The U.N. Security Council is preparing to vote this week on a U.S. proposal to extend an arms embargo on Iran, a move that some diplomats say is bound to fail and put the fate of a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers further at risk. A last-minute attempt by Britain, France and Germany to broker a compromise with Russia and China on an arms embargo extension appeared unsuccessful so far, diplomats said. Russia and China, allies of Iran, have long-signaled opposition to the U.S. measure.
Iran is watching developments in Lebanon closely, wary of losing any of its hard-won influence after a deadly mega-blast in Beirut sparked angry demands for reforms to its delicately balanced system. One week on from the chemical explosion that wreaked destruction across swathes of the Lebanese capital, the strategic eastern Mediterranean country is still reeling. Lebanese have taken to the streets over the disaster that claimed at least 158 lives and injured 6,000, with many calling for heads to roll and for major changes.
Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources. Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals went up in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port and swathes of the capital, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 and destroyed 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Since 1984, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been designated as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” by the U. S. State Department. While most analysts have focused on the violence resulting from terrorism, few have considered another consequence. Wherever Iran’s terror proxies dominate a society in the Middle East, there is also massive corruption that creates extreme poverty and human suffering. That is why Iran should also be considered a “state sponsor of poverty.” The tragedy of Lebanon is a prime example of the destructive role of Iran through its powerful proxy, Hezbollah.
…David Daoud, for instance, argues in a post at the Atlantic Council that Hezbollah has considerable influence over the port. The Daily Mail in the UK had an article on August 10 arguing that an “explosive expert” determined that the Beirut explosion was caused by “burning military missiles, not ammonium nitrate, because the black cloud was orange, not yellow.” The question of what Hezbollah knew will never be answered unless an intelligence agency or insider leaks information about their knowledge of the warehouse contents and what they may have done there in the weeks or years prior to the incident.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Halkbank on Monday urged a U.S. judge to dismiss an indictment accusing the Turkish lender of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, saying it was immune from liability and that the applicable laws did not cover alleged misconduct outside the United States. U.S. prosecutors had accused Halkbank of using money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions, enabling revenue from oil and gas sales be spent on gold, and the facilitation of sham food and medicine purchases.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's promise last week to announce an "economic breakthrough" soon gave way to speculations that Iran was ready to approve anti-money-laundering laws mandated by the international community. But now another idea has been floated: Selling oil bonds to people to pocket their savings in hard currencies with a promise to pay them back later with a profit. The Financial Action Task Force, FATF has been demanding Iran to put in financial safeguards against money laundering and Financing of terrorism that hardliners have been resisting so far.
The Iranian regime—buffeted by U.S. sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and a series of mysterious explosions—has been forced to address unrest and strikes among key oil and gas workers across the country, as the effects of President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign bite in key industries. Strikes erupted last week among workers in industrial sectors including oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, amid worsening economic conditions and high inflation in Iran, Radio Farda reported.
Despite harsh US sanctions, Iran is continuing to export over 600,000 barrels a day, over twice as much oil as a recent Congressional report estimated, according to NBC News. The NBC report, based on data from TankerTrackers.com, a company that tracks oil exports, brought up the case of the Indian tanker Gissel. The tanker left Pakistan in April and seemed to begin a standard journey up the Persian Gulf. Tracking data then showed the ship making a U-turn near the Straits of Hormuz and coming to a stop in the Gulf of Oman.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Almost two years ago, the Iranian government arrested Australian scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport as she was leaving Iran after attending an academic conference in Qom. Moore-Gilbert languished in Iran’s Evin Prison for over a year, but, in July, Iranian authorities transferred her to Qarchak Women’s Prison, a prison notorious for torture and rape. The resulting outcry led to calls for action across Australia.
A few days ago, I woke up in my house in Brooklyn to learn that the Iranian government had unleashed a social media campaign calling for my abduction. Jame-Jam, the country’s top newspaper, warned: “Masih! Be ready! You’re the next to be kidnapped.” Ebrahim Rezaei, deputy head of the Judiciary Committee in parliament, urged the intelligence services to kidnap me. Photoshopped pictures depicted me facing my interrogators in hijab and handcuffs. None of these accounts and their threats, by the way, seems to have violated Twitter’s guidelines.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
An Iranian deputy judiciary chief called on the Islamic Republic's prosecutor to file a lawsuit against the now former US special representative of Iran Brian Hook for allegedly threatening Iranian military officials with assassination, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Monday. “The prosecutor is required to issue an indictment against Brian Hook because he was the sponsor of the plan to exert maximum pressure against Iran, prevent Iran’s access to its financial resources, impose secondary sanctions and resort to force against Iran," Iran's deputy judiciary chief for international affairs Ali Baqeri told judiciary chief Ebrahim Rayeesi.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian authorities have arrested five Iranians on charges of spying for Israel, Britain and Germany, convicting and handing down prison sentences on at least two of them, the judiciary said on Tuesday. “In recent months, five Iranians who were spying for foreign intelligence services have been arrested,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a virtual news conference. Shahram Shirkhani spied for British intelligence services and tried to recruit some Iranian officials for Britain’s MI6 agency, Esmali said.
Iran’s judiciary has handed 10-year prison sentences to two citizens accused of spying for European and Israeli intelligence services, spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili said in a televised news briefing. Shahram Shirkhani is accused of spying for the U.K., leaking details of banking and Iranian Defense Ministry contracts, and recruiting spies for the intelligence service, Esmaeili said. Masoud Mosaheb, who was arrested in January 2019, is accused of “passing along information in military, missile, nuclear and medical projects” to German and Israeli spy agencies while serving as the secretary-general of the little-known Iranian-Austrian Friendship Society, Esmaeili said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran shut down a newspaper on Monday after it quoted a former member of the national coronavirus taskforce as saying the country’s tolls from the epidemic could be 20 times higher than official figures, state news agency IRNA reported. “The Jahan-e Sanat newspaper was shut down today for publishing an interview on Sunday,” the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Mohammadreza Saadi, told IRNA. On Sunday, the newspaper published an interview with Mohammadreza Mahboubfar, in which he said: “The figures announced by the officials on coronavirus cases and deaths account for only 5% of the country’s real tolls”.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The head of Iran’s insurance regulation agency said European insurance companies, not Iranian ones, should pay compensation for the loss of a Ukraine International Airlines passenger aircraft shot down near Tehran in January. “The Ukrainian plane is insured by European companies in Ukraine and not by Iranian companies. Therefore, the compensation should be paid by those European companies,” Gholamreza Soleimani, head of Iran’s Central Insurance Organization, said Monday, according to Iran’s state-news affiliated Young Journalists Club. Reuters first brought the quote to light.