The United States said on Tuesday that Iran's work with advanced centrifuges is a breach of the nuclear deal Washington has already pulled out of, expressing its concern while repeating that it is open to holding talks with Tehran. In a statement to a quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors, the United States also said Tehran's acceleration of uranium enrichment would not lead to Washington backing down in its policy of trying to isolate Iran.
For the nearly four years Nizar Zakka was held prisoner in Iran, an ordeal that lasted until he was released this week, the knowledge that he was little more than a political pawn made a bad situation almost unbearable. "It's just trading of human beings - they just trade us," Mr. Zakka, a Lebanese citizen who had lived in the United States for much of his life, and who arrived in Beirut from Tehran on Tuesday, said in an interview after his release.
Iran has been racing to step up exports of petrochemicals and tap new markets to compensate for sliding oil sales, Iranian and international industry sources said, but now risks losing that crucial revenue as Washington tightens the screw on sanctions. Tehran has been selling increased volumes of petrochemical products at below market rates, in countries including Brazil, China and India, since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November, according to the six sources who include two senior Iranian government officials.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran will ask Japan to mediate between Tehran and Washington to ease oil sanctions imposed by the United States, Iranian officials said ahead of a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe, the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, arrives in Tehran as brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States stokes fear of another military conflict in the crisis-ridden Middle East.
Iran has set July prices for crude oil it sells to its Asian term customers at the largest discounts in more than a decade against similar Saudi grades after the United States cut off legitimate channels to buy Iranian oil. The National Iranian Oil Company discounted prices for three crude grades against similar Saudi oil for a second straight month as pressure builds for it to find buyers for its output.
A New Jersey woman has pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to illegally smuggle aircraft parts to Iran. Joyce Eliabachus faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to helping smuggle more than $2 million in components. An alleged co-conspirator, Iranian resident Peyman Amiri Larijani, faces conspiracy and money laundering charges. The U.S. attorney's office in Newark says the pair used a company run out of Eliabachus's Morristown home to ship parts through Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to Iran.
Iran has announced a new anti-aircraft missile system. But is it new, or a knockoff of a foreign weapon? The new surface-to-air missile is called the Khordad 15. Iran's Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said at the unveiling ceremony that the system is "capable of detecting fighter jets and combat drones from 150 kilometers [93 miles] away and of tracking them within a range of 120 kilometers [75 miles]," according to Iranian state media.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran released a Lebanese national it detained nearly four years ago on charges of spying for the U.S., amid attempts by foreign powers to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington in the Middle East. Nizar Zakka, a technology expert and free-speech advocate who lived in the U.S. after fleeing the Lebanese civil war as a teenager, was handed over to Lebanese officials on Tuesday, said authorities in both countries.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday cited "moral principles" when asked why Iran executes homosexuals for their sexual orientation, as he also attacked the US and Israel for "violating human rights." At a press conference in the Iranian capital with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, Zarif was asked by Bild reporter Paul Ronzheimer about the death penalty for gay people in the Middle Eastern country.
The US on Wednesday accused Iran of violating fundamental human rights after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif endorsed the execution of gay people. Sarif defended his country's draconian policies at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Tehran on Monday. A reporter from German tabloid Bild asked: "Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?"
Iranian social media users are threatening to boycott their country's popular taxi app Snapp after the company apologised to a woman who had been ordered out of one of their driver's cars for failing to wear the compulsory Islamic headscarf, or hijab. The passenger posted a picture on Twitter of the driver who ordered her out of his cab. "This is the driver who dropped me off his car in the middle of a motorway [in the capital Tehran]," she wrote on 6 June.
Public floggings, economic disempowerment, social stigmatization: These are daily reminders to the women of my country, Iran, that in the eyes of their government they are lesser. Every day, this reality is reinforced by untold abuses, restrictions, and insults - perhaps none of which is more appalling than the travesty of girls, as young as nine, who are forced to marry men decades their senior. When I hear of these sickening acts, I can't help but think of my little sister, Farah.
Iran's government is urging its citizens to use text messages to report on their neighbors or on strangers if they believe they are guilty of violating the country's public code of conduct. The country's judiciary has set up a text messaging system that will allow people to report on others for doing things like removing their Islamic headscarf, throwing co-ed parties, drinking alcohol, or even posting messages on social media that are considered inappropriate.
He's the founder of a globe-trotting hunting club that caters to millionaires and billionaires who like to shoot rare and exotic animals in far-flung countries. Robert Kern, the president of the Hunting Consortium, has taken down exotic animals from a helicopter in Russia's Far East and seen one consultant to his group entangled in global outrage over an endangered rhino hunt. Now, court documents show that federal prosecutors launched an investigation into Kern and his group over an ill-fated hunting trip in Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States on Tuesday applauded the release of Lebanese detainee Nizar Zakka, who has U.S. residency, by Iran as a "great day" for him and his family and said it hoped the move was a positive sign for Americans detained by Tehran. "It is without a doubt a great day for Mr. Zakka, his family, and all those who have supported him during his unlawful imprisonment," a State Department spokeswoman said. "We hope that Mr. Zakka's release is a positive sign for American detainees in Iran," she said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Tehran represents the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran as the country appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers that America earlier abandoned. But while Abe's trip to Iran marks the first visit of a sitting Japanese premier in the 40 years since the Islamic Revolution, it remains unclear if he'll end up going home with any success.
The Donald Trump administration OK'd sending a bevy of fresh troops and weapons to the Middle East after receiving intelligence that signaled Iranian plans for a "campaign" against American forces, a top international policy official said today. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger said at an Al-Monitor Middle East Mornings breakfast event that sophisticated attacks against tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last month pushed the US administration to respond...
While Washington was focused on the highly visible ratcheting up of tensions between the United States and Iran over the past few weeks, the Trump administration quietly began rolling out its first real red line on the Iran nuclear program, which is that any reduction in the one year timeline it would need to produce enough material for a bomb is unacceptable.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's military expenditures have been declining, writes Iranian military analyst Hossein Aryan in an analysis for Radio Farda's Persian website based on data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The decline in Iran's military spending comes against a backdrop of rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and these two countries as well as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been calling for a more active role in regional developments.
The spokesman of Islamic revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has denied recent reports and rumors that several commanders have fled or have been arrested. Ramezan Sharif was quoted Tuesday by IRGC-run Fars news agency saying that the rumors are enemy tactics "using criminal social media networks and media" have taken advantage of recent changes in the IRGC command to spread rumors about top commanders, their families to the effect that some have fled the country or arrested as spies.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
To those on the ground, the vote result was obviously rigged. The margin of victory by incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was grossly out of line with previous and subsequent Iranian election results with high turnouts. The vote-counting process was completely opaque. A system for verifying the vote and to prevent cheating on June 12, 2009, developed by lead opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's campaign, was sabotaged by the unexpected shutting down of the text-messaging system throughout the country.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
As tensions rise between Iran and some Arab countries in the Middle East, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is proposing a four-point security plan. He spoke about the plan recently at an urgent Arab summit convened by Saudi Arabia in Mecca to discuss Iran's alleged role in recent attacks in the region. During his May 31 speech, Sisi outlined the plan's four requirements to address threats facing Arab countries International condemnation of attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and naval attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Yemen's Houthis.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The Trump administration has accomplished something extraordinary: Its aggressive sanctions have taken two million barrels a day of Iranian oil off the market without driving global prices upward. Tehran is also contending with a deep recession and 50% inflation. Sanctions, according to the architects of the Iran nuclear deal, shouldn't have been this effective. In 2015 Barack Obama warned that if the U.S. walked away from his nuclear deal with Iran, "the sanctions system unravels."
Hezbollah is reportedly feeling the pain of U.S. President Donald Trump administration's maximum-pressure campaign against Iran. Tehran, after all, contributes about $700 million to the U.S.-designated terrorist group's estimated yearly budget of approximately $1 billion. As sanctions squeeze Tehran, less money is supposedly flowing to Hezbollah as a result.
Iran officially informed Lebanon it requests a strong and public stance reflecting the strength of relations between the two countries as a response to the comments delivered by Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the extraordinary Arab summit held in Makkah last month. Iran had expressed anger at Hariri's stances at the summit, which was held to address its meddling in the internal affairs of several Arab countries, including Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Arab leaders also met in wake of recent attacks on Gulf oil facilities.
The national security advisers of Russia, the United States, and Israel are scheduled to meet in Jerusalem later this month for what former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro called a potential "game changer on pushing Iran's military out of Syria." Russia has, with Iranian assistance, gained everything it set out to accomplish in Syria. It expanded its naval and air bases and elevated its international status, while diminishing and marginalizing America.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Egypt says it's standing by Saudi Arabia following the attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels that wounded 26 people at a Saudi airport arrivals hall. The Foreign Ministry, just hours after the attack took place on Wednesday, said Egypt is calling for an immediate halt to all attacks on Saudi territories and will "defy any attempt to target" the kingdom.
The Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly to a missile attack by Yemeni Houthi forces on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday which wounded 26 people. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim alliance that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said the early morning attack proved Tehran's support for what it called cross-border terrorism.
With just two weeks remaining before they're supposed to gather in Vienna, OPEC and its allies are still struggling to settle on a meeting date. It's the latest example of how bitter geopolitical rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran can cause gridlock in the cartel. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners, an alliance that spans 24 oil-producing nations, must choose whether to extend production cuts into the second half of the year or end a pact that has put a floor under prices.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Shinzo Abe's visit to Iran this week, the first to that country by a Japanese prime minister in more than 40 years, is the latest in a series of high-minded but long-shot efforts to lift Japan's influence on the global stage. As he arrives in Tehran on Wednesday, Mr. Abe is putting himself directly in the middle of a confrontation between the United States and Iran that has raised fears of war.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a rare friend of both President Donald Trump and Iran's leaders, left for Tehran with the daunting task of bridging a divide that could plunge the Middle East into renewed chaos. Abe's visit from Wednesday through Friday comes as the U.S. has given scant indication it's ready to ease sanctions it reimposed after abandoning a 2015 accord meant to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Tehran has said it can't sit down with the Trump team while the U.S. is waging "economic war" on it.
With Japan's prime minister on the way to Tehran for a historic visit, a hard-line Iranian paper published a front page image Wednesday of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear blast - a reference to America's bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II that underscores the challenge ahead for Shinzo Abe. Abe's trip is the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran as Tehran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers...
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas this week traveled to Iran in a bid to save the international nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers in 2015. His trip drew widespread coverage and criticism in Iran, with the country's press saying the EU has been ineffective when it comes to granting sanctions relief in exchange for Iran's compliance of the agreement's terms.