U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed the Security Council on Thursday for failing to take any action against Iran, which she said had "repeatedly and deliberately violated" sanctions imposed by the body. "The Security Council has failed to even take minimal steps to respond to these violations," Haley told a council briefing on Iran. "We must ... show Iran that we will not tolerate their egregious flaunting of U.N. resolutions." Most U.N. sanctions were lifted 18 months ago under a deal Iran made with key world powers to curb its nuclear program. But Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement. U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman briefed the council on Thursday on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' third six-monthly report on the implementation of the remaining sanctions and restrictions, enshrined in resolution 2231.
U.N. and European Union diplomats pushed back against U.S. criticism of Iran and declared Tehran to be in full compliance with its nuclear agreement in a Security Council meeting on Thursday. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised Iran for its “full and effective” compliance in his third biannual report on the implementation of the nuclear deal, which was signed by Tehran and world powers in July 2015. The report raised concerns about Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles but noted the Security Council couldn’t agree on whether this was a violation of a U.N. resolution known as 2231 because the text “called on” Iran rather than “demanded” it cease ballistic missile activities.
A jury in New York on Thursday found that the U.S. government may seize a Manhattan office building from a nonprofit foundation accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The jury in a Manhattan federal court said the Alavi Foundation, majority owner of an office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue, knew that its partner and the building's minority owner, Assa Corp, was a front for Iran, and helped conceal the fact. Jurors said the government had proven that the property was involved in or traceable to money laundering. The government wanted to seize the 36-story building, which could be worth nearly $1 billion, to benefit people with legal judgments against Iran relating to bombings and other attacks. "In this trial, 650 Fifth Avenue’s secret was laid bare for all to see," said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan, whose office represented the government. "On behalf of all of our clients, we are extremely pleased with the decision and the verdict handed down today," said James Bernard, a lawyer for the judgment holders.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Iran’s Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani has slammed the US president’s “empty rhetoric” against the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, noting that the idea of scrapping the deal is not in Washington’s interest. Speaking at a Thursday press conference in the South Korean capital city of Seoul, Larijani said, “The nuclear deal is an international agreement. Iran has agreed with the P5+1 (group of world powers) at the international level and [the deal] has been passed by the [UN] Security Council.” During his presidential campaign, US President Donald Trump had promised to ditch the nuclear accord which he referred to as a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
The speaker of Iran's Parliament has expressed disbelief at the Trump administration's travel ban for citizens from six countries, including Iran, saying his country has led the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. The new US policy will ban all arrivals from Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days, if the new arrivals have no relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Ali Larijani is one of the first Iranian officials to speak about the "watered-down" version of US President Donald Trump's travel ban, which is scheduled to take effect at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday after a ruling by the US Supreme Court. "At the time when Iraq was being overrun by Daesh, by ISIS, did the United States make the slightest move in defense of it? Or was it the Iranian nation that rendered aid to the Iraqi nation and Iraq government?" Larijani told CNN in an exclusive interview.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi criticized a recent report by the US State Department on Tehran’s role in human trafficking, saying that unilateral policies implemented by Washington and its allies have contributed to the spread of this phenomenon. “The root causes of human trafficking lie in unilateral, interventionist and aggressive policies as well as the wars of attrition, terrorism and ethnic cleansing in which the military and security forces of America and some of its allies are involved,” a statement published by Iran’s foreign ministry quoted Qassemi as saying on Wednesday. The US State Department released on Tuesday its annual report on global human trafficking, which said that the Iranian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”
Reacting to a recent human trafficking report by the U.S., Iran said on Wednesday that Washington and its allies are the “root causes” of the phenomenon. “The root causes of human trafficking lie in unilateral, interventionist and aggressive policies as well as the wars of attrition, terrorism and ethnic cleansing in which the military and security forces of America and some of its allies are involved,” a note carried on the official website of Iran’s foreign ministry quoted spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying on Wednesday. The comments follow a report evaluating the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on June Tuesday. The report places Iran, alongside with China, Russia, North Korea and Syria among others, on “Tier 3”, which the report says are “The governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s (the Trafficking Victims Protection Act) minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”
The Senate on Thursday fixed a popular measure that would slap economic sanctions on Russia and Iran, yet a long-awaited House vote won’t come until after Donald Trump meets for the first time as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the necessary repairs have been made to the legislation, a step the Senate approved by voice vote, and the next move is the House’s to make. “We’ve done what we need to do,” Corker said. “The ball’s in their court.” The technical changes that had stalled the bill in the House came as Republicans dismissed Democratic complaints that the delay was at the behest of the Trump administration and intended to weaken the legislation. Tempers flared among lawmakers over the lull, with each side blaming the other as lawmakers were poised to leave Washington for their weeklong July 4th recess.
Iran's crude oil exports in July are set to fall 7 percent from this month's three-month high, mainly due to a decline in exports to Europe, a person with knowledge of the Middle Eastern country's tanker loading schedule said. The OPEC member has been raising oil production to recoup market share lost under Western sanctions to regional rivals such as Saudi Arabia. Its exports last year also showed a similar decline in July before recovering sharply from August. Overall oil output was hovering at more than 3.9 million barrels per day (bpd) and is expected to reach 4 million bpd by March 2018, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said this month. Crude oil loadings from Iranian ports, excluding condensate from gas fields, will total 1.93 million bpd next month, with 2 million barrels of them being put into storage on tankers, according to the source.
In the space of 18 months, Iran has set about what amounts to a complete overhaul of its aviation sector. Since most international sanctions were lifted on the country in January 2016, its airlines have placed orders for more than 300 new aircraft and options for a further 50 planes. To put that in context, these orders are twice as large as the entire fleet of planes currently being flown by the country’s 17 commercial airlines.
Telepizza, the largest non-U.S.-based pizza delivery company in the world by number of stores, today announces further expansion, with the opening of its first Iranian store in Marzdaran Boulevar, Theran, and a further two stores set to open by the end of the month. Telepizza signed a masterfranchise agreement with Momenin Investment Group last year; MIG will be investing €100 million in the next ten years. The Theran store opening marks the start of the latest phase of Telepizza's ambitious global expansion plans, becoming the first International QSR brand to enter the Iranian market and with 1,421 stores globally. Telepizza plans to build on this successful first launch with a further seven stores due to open in Theran by the end of 2017 and 200 stores across Iran planned in the next 10 years.
Iran's state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was "definitely dead". "Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead," IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative to the Quds Force, as saying, without elaborating. IRNA later updated the news item, omitting the quote on Baghdadi's death. The Quds Force is in charge of operations outside Iran's borders by the country's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report of Baghdadi's death. The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, after his fighters seized large areas of northern Iraq. Russia said on June 17 its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria. Washington said on Thursday it had no information to corroborate such reports. Iraqi officials have also been skeptical in recent weeks.
Iranian state TV said on Thursday seven Iranian fishermen detained by Saudi Arabia's coastguard over a year ago had been returned to the country amid heightened tension between the regional rivals. "Seven Iranian fishermen who were arrested by Saudi Arabia' border security guards over a year ago have been returned to the country," state television reported without elaborating. The circumstances of the fishermen being detained were not clear. Saudi authorities could not immediately be reached for comment and the release was not mentioned in the Saudi media. Iran's Foreign Ministry declined to comment beyond confirming the release. Shi'ite dominated Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia accuse each other of fomenting tension in the Middle East, where the two arch rivals back opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
In response to a new US administration that has stated its goal to work toward regime change in Tehran, Iran’s parliament has introduced new legislation to increase the country’s military budget by $540 million. Iran’s parliament seeks to increase the military budget for the IRGC in response to the new policies of the Trump administration. Iranian parliamentarian Kazem Jalali, the president of the Majlis Research Center, said June 28 that the proposed bill is primarily in response to “America’s aggressive behavior in the region and its hostile policies against Iran.” According to Jalali, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) would be given approximately half of this additional budget for its missile program. The Quds Force, which is responsible for operations outside of Iran’s borders and operates under the IRGC, would receive the other half. Iran’s overall military budget is approximately $14 billion. Approximately half of that budget is allocated to the IRGC. Various estimates have put the IRGC’s overall budget from $7 billion to $8 billion, depending on how the total nonbudgetary income is added.
In its latest plenary meeting June 23, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) extended a temporary suspension of countermeasures against Iran for another year. The FATF, however, stated on its website that it will keep monitoring progress in the implementation of its action plan in Iran’s banking system. While President Hassan Rouhani's administration had sought a permanent lifting of the group’s sanctions, pro-Reform media still hailed the decision as a positive signal to foreign investors observing Iran’s developments. While hailed by pro-Reform media outlets, the FATF’s decision to extend its temporary suspension of countermeasures on Iran has provided ammunition for hard-liners in Tehran. The intergovernmental body, comprised of 35 member jurisdictions and two regional organizations, avoided coupling Iran with North Korea on its so-called blacklist. But it could have helped Iranian moderates push back hard-liners at home had it met a stronger commitment to the spirit of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), critics argue in Tehran.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack. American pilots have struck forces threatening our allies and shot down a Syrian plane and Iranian-made drones. The probability of direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia has risen. Yet the coverage of these incidents and the tactical responses that have been suggested obscure the broader story: The slow-moving campaign against Islamic State is finally nearing its conclusion—yet major, long-range strategic issues remain unresolved…Start with Iran. Tehran is trying to cement an arc of control from its own territory, through Baghdad-controlled Iraq and Mr. Assad’s Syria, to Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon. This would set the stage for the region’s next potential conflict: Iran’s Shiite coalition versus a Saudi-led Sunni alliance. The U.S.-led coalition, enhanced as suggested above, needs to thwart Iran’s ambitions as ISIS falls.
War and poverty have scattered Afghans across the globe like pieces of shrapnel. Millions of Afghans came of age in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran or as workers in the Persian Gulf nations. The migration continues. The past few years have added a new lethal geography to the Afghan tragedy: the battlefields of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria. Two years ago, Abdol Amin, 19, left his home in the Foladi Valley in Bamyan, one of Afghanistan’s poorest provinces, to find work in Iran. Two million undocumented Afghans and a million Afghans with refugee status already lived in Iran. His sister and brother-in-law lived in Isfahan. He hoped to improve on his life of subsistence farming in impoverished Bamyan. Two-thirds of the population in Bamyan Province lives on less than $25 a month. The intense poverty and the absence of opportunity forces thousands of young Afghans from Bamyan to travel illegally to Iran in search of work. Many, like Mr. Amin, end up fighting other’s people’s wars.