Figures released by Central Bank Of Iran (CBI) show that during four days since July 18, it injected $921 million into the foreign exchange market to boost the country’s currency against the U.S. dollar. Since March, Iran’s rial fell by nearly 70 percent and reached 260,000 against the dollar. Three years ago, before the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions, Iran’s rial traded at 32,000 to the dollar. The first CBI intervention came on July 18 and 19 to the tune of a $300-million dollar injection at a much lower rate than the free market for importers.
An Iranian passenger plane en route from Iran to Beirut swerved and dropped abruptly on Thursday to avoid a nearby American fighter jet, injuring several passengers before landing in Beirut. Videos broadcast by Iranian and pro-Iran Lebanese media, which said the footage was taken by passengers, showed a fighter jet flying alongside the passenger plane, operated by Mahan Air, a privately owned Iranian airline. Passengers then screamed as sudden turbulence seized the plane. In the aftermath, one video showed a passenger with his face and head bloodied, as well as a man lying down, apparently unconscious, while someone tended to him.
President Donald Trump told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday he wanted to avoid a costly arms race with Russia and China and hoped for progress in arms control negotiations, the White House said. “President Trump reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. The two leaders also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, the Kremlin said in its statement on the call.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Hardly any Western media mentioned the fact that last week marked the fifth anniversary of former US president Barack Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the sell-out nuclear accord with Iran. The accord has emboldened Iran’s hegemonic march across the Middle East and has not halted its advance towards nuclear weapons. All of which hastens the day towards all-out Israeli-Iran confrontation. The JCPOA was based on Western charity for Iranian lies.
July 15, 2020, marks the fifth anniversary of the Iranian regime’s nuclear deal with 5+1 countries, a deal woven through with appeasement policy, leading to nothing but instability in the region and the spread of terrorism. During the first three years, from 2015 to 2018, the Iranian regime’s proxy groups continued to be developed unchecked, in the regime’s hands turning into an apparatus for the killing of Iraqis, Yemenis and the people of Lebanon.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Spain's El Mundo on Thursday reported that the Economic and Fiscal Crime Division of the Spanish Police (UDEF) has announced that between 2012 and 2015 the media company belonging to Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the leftist, anti-corruption Podemos Party, received more than nine million euros from Iran through other companies. El Mondo said evidence gathered by the Police and anti-money laundering committee indicates that the 16 companies suspected of money laundering injected a total of 9.3 million euro of illicit Iranian money into the leftist politician's company.
Iran's ambassador to Seoul was summoned to the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday to lodge an official protest over reports that Tehran is contemplating legal action against Seoul over the freezing of Iranian assets. An estimated $7 billion (€6.06 billion) in Iranian funds are presently being held in two South Korean banks, although the assets have been frozen since September 2019, when a waiver granted by the United States for imports of Iranian oil expired.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Several passengers on an Iranian airline were injured on Thursday over Syria after the pilot changed altitude to avoid collision with a U.S. fighter jet, according to Iranian media, but the U.S. military said its F-15 was at a safe distance. The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut when the pilot staged a safety maneuver, in an incident that Iran’s Foreign Ministry said would be investigated. Tensions have spiked between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.
Two US fighter aircraft made an “aggressive” close pass on an Iranian passenger flight over Syria today, Iran’s state media reported. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting originally said Mahan Air flight 1152 was harassed by Israeli aircraft as the flight was en route to Beirut, Lebanon. The broadcaster later quoted the Mahan Air pilot as saying the two fighter aircraft identified themselves as American. SANA, Syria’s state-controlled news agency, said the flight was intercepted in the vicinity of the al-Tanf base, a remote US military outpost on Syria’s eastern border with Iraq.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Revolutionary Guard and the Judiciary in separate statements Thursday announced that the Intelligence Unit of the Guards has arrested several officials of an industrial company in Alborz Province and has shut down fifty real estate agencies in various cities of Yazd Province. The statement clearly presented the IRGC Intelligence Organization as an arm of the Judiciary. The public relations of the Guards in Yazd said the agencies that were shut down "had been suspected of causing disruptions in the real estate market" and were shut down and sealed off by the Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guard.
Despite national lockdowns and a concerted effort to bring coronavirus infections down in the country, Iran is currently experiencing a peak in daily deaths with an average 200 coronavirus-related deaths a day. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said July 23 that there had been 221 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, pushing Iran’s total death toll from the virus over 15,000. Lari said that in the previous 24 hours there had been 2,621 new cases in the country, with 2,004 of those hospitalized.
CHINA & IRAN
Iran is reportedly in the final stages of agreeing to a $400 billion economic and security deal with China, which includes infrastructure investment, discounted Iranian oil and enhanced cooperation on both defense and intelligence. Iran, suffering from the horrific impact of COVID-19 and with its economy in free fall since the Trump administration reimposed sanctions after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, is in desperate economic straits.
The “maximum pressure” policy and sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration have definitely achieved one of their main objectives: Exerting significant economic pressure on the Iranian regime. Nevertheless, one of the unintended consequences is that Iran is now being pushed into the arms of China. And China is taking full advantage of US-Iranian tensions. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reportedly given his approval to a proposed 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement with China.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
An international team has completed a preliminary investigative analysis of the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger jetliner accidentally shot down by Iran in January, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. "The work in Paris is finished, but the investigation is far from over. There are still many key questions that need to be answered," board chair Katy Fox said in a statement, without giving further details. Fox urged Iran, the country that is leading the investigation, to release information as soon as possible, adding that the country has not authorized the board to release details.
A spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry accused the United States and other foreign governments of orchestrating daily cyberattacks on his country, but implied the governments were not behind the suspicious string of fires targeting Iran’s military, industrial and nuclear sectors. During a press conference today, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said “limited fires” during this time of year were “neither peculiar nor something happening this year alone."