The European Investment Bank has balked at an EU proposal to do business in Iran to help offset U.S. sanctions and save the 2015 nuclear deal, EU sources told Reuters, under pressure from the United States - where the bank raises much of its funds.
Iran announced on Tuesday that it had completed a new centrifuge assembly center at the Natanz nuclear site, in a first step to increasing its enrichment capacity. While Iran said it would keep enrichment within limits set by the 2015 nuclear accord, the center’s opening seemed to signal that it could swing to industrial-level enrichment if that agreement, which the United States withdrew from last month, should further unravel.
A controversial tweet by Iran’s top leader has many (once again) questioning Twitter’s terms of service. On Sunday, the “supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took his long-standing hatred of Israel to social media, tweeting, “Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.” Twitter’s rules dictate: “You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.” And yet, when the tweet was reported to Twitter management, the reply was, “there was no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behavior.”
UANI IN THE NEWS
[UANI Senior Adviser and former National Intelligence Manager for Iran Norm Roule:] “The Iranians have enhanced their strategic posture throughout the Middle East by developing a Shia militancy numbering in the tens of thousands and capable of fighting with Iran’s support in different countries and against different adversaries at the same time. Within a space of only a handful of years, Iran has gone from a regional pariah to claiming that it should have a role in the destinies of four Arab capitals.”
As EU chiefs scramble to implement a “blocking statute” to thwart impending U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with Iran in the wake of President Trump’s May 8 decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), now is a good time to revisit all those business deals that were signed during the “full” JCPOA. During the almost three years of “JCPOA-Max” since July 2015, Iranian news outlets trumpeted the signing of a deal between a western firm and an Iranian counterpart once a week, on average… Yet — even during JCPOA-Max — this “mountain of MOUs” turned out to be an anthill of real business.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s declaration that it could increase its uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart risks sailing close to the “red line”, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Obama administration secretly sought to give Iran access — albeit briefly — to the U.S. financial system by sidestepping sanctions kept in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public it had no plans to do so.
The United States warned governments and the private sector on Tuesday to crack down on what it described as Iranian efforts to exploit them to fund its support for terrorism, destabilizing actions in the region and rights abuses at home.
European signatories to a nuclear deal with Iran have written to top U.S. officials to stress their commitment to upholding the pact, which Washington has quit, and to urge the United States to spare EU firms active in Iran from secondary sanctions.
Dozens of major American companies are preparing to pull out of Iran as the Trump administration closes a narrow legal window that has allowed firms to operate there without violating U.S. sanctions. The companies using the exemption include big conglomerates like Honeywell International Inc., Dover Corp. and General Electric Co. and insurers like Chubb Ltd., many of which sought to profit from growth in the Iranian energy industry.
Senior European officials conceded in a letter to the Trump administration that their efforts to save the Iranian nuclear accord by maintaining major trade and investment with Tehran are buckling in the face of planned U.S. sanctions.
SYRIA, RUSSIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said.
Iran has multiplied its support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to more than $700 million a year, according to US estimates. The new figure is more than three times as much as previous estimates of funding for the group.
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not withdraw from Syria until the country is “liberated” and its “territorial integrity is restored”, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.
According to recent media reports, some Israeli officials and military assessments have concluded that Hezbollah is trying to undo its reputation as an “Iranian puppet.” Such claims do not necessarily indicate that the terrorist group seeks actual independence from Tehran; if anything, their relationship has become closer than ever in the past few years. Rather, the reports suggest that both partners are trying to sequester Hezbollah from Iran’s brewing regional conflict with Israel.
The Khamenei and Assad regimes are seeking to achieve two objectives: keeping the Damascus regime intact and keeping Iran’s military and intelligence presence and its militias in Syria and negotiate over anything except that. The most recent US proposal though is the opposite: keeping the Assad regime is conditional on ending Iran’s presence in Syria while the rest is negotiable.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting opposition in European capitals to his aggressive stance against Iran.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran’s judiciary reportedly created a very short list of lawyers approved to represent people accused of national security crimes – commonly used to prosecute activists – in Tehran’s courts during the investigative stage of the case. Of the 20,000-plus members of Tehran’s Bar association, only 20 lawyers made the list, which, unsurprisingly, excluded women and human rights lawyers.