The United States officially designated Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, according to a notice published in the U.S. Federal Register on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump said last week he would make the symbolic but unprecedented move, which immediately was condemned by Iran and created concerns about reprisal attacks on U.S. forces. The IRGC is in charge of Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear programs. It also is involved with the country's banking and shipping industries.
The Trump administration has reached a critical juncture in its efforts to tighten United States oil sanctions against Iran and Venezuela. By pressuring China and India to end or sharply reduce oil purchases from Iran and Venezuela, American officials are seeking to cut off a key economic lifeline for what the administration considers to be two rogue nations that threaten the stability of the Middle East and Latin America.
U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton says he is going to discuss Iran in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart soon. Bolton wrote on his Twitter on Sunday that he was "Looking forward to meeting with Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat tomorrow. We have much to discuss, including our shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity and other destabilizing actors in the Middle East and around the world."
UANI IN THE NEWS
Last week, the US announced that it will designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation. Noting that the IRGC "actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft," the White House has signalled it is now going to take a tougher stance on Iran's use of proxies abroad. This move met mixed reactions from certain quarters, both in the US and internationally. Critics of the move fear that it may invite violent reprisals against troops stationed in the Middle East. Iran has already retaliated by designating US troops in the region as terrorists. In addition, there are fears that it may complicate pursuing diplomatic options with the Iranian regime in the future.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a "reminder" Monday to European powers that Tehran is allowed to enrich uranium under its nuclear deal after a senior French diplomat claimed otherwise. "There is no prohibition on the enrichment of uranium by Iran," Zarif tweeted. His comments were addressed to France, Germany, and Britain who signed up to the landmark 2015 accord with Tehran under which uranium enrichment is curtailed but not banned.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Trump administration consistently admonishes our European allies for their cooperation with the Iranian regime. So the recent rhetorical flare-ups between Tehran and Brussels should come as a welcome surprise, although they have little to do with U.S. policy. While Europe shows no signs of abandoning dialogue with the Islamic Republic as Washington has, tensions are mounting. Europe, however, has economic leverage over Iran and seems prepared to use it as a means of reining in bad Iranian behavior.
South Korea's imports of Iranian crude last month reached 1.2 million tons, or 8.8 million barrels which was a 23-percent increase on February and a fivefold increase in January, when Korean refiners resumed their purchases of Iranian crude. Reuters reports the daily intake rate for March was a bit above 280,000 barrels, which on an annual basis represents a 12-percent decline. This is understandable as this time last year the U.S. and not yet reinstated sanctions against Tehran and everyone was buying its oil without concern.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
China, Iran and Russia have defended their support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as the U.S. criticizes them for backing the socialist leader it is trying to oust. During an interview Saturday with Voice of America Spanish, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once again asserted that "all options [are] on the table" in ensuring the departure of Maduro, whose country has faced a historic economic crisis exacerbated by U.S. sanctions and is experiencing a political challenge by National Assembly President Juan Guaidó.
Abbas Mousavi, the new spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry has characterized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's remarks about Iran's interventions in Latin America as "laughable". According to the Iranian State TV's news agency, Mousavi accused the United States of "obvious and unilateral" intervention in the domestic affairs of Venezuela.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The devastating floods that have swamped many parts of Iran since March have left two million people in need of humanitarian aid, the Red Crescent said Monday. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called the floods the "largest disaster to hit Iran in more than 15 years." According to the IFRC, the floods have killed at least 78 people and injured more than 1,000 others.
Poor crisis management in the aftermath of the recent floods in Iran has highlighted the weaknesses of management in the country. In fact, deficiencies have become apparent on all levels - whether it's crisis prevention and management, or lack of coordination and clarity of responsibilities among various state organs. But before discussing some of the shortcomings, it is important to underline that the extent of the recent floods would have been difficult to manage for most countries in the world - and that disaster-related damages would have indeed been inevitable.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Normalizing relations with Israel breaks with the Koran and Islamic faith, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday. The Iranian regime is avowedly committed to Israel's destruction, and trains and arms terror groups in Lebanon and Gaza with that declared goal. Israel says it is seeking a nuclear weapons arsenal in order to annihilate the Jewish state.
Plans to link the railway networks of Iran, Iraq and Syria have been revealed by a source at the Syrian Ministry of Transport. "Now, the countries are working on the resumption of the project connecting the railways of Syria, Iran and Iraq," the source told Al-Watan newspaper yesterday. "[They] are determining the date of the meeting between the representatives of the countries to develop the points of view."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
The Arab coalition on Monday said it had shot down 11 drones launched by the Iranian-backed Houthis targeting Seiyun and that Saada and Amran governorates were still being used by the militia as storage areas for ballistic missiles. Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki told a news conference in Riyadh that the coalition was committed to preventing the delivery of sophisticated weapons to the Houthis and it was taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and vital locations against the threat of drone attacks.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran's ambassador to Iraq confirmed on April 12 that hundreds of members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) entered Iran to help with flood relief. According to Ambassador Iraj Masjedi, the PMU, which was formed in response to a 2014 religious edict issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to defend Iraq against the Islamic State, entered the provinces of Khuzestan and Lorestan after acquiring visas through Iran's embassy and consulate.
Iraq Struggles To Distance Itself From US-Iran Tensions | Al Monitor
Iraq is trying hard to dissociate itself from the rising hostilities between Iran and the United States, as it hopes to preserve its national interests without aligning with either axis in the conflict. Following his recent visit to Iran, Iraqi Prime Minster Adel Abdul Mahdi announced April 9 that he will soon visit Saudi Arabia to sign economic and security agreements, as Iraq has done with Jordan and Iran.