Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday threatened a "swift and decisive" US response to any attack by Iran, in the latest of a series of escalating statements and actions. "The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response," Pompeo said in a statement. "Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve," he said.
As the leaders of an organization called United Against Nuclear Iran, we are grateful for the bold change in America's policy toward Iran that the Trump administration has implemented. By withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal - last year, designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization this year, and steadily increasing U.S. sanctions to weaken Iran's ability to perpetuate terror, Washington is leading with clarity and resolve.
European governments rejected Iran's 60-day ultimatum to help it circumvent U.S. sanctions, saying Thursday they viewed Tehran's threat to abandon some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with great concern. The ultimatum leaves Europe with few options to save the accord, given that its monthslong efforts to ease U.S. sanctions on Iran have largely come to nothing.
UANI IN THE NEWS
On May 5, 1979, Iran's new government founded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Almost from the beginning, the IRGC had a built-in malleability-one enshrined in Iran's constitution. Pursuant to Article 150, the IRGC is "to be maintained so that it may continue in its role of guarding the revolution and its achievements. The scope of the duties of this corps... [is] to be determined by law with emphasis on brotherly cooperation and harmony." Thus the IRGC was birthed with vagueness and versatility. Forty years later, this structural adaptability has resulted in a mixed record for the organization
When asked in January if there has to be a regime change in Tehran, Pompeo replied, "Nope. What there needs to be is behavior that is like a normal country. These are real threats and what we're demanding from the Islamic Republic of Iran is very simple: don't build nuclear weapons, don't continue your nuclear programs, cease the terror campaign, stop assassination efforts, behave like a normal country." "Ultimately this is just to send a message that we won't tolerate these attacks and I think that it'll end up deterring any such actions," said Jordan Steckler, a research analyst for the group, United Against Nuclear Iran.
Jordan Steckler is a research analyst for the group, United Against Nuclear Iran. "There's been some new intel that Iran had greenlit some of its proxies to possibly begin targeting American military assets and personnel overseas."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
On Wednesday, one year after the U.S. announcement of withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the resumption of sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would reduce its commitments but would not withdraw from the nuclear deal. Iran's response was carefully calibrated and demonstrated considerable restraint. Highlighting Iran's continued commitment to the deal, Rouhani stated that Iran would give remaining parties to the deal 60 days to uphold their end of the bargain before Iran would be forced to walk away.
In the year since the United States withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran, that country has practiced what its president, Hassan Rouhani, has described as "strategic patience." But now Iran seems to be giving up on that. On Wednesday, Mr. Rouhani announced that Iran would stop adhering to some of the deal's provisions. Iran's goal, though, is not to find a quick exit - or any exit at all - from the deal, but to signal to the European countries that also signed it that they can no longer sit by as the United States imposes sanctions and more generally piles pressure on Tehran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is hoping the world will give him credit for restraint and patience. Iran, he says, has abided by the terms of the nuclear deal it struck with six other countries and the European Union for a full year after Donald Trump's administration pulled out. Now he's issuing an ultimatum: The deal's other signatories - notably, the Europeans - have 60 days to live up to their end of the bargain, remove hindrances to the flow of foreign investment into Iran, and ease the flow of oil out of it.
The European Union will defend the Iran nuclear accord despite Tehran's decision to backtrack on its commitments in response to U.S. sanctions, diplomats believe, but European powers expect it to collapse without a deal to sell Iranian oil to China or India. Britain, France and Germany, which signed the 2015 deal along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year's U.S. withdrawal from the accord, protect trade and still prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
EU countries should uphold their obligations in the nuclear deal with Iran and normalise economic ties despite U.S. sanctions, its foreign minister said on Thursday, in reaction to an EU statement that asked Tehran to remain committed to the accord. "Instead of demanding that Iran unilaterally abide by a multilateral accord, the EU should uphold obligations - including normalization of economic ties," Mohammad Javad Zarif said on his Twitter account.
A year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal on the grounds that he wanted a bigger, better agreement. Criticizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for its limited scope and scale, Trump has called for a deal that would impose longer-lasting, more stringent restrictions on Iran's nuclear work, while limiting Tehran's ballistic missile program and stemming its interference in neighboring countries.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
U.S. sanctions have targeted Iran's government, its paramilitary forces and the oil exports that fund them. Now they are hitting its vital steel, aluminum, copper and iron industries. The new sanctions, imposed as Tehran announced its partial withdrawal from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, seem to be moving ever closer to directly affecting the country's 80 million people, rather than the leadership. The metals industry is a major employer and a rare bright spot for Iran's anemic economy.
Iran's oil shipments tumbled this month after the U.S. ended sanctions waivers that allowed eight governments to buy from the Persian Gulf country. So far, not a single ship has been seen leaving Iran's oil terminals for foreign ports in tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. China, India, South Korea and Japan were among those allowed to buy about 1 million barrels a day of Iranian crude and condensate, a light form of oil extracted from gas fields, until May 2.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell warned companies that they could be blocked from the U.S. market if they do business with Iran. "You can do as much business as you want in Iran, but we have a say with regards to your visa," Grenell, who has a history of exasperating his Berlin hosts, told Bild newspaper in an interview. "Because if you do something, we're not going to agree to let you enter our country."
OPEC is in the dark on the oil supply outlook for the second half of this year, with Iranian and Russian outages looking increasingly significant but Saudi Arabia reluctant to pump more due to fears of a price crash, sources in the organization said. An oil contamination forced Russia to halt flows along the Druzhba pipeline, a key conduit for crude into Eastern Europe and Germany, in April. The suspension left refiners scrambling to find supplies and its duration is unclear.
U.S. sanctions on Iranian metals are against international norms, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday, warning that Washington would be responsible for Iran's losses. "This U.S. measure is against the international commitments of this regime... It is against international norms ... The United States will be responsible for the caused losses," Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA.
China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's top state-owned refiners, are skipping Iranian oil purchases for loading in May after Washington ended sanction waivers to turn up pressure on Tehran, three people with knowledge of the matter said. The United States has not renewed any exemptions from sanctions on Iran, taking a tougher line than expected on the expiry of the waivers.
Threats by IranOpens a New Window. to shut down two of the world's most important oil transit routes are creating one of the most serious geopolitical risks for oil Opens a New Window. prices in decades. The threats, while they seem a world away, may have a direct impact on your walletOpens a New Window. . One year after President Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear agreement and days after his administration refused to extend the waiversOpens a New Window. to buyers of Iranian oil, Iran retaliated with threats against the United States and its interests.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The commander overseeing U.S. naval forces in the Middle East told Reuters on Thursday that American intelligence showing a threat from Iran will not prevent him from sending an aircraft carrier through the vital Strait of Hormuz, if needed. Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, did not say whether he would send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group into the strategic waterway off Iran, through which passes a fifth of oil consumed globally.
The Trump administration doesn't want war with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday, but he warned Tehran of a "swift and decisive" US response to any attack. Iran "has engaged in an escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks," Pompeo said in a statement, echoing Pentagon and unnamed US officials. He provided no specifics about the nature or scope of that threat, but other US officials have said that they've observed Iranian forces moving missiles around on boats.
Tanker-tracking firms believe Iran is once again shipping crude oil to Syria, resuming the illicit trade as tensions with Washington rise and the Islamic Republic faces increasing international isolation. An Iranian delivery of approximately one million barrels of crude was made into the Syrian port of Baniyas during the first week of May, according to TankerTrackers.com and ClipperData, two groups that follows oil vessels.
Top Trump administration national security officials were planning to meet Thursday for discussions on mounting security challenges posed by Iran and North Korea, according to administration officials. The meeting comes as tensions have risen between Iran and the U.S. over growing conflicts between their forces in the Middle East and over Iran's plans for its nuclear program.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran's leadership to sit down and talk with him about giving up Tehran's nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions between the two countries. At an impromptu news conference at the White House, Trump declined to say what prompted him to deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the region over what was described as unspecified threats.
A deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said that Tehran will not hold talks with its arch enemy the United States and that Washington "will not dare launch military action against us", the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported on Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran's leadership to sit down and talk with him about giving up Tehran's nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions between the two countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that threats from Iran had escalated in recent weeks and he warned Tehran that any attacks on U.S. interests would prompt a quick response from Washington. "The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against U.S. interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive U.S. response," he said in a statement.
B-52 bombers ordered by the White House to deploy to the Persian Gulf to counter unspecified threats from Iran have arrived at a major American air base in Qatar, the U.S. Air Force acknowledged Friday. Images released by the U.S. Air Force's Central Command show B-52H Stratofortress bombers arriving at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on Thursday night. Others landed at an undisclosed location Wednesday in "southwest Asia," the Air Force said.
In a highly unusual move, national security adviser John Bolton convened a meeting at CIA headquarters last week with the Trump administration's top intelligence, diplomatic and military advisers to discuss Iran, according to six current U.S. officials. The meeting was held at 7 a.m. on Monday, April 29, and included CIA Director Gina Haspel, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, five of the officials said.
It is unclear what, if anything, Iran can do to induce the United States and its regional allies to halt their escalating war of attrition before it provokes all-out conflict. When Donald Trump reneged on the UN-ratified nuclear agreement with Tehran last year, he said he wanted a better deal. Iran must change its behaviour, he said, and act like a "normal country". This was always disingenuous. Iran's authoritarian and abusive rulers certainly need to mend their ways.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranians have harshly criticized the country's deputy foreign minister after he threatened to expel Afghan refugees from Iran in retaliation for U.S. sanctions. The semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday criticized Abbas Araghchi, saying: "We wish you had not made the statement." Some reactions were stronger: "Firing Araghchi is the minimum response to his huge mistake," a prominent hard-line political activist, Ali Naderi tweeted.
The Iranian currency continued its downward trend on Thursday, May 9 after Iran announced its gradual reduction of commitments under the nuclear agreement. Iran's rial was reported to be trading at 156,500 to the U.S. dollar, down almost 10 percent compared with a week ago. The big drop was on Tuesday as the news about Iran's impending decision was announced.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The parliamentary bloc of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has blasted the United States over new sanctions it imposed on Iran, describing them as "unjustified." The bloc said in a statement Thursday that the US move against Iran shows the Trump administration's "tyrannical and dictatorial trend." Hezbollah, which is backed and armed by Iran and sees the destruction of Israel as its main mission, is represented in Lebanon's cabinet and parliament and has been under US sanctions for many years.
James Jeffrey, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said that his country wanted a full Iranian withdrawal from Syria and would not allow Iran to "fill the void" in the northeast of the country. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Jeffrey said Washington would continue to pressure Damascus and its allies through economic sanctions, a military presence in northeastern Syria and a halt to Arab and Western normalization until a "new political government is formed."
GULF STATES, YEMEN & IRAN
Houthi rebels are blocking UN access to an unmaintained oil tanker described as a "floating bomb" off of Yemen's Red Sea coast, which officials say is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. The chief of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels is demanding a share of revenue from the sale of about one million barrels of oil aboard the FSO Safer.
A massive blast that killed 15 children and injured more than 100 people in the residential Sawan neighborhood in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on April 7, was the result of an explosion in a Houthi controlled warehouse and not a coalition strike, revealed human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch and Mwatana for Human Rights carried on Thursday a detailed report which pointed out that a Houthi-controlled warehouse that stored volatile material near homes and schools caught fire and detonated midday resulting in the devastation and human toll.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq has substantially curtailed imports from Iran, according to an economic daily published in Tehran. The report says part of the restriction on Iranian imports stem from general bans on a range of products, while part of it is due to targeted bans on Iranian imports. The report did not specify what kind of products Iraq has banned, but previously Baghdad had stopped Iranian cement imports. Difficulty in payment system caused by U.S. sanctions could be a major reason for the reduction.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has declared that Iran would consider asking Afghan refugees to leave the country if the United States continues to apply economic pressure in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and promises to increase economic sanctions on the country. Subsequent statements by Iranian officials hinted that the Afghans would likely then look toward Europe for refuge.