U.S. President Donald Trump will increase pressure on Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday, but he declined specific comment on whether the administration would continue sanctions waivers for countries that import Iranian oil. Pompeo told a U.S. Senate committee he had "no announcements" on whether Washington would continue waivers to some countries that import Iranian crude, or for Iran's civilian nuclear program, now that Trump has withdrawn the United States from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sweeping sanctions
Government controlled Syrian newspaper Al-Watan has disclosed in an April 17 article that the serious shortage of fuel Syria is facing is the outcome of Iran halting a credit line to Syria since October 15, 2018 under pressure from U.S. sanctions. Al-Watan also added in this "unprecedented disclosure" that no oil tanker has reached Syrian ports during the past six months.Previously, other reports has mentioned Egypt being responsible for not allowing Iranian tankers to pass through the Suez Canal to reach Syria.
An Iranian court has held an appeal hearing for a jailed Iranian journalist and rights activist who faces a 12-year prison sentence for her social media criticisms of Iran's judiciary. A report by Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency quoted a lawyer for journalist Hengameh Shahidi as saying he and his client appeared in court for the Tuesday hearing. Mostafa Tork Hamedani told ISNA that the presiding judge announced the end of the appeals process for Shahidi and pledged to issue a ruling soon.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
President Hassan Rouhani says the U.S. should suspend sanctions against Iran because of the recent massive floods that have claimed dozens of lives. State TV quoted Rouhani's as saying on Wednesday that "if U.S officials were wise, they should have announced they would suspend the sanctions for one year because of the floods in Iran." Rouhani is also quoted as saying the White House was "inhumane and filthy" for declining to allow cash support to the Iranian Red Crescent.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday Turkey is looking into establishing new trade mechanisms with Iran, like the INSTEX system set up by European countries to avoid U.S. sanctions reimposed last year on exports of Iranian oil. Those sanctions followed President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw unilaterally from a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies in the Middle East.
Iran has shut around a dozen oil wells in its oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province because of massive floods, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday, leading to a drop of up to 20,000 barrels per day in crude production. Iran's worst flooding in 70 years, which started on March 19, has killed at least 76 people, forced more than 220,000 into emergency shelters and caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland.
The Trump administration must decide by May 2 whether to allow Iran to continue exporting crude oil - a decision with huge implications for Washington's Iran strategy and the oil market. The big picture: Since withdrawing from the nuclear deal last May, the U.S. has steadily ratcheted up economic and political pressure on Iran. The core component of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" strategy is reducing the Islamic Republic's oil exports, which provide provide a third of government revenues.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Seconds into the third round of what some consider an Iranian woman's first official boxing match, Sadaf Khadem had her opponent, Anne Chauvin of France, timed up. She landed a flurry of right hooks, knocking Chauvin's head guard off kilter. At the closing bell, the ringside crowd in Royan, in western France, rose to give Khadem a standing ovation. Chauvin - defeated, but no worse for the wear after three rounds - gave Khadem a hug in the middle of the ring, grabbed her wrist and raised her hand in the air.
Iranian authorities must stop harassing, arresting and imprisoning women's rights defenders peacefully protesting against Iran's degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws, and release those detained on this basis immediately and unconditionally, said Amnesty International today. The organization has confirmed that two women's rights defenders, Yasmin Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi, have been detained in the past week and that a third activist, Vida Movahedi, who has been detained since October 2018, was sentenced to one year in prison last month for peacefully protesting against forced veiling.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A new Trump administration report on international compliance with arms control accords provoked a dispute with U.S. intelligence agencies and some State Department officials concerned that the document politicizes and slants assessments about Iran, five sources with knowledge of the matter said. U.S. President Donald Trump is intensifying a drive to contain Iran's power in the Middle East, which has raised fears that his administration wants to topple the Tehran government or lay the groundwork to justify military action.
The United States's reaction to floods that killed dozens of people in Iran has revealed Washington's "vicious" nature, said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. At least 76 people have died after torrential rainfall which has caused damages of around $2.5bn since March 19. Iran's Red Crescent has repeatedly complained that US banking sanctions reimposed last year make it impossible to receive donations from outside the country.
If the US administration's goal is to weaken Iran's reform movement, it deserves a round of applause. Since coming to power, President Donald Trump has taken consecutive steps to distance Washington and Tehran - and, in the process, to increasingly damage Iranian moderates and Reformists. All the while, Iranian hard-liners couldn't be more content. They are now certain of victory in the upcoming 2020 parliamentary polls and 2021 presidential vote as people are disappointed with those in Iran who have for years been calling for negotiations with the United States.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran showcased its domestically made fighter jets by flying the aircraft over Tehran during a military parade Thursday marking National Army Day as the country grapples with U.S. sanctions and the Trump administration's recent terrorism designation of Iran's powerful paramilitary force. TV footage showed the aircraft performing during the parade, including the latest all-Iranian fighter jet dubbed Kowsar, which in Islamic meaning refers to a river in paradise and is also the title of a chapter in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's armed forces did not pose a threat to its neighbors as he addressed a display on Thursday of Iran's latest military equipment, including domestically produced fighter jets and Russian-made missile systems. The parade to mark Army Day came as U.S. President Donald Trump pursues his drive to contain Iran's power in the Middle East by means of sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called on countries across the Middle East to unite against the United States during an address at an Army Day parade in Tehran. Speaking at a ceremony on Thursday, Rouhani also urged neighbouring countries to "drive back Zionism", saying the US and its ally Israel were the root cause of the region's problems.
Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on April 17 denied the veracity of remarks by one of its former generals who has claimed to have worn Iran's Red Crescent Society's (IRCS) uniform for "military purposes" during the civil war in Bosnia. Saeed Qassemi (Ghasemi), retired IRGC General, is an outspoken ultraconservative, renowned for his vitriolic attacks on reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, and the incumbent "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday met with Iran's foreign minister, who arrived in Ankara to brief him on his meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey supports Syrian opposition rebels and Iran backs Assad in Syria's long war, but the two sides have been expanding contacts amid international efforts to end the fighting. Kazakhstan will host a fresh round of Syria talks on April 25-26 in its capital, recently renamed from Astana to Nur-Sultan.
Wednesday, Turkey and Iran reiterated their commitment to efforts to reach a permanent peace in Syria, establishing a constitutional committee and preserving de-escalation in Idlib province. "For permanent peace in Syria and preserving the cease-fire in Idlib, we continue to work together to coordinate various issues, including the U.S.' decision to withdraw from Syria.
The representative of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Iran says a significant number of young Lebanese are currently in Iran, helping relief operations for the flood-stricken people. Speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Tasnin news agency, Sheik Mo'ein Daqiq said on Tuesday that the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has called upon all young Lebanese and members of the armed group to join Iranian Armed forces, "jihadi" elements, and Iranian Red Crescent to help the flood-hit Iranians.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on Thursday to "drive back Zionism," in an Army Day tirade against the Islamic republic's arch-foe Israel. Speaking flanked by top general as troops paraded in a show of might, Rouhani also sought to reassure the region that the weaponry on display was for defensive purposes and not a threat.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Saudi Red Crescent Authority, in coordination with the Emirates Red Crescent sent a relief plane to Tehran carrying 95 tons of humanitarian aid to support those affected by the floods in Iran. Last Friday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced a joint initiative to help alleviate the suffering of Iranian citizens affected by the recent floods.
The Bashar Assad regime has killed at least 548 Palestinians by torture in Syrian prisons, according to a recent report by a London-based human rights monitor tracking the situation of Palestinian refugees in Syria said. The report published by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) on April 16 said that the Palestinians who have been tortured to death in regime-controlled prisons included women and children.
Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, began removing pages and accounts run by people associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week after the US government officially designated the IRGC a terrorist organization on Monday, Instagram confirmed to CNN. Iran's semi-official Mehr News Agency reported earlier this week that Instagram accounts belonging to some IRGC generals had disappeared.