Eye on Iran: US Commander Says Mideast Buildup Prompted Iran 'Step Back'

TOP STORIES

US Commander Says Mideast Buildup Prompted Iran 'Step Back' | Associated Press

Iran has chosen to "step back and recalculate" after making preparations for an apparent attack against U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, but it is too early to conclude the threat is gone, the top commander of American forces in the Mideast said Thursday. In an interview with three reporters accompanying him to the Gulf, Gen. Frank McKenzie said he remains concerned by Iran's potential for aggression, and he would not rule out requesting additional U.S. forces to bolster defenses against Iranian missiles or other weapons.

Japan Intervenes In U.S.-Iran Dispute With Planned Abe Visit To Tehran | The Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is embarking on an effort to mediate the dispute between the U.S. and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, a rare international diplomatic move by a Japanese leader. Mr. Abe has built a rapport with President Trump over five rounds of golf and dozens of conversations, and he recently met Iran's foreign minister. The Japanese leader is hoping to leverage those relationships on a trip to Tehran that Japanese officials said was set for June 12 and 13.

Iran Failing As A Nation, But U.S. Could Turn That Around: Trump | Reuters

Iran is failing as a nation after Washington imposed powerful sanctions last year, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday, adding that he could turn that around very quickly in talks with the leadership in Tehran.  Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be "deceived" by Trump's offer of negotiations and would not give up its missile program. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

German FM Traveling To Iran To Salvage Nuclear Accord | Associated Press

Germany's foreign minister is traveling to Iran next week to discuss the faltering nuclear accord between Tehran and leading world powers, his office said Thursday. Heiko Maas' visit to Iran will be part of a broader trip to the Middle East starting Friday, with stops in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said. Maas plans to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Monday to discuss Tehran's role in the restive region and the 2015 nuclear accord.

Iran Rejects French Call For Wider Talks Beyond Nuclear Deal - State TV | Reuters

Iran rejected French calls for wider international talks over its nuclear and military ambitions, saying on Friday it would only discuss its existing 2015 atomic pact with world powers, state TV reported.  French President Emmanuel Macron had said a day earlier that Paris and Washington both wanted to stop Tehran getting nuclear arms and new talks should focus on curbing its ballistic missiles programme and on other issues. 

Macron, Trump Call For New Negotiations With Iran For No Nuclear Weapons | Radio Farda

U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart President Emmanuel Macron say they agree that new negotiations with Iran are needed. Following their meeting in Caen, France on Thursday June 6, Macron said that Paris and Washington share the same objectives concerning Iran. This comes while Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran, and France is one of the European trio with UK and Germany that have remained in the 2015 deal...

Iran Reacts To Macron, Accuses Europe Of Colluding With U.S. Against JCPOA | Radio Farda

Iran says European countries have failed to fulfil their obligations in the nuclear deal with Tehran, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Iranian Foreign Ministry has on Friday June 7 reacted to French President Emmanuel Macron's remarks that were made on Thursday during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS  

Exclusive: US, Iran Plan 'Oil For Goods' Deal To Ease Sanctions | Arab News

Iranian and US officials are in the early stages of negotiating an agreement to allow Tehran to sell limited quantities of oil in exchange for goods, Iraqi sources have told Arab News. Iraq will be the transit point for both the oil exports and the import of goods, according to officials in Baghdad familiar with the talks.  Washington's stated policy is for sanctions to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero, and US government sources denied to Arab News that there was a deal to permit limited sales. 

MISSILE PROGRAM

US Refutes Iranian Claim, Says Missiles Put On Small Boats Were For Covert Attacks | ABC News

Following claims by Iran about why it deployed missiles in early May that led the U.S. to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region, a U.S. defense official has provided ABC News with new details about the intelligence that drove the Trump administration's strong response. U.S. intelligence assessed that, despite Iran's contention the move was made for defensive purposes, there was no plausible reason to load the cruise missiles onto small civilian boats except to have them ready for offensive purposes...

Putin Says Iran's Nuclear And Missile Programs Are Separate Issues | Radio Farda

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Iran has fully complied with the world's atomic watchdog and its nuclear issue is separate from its missile program. Speaking with heads of foreign news agencies on June 6, Putin said, "From the standpoint of control over its nuclear programs, Iran is today the most verifiable country in the world. These are not hollow words; this is what the IAEA management has been talking about.

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM

Iran Seems To Have Never Stopped Funding Hamas Families | Al Monitor

Iran has renewed its funding for the Hamas movement through aid to the families of Palestinians killed in resistance activities, numbering 1,700 families in the Gaza Strip, who stopped receiving their monthly salaries in February because of a decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA). A limited amount of funds also went to families affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement. The Iranian Palestinian Martyrs Foundation announced May 30 that it would provide financial aid to 1,540 families in the Gaza Strip.

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Iranian Poet Once Praised By Supreme Leader Lands In IRGC Custody | Radio Free Europe

In the summer of 2010, poet Hossein Jannati was basking in the adulation of the supreme leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a self-professed poetry lover who also has the final say in politics and religion in Iran, was publicly reciting Jannati's "very fine" verses and using his powerful media team to share that poetry. But less than a decade later, 39-year-old Jannati has run afoul of Khamenei's censorship and security apparatus, reportedly charged with "spreading propaganda" against the establishment.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

Trump's Twists On Confronting Iran Confound Allies In Europe | The New York Times

President Trump and his aides have sent a dizzying, seemingly conflicting set of messages to Iran in recent weeks, ordering more troops to the Middle East and a carrier to the Arabian Sea as military  threats even while declaring that Washington is seeking new negotiations, not war. European allies, still trying to save a 2015 deal to restrain Iran's nuclear program that Mr. Trump abandoned a year ago, are trying to make sense of the administration's strategy.

Trump Has Already Proved Team Obama Was Completely Wrong About Iran | David Harsanyi For New York Post

For years, the liberal foreign policy establishment presented Americans with a false choice on Iran: surrender or war. President Trump has proved that binary to be a fantasy, squeezing and deterring the Iranians without full-on confrontation. "When I became president, Iran was a true state of terror," Trump said in France this week. Now, "they are failing as a nation."

France, U.S. Share Common Objective On Iran, Says Macron | Reuters

France and the United States share the common objective of preventing Iran obtaining nuclear arms and new international negotiations need to be opened for that goal to be met, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday.  Accusing Tehran of "championing terrorism" across the Middle East, President Donald Trump said Iran was failing as a nation following tough U.S. sanctions, but that he was ready to talk to the Iranians. 

Top US Commander: Iran Threat Remains 'Imminent' | The Hill

The top commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East said Thursday the threat from Iran remains "imminent," even as he said U.S. deployments to the region caused Iran to "step back and recalculate." "It is my assessment that this has caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I'm not sure they are strategically backing down," U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters in Baghdad, according to The Associated Press. 

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

State News Reports Iran's Education Minister Has Resigned | Associated Press

The state-run IRNA news agency is reporting that Iran's minister of education has resigned to run for a seat in parliament in February 2020. IRNA said Thursday that President Hassan Rouhani approved Mohammad Bathaei's resignation. Earlier, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that Bathaei handed in his resignation to the president at a Cabinet meeting.

Should Iranian Guild Associations Be Brought Closer Together? | Al Monitor 

May 1 is recognized by many governments across the world - including Iran - as International Workers' Day and is celebrated in various forms. In Iran, May 2 is Teachers' Day. Therefore, the beginning of May is of great importance for two large groups of Iranian wage earners. Following previous trends, this year witnessed demonstrations, both by teachers and by workers. However, the makeup of the participants in these demonstrations has subtly changed in recent years. 

Iran's Bottlenecks Remain Unresolved After 30 Years Of Khamenei Rule | Reza Haqiqatnezhad For Radio Farda

On June 4, 1988, in a highly dubious situation, Khamenei was appointed as the absolute strongman of the nine-year-old clergy-dominated Islamic Republic of Iran. During a closed session of the body in charge of picking the successor to the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Assembly of Experts (AE), voted for Khamenei to take the helm.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN

Iran Says Mossad 'Fabricating Intelligence' On Oil Tanker Attacks | Al Monitor

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned the June 6 meeting between the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Saudi Arabia, Norway and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), regarding the attacks on three ships in the Persian Gulf off the coast of the UAE. The UAE, Norway and Saudi Arabia, whose oil tankers were slightly damaged in the May 12 attacks off the port of Fujairah, will present their findings to the UNSC.

Iran Infiltrates Syrian Society | Asharq Al-Awsat

There have been growing signs that Iran has infiltrated Syrian society in the country's south and northeast as Russia has continued to expand its influence in Syria's state institutions. Syrian opposition sources in Turkey revealed on Thursday that recent changes in the Syrian security and army apparatuses were the result of Moscow's attempts to increase its influence within the two institutions.

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN

U.A.E. Stops Short Of Directly Accusing Iran Over Attacks On Ships | The Wall Street Journal

The United Arab Emirates said Thursday that special forces from a hostile nation likely carried out coordinated attacks last month on four ships near the Strait of Hormuz, but stopped short of directly accusing Iran. In a closed-door briefing to members of the United Nations Security Council, Emirati officials presented their preliminary conclusions that small boats dropped divers in the waters near a busy U.A.E. port and that the divers then placed limpet mines on the hulls of the four ships.

Qatar Activates Ties With Iran | Asharq Al-Awsat

Qatar seeks to confirm its position towards Iran by exploiting current circumstances. The discrepancy in the news published by the two countries' official agencies remains, indicating Doha's unwillingness to publicly demonstrate its position on Iran in light of the international escalation against the republic. Qatar fears this escalation would affect it in case it expresses its position on Iran, especially after the re-imposition of US sanctions on Tehran, the Warsaw Conference...

Houthis Kill Imam, 9 Worshippers For Following Saudi Eid Al-Fitr Moon Sighting | Al Arabiya

An imam and nine worshippers were killed following Houthi militia attacks on a number of mosques for celebrating Eid al-Fitr on Tuesday, after Saudi Arabia announced the sighting of the Shawwal crescent, Yemen's information minister Moammar al-Eryani and local media reported. According to al-Eryani, the militias stormed mosques during Eid prayer in Houthi-controlled areas, including Sanaa and Dhamar.

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS    

Pakistan Releases Detained Iranian Sailors | Radio Farda

Mehr news agency in Iran reported on Thursday June 6 that Pakistan has released 6 Iranian sailors who were detained in Pakistan. The agency reported that the sailors have returned to Iran. The sailors were arrested on the charges of illegal entry into Pakistan's waters. However, they claim they were in international waters when they were arrested.

CYBERWARFARE

FireEye Uncovers Suspicious Online Activity Resembling Iranian Influence Operations | CNBC 

Dozens of social media accounts displaying suspicious behavior have been uncovered in a new report that sees pro-Iranian messaging promoted by profiles impersonating real people, as well as journalists and activists who don't seem to exist. The accounts, which promoted often aggressive messages and hashtags in support of the Iranian government, have also taken on the personas of Republican members of congress and ordinary Americans, according to the latest investigative report from California-based cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Russia And Iran Plan To Fundamentally Isolate The Internet | Wired

For years, countries have spoken in vague terms about creating domestic internets that could be isolated from the world at will. Now we're seeing some begin to execute that vision. Last month Iran announced that its "national information network"-essentially a domestic internet-is 80 percent complete. Earlier this year, Russia launched a major initiative to build a domestic Russian internet, purportedly to defend against cybersecurity threats-though also a likely expansion on the Kremlin's desire to control the flow of information within its borders.