Iran’s army began an annual three-day naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, state TV reported. The report said units from the navy, air force and ground forces participated in the maneuver in the Gulf of Oman. It said Iranian submarines and drones would be used during the exercise. Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of the annual maneuver dubbed as Zolfaghar-99, said Wednesday that the war game was aimed at “improving readiness in confronting foreign threats and any possible invasion.”
A company owned by Iran’s biggest state-controlled charity has signed a contract to develop part of the country’s second-largest oil field. Sina Energy Development Co. will carry out drilling and repair work on 18 wells as well as building pipelines for Phases 1 and 4 of the Marun oil field in southwestern Khuzestan province, a report on mfnews.ir said, quoting the company’s managing director, Javad Owji. Sina Energy was established in 2007 and is owned by the Bonyad-e Mostazafan Foundation, which also reported the deal on its website.
Weapons provided by Western powers and Iran to the warring sides in Yemen are fuelling the six-year-old conflict, marked by deadly Saudi-led coalition air strikes and Houthi shelling, U.N. investigators said on Wednesday. Coalition air strikes in the past year may amount to war crimes, while the Iran-aligned Houthi movement carried out killings and other abuses that may also constitute war crimes, they said in a report. It was the third successive year that the panel of independent experts found that all parties had violated international law. This year’s findings covered incidents from June 2019 to June 2020.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saboteurs responsible for the July 2 explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility have been identified, said a senior Iranian energy official as reported by the country's semi-official state media outlet, Fars News Agency. On Sunday, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi told state media that the government had discovered those responsible for the blast. Kamalvandi declined to provide further details as he said the investigation is ongoing.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Angry Venezuelans are once again stuck in long service station lines due to rationing by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which is awaiting fuel tankers on their way from Iran to the oil-rich but fuel-starved South American nation. Venezuela’s refineries have nearly halted operations due to years of underinvestment while U.S. sanctions meant to force the ruling Socialist Party from power have severely restricted fuel imports, leaving Maduro dependent on ally Iran for gasoline.
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has tried to put pressure on a group of European countries to reimpose sanctions on Iran after the discovery of growing stockpiles of uranium in contravention of the 2015 nuclear deal. Mr Pompeo said in a tweet that Britain, France and Germany should “wake up to the reality” that the nuclear deal was history and join the US in more punitive measures aimed at preventing Iran securing a nuclear weapon. The three countries have been steadfast in backing a diplomatic solution to bring Iran back to compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The dollar was sold at an almost-record level of more than 250,000 rials in Tehran's exchange market on Tuesday. Some currency price information channels, which publish the Tehran market's daily exchange rates, even set the dollar's price at 25,250 rials during Tuesday's spike. Earlier on July 19, the price of the dollar hit a new record, increasing to 260,000 rials. Following a series of severe currency fluctuations in late July and early August, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) injected about one billion dollars into the market. The dollar price returned to the level of 210,000 rials, but soon resumed its upward trend.
Rory Stewart made his name as an adventurer who walked from the Arabian Gulf to Kabul in 2001 before becoming a British Cabinet minister. But when Mr Stewart looks at Iran now, he says it is in danger of becoming a modern version of isolated and impoverished Myanmar. The country is in danger of being stuck in decades of lost growth under an autocratic regime that is stuck in the 1970s, he told The National.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
International sports groups are intensifying calls for Iran to spare the life of a wrestler, warning that he could be executed as early as Wednesday. Iran's Supreme Court recently upheld two death sentences against Navid Afkari, who is accused of murdering a security guard during anti-government protests in Shiraz in 2018. The 27-year-old has filed a complaint, saying he was forced to make false confessions while under "the most severe physical and psychological torture." "We are literally at one minute to midnight," said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association, which represents 85,000 professional athletes.
The British government has condemned an Iranian court's decision to bring new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian charity worker jailed on espionage charges four years ago. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016, accused by the Iranian government of working with organizations allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime -- a claim that she and her family have consistently denied. She had been visiting her parents with her young daughter from their home in the UK.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Convinced that neither the government nor parliament make sufficient effort to regulats social media, the legislator Nasrollah Pejmanfar (pictured) has initiated a draft law for the internet. The deputy is the chairman of Article 90 Commission, a constitutional body to hear complaints against the executive and legislative branches of Iran's government. Officially, all social media platforms in Iran are blocked, though not (yet) banned. However, according to a recent study by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, more than half of Iran's 82 million inhabitants have accounts with at least one of the theoretically blocked social networks.
CHINA & IRAN
Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later this month along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, China’s Defence Ministry announced on Thursday. The “Caucus 2020” drills will deploy wheeled vehicles and light weaponry to be flown to the drill location by China’s latest version transport aircraft. The exercises running from September 21 to 26 will focus on defensive tactics, encirclement and battlefield control and command, the ministry said.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Arab League foreign ministers have condemned Turkey and Iran’s meddling in the affairs of Arab countries. Ahmed Abu Al Ghait, Secretary-General of the Arab League, said: “The past period witnessed growing bullying and hostility by regional powers towards our Arab region, and the escalation of interference in the affairs of our Arab countries by two neighboring countries, namely Iran and Turkey.” Arab League states met on Wednesday at foreign minister level to discuss Turkish and Iranian interference in the region and the Palestinian cause.