Iran said Monday that it had begun running a significant number of new, advanced uranium centrifuges, accelerating its ability to produce enough nuclear material to make a bomb and throwing its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers into further disarray. The big question now is how quickly Iran, with its new capacity, could produce the fuel needed for a single bomb. Some analysts say that it might be able to do so in under a year. The announcement was Tehran's third move in six months to ratchet up pressure on the West in response to President Trump's decision to exit the nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
On the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions Monday on the core inner circle of advisers to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and added $20 million to a reward for information about a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran 12 years ago. The sanctions target some of Khamenei's closest advisers, including his second son, Mojtaba Khamenei, who often represents his father at official functions even though he has never been appointed to a government position, U.S. officials said.
The largest mass protests to hit Iraq and Lebanon in decades are posing a direct challenge to the influence Iran has gained in both countries as demonstrators seek to overturn the political order. Late Sunday, protesters in the holy Shiite city of Karbala torched the Iranian consulate with Molotov cocktails, hauling an Iraqi flag up on the compound walls. Security forces killed three people when dispersing the crowd with live ammunition, according to Iraq's human-rights commission.
UANI IN THE NEWS
"I want to say how significant this is on the 40th Anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days. That was the beginning of our understanding of how evil, and anti-American and lawless this new government in Iran was going to be. And honestly, it's only gotten worse, every day, every year since then. To me, they represent the biggest threat to America in the world. "
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran is on life support. Despite the pledges of allegiance to its implementation, Iran is now likely to undertake its fourth phase of reduction in commitments on or around November 5. A familiar circular firing squad of recriminations will then commence: The United States will protest and sanction; Europe will release a statement expressing its deep concern; and Iran will insist its violations are reversible only if it receives an economic bang for its nuclear buck.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran will take a new step in reducing commitments to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday by injecting gas into 1,044 centrifuges at its Fordow plant, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday in a speech broadcast live on state TV. All of the steps Iran has taken to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal are reversible and Iran will uphold all of its commitments under the deal when the remaining signatories - France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China - do the same, Rouhani said.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday it was concerned by Iran's intention to further scale back its commitment to a 2015 nuclear deal, and that Moscow would like the deal to remain in place. Iran said on Monday it had launched a new batch of advanced centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment, following the withdrawal from the nuclear pact by the United States, and renewed sanctions on Iran, which have harmed its oil exports.
Iran announced Tuesday it would inject uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges that had previously been kept empty under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The decision marks what Iran calls its "fourth step" away from the accord, which saw Iran agree to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The deal began to unravel over a year ago when President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the accord. In the time since, regional tensions have risen dramatically.
Iran is marking the 40th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran with an announcement that it is speeding up uranium processing. "We see this as a continuation of nuclear blackmail," a senior U.S. official remarked after Iran's nuclear chief claimed the country is now operating dozens of advanced centrifuges - a move that further goes against the 2015 agreement the country signed with a group of world powers.
Iran has announced a tenfold increase in enriched uranium production as Tehran backs away from its nuclear deal with the west. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, said enriched uranium production was now at 5kg per day, up from 450g two months ago. The announcement coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the US embassy. The nuclear deal has been unravelling since May 2018 when Donald Trump withdrew the US and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on nine people close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including his chief of staff, one of his sons and the head of the judiciary. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Iran's seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the U.S. Treasury Department said it also was blacklisting Iran's Armed Forces General Staff. "Today the Treasury Department is targeting the unelected officials who surround Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
I am an accountant by trade, but, for the past three and a half years, my job has been to fight for the freedom of my wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She has been imprisoned in Iran since April 2016, falsely accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime. Nazanin is a British charity worker and mother, arrested on holiday while visiting her family with our 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, who was herself allowed to return to Britain only last month.
Our ruling establishment is based on Shari'a, and in no way, we will ever give away our religious principles, the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary has reacted to criticisms of Iran's human rights violations. Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi), who was addressing Iran's human rights supreme council, insisted that "implementing divine decrees" in the Islamic Republic is "beyond any discussion", and reports on the violation of human rights in Iran are "absolutely wrong and baseless."
Across the Middle East, from Baghdad to Beirut, the citizens of countries thought to be part of Iran's axis of influence have begun to revolt against Tehran. In the face of brutal crackdowns, millions of Iraqi and Lebanese protesters, in movements led by Shiite Muslims that defy reductive sectarian narratives, have erupted in revolt against the corruption and failure of their governments and Iran's domination over their national politics. In early October, predominantly Shiite youth took to the streets in Iraq calling for their government's resignation, and chanting slogans like: "Out, out Iran, Baghdad remains free!"
The United Nation has since 2011 appointed three special rapporteurs for Iran to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country. They have never been allowed to visit the Iran while according to their annual reports, arbitrary arrests, torture and daily executions have significantly increased since then. Iran's regime is notorious for public executions as the country has sadly achieved horrific records on the number of executions, second largest after China.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The Trump administration on Monday offered a reward of up to $20 million for information about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007, and imposed new sanctions on leading Iranian officials as relations deteriorated further on the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover. The reward for help solving the Levinson disappearance and the sanctions also come as Iran said it was doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates to produce nuclear fuel, trimming the time experts believe that the Islamic Republic would need to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon.
The spokesperson of the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry, Abbas Mousavi, strongly denied Monday that Iran had requested the establishment of a U.S. consular section in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. Since Washington severed its diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic in 1979, the Swiss Embassy has overseen U.S. interests in Iran. Earlier on Sunday, October 3, the Wall Street Journal had cited an unnamed U.S. official as disclosing that Iran had recently requested the establishment of a consular service in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
Based on a parliamentary motion endorsed by the Islamic Republic legislators, the Iranian government will be obliged to add new anti-US chapters in school and university textbooks. The motion was approved by 180 votes in favor, six votes against, and five abstentions during the Parliament's open session on Monday, October 4. The lawmakers approved the motion concurrent with the 40th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
For Americans old enough to remember it, the images from the Iranian hostage crisis take us back to a shattering moment in US history. The pictures of captured American diplomats and Marine guards being paraded by a mob of Iranian "students" symbolized the decline of the United States from a superpower to a paper tiger that could be humiliated with impunity. After 442 days, the hostages were released and the defeat of President Jimmy Carter by Ronald Reagan the next year led to a revival of faith in America's future.
In 2016, British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with her daughter Gabriella, traveled to her native Iran to spend the holidays with relatives. She planned to stay for two weeks. Instead, her vacation turned into a nightmare in an Iranian prison that has already robbed her of more than three years of her life. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker, was arrested at the airport, blocked from flying home to London, and eventually charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Rohollah Faghihi's recent article in Foreign Policy-"Is Iran's Information Minister the Islamic Republic's Emmanuel Macron?"-depicts Iran's information and communications technology (ICT) minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, as an advocate of internet freedom, especially when it comes to accessing social media networks. The article suggests that when Azari Jahromi is not able to counter hard-liners' demands for censorship-for example, when the popular Telegram messaging app was banned-it was only because he faced powers greater than himself.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) will propose legislation barring the Trump administration from granting sanctions waivers to the Iranian government, the House Republican Conference chairwoman said on Monday. "These 'civil nuclear' waivers legitimize Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure and help sustain President Obama's disastrous nuclear deal," Cheney told The Washington Free Beacon. "Congress is determined to support President Donald Trump's rightful exit from that deal and his successful maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel and Hamas exchanged threats after the latest round of escalation, despite their assertion that they were not seeking confrontation at this stage. Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip Yehya al-Sinwar told a gathering of youth on Monday: "It is no secret that we have hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, thousands of ambushes, anti-armor and locally manufactured rockets. We will turn the cities of the occupation into ghost cities if they thought of committing any folly."
Expectations were high for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Nov. 1, which arrived at the end of a tumultuous week in Lebanon that included widespread street violence in Beirut and Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation after two weeks of nationwide protests. But the militant group's leader had little to say. Like in his previous speech on Oct. 25, Nasrallah stressed pragmatism over idealism and delivered bland criticisms of Lebanon's politicians while echoing their calls for a speedy government formation process following Hariri's departure.
A lot of attention has been devoted to the Islamic State's use of the Internet to inspire or direct international terrorist attacks. But little has been written about how Hezbollah uses similar approaches to recruit and execute attacks. A new study published this month in the CTC Sentinel explores this development by analyzing several cases of Hezbollah's alleged social media efforts to recruit Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to kill Israelis.
IRAQ & IRAN
It started quietly a month or so ago with scattered protests. Those steadily expanded until last week more than 200,000 Iraqis marched in Baghdad, raging against the Iraqi government and a foreign occupier - not the United States this time, but Iran. While the current leaders of the Iraqi government cower inside the Green Zone, where officials running the American occupation once sheltered, the protesters outside direct their anger against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which they now see as having too much influence.
Iraqi security forces shot dead three protesters and wounded 19 when they dispersed a violent demonstration outside the Iranian Consulate in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police officials said Monday. Iraq has seen mass protests in the capital and across the mostly Shiite south in recent days that are fueled by economic grievances and directed at the government and powerful political parties. The protesters have increasingly directed their anger at Iran, which has close ties to the government, Shiite political factions and paramilitary groups.
An Iranian aviation industry representative says flights to Baghdad and the Iraqi city of Najaf have stopped. Iraq is gripped by widespread protests against the government and on occasion protesters also voice anti-Iran slogans. Last night in the Iraqi city of Karbala, a holy site for Shiites, crowds attacked the Iranian consulate and security forces opened fire killing three people, sources told Reuters. Iran's Mehr news agency says that currently there are still a few Iranians at Najaf airport who will return apparently by the last flight.
Iran's rulers should be watching the chaos breaking out in Iraq carefully because they could be next. Unlike previous outbreaks of violence in Iraq, the current troubles are unrelated to Sunni-Shia problems. The riots include youths and working-class people of all religious confessions. The root cause of the discontent is poor governance by the Shiite ruling elites and the ayatollahs who abate and fund them.