U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to talk to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani but that there was always a chance of U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic. "So Iran is a place that was extremely hostile when I first came into office," Trump told British television station ITV. "They were a terrorist nation number one in the world at that time and probably maybe are today." When asked if he thought he would need to take military action, he said: "There's always a chance. Do I want to? No. I'd rather not. But there's always a chance."
During his state visit to Britain, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Washington and London are "determined to ensure" Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and stops supporting terrorism. "Among the pressing threats facing our nations is the development and spread of nuclear weapons -- perhaps that's our biggest threat," Trump told a joint press with British Prime Minister Theresa May on June 4 following a meeting at her Downing Street residence.
Iran is "weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon," former senior UN nuclear watchdog official said Wednesday, amid growing disagreement between Washington and Tehran over the latter's nuclear program. Former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio that according to his rough estimations, Iran could have weapons-grade enriched uranium in "perhaps half a year, seven to eight months maximum, if they put everything into it."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
When Donald Trump assumed the office of the president of the United States in 2017, it was clear to many analysts and individuals in foreign policy-making circles that relations between Iran and the US would sour, especially when President Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal last May. However, recent tensions between the United States and Iran have raised alarms and led many to forecast a growing probability of full-scale war between the two states.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's oil output has plummeted to a record low since 1990 in May as a result of U.S. sanctions, Bloomberg reported on Monday June 3. Saudi Arabi, however, boosted its oil production to keep OPEC's commitments to the market by maintaining an overall steady output for the cartel, keeping supplies mostly unaffected. OPEC produces some 40 percent of the international demand for crude oil.
Iran has told OPEC that it opposes delaying the oil producer group's next meeting, setting the scene for another fight with fellow members as U.S. sanctions put Tehran under unprecedented economic pressure with its oil exports down to just a trickle. OPEC gatherings are often fraught due to acrimony between Iran and its arch-rival Saudi Arabia, the group's de facto leader and top global oil exporter.
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) is due to purchase crude oil from Iraq next month to process at the SOCAR Turkey Aegean Refinery (STAR) inaugurated in October 2018 in Izmir. SOCAR Turkey CEO Zaur Gahramanov said the refineries that rely on Iranian crude oil might face future problems due to US sanctions, and that his firm doesn't wish to violate the sanctions by importing oil or exporting fuel to Tehran.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be "deceived" by U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of negotiations and would not give up its missile program. Iran and the United States have been drawn into starker confrontation in the past month, a year after Washington pulled out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.
Iran's Fars News reported on Wednesday that the US has been forced to keep its USS Abraham Lincoln carrier outside of the narrow confines of the Persian Gulf due to Iran's missile threat. "The difficulty of facing military movements in the Persian Gulf and Iran's deterrence is the reason the Lincoln Strike Group has stayed 450 miles from the area of tension outside the Strait of Hormuz," the report said. The US carrier is 200 miles off the coat of Oman, according to recent reports in US media.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
In an apparent effort to sway Iran's public opinion in favor of the regime's involvement in Middle East conflicts, the Iranian government's television channels are airing a video that glorifies a key anti-American Iraqi Shiite group. The music video, titled "The Noble Ones," has been shown several times on state TV channels. It praises Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group that was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States earlier this year.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Amirsalar Davoudi has become the third known defense attorney to be sent to prison in Iran for his peaceful activities in less than a year, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today. On June 1, 2019, his wife Tannaz Kolahchian tweeted that Davoudi had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the content of his social media posts, 15 years of which he must serve according to Article 134 of the country's Islamic Penal Code (subject to appeal).
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that Iran will continue resisting U.S. economic and political pressure. Khamenei addressed thousands of people on the 30th anniversary of the death of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Khomeini's mausoleum in the capital Tehran. Without referring to the U.S. by name, Khamenei said "standing and resisting the enemy's excessive demands and bullying is the only way to stop him."
Iran said it will release US permanent resident Nizar Zakka, the Lebanese foreign ministry said on Monday. President Hassan Rouhani is ready to receive a Lebanese delegation for Mr Zakka's extradition, the foreign ministry statement said. Mr Zakka's brother confirmed his release, thanking all of those who helped to secure it. The support of his friends and citizens of Lebanon "helped [keep] Nizar alive and helped him overcome the dark days he endured in Evin prison, especially during his numerous hunger strikes," his brother Ziad said.
In 1941, in the midst of World War II, two imperial powers, the USSR and Britain, threatened Iran with invasion, although the country had officially announced neutrality in the conflict. While the Iranian leadership acknowledged the gravity of the situation, it refused to cave in to the Soviet-British ultimatum. For them, resistance and military defeat was more bearable than "treason and capitulation."
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday slammed a US Middle East peace plan as a "great betrayal of the Islamic world", and warned Gulf rivals not to back it. Washington is gearing up to roll out economic aspects of its long-awaited plan for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians -- dubbed the "deal of the century" -- at a conference in Bahrain later this month.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
In Iran, hard-liners have recently intensified their attacks on former judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani. An unpopular figure among almost all of the political currents, Larijani was in December appointed chairman of the Expediency Council, which is tasked with resolving disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. During his tenure as judiciary chief, Larijani tolerated little criticism - even from hard-liners and conservative figures - leading to the judicial branch's lodging of constant lawsuits against political activists.
Images of a controversial administrative order went viral across Iranian social media in recent days, enraging large sections of the country's religious minorities. The internal document, a letter, announced new regulations at kindergartens operated by Iran's Rehabilitation Organization. "Recruitment of religious minority members for any position at kindergartens is illegal unless those centers are exclusively hosting children of religious minorities," the letter states, bearing the signature of the director of the organization's Office for Children and Adolescent Affairs.
Iran has marked the 30th anniversary of the death of the leader of its Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, by recommitting itself to pursue his bedeviled path of "resistance" against enemies. Khomeini died of cancer on June 3, 1989, 10 years after leading a revolution that replaced Iran's monarchy with an enduring theocracy that has become embroiled in regional conflicts, struggled economically under U.S. sanctions and faced more than a year of nationwide anti-government protests.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he hasn't seen "any material progress" by European countries to recognize Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. "The American position is very clear," Pompeo told American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a recorded video played at the AJC Global Forum on Tuesday. "It is a unitarian entity. It is a terrorist organization. It is underwritten by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it, in its entirety, must be designated as a terrorist entity.
The United States believes Russia may be more amenable than in the past to addressing U.S. and Israeli concerns about Iran's influence, including in Syria, when national security leaders meet in Jerusalem this month, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. The United States announced last week that John Bolton, White House national security adviser, would meet his Israeli and Russian counterparts in Jerusalem in June.
A Russian official has denied a deal between Moscow and Washington over putting an end to Iran's presence in Syria in return for the recognition of Bashar Assad's regime by the United States, says Russian news agency Interfax. Meanwhile, a U.S. official speaking to the UAE newspaper the National on Monday June 3, ruled out a June 2 report by London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily which said the United States is prepared to recognize the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria.
Syrian official told Russian media that there are no plans for Iran to reduce its troop levels in the country, even if the US and Israel seek to offer Russia a deal. Speaking to Izvestia and later reported in Russia's TASS news agency, the report seeks to downplay rumors that an upcoming US, Israel and Russia trilateral meeting in Israel would examine Iran's presence in Syria. Last week, the US and Israel said there would be a trilateral meeting with Russia this month.
CHINA & IRAN
A rise in tensions in the Middle East owing to U.S. pressure on Iran is worrying and all parties need to exercise restraint, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian media ahead of a visit to the country. Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated in the past month, a year after the United States pulled out of a deal between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia should be on the lookout for Iran's new "shocking decision" if it does not stop support for U.S. sanctions against Tehran, says Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a former Iranian diplomat currently working as a special assistant to Iran's Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. Amir Abdollahian, who is widely known as the man who determines Iran's foreign policy about the Arab world, did not elaborate on what he called "Tehran's new and shocking decision."
The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen said on Tuesday it evacuated a crew member for medical reasons from a "suspect" Iranian ship northwest of Yemen's Hodeidah port after Saudi Arabia received a request for help from Iran. Iran and Saudi Arabia are arch-adversaries in the Middle East, backing opposite sides in several regional wars including in Yemen where the coalition has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement for four years.
A dispute over control of biometric data between the World Food Programme and Yemen's Houthi group is straining humanitarian efforts and threatens to disrupt aid distribution in a country already on the brink of famine. In an unusually strong statement the U.N. agency, which feeds more than 10 million people a month across the Arabian Peninsula's poorest nation, said last month it is considering suspending deliveries due to fighting, insecurity and interference in its work.
Spoiling joy, Houthi militias forced Yemenis in areas under militia control to fast on the day declared by the country's religious authorities as Islam's Eid al-Fitr holiday, the day marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Houthi coupists, who abide by Iran's sectarian agenda, deployed banded militants and armored wagons to entrances of mosques and cemeteries to block worshippers from performing rituals due on the holiday.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq's government has offered to mediate between the United States and Iran to reduce tension between its two biggest allies. But many Sunni Iraqis say they have been neglected by Shia-led governments for years. And they are concerned their views on the issue are being ignored.