The Trump administration on Tuesday targeted Iran-backed Hezbollah with fresh terrorism-related sanctions, as the U.S. moves to keep up pressure on Tehran and its tools of foreign-policy abroad despite resistance from European allies. The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four men it says lead Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq. In a separate but coordinated action, the State Department added Jawad Nasrallah, the son of the group’s leader, and the al-Mujahidin Brigades, a militia with alleged links to Hezbollah, to its list of individuals and groups designated as terrorists.
Austria has rejected hosting a special payment system designed to help EU countries trade with Iran despite US sanctions, the Austrian foreign ministry said Tuesday. "We were asked if Austria would be prepared in principle to host this special purpose vehicle," foreign ministry spokesman Peter Guschelbauer said. But after studying the idea "very closely", the Austrian government "came to the conclusion that at the moment we are not in a position to host this vehicle," Guschelbauer told the Austrian APA agency.
At this year’s Baghdad International Fair, Iranian businessmen displayed thick, colorful Persian rugs to impressed onlookers while others showcased the latest in Iranian manufacturing in power generators and industrial tools. For Iranian companies, the annual Baghdad International Fair is a major event, as exporters in carpets, foodstuffs and heavy equipment look to score sales in Iraq’s import-dependent economy.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has chosen the wrong path in reimposing sanctions on Iran and will be defeated, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency. Washington reinstated sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry on Nov. 5 as it seeks to force the Islamic Republic to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear program, halt its development of ballistic missiles as well as its support for proxy forces in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Houshang Shahbazi saved the lives of more than 100 passengers and crew in 2012 when he successfully landed a 747 commercial airplane with a disabled wheel carriage. As emergency workers at Tehran's international airport prepared for the worst, Shahbazi delicately brought an Iran Air flight to a halt using only landing gear under the wings.
Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday. Baghdad is now seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq’s ministerial energy committee. “The American deadline of 45 days to stop importing Iranian gas is not enough at all for Iraq to find an alternative source,” the first official said.
OPEC and Russian crude production continued to climb in October, more than offsetting losses from Iran where U.S. sanctions have curbed output, the oil cartel said on Tuesday. Crude production from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose by 127,000 barrels a day in October, to average 32.9 million barrels a day, the group said in its monthly report.
Turkey is in close cooperation with the United States, the European Union and other parties to reduce the negative impact of U.S. sanctions on its relations with Iran, the text of a speech by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu showed on Wednesday. Cavusoglu was speaking to a parliamentary committee in Ankara on Wednesday.
The United States has entered a new phase in its containment strategy against Iran by re-imposing all sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Tehran is continuing to abide by its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), thereby securing the economic support of China and Europe and defining a more prominent role for the government in the country’s economy. President Hassan Rouhani’s recent cabinet reforms can be viewed as an important step in this regard.
The tough economic sanctions imposed recently on Iran by the United States has sent different messages to the Iranian society and the ruling regime. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted in regard to the punitive measures on Iran: Secretary Pompeo’s remarks signal the end of four decades of policy appeasement toward Iran. This reality, along with a willingness by the United States to shift to maximum pressure, has put the theocracy in a political and economic impasse, which will restrict regime’s capacity to continue its destructive behavior across the Middle East.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran has executed a currency trader known as the "Sultan of Coins" for his amassing of gold coins. Vahid Mazloumin and another member of his currency trading network received the death penalty for "spreading corruption on earth". According to the Iranian Students' News Agency, Mr Mazloumin and associates had hoarded about two tonnes of gold coins. Demand for gold coins and US dollars in Iran has soared as the country's currency has declined in value.
Amnesty International is calling on Iran to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority being held incommunicado after reports suggested some have been executed in secret. Unconfirmed reports on Sunday suggested that Iran may have executed more than 22 people, accusing them of being behind the ISIS-claimed attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahwaz last October.
Forty civil society organizations, including Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the New York based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) have signed a letter deploring violation of human rights by the Islamic Republic in Iran and urging UN member states to support human rights efforts in the country. Meanwhile they have called upon UN General Assembly to support Canada’s resolution on human rights in Iran that is scheduled to be presented to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on November 14, 2018.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at Newsweek on Monday over a magazine article that he said suggested that the U.S. was preparing to sanction food being imported into Iran. In a tweet, Pompeo accused the magazine of "helping" Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spread "lies" about the U.S. after Zarif tweeted a screenshot of the article and accused Pompeo of threatening to starve Iranians.
The U.S. envoy for hostage affairs Tuesday called on Iran and Russia to use their influence in Syria to help free Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist who was taken captive there six years ago. Robert C. O’Brien, the point man trying to secure the release of about 20 Americans held unjustly around the world, said some countries are being “very helpful” in trying to get Tice freed. Asked which countries were not being helpful, he replied: “The Iranians are not helpful. And they’re heavily involved in Syria.”
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Has the CIA lost their tradecraft mojo? Could the same agency that invented the forerunner to the modern devices like the Blackberry and iPhone lose dozens of spies in multiple countries from 2009-2013 through something as simple as a Google search? The terrifying answer is yes. It would be far easier to understand the devastating losses if it had truly been something you could have found in a movie – some fabulous invention dreamed up by a brilliant criminal mastermind seeking to defeat his James Bond. But it wasn’t.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran executed two men accused of economic crimes on Wednesday, part of an effort to stem financial misconduct as the country faces an economic crisis and new U.S. sanctions targeting its oil sector. One of the two executed men was Vahid Mazloumin, dubbed the “sultan of coins” by media, a trader accused of manipulating the currency market, according to Mizan, the news site of the Iranian judiciary.
Sarpol-e Zahab was the city hardest hit by a devastating earthquake that rocked most of Iran's western Kermanshah province Nov. 12, 2017, killing over 600 people. It is also where children still play a game where they simulate the quake by making the horrible sounds and frightening each other in the rubble — an indication of just how entangled the disaster has become with the lives of traumatized survivors Media reports on the ground show that the misery is far from over and a complete return to normal life remains a dream to come true.
Dozens of “dollar traders" have been arrested in the Iranian capital, Tehran, announced Tehran Police Chief Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi, amid fears of a deepening Iranian currency crisis, a week after the US renewed its sanctions on Iranian oil. "Over the past few days, 130 dollar brokers have been arrested and taken to jail," he announced. The Tasnim news agency quoted Rahimi as saying that selling US dollars in the streets or the market is a crime and the police will fight it.
Recent statements by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif about the spread of money laundering in his country stirred a wave of angry reactions among opponents to Iran’s plans to join money laundering and counter-terrorism financing agreements. Zarif had pointed out in controversial statements on Monday that many were benefitting from money laundering in the country, less than a week after the guardian council refused to pass a government law adopted by parliament on combating the financing of terrorism. The Iranian government is trying to pass domestic laws enabling it to join the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday blamed the Iran-backed Hezbollah for what he called a “big obstacle” in efforts to form a new government, indicating there could be no solution if it did not back down.
A crime ring with links to Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah accused of trafficking cocaine for a Colombian drug cartel and laundering the profits to buy weapons in Syria for the group is to go on trial in Paris on Tuesday. The main agent accused of being the cell’s ringleader as a middleman for Hezbollah is Mohamad Noureddine, a 44-year-old Lebanese businessman with interests in real estate and jewellery arrested after an international investigation that took in seven countries, including France, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday designated Jawad Nasrallah, son of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a terrorist and accused him of carrying out attacks against Israel in the West Bank. The department also blacklisted Al-Mujahidin Brigades (AMB), which it said had links to Hezbollah and had plotted a number of attacks against Israeli targets from a base in the Palestinian Territories. “Today’s designations seek to deny Nasrallah and AMB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the State Department said in a statement.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemeni Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafayen accused on Tuesday Iranian ships of harassing and threatening fishermen in the Yemeni waters in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. The international community must assume its responsibilities in halting the Iranian violations and its meddling in Yemeni affairs, he said while overseeing the delivery of 100 fishing boats in the Shabwa region. He listed the violations committed by the Iran-backed Houthis against Yemeni fishermen, such as kidnappings and preventing them from carrying out their jobs.
Iran is prepared to help Qatar host the soccer World Cup in 2022, and is offering to provide extra training space or even put whole islands at its disposal, Iranian Sport Minister Masud Soltanifar has said. "We can assist with training facilities before the World Cup, especially with areas that provide similar climates to that of Qatar," he said in an interview on state TV on November 13. Qatari officials said they are considering Iran's offer.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iranian authorities have seized more than six tonnes of heroin destined for Europe and dismantled five international gangs who were trafficking the drugs, state media reported on Tuesday. European nationals were among 11 members of one of the main gangs who were arrested, Iran’s intelligence ministry said. A ministry statement carried on state news agency IRNA did not specify the nationality of the detainees or the date of the operations.
Iran has been told it could face suspension from the Asian Cup in January over a law interfering in the national soccer federation’s independence. The Asian Football Confederation says it is “closely monitoring the current issues” with its top-ranked team, and will not tolerate “third-party interference in their member associations.” The Malaysia-based AFC says Iran’s parliament announced a law “designating the (soccer federation) as a non-government public body and prohibiting the engagement of retired personnel.”
The Asian Football Confederation has warned Iran they could face sanctions ahead of January's Asian Cup over government interference in their national football association. It follows the Iranian parliament passing a law barring the employment of retirees in government, state or public institutions which use state funds or facilities. Local media reported that the law applied to the current president of the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) Mahdi Taj and a number of other board members.