A senior Iranian delegation arrived in Paris on Monday to work out the details of a financial bailout package that France's president, Emmanuel Macron, intends to use to compensate Iran for oil sales lost to American sanctions. In return for the money, Iran would agree to return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear accord. Iranian press reports and a senior American official say that the core of the package is a $15 billion letter of credit that would allow Iran to receive hard currency, at a time when most of the cash it makes from selling oil is frozen in banks around the world.
Iran is stifling a United Nations probe of its alleged storage of nuclear equipment and radioactive material in Tehran, diplomats say, leading to fresh concerns about Iran's activities at a critical moment for the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal. The diplomats said Iran has refused to provide answers to important questions raised by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency over allegations, first made public by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a year ago, that Iran had established a now-dismantled site in Tehran to store equipment and material used during past nuclear weapons work.
A U.S. Navy veteran held jailed in Iran has undergone surgery in prison to remove a melanoma from his back. Michael White's mother told CBS News this week that her son's recurring health problems are deteriorating, and she's "really worried he'll die over there."
UANI IN THE NEWS
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's two-day visit to Brussels (2 and 3 September) is an excellent opportunity to address several important issues for the cross-Atlantic relations and have a unified strategy in addressing them as Europe is going to have a new leadership, Giulio Terzi writes. Giulio Terzi, a former foreign minister of Italy, is a member of United Against Nuclear Iran's Advisory Board.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran said on Monday it would further reduce its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal if European parties failed to shield Tehran's economy from sanctions reimposed by the United States after Washington quit the accord last year. "It is meaningless to continue unilateral commitments to the deal if we don't enjoy its benefits as promised by the deal's European parties," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.
Iran is ramping up negotiations as signs gather that it's closer to ending a showdown with Europe over the wobbling 2015 nuclear deal and easing a security crisis in the Persian Gulf. Iran's top envoy Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks in Moscow with counterpart Sergei Lavrov as the threat of another erosion of Iran's compliance with the accord looms. His deputy Abbas Araghchi went to Paris with a team of economists and central bank officials to discuss a French proposal to help restore Iran's oil exports, the backbone of its economy.
Iran will "take a strong step" away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers if Europe cannot offer the country new terms by a deadline at the end of this week, a government spokesman said Monday as top Iranian diplomats traveled to France and Russia for last-minute talks. The comments from Ali Rabiei reinforced the Friday deadline Iran had set for Europe to offer it a way to sell its crude oil on the global market. Crushing U.S. sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal have curbed Iran's oil exports and sent its economy into freefall.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's foreign minister accused the United States on Twitter on Saturday of engaging in "piracy and threats" to stop Tehran from selling oil to traditional clients, after Washington blacklisted an Iranian oil tanker that it said was headed to Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States had reliable information the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, which the U.S. Treasury Department has blacklisted, was headed to Syria.
While U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry have slashed the OPEC member's crude exports by more than 80%, oil product sales from the Islamic Republic remain strong at nearly $500 million a month, shipping data and Reuters calculations show. Sanctions have barely affected Iran's exports of oil products, primarily fuel oil used for power generation and shipping as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used as cooking gas and petrochemical feed.
The Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a power struggle between the United States and Iran, a move that threatened to further escalate tensions between the two countries.
Iran acknowledged for the first time on Monday that an explosion had occurred at a satellite launch site in the country's north after images of the aftermath of the blast circulated last week. An Iranian government official said the explosion was caused by a technical error during a test launch. The information came days after President Trump prompted confusion when he posted a message on Twitter referring to the explosion - accompanied by an image of the site that some suspected was once classified - noting that "the United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights activists in Iran say a court in Tehran has condemned Atefeh Rangriz, a researcher arrested during Labor Day demonstrations on May 1, to 11 years in jail and 74 lashes. Social media reports say the sentence was issued by notorious Judge Mohammad Mogheiseh at bench 28 of Iran's Revolutionary Court and was handed to Rangriz's defense lawyer. Iranian Judiciary officials have still not reacted to the report.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran will never hold bilateral talks with the United States but if it lifts all the sanctions it reimposed on Iran it can join multilateral talks between Iran and other parties to a 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday. "No decision has ever been taken to hold talks with the U.S. and there has been a lot of offers for talks but our answer will always be negative," Rouhani told an open session of parliament broadcast live on state radio.
Iranian authorities unexpectedly granted Swiss diplomats permission this past week to visit an American Navy veteran held in a prison in the country's northeast, where they learned his cancer had recurred, his mother said Saturday. The prisoner, Michael R. White, 47, one of at least four Americans known to be jailed in Iran, has had throat cancer. He was visiting an Iranian female friend in the northeastern city of Mashhad when he was seized more than a year ago, in July 2018.
Both supporters and opponents of increased diplomacy with Iran say talks are unlikely at the moment despite a window of opportunity appearing to open this past week. Iran hawks argue it's too early for a sit-down, warning President Trump that engagement could take some weight off Tehran just when the "maximum pressure" campaign is starting to hurt.
Iraqi leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a group of mostly Shi'ite militias, have put out conflicting statements accusing the United States, Israel and foreign forces of involvement in mysterious explosions that damaged munitions warehouses over the last month. On Wednesday, August 21, the powerful paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias would hold the United States responsible for recent alleged airstrikes and that the threat came from "four Israeli drones" brought into Iraq via Azerbaijan.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A judo world champion from Iran is afraid to return home after disobeying orders from the government to withdraw from the world championships in Tokyo to avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent. The International Judo Federation said late Sunday that Saeid Mollaei was ordered to withdraw from last week's competition by Iranian deputy sports minister Mohammad Reza Davarzani. The IJF said Mollaei was then called by Iranian Olympic Committee president Reza Salehi Amiri, who said security services were at his parents' house.
Chairman of the Iranian Eulogists Basij Organization says security forces have arrested "A number of eulogists trained in Israel to dishonor Shiite Ashura ceremonies." Eulogists (preachers or maddahs in Persian) sing in religious gathering and ceremonies in Iran. The regime has been using eulogists, usually hardliners with strict faith in the government-approved brand of Shiism to suppress dissent and discredit the Islamic Republic's critics.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Hezbollah's policy is aimed at safeguarding the interests of Lebanon, Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Iranian security official as saying in reaction to the Iran-backed group's attack on Israel's army on Sunday. "Hezbollah enjoys significant popular support in Lebanon ... the Zionist regime's (Israel) punishment by Hezbollah was a reciprocal measure that displayed the resistance front's determination to counter threats," said Ali Shamkhani.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Iranian counterpart, Reza Ardakanian have discussed the development of joint energy investment projects during their meeting in Moscow on Monday, the Russian ministry said in a statement. Novak and Ardakanian also touched on cooperation on global oil markets, the ministry added in the statement.
The leader of Palestinian Hamas has written to the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to thank him for "the excellent reception" he offered a delegation visiting Iran and for his "extensive" support. Khamenei;s official website reported that Ismail Haniyah in a letter to the Supreme Leader has also expressed "his utter joy" for "Iran's readiness to equip the resistance for whatever it needs to discharge its duty" and has added, "I thank God for your presence".
Lebanon's Hezbollah leader said on Monday that while a flare-up with Israel at the border was over, the episode had launched a "new phase" in which the Iran-backed group no longer has red lines.
Hezbollah, as an arm of Iran, uses women's groups, sports, education, health programs and a cult surrounding Iran's supreme leader to infiltrate and maintain a hold on the Lebanese state, according to a series of reports by an intelligence center.
The Lebanese militia Hezbollah fired missiles at an Israeli military border post on Sunday in what it called payback for an Israeli airstrike a week earlier that killed two Lebanese operatives in Syria and a drone strike that damaged Hezbollah infrastructure in the Beirut suburbs.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's Houthi rebels said they had fired multiple ballistic missiles toward Saudi Arabia's Najran airport in the southwest of the kingdom on Tuesday morning, Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported. "The missiles hit the military targets in the airport and caused suspension of the air traffic," the television said, citing a statement by Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea.
Yemen's Houthi rebels appear to be growing stronger by the day, shifting from conventional weaponry and guerrilla warfare to upgraded weapons and organized tactics. Whether these weapons were created locally, as the Houthis claim, or smuggled from Iran or even purchased on the sprawling black market in the Red Sea region, the Houthis have used them effectively.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
French President Emmanuel Macron has talked with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and urged Tehran to show restraint amid rising tensions in the region. Macron's office said Saturday that the French leader asked Iran to "take necessary measures" to encourage negotiations in Yemen's war and urged Iran to show "the greatest restraint in Lebanon so that nothing compromises stability in this moment of great tension." The tense standoff between Israel and Iran around Lebanon has pushed the bitter adversaries closer toward open, armed conflict in recent weeks.
Supertanker Adrian Darya 1, which the U.S. is seeking to seize for carrying Iranian oil, is no longer signaling the port of Iskenderun in Turkey. The vessel has showing "for order" as its destination, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. That means the ship's captain is awaiting instructions on the vessel's next move. The tanker altered its destination several times in recent days as it sailed east through the Mediterranean Sea.
The United Kingdom is considering deploying British drones to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran, Sky News reported early on Monday. UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) has a number of Reaper drones based in nearby Kuwait and flying over Iraq and Syria. These could be re-tasked if the decision to deploy drones to the Gulf is taken, Sky News said. The drones will help with overhead surveillance as British warships are continuing to escort UK-flagged tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, according to the report.