A group of Iran-backed militias said Sunday that it has agreed to a "conditional" cease-fire against U.S.-linked interests in Iraq on the condition that Washington present a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops. The militias have plagued U.S.-linked diplomatic and military targets for months, firing rockets at embassies and bases and targeting Iraqis who drive logistics convoys serving the U.S.-led coalition. The Trump administration has responded by threatening to shutter the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a move that Iraqi officials say will accelerate Iran’s ascent in the tug of war that the two countries have fought over Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday called on the international community to condemn the Trump administration’s decision to blacklist Iran’s financial sector, the country’s official news agency reported. According to the IRNA report, Rouhani said in a phone conversation with the head of the country’s central bank, Abdolnasser Hemmati, that the U.S. move was “against international law and regulation as well as inhumane,” coming at a time of the coronavirus pandemic. “Those who claim to support human rights all over the world, should condemn” the U.S. decision, Rouhani was quoted as saying.
The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the U.S. dollar on Sunday as a record daily death toll from COVID-19 compounded concerns over new U.S. sanctions which may block some of Iran’s medicine purchases. The dollar was selling for as much as 312,200 rials on the unofficial market, up from 304,300 on Saturday, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com. The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad’s website gave the dollar rate as 310,000 up from 303,300 on Saturday.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran does not at this stage have enough enriched uranium to make one nuclear bomb under the UN atomic watchdog's official definition, the agency's head told an Austrian paper. "The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi told Die Presse in an interview published on its website on Saturday.
China's foreign minister Wang Yi has called for a new forum to defuse tensions in the Middle East after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart where he reiterated Beijing's support for Tehran. Wang and Javid Zarif also reaffirmed their commitment to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, an implicit rebuke of the United States for abandoning the accord during their Saturday meeting in China's southwestern Tengchong city.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
An Iranian-flagged oil tanker left Venezuela on Friday for Iran’s Kharg Island, Refinitiv Eikon data showed, after the vessel loaded 1.9 million barrels of heavy crude at the South American country’s Jose oil terminal. The shipment marks the latest example of cooperation between the two OPEC nations this year as they step up commercial ties to try to rescue their respective oil industries, both of which are under intense pressure from U.S. sanctions. The very-large crude carrier (VLCC), registered in shipping databases under the name Horse, discharged 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate to be used as diluent for Venezuela’s extra heavy oil production in September.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Sunday for promoting trade with neighboring countries and boosting non-oil exports to face the impact of the US sanctions. This came as the Iranian rial fell to a new low only three days after new US sanctions were announced against 18 Iranian banks. Addressing the government’s Economic Coordination Committee session on Sunday, Rouhani said his government seeks to increase and develop non-oil exports in light of the most severe embargo imposed on the country.
In September, the Iranian regime of Hassan Rouhani sent four oil tankers to Venezuelan coasts. Last week, the fleet arrived, a lifeline for a regime that has been struggling to meet Venezuela’s energy needs. Historically, Venezuela has been among the largest oil-producing countries in the world. Before Venezuela’s socialist revolution bankrupted the Venezuelan oil sector, the South American country used to produce over three million barrels of oil per day. Similarly, Venezuela used to refine over a million barrels of fuel per day, which is roughly ten times its domestic consumption. Hence, Venezuela had enough fuel to subsidize the country’s consumption and to export the vast majority of it.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In the face of the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak and economic ruin, Iran’s violent crackdown and persecution of anti-government activists is an attempt to deter future protests, analysts say. Yet, in their view, the regime’s disregard for human rights may well be a sign of weakness rather than strength. The world was appalled in September at the cruel hanging of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestling champion. He sought a fair trial until the end, but was deprived of legal representation and detained alongside his two brothers.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian-controlled Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are coming to the Western Hemisphere. According to Radio Farda, Iranian military commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, the former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is helping Venezuela to form PMUs and transferring Iran’s experience to Venezuela to stand “against America.” In 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady reported that the “West underestimates the growing threat from radical Islam (Iran) in the Americas,” through an Iran-Cuba-Venezuela nexus, with the help of regional allies Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s chief nuclear scientist and another top aide to President Hassan Rouhani have tested positive for the coronavirus. Ali Akbar Salehi, Rouhani’s deputy for nuclear affairs and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, is resting and self-isolating at home, the semi-official Iranian Student’s News Agency reported on Sunday. Salehi tested positive for the virus on Oct. 3, according to the report, which cited the atomic organization’s spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi.
A suspected gas explosion flattened a building and shops in a marketplace in southwest Iran on Sunday, killing at least five people, a fire official said, in the latest in a series of fires and blasts, some of which have hit sensitive sites. State television showed rescue teams looking for survivors in the rubble of the two-storey residential building located near a historic marketplace in the old district of the city of Ahvaz, capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province.
NORTH KOREA & IRAN
On just about any list of international “bad actors,” North Korea and Iran certainly make the cut—and any news of them working together (and likely against the U.S. and our friends) is quickly put in the category of “trouble.” So you can imagine the concern recently when an unidentified U.S. official told the press that: “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on a long-range missile project, including the transfer of critical parts.” Unfortunately, despite intense interest in any new tidbit on the Pyongyang-Tehran axis, the official declined to offer up which long-range missile program this is or when this cooperation started, stopped—and then resumed.
CHINA & IRAN
Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif arrived in China on Friday, just a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran's entire financial sector. Zarif's trip to China highlights the deepening relationship between Beijing and Tehran, which has found an ally in the Communist regime as the Trump administration continues to tighten the noose on Iran's economy. The trip will include "close consultations" between Zarif and top Communist Party members, including CCP foreign minister Wang Yi, according to Iran's state-controlled press.
IRAQ & IRAN
Forty years ago, a major war between Iran and Iraq set the stage for far-reaching and lasting regional dynamics. The conflict — which began in September 1980 when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, and ended in a stalemate in 1988 — was the nascent Islamic Republic’s first major military test. It was an existential battle for the Iranian leadership, coming just one year after the 1979 revolution in Iran. The war claimed at least one million lives. The legacies of the war are numerous.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
An Iranian diplomat charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France warned authorities of possible retaliation by unidentified groups if he is found guilty, according to a police document. Belgian prosecutors charged Vienna-based Assadolah Assadi in Oct. 2018 and three others with planning an attack that year on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) attended by high profile former U.S., European and Arab officials.