G7 Warns Iran Over Continuing Nuclear Programme Escalation

TOP STORIES 

G7 Warns Iran Over Continuing Nuclear Programme Escalation | Reuters 

The Group of Seven leaders warned Iran on Friday against advancing its nuclear enrichment programme and said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia, according to a draft communique. "We urge Tehran to cease and reverse nuclear escalations, and stop the continuing uranium enrichment activities that have no credible civilian justifications," the statement seen by Reuters said. Iran has rapidly installed extra uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Fordow site and begun setting up others, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report said on Thursday. Iran is now enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to the 90% of weapons grade, and has enough material enriched to that level, if enriched further, for three nuclear weapons, according to an IAEA yardstick. "Iran must engage in serious dialogue and provide convincing assurances that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, in full cooperation and compliance with the IAEA’s monitoring and verification mechanism, including the Board of Governors’ resolution of 5 June," the G7 said.  

IAEA Report: Iran Installs More Centrifuges At Fordow Enrichment Plant | Reuters 

Iran has rapidly installed extra uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Fordow site and begun setting up others, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report said in what diplomats described as limited retaliation to a resolution by the watchdog's board. Reuters reported on Wednesday that diplomats said Iran was responding to last week's International Atomic Energy Agency board resolution against it by expanding its uranium-enrichment capacity at its two underground enrichment sites at Fordow and Natanz, but the escalation is not as big as many had feared. The confidential IAEA report sent to member states described the steps Iran has taken so far, with the only concrete steps so far at either of its underground sites having been taken at Fordow, which is dug into a mountain. "On 9 and 10 June ... Iran informed the Agency that eight cascades each containing 174 IR-6 centrifuges would be installed over the next 3-4 weeks in Unit 1 of FFEP (Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant)," the IAEA report, which was seen by Reuters, said. Cascades are clusters of centrifuges.  

US Navy Faces Its Most Intense Combat Since World War II Against Yemen’s Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels | Associated Press 

The U.S. Navy prepared for decades to potentially fight the Soviet Union, then later Russia and China, on the world’s waterways. But instead of a global power, the Navy finds itself locked in combat with a shadowy, Iran-backed rebel group based in Yemen. The U.S.-led campaign against the Houthi rebels, overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, has turned into the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II, its leaders and experts told The Associated Press. The combat pits the Navy’s mission to keep international waterways open against a group whose former arsenal of assault rifles and pickup trucks has grown into a seemingly inexhaustible supply of drones, missiles and other weaponry. Near-daily attacks by the Houthis since November have seen more than 50 vessels clearly targeted, while shipping volume has dropped in the vital Red Sea corridor that leads to the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.  

UANI IN THE NEWS 

Iranian Oil, Gas Exports Fall Sharply As Asia Turns Toward Russian Energy | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 

Oil-tanker-tracking companies estimate that Iran's oil and natural gas exports have halved due to competition with Russia in Asian markets, as most countries in the West shun Moscow over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The data company Kepler, which also provides tanker tracking services, told Radio Farda on June 13 that preliminary estimates showed that Iran's crude oil and gas condensate loaded in May was about 400,000 barrels per day, compared with 820,000 barrels in April and 908,000 barrels in March. Following Russia's military invasion of Ukraine in late February, Russian oil was hit with sanctions by Western countries. To compensate for the drop in demand from traditional markets, Moscow has sought to increase exports to Asia by discounting its crude by about $30 per barrel in Asian markets, which is $10 per barrel more than Iran's discount to its Asian customers, especially China, according to Reuters.  

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Iran Expands Nuclear Capacities Further, UN Watchdog Warns | AFP 

The IAEA informed its members that Tehran told the agency it was installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, according to a statement sent to AFP. A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium. A diplomatic source deemed this development as “moderate”. The motion brought by Britain, France and Germany—but opposed by China and Russia—at the IAEA’s 35-nation board last week was the first of its kind since November 2022. The resolution—which Tehran slammed as “hasty and unwise”—came amid an impasse over Iran’s escalating nuclear activities and as Western powers fear Tehran may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim Iran denies. Although symbolic in nature at this stage, the censure motion aims to raise diplomatic pressure on Iran, with the option to potentially refer the issue to the UN Security Council.  

Iran Installing And Starting Cascades Of Advanced Centrifuges As Tensions High Over Nuclear Program | Associated Press 

Iran has started up new cascades of advanced centrifuges and plans to install others in the coming weeks after facing criticism over its nuclear program, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Friday. The U.S. called the moves “nuclear escalations.” Spinning up new centrifuges further advances Iran’s nuclear program, which already enriches uranium at near-weapons-grade levels and boasts a stockpile enough for several nuclear bombs if it chose to pursue them. However, the acknowledgement from the International Atomic Energy Agency did not include any suggestion Iran planned to go to higher enrichment levels amid wider tensions between Tehran and the West as the Israel-Hamas war rages in the Gaza Strip. The IAEA said its inspectors verified Monday that Iran had begun feeding uranium into three cascades of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility. Cascades are a group of centrifuges that spin uranium gas together to more quickly enrich the uranium.  

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

U.S. Envoy To Yemen Demands Houthis Free Detained International Staff | Reuters 

The United States' ambassador to Yemen on Thursday called on Yemen's Houthi group to immediately release the detained staff of international organisations including employees of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa.

The Iran-aligned Houthis detained 11 United Nations personnel in Yemen last week, according to U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador condemned the detentions and called them "shocking". "The Houthis owe all of these Yemenis thanks, not false accusations and imprisonment. The people of Yemen deserve better than fanciful Houthi lies meant to bolster their abusive and autocratic rule," ambassador Steven Fagin said in a statement. The staff members - all Yemenis - were swept up by armed Houthi intelligence officials in a series of raids that also resulted in the detention of three employees of the U.S.-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute (NDI) and three employees of a local human rights group.  

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Iranian Dissident Sepehri Sentenced To Further 18 1/2 Years For Comments About Israel | Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty 

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent critic of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been sentenced to an additional 18 1/2 years in prison for "supporting Israel," a thinly veiled reference to her condemnation of an October 7 attack by Hamas -- designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU -- on Israel that killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians. Asghar Sepehri, the dissident's brother, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad convicted Fatemeh Sepehri on multiple counts: seven years for supporting Israel, seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting the supreme leader, and one year and six months for propaganda activities against the regime. He said that with the new sentences, Fatemeh Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, now faces a cumulative punishment of 37 1/2 years.  

Woman Violently Arrested For Hijab Violation | Iran Wire 

A video circulating online shows the violent arrest of a young woman for not wearing a hijab at Behbahan National Park in Khuzestan province. The footage, published Tuesday on social media, shows several hijab enforcers forcibly detaining the woman after she protested being forced to wear the mandatory headscarf. In the video, the officers can be seen grabbing and pushing the woman, who resists their efforts. Toward the end, she is struck by one of the officers and falls to the ground. Women's rights activists say the woman was then transferred to a Revolutionary Guard headquarters, where she was verbally abused before eventually being released. The violent arrest comes amid an escalating crackdown on women for refusing to comply with strict hijab laws under the Noor Project, which was launched in April. In recent months, numerous reports have emerged of women being beaten, tasered, sexually harassed, and jailed for defying the hijab rules.  

Over 3 Million Child Laborers In Iran, Activist Warns | Iran International 

Despite gross government underreporting, a children’s rights activist and lawyer says official estimates suggest that the actual number of child laborers in Iran exceeds three million. In October 2022, during Iran's nationwide protests, one of the country's largest independent anti-poverty charities reported that many minors were recruited to attack protesters in exchange for essential food supplies. Over 500 members and supporters of Imam Ali's Popular Student Relief Society (IAPSRS) stated that authorities employed children as part of their forces against anti-government protesters. During the peak of the uprising, as the Islamic Republic’s repressive forces faced fatigue and shortages, it became increasingly evident that impoverished children were recruited to suppress the protests. Images of children, some not even wearing shoes and teenagers in anti-riot uniforms of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards surfaced on social media, sparking widespread outrage among users.  

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Iran’s Acting FM In Iraq For Talks On Bilateral Ties, Gaza War | Al Monitor 

Acting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani on Thursday blamed Israel for the instability currently plaguing the region, adding that countries in the region must further strengthen cooperation to “build a safe and stable West Asia.” Bagheri Kani made the remarks during a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in Baghdad. The Iranian diplomat arrived in neighboring Iraq on Thursday at the head of delegation for a two-day official visit, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Speaking alongside his Iraqi counterpart, Bagheri Kani warned Israel against escalating the current situation, stressing that Iran will not allow “Zionist aggressors to affect the stability and security of the region.” On Israel's ongoing war in Gaza, Bagheri Kani stressed the need to end “the genocide” against the Palestinian people, calling for the provision of aid to Gaza civilians without conditions. On the current cease-fire talks, Bagheri Kani said the United States must stop providing Israel with weapons if it is serious about advancing a deal to bring an end to the war in Gaza and a prisoner and hostage swap.  

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Presidential Hopefuls Begin War of Words in Televised Campaigns | Iran International 

As the state-controlled presidential election gets underway, Iran’s six handpicked candidates begin a mud slinging war on televised debates with accusations from corruption to human rights abuses. In a Wednesday interview, Tehran's mayor, Alireza Zakani, highlighted his “successful tenure” and emphasized his “relentless efforts to uncover and address pervasive corruption” among officials across various institutions, from the government to parliament. The ultra-conservative candidate portrayed himself as a determined fighter against corruption, particularly targeting "those in power who enjoy special protection”, in spite of having been one of the main proponents for the violent crackdown on hijab violators in the capital. "I have always said that we should start with the most powerful people with clear-cut boundaries separating them," he asserted. "Those in power should safeguard people’s lives and wealth, but this is not always the case."  

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

Russia, Iran, China And Israel Rank Worst Out Of 14 Key Nations And Global Institutions For The Negative Influence They Are Having Around The World, Survey Finds | Daily Mail 

Russia, Iran, China and Israel have been judged to have the most negative influence of 14 countries and institutions around the world, with global perceptions taking a significant hit over the last five years, according to new research. A global poll of some 23,800 people from five continents found around half now believe Russia uses its influence for 'bad' on the world stage, with Iran, Israel and China also proving divisive in policy. Public opinion has shifted significantly in the last five years, with comparative polling from 2019 revealing a 22 per cent rise in the share who feel Russia has a largely negative influence in the world. While global conflicts and tussles for control of strategic corridors and resources may have soured the public's view of these global players, the perception of Great Britain and the US remains largely the same. The survey carried out by Ipsos and the Policy Institute at King's College London found 26 per cent of the global public believe Britain uses its influence for good, placing behind only Canada and Germany.  

CYBERWARFARE 

7 Months After Iran-Backed Cyberattack, Temporary Fix Puts State Archives Back Online | The Times Of Israel 

Seven months after its website was breached and taken offline by a cyberattack in November, the Israel State Archives last week implemented a “temporary site” that enables users to once again search for and view archived materials. A new and more robust website is planned to go online by the end of 2024, archive officials told The Times of Israel this week. The cyberattack, claimed by the pro-Palestinian, Iranian-backed hacker group Cyber Toufan, targeted multiple Israeli government sites, including a web hosting company used by the archive, and saw the personal details of thousands of archive users stolen. Seven months after its website was breached and taken offline by a cyberattack in November, the Israel State Archives last week implemented a “temporary site” that enables users to once again search for and view archived materials. A new and more robust website is planned to go online by the end of 2024, archive officials told The Times of Israel this week. The cyberattack, claimed by the pro-Palestinian, Iranian-backed hacker group Cyber Toufan, targeted multiple Israeli government sites, including a web hosting company used by the archive, and saw the personal details of thousands of archive users stolen.