The Trump administration is giving greater priority to Iran and radical groups it backs in a new U.S. counterterrorism strategy document released on Thursday that further increases the pressure from Washington on Tehran. The strategy, unveiled by National Security Adviser John Bolton, is the first issued since 2011 when the Obama administration's view of counterterrorism was focused almost exclusively on the threat posed by al Qaeda after the death of its founder, Osama bin Laden.
Big European oil companies are spurning the EU's attempt to shield Iranian crude from US sanctions because of fears the effort would leave businesses exposed to harsh penalties from the Trump administration.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday put sanctions on a Lebanese businessman and seven companies he owns, alleging he has supported an insider with the militant group Hezbollah.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The United States and its allies routinely describe Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Despite this designation, the regime proudly supports Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Tehran funded, trained, armed and supported terror groups targeting U.S. military personnel in Iraq. But the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda deserves attention.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Thursday to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons but disagreed on how as they met to showcase cooperation between their countries.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
US prosecutors have accused a former Hong Kong official working on behalf of a Chinese conglomerate of facilitating arms transactions in Africa and the Middle East, as well as brokering business with Iran that violates US sanctions.
A sharp recovery of Iran's currency against the dollar stalled Wednesday, as some Iranians complained that they could not find dollars for the cheaper prices being reported by Iranian media.
The European Union, China and Russia, battling to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran after the United States withdrew from it in May, plan to create a system of export loans to stop US sanctions crippling trade with Iran, Handelsblatt has learned.
The mysterious Chinese oil company known as CEFC China raised eyebrows wherever it went. Its executives hinted at deep connections within Beijing's halls of power as well as with China's powerful military. Then, last year, prosecutors in the United States arrested one of its top executives, accusing him of bribery in an effort to secure oil rights in Chad and Uganda. Now, they say, he also explored businesses beyond oil: brokering arms deals in other countries and looking for ways to dodge American sanctions on Iran.
[Israeli] President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday urged visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to join the US in imposing economic sanctions on Iran to ensure global "stability." In a speech ahead of a luncheon at his official Jerusalem residence, Rivlin called on Berlin to stop looking for ways to skirt the sanctions and keep the Iran nuclear deal alive.
Big questions loom over the European Union's plan to create a money-transfer system to help Iran. Among them: Can this entity help sustain a meaningful amount of trade with Iran? Can it be safeguarded from the United States' financial sleuths? Will it require significant use by two of America's biggest adversaries, China and Russia, to really work?
As Paris freezes assets of Iranians involved in bomb plot, the Macron government is working to circumvent renewed American sanctions on Tehran
Iran wants the world to believe that the missile strikes it launched this week in eastern Syria against what it claims were terrorist targets were simply its response to last month's attack on a military parade in Ahvaz. While retaliating against those whom Tehran holds responsible for the worst terrorist attack on Iranian soil for nearly a decade was clearly a key factor, the response needs to be seen within the wider context of the growing sophistication of Iran's military arsenall, with all the implications that has for the wider security concerns of the region.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
U.S. officials have condemned Iran over a foiled bomb plot in Paris that France blames on Tehran, saying the attempt drove home why European governments need to impose more economic pressure on Tehran.
A bank in Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia sent $43,720 to the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Germany's best-selling paper Bild reported on Thursday that the bank, which was not named, sent the money in February to the US- and EU-designated terrorist entity Hamas because the country's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) did not swiftly crackdown on the transfer.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an opponent of gender equality whose establishment enforces discriminatory laws against women, has marked the one-year anniversary of the global #metoo movement by offering strict Islamic dress as a solution to the problems women face in the West.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Thursday unveiled the administration's long-awaited counterterrorism strategy, delivering it with harsh words for Iran. Calling Iran the "world's central banker of international terrorism," Bolton said the strategy will rely on traditional military action to fight terrorists, but also seek increased emphasis on non-military means to battle not only Islamic State militants but those backed by Iran and other groups.
The United States is not seeking conflict with Iran, the general overseeing America's military involvement in the Middle East said Thursday, even as some Trump administration officials have stepped up rhetoric against Tehran.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed Thursday "never" to allow the Islamic republic to bow to the demands of its enemies, at a time of increased tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The events of the past year show that the Reformist movement can no longer offer a 'pro-democracy' alternative in Iran.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The U.S. military has no orders to do anything specific to counter Iran in Syria, but its mere presence will have an indirect deterrence effect, the top U.S. commander for the region said Thursday.
Even if exposing missile sites does not convince the group to dismantle them, it would at least counter the narrative that 'resistance' is good for the Lebanese people and economy.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Western media narrative about the ongoing war in Yemen frames it as a "futile" or "disastrous" conflict. After all, Yemen has been prone to tribal and sectarian quarrels for decades, leading to insurgencies and full-blown civil wars. But the historic complexity of Yemen's politics, and its fraught relationship with Saudi Arabia, should not blind us to Iran's efforts to establish a bridgehead in the Arabian Peninsula by empowering Yemen's Houthi militia.