Iran Sanctions Could Tighten If Nuclear Talks Fade, Biden Admin Officials Tell Senators

TOP STORIES 

Iran Sanctions Could Tighten If Nuclear Talks Fade, Biden Admin Officials Tell Senators | Politico 

Biden administration officials assured senators at a Wednesday classified briefing that the U.S. would ramp up sanctions on Iran if needed as hopes dim for a diplomatic pathway on Tehran’s nuclear program, according to attendees. The assurances came as lawmakers in both parties press the Biden administration to articulate a backup plan that could prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. U.S. officials had worked for months to revive the Obama-era denuclearization agreement with Tehran that Donald Trump ripped up in 2018, but the last of those discussions happened in March, one top lawmaker said.  

Tanker Built By Iran For Venezuela To Carry Fuel Components In First Trip -Sources | Reuters 

A tanker built by an Iranian shipyard for Venezuela plans to depart next month from the Middle Eastern country with a cargo of fuel components for the gasoline-thirsty nation, three sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters. The new vessel is the latest sign of the growing energy collaboration between the two nations under U.S. sanctions. Iran and Venezuela are increasingly swapping crude for diluents and for fuel the South American country desperately needs due to the poor condition of its refining network.  

Iran Authorities Seize Vessel Carrying Smuggled Fuel- IRNA | Reuters 

Iranian authorities have seized a vessel carrying 90,000 litres of smuggled fuel in the waters around Kish Island in the Gulf, Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday. The captain and five other crew members were issued with criminal warrants and have been detained, IRNA added. Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the fall of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighbouring states and by sea to Gulf Arab countries.  

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS  

Lapid: All UN Security Council Nuclear Sanctions On Iran Must Be Restored | The Times Of Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Wednesday morning for the United Nations Security Council’s “snapback” sanctions on Iran to be implemented over its resurgent nuclear program. “We’ve arrived at the point at which the Iranian nuclear issue needs to return to the UN Security Council and all sanctions need to be reactivated,” said Lapid, speaking mostly in Hebrew to Israeli and international journalists at a press conference highlighting Israeli diplomatic achievements since his government with Naftali Bennett took office last June.

MISSILE PROGRAM 

Iran Preparing To Conduct Test Launch Of Solid-Fuel Satellite Rocket | The Jerusalem Post 

Iran is preparing to conduct a test launch of its Zuljanah solid-fuel satellite carrier rocket, a spokesperson for the Iranian Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday. Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, the spokesman, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that three test launches of the Zuljanah rocket had been planned, with one test launch already having taken place last year and two more test launches planned. Iranian media called the test launch last year "successful."  

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Iranian Protests Spread As Discontent Over Sanction-Hit Economy Grows | Radio Free Europe 

Merchants and shopkeepers at bazaars have continued protests in more cities across Iran as the economy reels from U.S. sanctions and the rial weakens to historic lows against the dollar. The Hrana news agency reported on June 15 that mobile phone sellers in the city of Najafabad in Isfahan joined the protests, closing their shops over the instability of the currency and an increase in tax rates. Protests were also reported in Arak, Kazerun, and Minab. With the rial trading at around 332,000 to the dollar, rallies have been spreading after Tehran's bazaars and merchants in Kazerun in Fars Province closed their markets to protest the country's economic conditions.  

Activists Warn Of 'Inhumane Treatment' Of Journalist Held In Iranian Prison | Radio Free Europe 

More than 200 political and civil activists and journalists have signed a statement calling out Iran's "inhumane treatment" of jailed 74-year-old journalist Keyvan Samimi after a new case was brought against him. The signatories of the statement, which was published on June 14, also accused Iranian officials of "attempted assassination," noting that Samimi has been kept behind bars despite the fact that he is suffering from "various illnesses." "The senior judicial, security, and political officials of the Islamic republic will be responsible for any negligence or misfortune for him," they said, calling for his immediate release.  

UN Experts Alarmed By Iran ‘Violent Crackdown’ On Protests | Arab News 

A group of independent UN rights experts expressed alarm Wednesday over a “violent crackdown” on teachers and wider civil society in Iran, demanding that those responsible be held to account. The experts, who are appointed by the United Nations but do not speak on its behalf, alleged that more than 80 teachers had been arrested or summoned by the authorities in the Islamic republic. The reported arrests come amid repeated protests by teachers against working conditions and low wages, including one held on May 1 — International Workers’ Day — when they took to the streets of several cities, joined by transport workers.  

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Russia, Turkey, Iran Call For Calm In Syria's Idlib | Reuters 

Russia, Turkey, and Iran have agreed to make further efforts to ensure calm in Syria's Idlib de-escalation area, the three countries said in a joint statement after talks in Kazakhstan. They "highlighted the necessity to maintain calm on the ground by fully implementing all agreements on Idlib" without specifying what that meant for Turkey's plans to conduct a military operation against the Kurdush-led YPG group there. 

Ex-IRGC Commander Claims Iran Dealing Constant Confidential ‘Blows’ To Israel | The Times Of Israel 

The former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps claimed Wednesday that Iran is dealing ongoing “blows” to the State of Israel. “The Zionist regime and its officials know better what blows they have received from the Islamic Republic so far, some of which are even still in progress,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Tasnim news agency. However, Jafari claimed that many of the IRGC’s operations and attacks on Israel must be kept confidential.  

Israel Puts Syria On Notice Over Iran | Al Monitor 

With negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program stalled and the world's attention focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel appears to be intensifying its military activity in Syria. According to foreign news reports, Israel has not only upped the pace of its strikes on Iranian-linked targets there but has also improved their quality, hitting the Damascus international airport several times in recent weeks and disrupting its operations. Israel has been waging its “war between the wars” with Iran over the past decade at various degrees of intensity.  

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS     

Argentina Says Iranians Detained On Grounded Flight Are Not Quds Force Members | The Times Of Israel

No member of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was among the 19 crew of a Venezuelan plane grounded outside Buenos Aires, Argentina said Wednesday. As the crew remained barred from exiting Argentina pending investigations into the flight’s purpose and origins, Security Minister Anibal Fernandez said one of the men shared a name with a Quds Force member, nothing more. The man, Gholamreza Ghasemi, is one of five Iranian crew members who had their passports seized after the Venezuelan Boeing 747 cargo plane was grounded in Argentina a week ago.  

CYBERWARFARE 

Iran Arrests Suspect Allegedly Involved In Tehran Hacking | Associated Press 

Iranian authorities have arrested a suspect allegedly involved in a cyberattack on the Tehran municipality’s website, media reported Wednesday. The official IRNA news agency gave no further details but said more information would be released later. The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that the suspect worked for the municipality and had links to foreign intelligence services. Earlier this month, Iran said that government-run surveillance cameras in Tehran were “disrupted.” An exile group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, claimed it hacked into over 5,000 cameras around Tehran and the municipality website.