Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled on Wednesday the U.S. may impose “very strong” sanctions on Iran as President Donald Trump seeks to renegotiate a multinational accord that curbs the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Mnuchin, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, said there will be “primary and secondary sanctions” against Iran, referring to penalties for the country itself and entities that do business with it. Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mnuchin said he was referring both to a possible fresh round of sanctions, as well as the return of previous sanctions that have been periodically waived as part of the nuclear deal.
US Attack on Syria Should Seriously Damage Assad's War Machine | UANI Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman for Fox News
Any meaningful counter-Iran policy must start in Syria. Despite the difficulty of the situation, the United States does have options.
All this week panicked Iranians have gathered in throngs outside banks and other financial businesses hoping to buy dollars, as the government seeks to head off a collapse in the rial, the national currency. But they have met with nothing but frustration, told there were no dollars or other currencies for them to buy at the official government rate. In an effort to stop the run on foreign exchange, the government has forbidden anyone from holding more than the equivalent of $10,000 in dollars or euros, which account for most of the foreign exchange in Iran. Long on a downward path, the rial plunged this week, losing 35 percent of its value against the dollar and hitting what has been widely described as a record low.
UANI IN THE NEWS
For it to be effective for the people of Syria on a humanitarian basis, as President Trump has gone to, but also to make clear to the Russians and the Iranians [that] we’re not going to sit back and let them come in and dominate the region, this strike by the United States—and, hopefully, allies—has to be stronger than it was last year and probably be more sustained.
A decision by U.S. President Donald Trump not to renew sanctions relief for Iran on May 12 would not necessarily mean the United States had withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday.
SYRIA, RUSSIA, ISRAEL & IRAN
President Trump is threatening to launch missile strikes against Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s government for a suspected April 7 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. But Mr. Trump’s pick of targets is complicated by the presence of Russian troops and Iranian militias, who are supporting Mr. Assad’s forces in Syria’s seven-year civil war.
“We know that we’re alone in this fight,” a very senior source in the Israeli defense establishment told Al-Monitor this week. “Still, we have no choice but to carry on.” The April 4 phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump made it clear to the Israeli leadership that “the friendliest president to Israel ever” has no plans to change his strategic decision to withdraw US forces from Syria and leave the arena to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reportedly, Netanyahu did try to explain to Trump what the implications of such a withdrawal would be. But according to Israeli sources informed about the content of the call, while Trump expressed his understanding of the Israeli position, he made it clear to Netanyahu that he will not change his mind.
In a phone call, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned each other about the repercussions of actions related to Iran’s presence in Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warned archenemy Iran not to test Israel amid escalating regional tensions as the country marked its Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of the 6 million Jews systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday praised his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and emphasized that Tehran and Moscow should continue their cooperation in Syria until the complete establishment of security and stability in the war-torn country, the Iranian media reported.
The top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said on Wednesday that Tehran would support Damascus against any foreign aggression, state TV reported, in an apparent response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about a possible military strike on Syria.
Threats by some Western states to attack Syria are “based on lies after the liberation of eastern Ghouta”, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Thursday, Syrian state media reported.
Tehran continues to maintain significant drone forces at a base in western Syria, giving them dangerously easy access to the Israeli border and raising the risk of escalation.
While conservative outlets generally opine that a US military attack on Syria is likely, Reformist media and figures are urging Iranian officials to be cautious in case a war erupts. Javan newspaper, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, believes that the United States is preparing itself for a strike on Syria.
The Iranian rial plummeted this weekend to a record low of 58,880 to the dollar. Usually, economic surprises are what drive a currency aggressively downward. But not this time. Rather, it was in large part a response to the news that President Trump selected John Bolton as his national security advisor. Since last month’s announcement, the rial has lost 20 percent of its value, almost 15 percent of it in just the recent days. This week, as Bolton assumes his new role, the Iranian market fears the U.S. will pivot to more aggressive policies aimed at curbing Iran’s regional expansionism. The president should exploit this fear of his hawkish new advisor as his administration works to fix the flawed nuclear deal of 2015.
An international banker charged in the U.S. with laundering more than $100 million for an Iranian construction company “grossly” understated his net worth, prosecutors said in opposing his request to be freed on bail before a trial.
Iranian authorities have arrested 12 foreign exchange traders accused of illicit dealings, in the government's latest response to the plunging value of the national currency against the dollar.
Essar Oil still owes about 500 million euros in payments for previous purchases of Iranian crude after having paid about 2 billion euros in outstanding dues, Chief Executive B. Anand said on Thursday.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
With international attention focused on the escalating tension in Syria, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen today fired several ballistic missiles at military and civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, Iranian and Saudi media outlets reported… Saudi officials said the country’s air defense systems successfully intercepted all Houthi missiles originating from Yemen.
The European Union extended sanctions on Iran over human rights violations on Thursday, as the bloc prepared for a clash over whether to impose a new set of penalties in the hope of safeguarding a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic.
An official decision to grant unfiltered Internet access to 100 handpicked reporters in Iran threatens to backfire, with journalists and editors blasting it as discriminatory and a transparent effort to curry media favor beyond the already extensive reach of state censors.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi has once again resigned a few hours after Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri threatened him to step down. Montazeri on April 9 called the city council’s rejection of Najafi’s first resignation “political” and told the Mayor to resign again… Some of the council members said on Sunday that Najafi had resigned under political pressure, although he had mentioned “illness” as the reason. Montazeri called the council’s rejection of Najafi’s resignation “an act of treason,” adding that the council should be held accountable if the ailing mayor fails to fulfill his responsibilities… Previously, several Iranian news websites reported “the IRGC Intelligence Organization exerted pressure on Najafi to resign.” Najafi has repeatedly spoken about “widespread illegal actions at the Tehran Municipality” under former conservative Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.