The U.S. took a step toward cutting Iran off from the global economy on Thursday, levying sanctions on a financing network and accusing the country’s central bank of helping funnel U.S. dollars to the blacklisted elite military unit known as the Quds Force.
The Israeli military said it struck dozens of Iran-linked military targets in Syria on Thursday in response to rocket fire, marking a significant escalation in regional hostilities a little more than a day after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Israel said the attacks followed a volley of rockets directed at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, which caused no casualties.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister told CNN on Wednesday that his country stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its atomic weapons program.
UANI IN THE NEWS
While the United States has debated the JCPOA, Iran has advanced in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere with little resistance, and prospects for war between Iran and Israel, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, have increased significantly. What Washington really needs is a new Iran policy, not just a nuclear policy—and the will to roll up its sleeves and carry it out.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Having returned from North Korea on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on talks to persuade allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to press Iran to return to negotiations over its nuclear and missile programs, U.S. officials said.
“I hope to be able to make a deal with them, a good deal, a fair deal — a good deal for them, better for them,” Trump said at a campaign rally. “But we cannot allow them to have nuclear weapons. We must be able to go to a site and check that site. We have to be able to go into their military bases to see whether or not they’re cheating.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will host a meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the Iran nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of it. The group will also then meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the European External Action Service said in a statement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Iran’s president that she supports maintaining a big-power nuclear accord, following the withdrawal of the United States, as long as Tehran upholds its side of the deal... Merkel called for talks to be held in a broader format on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities - including in Syria and Yemen, her office said in a statement. She condemned overnight attacks by Iranian forces on Israeli military positions in the Golan Heights, and called on Iran to contribute to de-escalation in the region, the statement added.
The White House wants intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear sites to continue despite President Donald Trump's withdrawal from a landmark accord on Tehran's atomic program, US officials have told AFP.
The theory behind the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was that the Iranian regime would, in the interests of its own people, trade its nuclear ambitions for economic incentives. But rather than focusing on behaving responsibly, Tehran has poured billions of dollars into military adventures abroad, spreading an arc of death and destruction across the Middle East from Yemen to Syria. Meanwhile, the Iranian people have suffered at home from a tanking currency, rising inflation, stagnant wages and a spiraling environmental crisis… [Withdrawing from the deal] reversed an ill-advised and dangerous policy and set us on a new course that will address the aggressive and hostile behavior of our enemies, while enhancing our ties with partners and allies.
Amid President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran has threatened to expand its nuclear program beyond the restraints mandated in that agreement. Assessing the potential significance of this threat requires a closer look at the technical details behind the JCPOA and the regime’s current nuclear capabilities.
Iran's bold rocket assault on Israeli forces Thursday signals an unwillingness to just take a diplomatic approach to the U.S. exit from the nuclear agreement, and it's likely to do everything it can to get around sanctions.
One of the lines Iranian diplomats and supporters like to repeat is that the Islamic Republic will not change its behavior in response to pressure. Sanctions and threats don't work, they say; engagement and mutual respect do… [But] hreatening Iran's regime has worked in the past and may be working again now.
Israelis are celebrating. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, makes America, Israel and the world much safer.
Now we have the US on one side, Iran on the other, and 5 others in between. Iran will exploit the disunity. But don't blame Trump for that. Blame the original sin
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
[R]enewed sanctions on Iran could, once again, send its economy into a downward spiral. Over the past several weeks, Iran's rial has lost 25 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, while inflation is hovering at around 8 percent. Iranians are also struggling with a severe credit crisis that has seen several banks go bankrupt. Unemployment is above 11 percent and citizens have taken to the streets to protest mismanagement and government corruption.
The U.S. decision to withdraw from a nuclear deal with Iran further hampers a tentative effort by a handful of smaller European banks to plug the Middle Eastern country back into the global financial system.
The Trump administration has decided to withhold its power to compel the U.N. Security Council to reinstate wide-ranging U.N. sanctions on Iran, including a series of measures that would ban Tehran from testing its ballistic missiles, according to senior U.S. officials. The move underscores the Trump administration’s preference for going it alone and imposing instead a range of old and new U.S. sanctions aimed at inflicting maximum economic pain on Iran and its business partners. It could also mean that while President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, he has stopped short of blowing it up altogether.
France pledged on Friday to push back against the threat of U.S. sanctions against French companies doing business with Iran, in the wake of Washington’s withdrawal from the international nuclear agreement with Tehran. The French government is seeking waivers and longer transition periods from the United States for companies such as Renault and Total, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, while pressing for European Union measures to improve the bloc’s “economic sovereignty” in the longer term.
Once bitten, twice shy—unless you’re a French car maker. Peugeot and Renault are among the few companies that have bet on Iran since the 2015 nuclear deal. Their history risks repeating itself.
Eni has recouped all outstanding payments that Iran owed the Italian oil company for past investments and has no plans for any new projects, Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi told shareholders at its annual meeting on Thursday.
The snap-back of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports may well see international shipping companies, which have carried more than half of Iran’s oil exports over the past six months, pull back from the trade, leaving the Persian Gulf country to depend much more on its own tanker fleet, writes Bloomberg oil strategist Julian Lee.
Oil prices steadied near 3-1/2 year highs on Friday as the prospect of new U.S. sanctions on Iran tightened the outlook for Middle East supply at a time when global crude production is only just keeping pace with rising demand.
Kim Jong-un tried it in North Korea, Nicholas Maduro tried it in Venezula — now Hassan Rouhani could begin experimenting with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency as the country braces for fresh, US led, Iran sanctions.
President Donald Trump's announcement that the US will leave the deal means that Washington will begin reinstating sanctions. But what will the economic impact be on Iran and its trading partners?
[T]he end of [the Iran nuclear] deal is now a fact of life for the United States… [W]hat will it mean for your business? Even if you don't do business with anyone in Iran--most U.S. companies don't--there's a good chance your company will experience some effects of the decision.
Oil markets have so far reacted to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal without either enthusiasm or panic — without even much apparent interest. There are many good reasons for this, but also many reasons to think oil markets’ complacency could change. Fortunately, the Obama-era sanctions that Trump has moved to reimpose have some lesser-known safety valves should oil markets later overheat as a result of the Iran decision.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Thursday that European nations are not supporting President Trump's decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal because of business ties to the country.
SYRIA, ISRAEL & IRAN
The White House on Thursday condemned rocket attacks that Israel says Iran launched overnight from its bases in Syria amid rapidly escalating tensions in the region. “We strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense,” the White House said in a statement. “The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”
Israel’s blistering counterattack to Iranian rocket fire at its soldiers early Thursday shows the country is determined to dislodge Tehran’s forces in Syria from its border, despite the risk of a wider Middle East war..
Iranian forces in Syria reportedly did not ask the Syrian government, or even notify Syrian leaders, before launching 20 missiles at Israel last night, [Israel’s] Channel 2 reports. The report suggests that there is some disquiet in Damascus over Iran’s policy of using Syrian soil to attack Israel. Russian leaders, too, are unhappy with Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and are not planning on using Moscow’s significant forces in Syria to limit Israel’s operations against Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had crossed a "red line" by firing rockets at Israeli forces from Syria, leading to major Israeli air strikes on Thursday in the neighbouring country.
Iran on Friday supported Syria’s right to defend itself against aggression from Israel, state TV reported, accusing others of remaining silent over the attacks on Tehran’s key regional ally.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Thursday evening that the Islamic Republic does not want "new tensions" in the Middle East, AFP reported, in his first response since the overnight flare-up between Israel and Tehran. Earlier Thursday, an Iranian official denied that Iran was behind an overnight barrage of missiles on Israel, saying it does not have military forces in Syria, despite the fact that Israel blamed Iran's Revolutionary Guard for the attack… The deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said that diplomacy will not help Iran and that resistance is the only way forward.
The United Nations is calling for a halt in hostilities in Syria to avoid "a new conflagration" in the Middle East, while Israel is demanding that the world body condemn an Iranian missile attack.
Two unprecedented attacks on Wednesday night, one by Iran and the other by Israel, shows the perennial enemies’ shadow war is coming out into the light. That threatens to turn the growing conflict into a full-blown war in the Middle East.
Britain condemns Iran’s attacks on Israel and calls on Russia to use its influence in Syria to stop any further attacks, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday, after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli army bases.
The latest clash indicates that Tehran has underestimated how far the IDF will go to prevent Iranian military entrenchment on its northeast border.
Political prisoners have long been used by governments in their political chess games; it's telling that so many of them in recent history have been held in either Iran or North Korea.
Much will be written about what the U.S. and its allies should do on the nuclear file. Iran's leaders have made vague threats, and the West must prepare for the prospect of losing visibility into the country's declared nuclear infrastructure. That said, the most urgent task now for Trump is increasing the odds of success for Iran's democracy movement.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
President Trump sent two private letters to Middle East allies in recent weeks complaining that the United States has spent too much money in the region and urging them to pick up more of the burden as part of a coalition to counter Iran’s influence, a person familiar with them said Thursday… Mr. Trump essentially enshrined this point in a letter that was sent a few weeks ago to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain...
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
In a statement, the Gaza-based terror group saying it regards “the Israeli occupation’s military attack on Syria as further proof of its acts of terrorism in the region and the threat it poses for the Middle East peace and stability.”
IRAQ & IRAN
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal has cast a shadow over an already fraught election in Iraq, where Tehran and Washington have vied for influence since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003… Whoever wins must balance Iraq’s interests - and the need to reduce the struggling economy’s dependence on oil - with those of the United States and Iran, whose intensifying rivalry makes that more difficult.