Two oil tankers came under attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, forcing their crews to abandon ship and setting at least one vessel ablaze, a month after four tankers were damaged in the same waterway, a vital thoroughfare for much of the world's oil products. The early morning attacks escalated tensions in an already tense region, where Iran has long been at odds with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and they are backing opposite sides in the civil war in Yemen. Relations between the United States - allied with the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia - and Iran have also worsened.
The United States on Wednesday sanctioned an Iraqi company and two of its associates, which it said had helped Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds force evade sanctions by smuggling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons. "Treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Qods Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia has said it will carry out urgent reprisals as it accused Iran of being behind a late-night cruise missile attack by Houthi rebel fighters on a Saudi international airport that injured 26 people. The Saudi foreign ministry said the Command of Joint Forces of the Coalition promised it "will take urgent and timely measures to deter these Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militias".
UANI IN THE NEWS
Well, I think, of all the challenges China and Russia represent to the United States, the biggest threat to our country is Iran. I mean, this is a country that's been taken over by a terrorist group. The previous administration, the Obama administration, made what I think is a very bad deal on nuclear weapons with Iran. President Trump has the guts to do exactly what he promised to do, break out of the agreement. He squeezed the Iranian economy, now with sanctions. We've got Iran on the ropes.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that he discussed with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ways to avoid instability in the region, adding he strongly hopes Iran continues to observe the nuclear deal, in a joint press conference in Tehran. The Japanese leader stressed that an armed clash in the Middle East needs to be prevented at all costs.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's president pressed Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, to break with U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, highlighting the challenge Mr. Abe faces in trying to help ease a military standoff between the U.S. and Iran. Mr. Abe arrived in Tehran on Wednesday hoping that his close relationship with President Trump and warm ties with Iran would enable him to help defuse a crisis triggered by Mr. Trump's decision to pull out of a 2015 international deal to cap Iran's nuclear program.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an Iraqi company it said had trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars in arms for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. Treasury's blacklisting of the South Wealth Resources Company, or Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob General Trading Company, is part of the Trump administration's broader pressure campaign against Tehran that the White House says is meant to coerce the government into a nuclear and regional security pact.
Iran may change how it treats the nuclear deal if the Islamic republic cannot sell its oil, said Iran's Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Wednesday, according to Radio Farda. "The situation will change if Iran can't sell oil," said Larijani to reporters on Wednesday. Larijani did not elaborate on what those changes would be. In order for Europe to help Iran with its oil exports and international banking, Iran must be able to sell oil, Larijani added.
Iran might change its approach to the way it treats its nuclear deal with the west if Tehran is not able to sell its oil, says the Speaker of Iran's parliament Ali Larijani. Speaking to reporters during a visit to Bojnourd in northern Khorasan Province on Wednesday June 12, Larijani said, "The situation will change if Iran cannot sell oil," however, he did not elaborate on what precisely Iran will do.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An otherwise standard press conference in Tehran got turned up a notch on Monday when a German reporter hit Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with a somewhat surprising question. "Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?" asked Paul Ronzheimer, the Berlin-based chief correspondent for the tabloid Bild. Zarif, who conducted the press conference alongside his visiting German counterpart, Heiko Maas, responded that his "society has principles."
More than a million people in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe have come together to express their outrage at the sentencing of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to 38 years and six months in prison and 148 lashes after two grossly unfair trials, Amnesty International announced today, as signatures demanding her release were handed in to Iranian embassies around the world.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that Tehran "will in no way repeat" negotiations with the U.S. amid tension over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. Khamenei made the comment on Thursday, during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who traveled to Tehran as an interlocutor for President Donald Trump to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran. But the comments by Khamenei could indicate that Abe's visit may not have succeeded.
Shinzo Abe arrived in Tehran on a mission to ease tensions between Iran and the U.S., becoming the first Japanese prime minister to visit since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Abe's flight touched down at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. His visit is seen as an effort to mediate amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Just ahead of his arrival, Saudi Arabia said Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked one of the kingdom's airports, wounding 26 people.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveled to Tehran on Wednesday to warn that an "accidental conflict" could be sparked amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a message that came hours after Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi airport, wounding 26 people. Abe's trip is the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate the crisis as Tehran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration pulled out of last year.
A Lebanese man and permanent U.S. resident who was released after spending years in an Iranian prison called on President Donald Trump and Western countries to "please get back your hostages from Iran," adding that he saw American detainees during his nearly four-year imprisonment. In an interview with The Associated Press, Nizar Zakka said he was subjected to "all kinds of torture," both physical and mental, during his detention in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, including standing on one leg for hours, extended periods of interrogation and lack of food.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travels to Tehran on Wednesday on an unusual mission for a Japanese leader: to reduce tensions between the US and Iran. Abe will likely be more messenger than mediator between the two adversaries. But he may also encourage Iranian leaders to negotiate directly with the Trump administration. The unlikely prospect of a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani has captivated media attention.
Iran's malign behavior regularly generates headlines, as the nation's leaders threaten peace and global security. But the Iranian regime's terror activities and nuclear proliferation have overshadowed what should be our top line focus: the release of American hostages. The United States cannot rest until every single American hostage held by Iran has been brought home safely.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A move to boycott a popular Iranian ride-hailing application has gained momentum among social media users in the country after a controversy over a female passenger's hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion. It all began last week when the woman was asked by a driver of the Snapp app to put on the headscarf that had fallen off her head, according to Tasnim News Agency.
Iranian state TV reported on Wednesday June 12 that the burning of an overheated power generator has caused a fire at one of the platforms of Southern Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf. According to state TV (IRIB) the platform is located 92 kilometers off the Iranian coast in Assalouyeh at the border with Qatar in the Gulf. Firefighters have dealt with the incident on platform number 9, and the fire has left no casualty, said the report.
A new tax in Iran that imposes a 10% levy on concert revenues has raised the ire of artists, concertgoers and even some of the country's culture bureaucracy. Many musicians in Iran - who face red tape, censorship and poor salaries - believe this new tax is the final nail in the coffin for concerts and other musical events. Parliament passed the new tax in late February, a month after the beginning of the Iranian fiscal year. A brief but far-reaching amendment to the budget, it took effect right away.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah is bypassing US sanctions against Iran by laundering many millions of dollars in the drug trade in Europe. This news comes as the result of a study about how Hezbollah's political wing serves its military wing and further enshrines that there is no real distinction between the two. It showed that Hezbollah acts as intermediaries in the global drug route from South America to West Africa to Europe, with only 5-10% of total drugs being intercepted.
A cease-fire negotiated between Syrian rebels and government forces in the country's war-battered northwest was on shaky ground after intermittent bombing and shelling resumed overnight Thursday in Idlib Province, the country's last piece of rebel-held territory. Russia and Turkey, two of the dominant foreign powers in the area, had negotiated the cease-fire between the groups. It took effect on Wednesday, and was aimed at ending more than six weeks of fighting, bombing and shelling as the Syrian government moved to reclaim parts of the northwest.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman said the targeting of Abha Airport by Iranian-backed Houthi militia is "a continuation of their immoral and criminal behavior that is in line with the malign behavior of their patrons." In a series of posts on Twitter, the minister said for 40 years the Iranian regime has been "spreading chaos, death and destruction, by sponsoring and financing terrorist organizations including the Houthis."
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said that "for 40 years, the Iranian regime has been spreading chaos, death and destruction, by sponsoring and financing terrorist organizations including the Houthis." Referring to the Wednesday's attack on the Abha International Airport in the Kingdom, he added that the targeting of Abha Airport by Iranian-backed Houthi militia and injuring innocent civilians, is a continuation of their immoral and criminal behavior that is in line with the malign behavior of their patrons.
A missile fired by Iran-allied militias in Yemen injured 26 civilians in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, according to a U.S.-backed military coalition fighting the insurgents, an attack that comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. The Saudi-led coalition said the projectile struck an arrivals hall at Abha airport in the southern part of the kingdom in what it said was a deliberate targeting of civilians that could amount to a war crime.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The United Arab Emirates and Germany expressed concern over growing tensions in the Gulf region, calling on Iran to refrain from steps that escalate the tension, a joint statement on UAE's state news agency (WAM) said on Wednesday. The statement comes after Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan official visit to Germany. The statement said both countries reaffirmed "the urgency for all actors in the regions to refrain from any actions that could escalate existing tensions".