Leaders of the Group of Seven advanced nations "remain deeply concerned about Iran's unabated escalation of its nuclear programme", according to a draft version of their communique seen by Reuters on Friday. "We reiterate our clear determination that Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon," said the draft from the start of a three-day summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. "We express our grave concern regarding Iran's continued destabilising activities, including the transfer of missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) and related technologies to state and non-state actors."
Iran has executed three men detained during anti-government protests despite a public outcry over their convictions and objections by rights groups and several governments who say authorities held rushed trials, forced "confessions," and denied the accused due process. According to a report published by the Mizan News Agency, affiliated with Iran's judiciary, Saleh Mirehashemi, Majid Kazemi, and Saeed Yaqoubi were executed at dawn on May 19 in a prison in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
The Mideast-based commanders of the U.S., British and French navies transited the Strait of Hormuz on Friday aboard an American warship, a sign of their unified approach to keep the crucial waterway open after Iran seized two oil tankers. Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been volatile since Iran's nuclear deal with world powers collapsed, following the U.S.' unilateral withdrawal five years ago. The incredibly rare, joint trip by the three navy chiefs aboard the USS Paul Hamilton, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, saw three fast boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard approach the vessel at one point.
UANI IN THE NEWS
A group of nations at the International Maritime Organization have warned of the risk of an spill from tankers transferring oil at sea while masking their location to avoid sanctions. To explore the environmental dangers, Green Seas talks to United Against Nuclear Iran’s Claire Jungman, Windward’s Ami Daniel and NorthStandard’s Mike Salthouse.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
As tensions with Iran have escalated over its nuclear program, the U.S. military this month posted pictures of a powerful bomb designed to penetrate deep into the earth and destroy underground facilities that could be used to enrich uranium. The U.S. Air Force on May 2 released rare images of the weapon, the GBU-57, known as the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator.” Then it took the photos down — apparently because the photographs revealed sensitive details about the weapon’s composition and punch.
Near a peak of the Zagros Mountains in central Iran, workers are building a nuclear facility so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of a last-ditch U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites, according to experts and satellite imagery analyzed by The Associated Press. The photos and videos from Planet Labs PBC show Iran has been digging tunnels in the mountain near the Natanz nuclear site, which has come under repeated sabotage attacks amid Tehran’s standoff with the West over its atomic program.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Biden administration on Friday announced a wave of new sanctions tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine, including new measures meant to curb military-related transfers between Russia and Iran. The sweeping package of more than 300 sanctions targeted Russia’s financial services sector, its acquisition of critical technology and future energy extraction capabilities. The State Department also designated multiple entities it said were part of a logistics network deepening ties between Russia and Iran. The targets included Khazar Sea Shipping Line, an Iranian shipping company whose vessels the State Department said had made over 60 port calls in Russia in the past year.
European Union foreign ministers will decide on more sanctions against Iran in their meeting on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, adding that more members of the Revolutionary Guard will be added to the sanction lists. “We won’t accept this,” Baerbock told journalists referring to human rights violations by Iran.
Banking links between Russia and Iran appear to be expanding rapidly, with the Central Bank of Iran now saying two Iranian banks are planning to open offices or branches in Russia. It comes just days after it emerged that VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, had opened a representative office in Iran – becoming the first Russian bank to establish a permanent presence in the Middle East country. Mohsen Karimi, the Iranian central bank’s deputy governor for international affairs, did not name the Iranian institutions involved or say when their Russian offices might open...
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
An Iranian military commander on Friday threatened the US over the killing of Iran’s top general over three years ago, vowing to drive American forces out of the Middle East. Iran has repeatedly vowed vengeance since a US airstrike killed General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020. “Although the Americans martyred Haj Qassem Soleimani, they received the first blow and now are receiving the second blow, which is nothing but their gradual withdrawal from the region,” Iranian general Hossein Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said on Friday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran’s foreign ministry has summoned Switzerland’s envoy in Tehran for a social media post showing Iranian protest icon Mahsa Amini, local reports said on Sunday. Months of anti-government protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Amini in September, after Iranian morality police detained her for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code. A website affiliated with Iran’s state television called YJC.ir reported that the Swiss ambassador, Nadine Lozano, was summoned after a Twitter account affiliated with the embassy in Tehran published a photo featuring Amini.
Architecture graduate Zahra said the sight of women without headscarves on the streets of Tehran made her “heart ache”. She feared that their defiance of Iran’s Islamic dress code could lead to even looser standards that sow social division and erode the republic’s core identity. “Islam is being weakened, and we should demonstrate somehow that this is an Islamic country,” said the 37-year-old Tehran resident, who sported a crimson headscarf. “We need to put a brake on.” “Angry words and looks” from others served to marginalise religious Iranians, she added. “But we need to feel secure, make progress and be part of this society.”
The execution of three political prisoners in Iran has sparked a resurgence of nationwide street protests. The Tehran neighborhoods of Tehransar, ShahrakEkbatan, Sattarkhan and Aryashahr were rocked by demonstrations Saturday evening that continued until the early hours of Sunday. Anti-regime slogans were heard elsewhere in areas across the capital. There were reports of sporadic clashes with security forces attempting to disperse the protesters, who in some neighborhoods had managed to block the roads after setting fire to trash cans.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Ali Shamkhani, long-time ally of Iran's supreme leader, has stepped down as the country's top security official, Iranian state media said on Monday, two months after signing a China-brokered deal with Saudi Arabia to end political rift. An Iranian insider said the change in leadership at the Supreme National Security Council was unlikely to have an impact on its policies and that Shamkhani might be considered for a "more important position" in Iran.
Iran’s president on Monday appointed a new official to take over the post of secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, replacing the longtime powerful official Ali Shamkhani after becoming implicated in a recent spy scandal.President Ebrahim Raisi issued a decree replacing Shamkhani who has faced persistent corruption allegations — which he denied — as well as scrutiny because of close ties with a British-Iranian man hanged on spying charges earlier this year in Iran. Shamkhani was a key player in negotiations with the West over Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He was also in office during the years of tensions that followed then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw America from the accord.
A prominent politician in Iran says none of the country's political factions can do anything to ensure a high turnout in the upcoming parliamentary election. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former reformist President Mohammad Khatami's chief of staff told Rouydad24 website on Wednesday that "if the people do not feel that it is a free election, they will not take part in it." "My understanding is that the Guardian Council is not going to soften its policy on the disqualification [of reform-minded candidates]. It is not likely that those who have gone out of their way to create a unified political system will come short of their hardliner policies."
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran has said it is fully capable of securing regional waters in cooperation with other regional actors after a move by Western allies in the strategic Strait of Hormuz that Tehran called “theatrical”. The comment came on Sunday as Iranian officials held a ceremony near the country’s southern waters to welcome back two Iranian warships after an eight-month trip around the world.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Indonesia is expected to sign a trade agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran as soon as next week, according to a statement released by the Indonesian Trade Ministry. This announcement comes at the end of a process of seven rounds of negotiations, which have now been completed successfully. According to the statement, the signing of the agreement, which will be called the Iran Preferential Trade Agreement (II-PTA), will be the last stage of the negotiation process.