The United States on Wednesday accused Iran of "nuclear extortion" and threatened further sanctions against Tehran, which has begun stockpiling and enriching uranium beyond the limits set in the 2015 accord that President Trump has abandoned. The United States called an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday in response to the Iranian moves, while a senior French envoy was in Tehran exploring ways to reopen negotiations on compliance with the deal.
A British warship trained its guns on three Iranian vessels that tried to block the passage of a U.K.-flagged oil tanker through the Persian Gulf, the country's Defense Ministry said, a confrontation that comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. The three Iranian ships tried on Wednesday to impede the British Heritage, a tanker carrying oil for British oil giant BP PLC, but were turned away by the HMS Montrose, the British Defense Ministry said in statement Thursday.
President Trump announced Wednesday that he will add to existing sanctions on Iran, after the Islamic republic admitted Monday that it surpassed uranium enrichment levels that were set by the Iran Nuclear Agreement in 2015. The U.S. backed out of that deal, but several European nations remain involved. The deal said that Iran could not enrich uranium above 3.67 percent, and Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said the country has passed that and may proceed further, Reuters reported.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Responding to news of Iran's failed attempt to stop the tanker, Norman Roule, a former CIA veteran and advisor to the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran, tweeted, "The international community needs to firmly & quickly stand with the UK at this moment." "Iran's people also need to understand that Tehran's actions will not be tolerated. The weak response to the mine attacks [on four tankers in June, blamed by the U.S. on Iran] may have encouraged this."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
President Trump made fresh threats to ramp up U.S. sanctions against Iran for stepping up its enrichment of uranium, tweeting that America's response "will soon be increased, substantially." His comments came as Washington began pressing members of the United Nations' atomic agency at a meeting in Vienna to take a stronger stand against Tehran after Iran recently broke two of the key conditions in the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program.
President Donald Trump accused Iran of "secretly" enriching uranium in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal he withdrew from last year, and said the U.S. would soon impose more sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Iran has long been secretly "enriching," in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!
Iran is enriching uranium to 4.5% purity, above the 3.67% limit set by its deal with major powers, the U.N. nuclear watchdog policing the deal told member states in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, diplomats familiar with the figures said. The International Atomic Energy Agency had previously said on Monday only that Iran was over the 3.67% limit, its second breach of the 2015 deal in as many weeks. An Iranian spokesman said on Monday it had passed 4.5%, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
Iran intends to preserve the nuclear deal with major powers if all parties fulfill their obligations under it, its ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear body told a German newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday. Diplomats earlier told Reuters the IAEA told member states in a closed-door meeting Iran was enriching uranium to 4.5% purity, above the 3.67% limit set by the international treaty.
The US has accused Iran of a "crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community" by violating the 2015 nuclear deal. The US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said there was no credible reason for Iran to breach two key commitments on uranium enrichment. Iran has said the steps were a response to the sanctions the US reinstated when it abandoned the deal last year. It has vowed to reverse them if it is given compensation for economic losses.
Iran has told Europe it will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits set by the 2015 nuclear accord until it achieves its "full rights" to an economic relationship with the EU under the deal. Ali Shamkhani, a senior security official and representative of Iran's supreme leader, made his remarks as he met a senior French diplomat sent to Tehran by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States admonished world powers seeking to preserve a deal with Iran on its atomic program on Wednesday not to give in to "nuclear extortion" from Tehran, which has breached the pact's limitations in recent days in an attempt to get them to provide economic incentives to offset American sanctions. The U.S. requested the special board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran announced last week that it had exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile under limitations set in the 2015 nuclear deal.
The US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, told Al Arabiya that imposed oil sanctions on Iran alone will deny the regime 50 billion dollars in revenue annually, adding that the pressure is going to continue. "The oil sanctions alone are going to deny the Iranian regime 50 billion dollars in revenue annually. We've also sanctioned the petrol chemical sector, their industrial metals, their precious metals," said Hook, adding that "pressure is going to continue. This is not sustainable for the Iranian regime."
Iran says it's prepared to return to "full implementation" of its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but only when matched by the full compliance of "all participants." Iran has recently breached the deal's limits on uranium enrichment, in an attempt to pressure European partners to find a way around sanctions imposed by the U.S. after it withdrew unilaterally from the pact last year.
At a trendy restaurant in Iran's capital, customers sip Coca-Cola through bending straws as waiters bring caddies to their tables full of Heinz ketchup and two types of Tabasco sauce. Welcome to dining in the Islamic Republic, brought to you by America. Whether at upscale restaurants or corner stores, American brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi can be seen throughout Iran despite the heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iran faces "economic terrorism" from the United States with its "sadistic" sanctions, a Tehran official said on Wednesday. Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made the comments in Vienna during an emergency meeting called by the US after Tehran breached the landmark 2015 nuclear deal this week.
Slow progress is being made to rebuild the ruined city of Mosul in northern Iraq. It is two years since the Iraqi army, with a United States-led coalition and Iran-backed Shia militias, drove ISIL fighters from the capital of their self-declared caliphate. Reconstruction efforts are not being helped by the sanctions imposed by the US on Iraq's ally Iran. UN agencies estimate it may take tens of millions of dollars and 10 years just to remove mines and explosives.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
An emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday, held at Washington's request to weigh Tehran's breach of a nuclear deal, did not produce any results for America, Iran's ambassador to the body said on Thursday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Washington used the session of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to accuse Iran of extortion after it inched past the deal's limit on enrichment levels over the past week, while still offering to hold talks with Tehran.
All Iran's nuclear activities are monitored by the U.N. atomic watchdog policing its nuclear deal with major powers, its ambassador to the watchdog said on Wednesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump said it was secretly enriching uranium. "We have nothing to hide," Kazim Gharib Abadi told reporters after an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation Board of Governors called by the United States.
The spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Abbas Mousavi says Iran has not officially received any proposal about the United States taking part in the talks between Iran and 4+1. Iranian news agency IRNA also quoted Mousavi as saying that he has heard about the "freeze against freeze" plan but did not elaborate. This is said to be a plan offered by French President Emmanuel Macron, which suggests Iran should give up the gradual suspension of its obligations under the 2015 nuclear agreement, while the U.S. lifts some of its sanctions against Tehran temporarily.
For two governments who claim they aren't talking, the United States and Iran sure seem to have a lot to say to each other these days. Both sides remain adamant that the prospects of formal negotiations are slim. And yet, officials from the two countries have exchanged a flurry of messages over social media in recent weeks. Those doing the talking include President Trump and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, as well as a variety of ministers and other officials.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The British navy intervened to stop Iran from blocking a commercial oil tanker leaving the Persian Gulf, heightening friction just as European nations scramble to salvage a landmark nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic. The BP Plc-operated British Heritage, which can carry as much as 1 million barrels of oil, was attempting to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping chokepoint at the mouth of the world's largest oil-producing region, when three Iranian vessels tried to impede it, according to a U.K. government statement. Iran denied the charge.
A British warship forced three Iranian boats to back off after they sought to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday, in the latest escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West. "Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz," the British government said. "We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
During the latest court session concerning financial corruption in Iran's banking sector, one of the accused admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to the chief of staff of one of the former speakers of the Islamic Republic parliament. According to judicial authorities, the suspect, former deputy head of Sarmayeh (Capital) Bank, Yasser Ziyaee, has admitted paying the bribe to a man identified as Darvish Nouri.
The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran says creating payment networks based on cryptocurrencies is against the law. This comes while some Iranian authorities including the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology have said "mining" bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is a legitimate activity although "miners" need to pay for the high amount of electricity they consume.
CONGRESS & IRAN
The Trump administration wants a Senate-approved agreement with Iran to replace the 2015 nuclear deal that the US president withdrew from last year, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. According to the Trump administration, one of the major flaws of the deal, which was agreed to under former President Barack Obama, was that it was not formally ratified by the US Senate.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The question of questions is, will history repeat itself, and will 2019 be a repeat of summer 2012? In the summer of 2012, Israel's highest security-diplomatic echelons became engaged in a clash of the titans on the issue of attacking the Iranian nuclear project. "The Israeli military option is still alive and kicking; it has even upgraded itself a lot in the years that have passed," a very senior Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
New US sanctions on senior Hezbollah figures on Tuesday, including two of the Shiite group's parliamentarians, signalled a further escalation in the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the nuclear deal. In Beirut, Hezbollah's demands that the state responds in solidarity with the group is set to deepen an internal political crisis undermining confidence in the country's economy and financial system. The Lebanese state has fallen increasingly under Hezbollah's influence since the assassination 14 years ago of Rafic Hariri, the late Sunni statesman with worldwide stature and father of the current prime minister, Saad Hariri.
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
The Yemeni government yesterday called on the United Nations to intervene "by all means" and prevent the Houthis from executing 30 political activists in Sanaa. In a letter sent by Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hadrami to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet and UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the official discussed "the need to intervene by all possible means to stop the Houthi militias from executing a group of civilian, activists and journalists".
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree July 1 obliging the overwhelmingly pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to fully integrate into the Iraqi armed forces. The move came amid growing concerns among Iraqi leaders that their country might turn into a battleground between Iran and the United States. Referring to the increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington, Iraqi President Barham Salih said June 26 that his country is not willing to be dragged into a new conflict in the region.
While President Donald Trump himself may be the most known among his administration for his social media attacks, it's his hawkish security chief that's leading the country's Twitter war against Iran and Venezuela. White House national security adviser John Bolton has for weeks been sparring online with leading Iranian and Venezuelan officials who have painted him as the driving force behind the Trump administration's hardline policies against them.