Iran will "take the next step" on Sunday in enriching uranium beyond the levels specified under its 2015 accord with the United States and other global powers, President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, according to state news outlets. Mr. Rouhani's pledge to accelerate the country's uranium enrichment is the latest step in an escalating confrontation with the United States over President Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear pact and imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Iran.
Iran's oil minister said a European mechanism to shield some trade with his country from crippling U.S. sanctions won't be useful if it doesn't allow for oil sales, as efforts to preserve the unraveling nuclear deal face a looming deadline. "Without oil deal, it's very clear, Instex will not work," Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Vienna on Tuesday, referring to the trade conduit established by the U.K., France and Germany.
Britain, France and Germany will not for the moment trigger a dispute resolution mechanism enshrined in the 2015 Iran nuclear accord that could lead to the reimposition of United Nations sanctions, two European diplomats said. Iran's announcement on Monday that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted was confirmed by UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran's nuclear program under the deal.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran warned it will restore a mothballed reactor and step up enrichment if European nations fail to offer it economic guarantees by a July 7 deadline, escalating a crisis that threatens to collapse the 2015 nuclear accord and plunge the Gulf into renewed uncertainty. "If you don't meet all your commitments according to the timetable and plans, the Islamic Republic will restore the Arak reactor to its previous condition," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday in remarks addressed to European signatories to the agreement, Mehr news agency reported.
Iran's president Hassan Rouhani warned European nations Wednesday that Tehran will "take the next step" in increasing its uranium enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels this coming Sunday if they do not offer a new deal by then, adding that they will increase it to "any amount that we want". Speaking at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran, Rouhani said: "In any amount that we want, any amount that is required, we will take over 3.67.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani issued a fresh ultimatum Wednesday over its civilian-use nuclear program, saying the country would on Sunday "take the next step" toward increasing its enrichment of uranium unless European powers are able to find a way to offset the impact of the Trump administration's sanctions on its economy. Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, confirmed Iran passed the limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by exceeding the 300kg (661 pounds) that was set in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal made with world powers. President Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of that agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned that Iran would increase its enrichment of uranium this weekend to whatever level was needed beyond the cap set by the nuclear agreement. Iran has repeatedly threatened to increase enrichment above the 3.67 percent level allowed under the nuclear deal by July 7 unless it receives some relief from U.S. sanctions. European countries are struggling to meet Tehran's demands to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive.
The ongoing diplomatic dispute between Washington and Tehran hinges on a relatively small technical detail: Iran's enrichment of uranium. On Monday, Iran announced it had breached a stockpile limit for low-enriched uranium that had been allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The International Atomic Energy Agency subsequently confirmed Iran's stockpile had breached the 300-kilogram limit.
European powers that have been trying to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran are underlining their concern at Tehran exceeding its stockpile limit for low-enriched uranium and their demand that it comply in full with the accord. In a joint statement Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain and the European Union's foreign policy chief said that "we have been consistent and clear that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran."
The diplomatic chiefs of the EU, France, Germany and Britain said Tuesday they were "extremely concerned" and urged Iran to reverse its decision to breach a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal. "We urge Iran to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal," said the joint statement signed by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the three countries' foreign ministers -- France's Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany's Heiko Maas and Britain's Jeremy Hunt.
Iran will increase its level of uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the 3.67 percent cap set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to the IRIB news agency. If the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal with world powers do not fulfill their promises, then the Arak nuclear reactor will return to its previous activities after July 7, Rouhani said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran has breached a cap on its enriched uranium stockpile set in a 2015 deal with major powers and said it plans to further flout the nuclear agreement, moves which ultimately could lead to the return of all international sanctions on Tehran. Most U.N. sanctions were removed in January 2016 when the deal was implemented. It is formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and was agreed by the United States, Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
While opinions differ across Tehran's Grand Bazaar about the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal, there's one thing those in the beating heart of Iran's capital city agree on: American sanctions hurt the average person, not those in charge. From an English-language teacher hoping for peace to an appliance salesman who applauded President Donald Trump as a "successful businessman," all said they suffered from the economic hardships sparked by re-imposed and newly created American sanctions.
Saudi Arabia oil minister Khalid Al Falih on Tuesday called on the international community to stand up to Iran's threats to global energy security. The Saudi official told CNN that the kingdom has ample spare capacity to offset Iranian barrels sidelined by US sanctions, but the bigger risk comes from potential conflict in the region. "I am concerned though about the security of oil supplies from threats from state and non-state actors that we've seen," Al Falih told CNN Business' John Defterios from the sidelines of the OPEC meeting in Vienna.
Iranian video showed a flatbed military truck with a rotating, rectangular launcher on the bed. The launcher appeared to contain four missile canisters in two rows of two canisters each. Another truck appeared to mount a rotating slab-shaped radar antenna. Iran has announced a new anti-aircraft missile system. But is it new, or a knockoff of a foreign weapon?
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Escalating tensions between the United States and Iran are exposing potentially contrasting U.S. assessments of the threat Tehran represents to Washington and its allies and interests in the region. The narratives coming from top officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department portray an Iranian regime that is either weaker and more desperate or more brazen and emboldened.
Iranian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for several individuals accused of spying for the United States, Iran's spokesman for the judiciary announced Tuesday. Suspected U.S. spies affiliated with the Iranian military are due to be sentenced to death because of the "severity of their crimes," Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on state television. Two other suspects who are also accused of spying for Washington but were not affiliated with the military have received "long" jail sentences, he added.
Amid escalating tensions with the United States and mounting sanctions pressuring Iran's economy, a former senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says Tehran should not rule out holding talks with Washington. "We can't leave aside talks, but how to talk is another issue," said ex-IRGC naval commander Hossein Alaei. "We have to use the tools of power, meaning negotiations," the former deputy defense minister was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA in Tehran on June 30.
A vast majority of voters said they supported President Trump's decision to not launch a retaliatory strike against Iran last month, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll. Seventy-eight percent of voters surveyed said they believed Trump's decision to call off the strike on Iran was the right move. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 2,182 registered voters was conducted from June 26 to June 29.
Iran should have begun negotiations when the US pulled out of the nuclear deal, said the former joint chief commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a speech on Sunday, Radio Farda reported. "It would have been better to have negotiated when [US President Donald] Trump announced he would leave JCPOA, and tried to prevent it, or when Trump said he would negotiate without preconditions," said Hossein Alaee, the former IRGC commander.
Tehran announced Monday it had breached the uranium-enrichment limits of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a week after shooting down a U.S. drone. What prompted Iran's new aggressiveness, and what does it seek to achieve? Its policy combines two components: noncompliance with aspects of the JCPOA and so-called gray-zone activities, such as unconventional attacks through proxies, sabotage of tankers and oil pipelines, and the attack on the drone.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday the enemy was worried about the prospect of war and was focused instead on an economic conflict, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Tensions between the United States and Iran have increased since Trump pulled Washington out of a nuclear deal last year and moved to bar all international sales of Iranian oil.
The satellite-based radio navigation system GPS (Global Positioning System) has been deliberately disrupted in Iran last week, says the country's chief radio communications regulator Hossein Fallah Josheghani. He told the official news agency IRNA that the disruptions are illegal and orders have been issued to stop them. However, he did not say which organization disrupted the GPS and who has ordered to stop the disruption.
The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday the enemy was worried about the prospect of war and was focused instead on an economic conflict, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Tensions between the United States and Iran have increased since Trump pulled Washington out of a nuclear deal last year and moved to bar all international sales of Iranian oil. Last month the United States came as close as it has ever come to bombing Iran, when President Donald Trump aborted a retaliatory air strike minutes before impact.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he informed U.S. President Donald Trump in advance of what Israel has described as a spy mission in Tehran last year to capture a secret Iranian nuclear archive. Netanyahu said in April 2018 that Mossad operatives had spirited thousands of hidden documents out of Tehran that proved Iran had previously pursued a nuclear weapons program. Trump cited the Israeli findings in his decision, a month later, to quit a 2015 deal that had scaled down Iran's nuclear project.
The United States sanctioned on Tuesday a top Hezbollah operative, updated a designation of an Iranian terrorist group and designated Pakistan's Balochistan Liberation Army as a terrorist entity. Husain Ali Hazzima is the chief of Hezbollah's intelligence unit, while the Iranian group Jundallah, which was designated in 2010 as a terrorist group, began using the new name Jaysh al-Adl and associated aliases in 2012, according to the U.S. State Department.
Israel is preparing for its possible military involvement in any escalation in the Gulf confrontation between Iran and the United States, the Israeli foreign minister said on Tuesday. The unravelling of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal under U.S. diplomatic pressure, Iran's downing of a U.S. drone and its alleged role in the holing of oil tankers in the Gulf have driven up tensions and stirred war worries.
On January 28, 2015, a colleague and I were driving north in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to report on the latest developments involving the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), which was then occupying a desolate mountain range straddling the Lebanon-Syria border. Shortly before midday, we received news that Hezbollah had just launched an ambush against an Israeli military convoy on Lebanon's southeast border. We immediately did a U-turn and began heading south.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia's Asir province has fully resumed operations following a drone attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia based in Yemen. Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the attack by the Houthis had injured nine civilians - eight Saudis and one Indian citizen - all of whom are in stable condition in a hospital. The US "strongly condemned" the strike - the third such attack in less than three weeks.
CHINA & IRAN
The State Department is seriously considering using an Obama-era loophole to allow China to import oil from Iran, violating the Trump administration's pledge to bring Iranian oil exports to zero. Only last week, the senior State Department official handling Iran said that the U.S. would "sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil." But according to three U.S. officials, the department's Iran czar, Brian Hook, and his team of negotiators have discussed granting China a waiver to a 2012 law intended to kneecap the Iranian oil industry.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq is planning to introduce a new financial mechanism that will enable it to continue gas and electricity imports from Iran, Iraqi sources said on July 2. The mechanism is said to be similar to Europe's INSTEX, a system that would help Iran purchase food and medicine, the two items not covered by U.S. sanctions on Tehran. A U.S. official has told reporters that Washington is aware of the financial mechanism to be used by Iran and Iraq. Iraqi officials say they have let Washington know about their deals with Iran.
The Trump administration made the right call by launching a cyberattack last month that disabled Iran's rocket and missile launching systems, according to a majority of experts surveyed by The Cybersecurity 202. The administration launched that attack in retaliation for Iran downing a U.S. surveillance drone and amid roiling tensions over the Islamic State's nuclear program. By responding with a digital attack, the Trump administration signaled it won't tolerate Iran's aggressiveness but avoided escalating the conflict...