Iran said Saturday that it had executed a 27-year-old wrestler accused of murder after he took part in antigovernment protests two years ago, a case that set off a campaign by international sports groups to demand clemency for the athlete. The wrestler, Navid Afkari, was executed on Saturday morning at a prison in the southern city of Shiraz, his lawyers confirmed. Mr. Afkari was accused of fatally stabbing a water-utility worker amid unrest in his home city, Shiraz, a center of the antigovernment protests that swept the country in 2018.
As President Trump seeks to forge a historic step for peace in the Middle East, by presiding over the agreement normalizing relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab nations of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the looming shadow of Iran will not be far from the White House ceremony on Tuesday. The administration is tightening the global squeeze on the Islamic Republic. "The United States must keep pressure on the regime in Tehran as long as it creates conflict, chaos, and human suffering," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft told Fox News.
An oil tanker is discharging Iranian condensate for Venezuela as both countries continue to avoid U.S. sanction tripwires. The ship, identified as Honey, turned off its satellite signal and started unloading about 2 million barrels of South Pars condensate at Venezuela’s controlled port of Jose on Saturday, according to a report and a person with knowledge of the situation. The cargo will most likely be used by the state oil company PDVSA to blend with Venezuela’s tar-like oil and help to prop up oil production in the Orinoco oil belt.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The British foreign secretary has demanded Iran complies with its nuclear deal but has avoided a commitment to reimpose UN arms sanctions against Tehran, it emerged today. After meeting with his German and French counterparts to discuss whether the three European ‘E3’ countries would vote with the US for the sanctions next month, Dominic Raab failed to make a full statement on Britain’s position. The UK has been under intense pressure from America to support President Donald Trump’s demand for a “snapback” on all UN sanction against Iran.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran’s currency on Saturday dropped to its lowest value ever against the dollar, and has seen its value fall by 30% since June amid severe U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran. Money exchange shops traded the Iranian rial 262,000 for a dollar. The rial had traded at 256,000 to $1 on Thursday, and markets were closed Friday, the start of the weekend in Iran. The rial has tumbled from a rate of 200,000 in late June. Iran’s currency was at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran’s oil revenue slumped by more than half in the last Iranian calendar year, relative to government forecasts for the previous year, according to figures quoted by President Hassan Rouhani. Sales from Iran’s main currency earner reached “slightly more than $20 billion” in the 12 months to March 2020, Rouhani said in remarks shown on state TV. Iran’s government budget had forecast $53 billion of revenues from oil for the 12 months ending March 2019, according to a report by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency published in Dec. 2017.
The United States and Iran will face off at the UN's top court on Monday in the latest round of a battle over sanctions on Tehran reimposed by President Donald Trump. Tehran dragged Washington to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in 2018 after Trump pulled the US out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran. They will argue over the coming week about whether the court, set up after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states, actually has jurisdiction in the case.
An Iranian fuel tanker bound for Venezuela showed up on radar on Friday as off the coast of South Africa. Iranian fuel deliveries continue to the South American country after recent US seizures, and the lengthy route around Africa could be to avoid the US military. The website MarineTraffic received a signal from the tanker, named Fortune, on Friday showing it off South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast. MarineTraffic shows at least three Iran-flagged fuel tankers currently sailing, none of which have a destination listed. Fortune began in the United Arab Emirates city of Khor Fakkan and is due to dock on Sept. 21.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A British lawmaker says a new trial that a woman with dual nationality expected to face in Iran on Sunday has been postponed, with no new date arranged. After speaking to dual-national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, Parliament member Tulip Siddiq said in a tweet that the “trial” has been postponed. Siddiq added that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, is “relieved, frustrated, stressed and angry” and that once again the dual British-Iranian national is “being treated like a bargaining chip.” Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local lawmaker, said more information will follow later Sunday.
In a joint letter to the leaders across the globe, 22 international human rights organizations are advocating for the establishment of a select committee at the next gathering of the UN's Council of Human Rights to investigate "the grave violation of human rights in Iran" during and after the November 2019 protests. "We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on your government to address the continuing crisis of impunity for serious human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities during the November 2019 protests and their aftermath, including through collective action at the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council," the letter says.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against the American ambassador to South Africa, U.S. intelligence reports say, according to a U.S. government official familiar with the issue and another official who has seen the intelligence. News of the plot comes as Iran continues to seek ways to retaliate for President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a powerful Iranian general earlier this year, the officials said. If carried out, it could dramatically ratchet up already serious tensions between the U.S. and Iran and create enormous pressure on Trump to strike back — possibly in the middle of a tense election season.
Protesters in Lebanon and Iraq in the last year have turned their ire not only against conditions in their own countries, but against Iran's corrosive influence in them. Past Palestinian protests in Gaza against the Iran-supported terrorist group Hamas, and protests in Iran itself, against the use of scarce Iranian resources for its leaders' foreign malign expeditions, have voiced similar frustrations. Syria has been virtually destroyed by a now over nine-year civil war in which much of the population has fought the Iran-backed Syrian leadership.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's military says it drove away U.S. aircraft that flew close to an area where a three-day military exercise was being conducted near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Tehran's military said on September 11 that its air force detected three U.S. aircraft after they entered Iran’s air defense identification zone. The U.S. craft were identified as a P-8 airplane, an MQ-9 drone, and an RQ-4 drone. After "ignoring warnings by Iran's defense systems to keep away from the drill zone" the aircraft were tracked by an Iranian drone before "they changed course and left the zone," Tehran's military added.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least one person was killed and several injured in an explosion at a shop in an area near Iran’s capital Tehran, Iranian state TV reported on Friday, adding that at least 30 buildings were damaged by the blast. “An explosion on Tohid Street, south of Nasimshahr, took place in a battery shop. One person was killed and at least 10 people were injured. Ten cars and 30 buildings were badly damaged as well,” state TV reported. It said the cause of the explosion was being investigated.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday that Bahrain would face “harsh revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf Arab state’s move to normalise ties with Israel. “The executioner ruler of Bahrain should await the harsh revenge of the Mujahideen (Islamic fighters) aiming to liberate Quds (Jerusalem) and the proud Muslim nation of this country,” the Guards said in a statement posted on their website.
Israelis are delighted the government has reached another peace deal with an Arab country, this time Bahrain, following last month’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates. Analysts say the Gulf states see the deals as a way to discourage potential attacks from Iran. But Palestinians are furious at the deal, calling Bahrain’s move “another knife in the back.” President Donald Trump announced the latest Arab-Israeli peace deal was in Washington on the anniversary of the September 11th 2001, terrorist attack.