsat. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official at the US State Department said that the strategy included four key elements or objectives. He pointed out that the first strategic goal is “to neutralize the destabilizing activities by Iran, especially its support for terrorism and insurgents, with a focus on its activities in the Middle East in particular and also in Afghanistan”... Trump’s new strategy – according to the US official – includes putting an end to Iran’s subversive activities in Syria and its support for terrorism through groups such as “Hezbollah”, Hamas, the Taliban and Iraqi Shi’ite factions, noting that Tehran was seeking to fuel ethnic and sectarian strife in Iraq.
Iranians are such pathological liars that they delude themselves into believing their own falsehoods. They claim that they are a regional power, yet they avoid any face-to-face confrontation with their opponents. After being bitterly defeated by Iraqis, Imam Khomeini made the claim that he was forced to drink poison. In fact, he died two years after the setback. A general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) stated about a week ago that if the United States were to designate the IRGC a terrorist group, Iranians would have no option but to treat Americans as they had treated ISIS fighters. The statement clearly smacks of self-delusion, for Iran has started believing that its forces had defeated and expelled ISIS from Iraq and Syria and not Iraqis, with support from the US-led coalition forces.
Iran’s military chief warned Israel against breaching Syrian airspace and territory on a visit to Damascus on Wednesday, raising tensions with Israel as it voices deep concern over Tehran’s influence in Syria. General Mohammad Baqeri pledged to increase cooperation with Syria’s military to fight Israel and insurgents, Iranian and Syrian state media said.
Iran’s military chief of staff indicated Wednesday that Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies. His comments came after Israel on Monday struck an anti-aircraft battery inside Syria, which followed the firing of a Syrian missile at Israeli planes on reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.
The State Department on Tuesday declined to criticize the Iraqi central government for partnering with Iran in a fight against an ethnic minority seeking to separate from the rest of the country. "We're not taking sides," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday. The neutral U.S. stance is controversial because the Kurdish Iraqis who are seeking independence from Baghdad have been critical partners in the fight against the Islamic State.
A few days after the Trump administration announced a new, get-tough approach to Iran, one of that country's top military commanders and the armed Shiite militias he supports played a key role in the seizure of an important Iraqi city from the U.S.-backed Kurds, according to Iraqi, Kurdish and American officials. Former U.S. national security officials told NBC News the Iranian-brokered seizure of oil-rich Kirkuk by the Iraqi government and its militia partners, which heightens the risk of civil war, amounts to an embarrassing strategic blow to the U.S. at the hands of Iran.
Today, the Islamic State controls just three percent of Iraq after controlling one-third of the country two years ago, but American officials say an old nemesis in the region continues to stoke tensions inside the country, creating another immediate challenge once ISIS is defeated. After the fall of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the evacuation of Kurdish fighters, the U.S. military must figure out how to keep Iraq from breaking apart while also preventing Iran from turning its neighbor into a proxy state. "Nearly every threat to peace and security in the Middle East is connected to Iran's outlaw behavior," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday. The Shia-led government in Baghdad welcomed Iran's help when ISIS swept through Iraqi cities three years ago. Now Iran is flexing its muscle in Iraq, putting the U.S. in the middle of a potential three-way civil war involving Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.
GULF STATES & IRAN
The Political Coordinator of the Saudi Mission in the United Nations, spokeswoman Manal Hassan Radwan, in her speech on Wednesday, during a meeting of the Security Council on the Middle East that Iran has taken advantage of lifting sanctions to destabilize the region. Saudi Arabia’s delegate at the United Nations also spoke on the kingdom's position on Palestine, Syria and Trump’s recent decision on the Iranian nuclear deal. On Palestine, Saudi Arabia said that Israeli occupation’s settlement expansion impedes the peace process and that Israeli measures of Israeli occupation in Palestine must be addressed. With the Syrian file, Radwan said: “We welcome cooperation between Washington and Jordan to reduce the escalation of southern Syria”.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emphasised its full support for any measures and sanctions that would limit Iran's aggressive moves and interference in the countries of the region, Saudi Press Agency, SPA, reported on Wednesday. The kingdom regretted Iran's misuse of the economic benefits of lifting the sanctions after the nuclear agreement and its use to continue destabilising the region and developing its ballistic missile programme and support for terrorism in the region, including Hezbollah, Houthi militias in Yemen and armed militias in Syria. This came in a statement today by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights as part of the work of the Committee on Humanitarian, Social and Cultural Rights. The statement was delivered by the Deputy Head of the Permanent Mission of the kingdom to the United Nations Dr. Khalid Manzlawi.