The Hezbollah militant group said it trucked more than a million gallons of Iranian diesel fuel into Lebanon from Syria on Thursday, celebrating the move as a way of spiting the United States while bringing much-needed aid to a country nearly paralyzed by fuel shortages. With Lebanon suffering one of the worst economic collapses in modern history, Hezbollah portrayed itself as a national savior, stepping in where the Lebanese government and its Western backers had failed. Hezbollah supporters lined roads in northeastern Lebanon as dozens of tanker trucks arrived. They waved Hezbollah flags, distributed sweets, blasted heroic anthems and fired rocket-propelled grenades into the air in celebration. The fuel delivery — which a Hezbollah official said was the first installment of more than 13 million gallons — underscored the severity of Lebanon’s crisis, as well as the government’s failure to address it. Unable to secure help from elsewhere, it has turned to war-torn Syria and economically damaged Iran.
Iran on Thursday dismissed the U.N. nuclear watchdog's work as "unprofessional" and "unfair" shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran. The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.
In the ongoing nuclear standoff involving the US and Iran – with Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab states the most actively interested parties commenting from the sidelines – everyone has now blinked to some extent. Where that means the nuclear standoff will go next is less certain. The US blinked first. Israeli intelligence sources indicated to The Jerusalem Post in the past that when Washington saw that Ebrahim Raisi would be elected president, it softened some of its redlines, hoping to wrap up a deal before he came on.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Two weeks ago, Iran announced it was planning to boost oil output and exports despite ongoing sanctions by the U.S. As we see continually increased output from Iran since the beginning of 2021, can the country overcome U.S. restrictions to regain its title as a major oil-producing state? At the beginning of September, Iran announced it would be increasing its oil output over the coming months, despite ongoing sanctions from the U.S. restricting the country’s export market. Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji stated "There is strong will in Iran to increase oil exports despite the unjust and illegal U.S. sanctions."
Iran’s power market is bucking global trends and in the process revealing a key economic buffer that helps the country withstand international sanctions. While European electricity prices spiked over the last month, shutting down energy-intensive industries and raising the risk of blackouts, the Persian Gulf country’s power prices dropped. The Iran Electricity Market said on its website that the average price for a megawatt-hour of power on Thursday was the equivalent of 12.45 euros ($14.65), or about 40 times below the daily average for the U.K. and less than 10% of the cost in Germany, according to spot prices on the European Power Exchange.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Security agents for the Islamic Republic of Iran in the city of Isfahan arrested the popular rapper Toomaj Salehi for his songs highlighting corruption within Iran’s regime. Salehi’s uncle, Eghbal Eghbali, announced on Instagram the arrest of Salehi, writing “They arrested my nephew…The Islamic government cannot stand the voice of protest of dissident youth. We will not be indifferent to this dirty action of the rulers.” Salehi wrote lyrics against the Iranian regime in two new songs titled “Normal Life” and “Mouse Hole.”
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Three imprisoned Iranian dissidents will be honored next month at Pen America’s annual gala. The literary and human rights organization announced Thursday that writer-filmmaker Baktash Abtin, novelist-journalist Keyvan Bajan and author-critic Reza Khandan Mahabadi are this year’s recipients of the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. All three are members of the anti-censorship Iranian Writers Association and are serving a collective 15.5 years on charges including endangering national security and “spreading propaganda.”
Several hundred Iranian-American activists have signed a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to strike an aggressive tone against Iran’s new president when the US leader delivers his first address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) next week. In the letter shared with The Independent, just over 400 Iranian-Americans across a wide range of fields wrote that Mr Biden should state that Ebrahim Raisi should “should stand trial before international tribunals for crimes against humanity”, in particular his role in a series of state-sponsored executions of thousands of political dissidents in 1988.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s new government has approved use of U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine, a senior official said on Thursday, as the Islamic Republic fights a fifth wave of infections. The announcement came eight months after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned imports of vaccines made by the United States and Britain - though Iran has since accepted vaccines developed by Western firms but manufactured elsewhere. President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration is under public pressure to broaden its sources of vaccines as infections mount in its deadliest wave yet.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran arrived in the Tajik capital Dushanbe Thursday to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as well as sideline meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.Upon departure from Tehran, Raisi addressed reporters on the "importance of regional cooperation," a fundamental component of his stated foreign policy. As a hard-line president hailing from the less accommodating, anti-US layer of Iran's political structure, Raisi has promised to prioritize neighbors over Western powers, with which the Islamic Republic has rarely been on good terms over the past four decades.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Tehran's participation in a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference demonstrates the importance it places on regional cooperation, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said before leaving for Tajikistan on Thursday on his first foreign trip since taking office last month. The summit in Dushanbe will discuss last month's takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, a neighbouring country of the SCO's largely Central Asian members. Afghanistan itself is an observer at the SCO, as is Iran. The SCO was launched in 2001 to combat radical Islam and other security concerns in China, Russia and four ex-Soviet Central Asian republics.