The head of Iran's atomic agency said Sunday that 1,044 centrifuges were active at the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, in line with steps to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal. The suspension of all enrichment at the underground facility near the Shiite holy city of Qom was one of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities that it accepted in return for the lifting of international sanctions in the 2015 landmark accord. Tehran first announced the resumption of enrichment at Fordow last November, the fourth phase of its push since May 2019 to progressively suspend commitments to the deal.
President Trump took to Twitter late Monday to issue a stern warning to Iran that an assassination attempt or attack against the U.S. in retaliation of the airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this year will be met with a counterattack that “will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude.” Trump cited recent reports that claim Tehran is considering an assassination attempt on Lana Marks, the United States’ ambassador to South Africa. U.S. officials have been aware of threats against the ambassador since the spring, but intelligence suggests those threats have become more specific in recent weeks.
Referring to the pressure placed on Iran by United States sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that Iran's oil revenues dropped "from $120 billion in 2011" to "just over $ 20 billion" in 2019. In a joint video conference with the heads of the other two other branches of the government on Sunday, September 13, Rouhani said that although U.S. sanctions were largely responsible for Iran's financial problems, that the U.S. had also recently suffered "unprecedented political and legal setbacks."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
President Trump's recent Middle East peace agreements showed that former Secretary of State John Kerry was wrong to predict that Israel would be more isolated without the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday. “I remember Secretary Kerry saying that if the nuclear deal was abandoned that Israel would become more isolated when in fact just the opposite has now happened," he said on "The Story."
The head of UN's nuclear watchdog said Monday that inspectors would "in a few days" visit the second of two sites in Iran where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s. Iran's refusal to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to the two sites had caused a diplomatic row for months. This had further strained efforts to save the 2015 landmark Iran nuclear deal, which has hung by a thread since the US pulled out of it in 2018.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Lawyers for the United States on Monday asked judges at the United Nations’ highest court to dismiss a case brought by Iran seeking to lift sanctions. Lawyer Marik String said Iran had wrongly introduced a subject uncovered by a 1955 bilateral pact, the Treaty of Amity, which Tehran cites as the basis for going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court. It was “an inescapable reality”, he added, that the real aim of Iran’s legal suit is to restore a 2015 nuclear pact opposed by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Iran has canceled plans to enable members of the public to invest in the country’s oil production via Islamic bonds, a state-run news service reported. The plans were first announced by President Hassan Rouhani in August as part of efforts to control money supply and parry the impact of both U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus on Iran’s ailing economy. Iranian media reported at the time the plan would involve the pre-sale of barrels of oil on Iran’s energy exchange, or IRENEX, through Islamic “salaf” bonds, which are similar to futures.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The European Union on Monday added its voice to an international outcry over the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, saying the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment that the EU opposes in all cases. Iranian state media reported Afkari’s execution on Saturday. Afkari, a champion Greco-Roman wrestler, had been convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018. Afkari’s family has maintained that his conviction depended on a confession that was extracted through torture, which Afkari later recanted.
In 1989, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, a Kurdish dissident living in Vienna, was supposed to meet for negotiations with Iranian officials. The secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, his group had been brutally suppressed by Iran. Now, perhaps, the regime was changing and would be open to talks with the Kurds. Instead, Tehran sent assassins and gunned down Ghassemlou on July 13, 1989. The murderers escaped, one slipping away to the Iranian embassy.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
South Africa’s government is assessing a report that Iran is plotting an attack on the U.S. envoy to Pretoria. Politico reported on Sunday that Iran is considering an attempt to assassinate U.S. Ambassador Lana Marks to avenge the U.S.’s killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year. Intelligence about the alleged threat, which first surfaced in the spring, has become more specific in recent weeks, the news website said, citing an unidentified U.S. government official.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Yemeni National Resistance Forces have thwarted another attempt to smuggle quantities of weapons and equipment by a cell of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, with the aim of delivering them to Al Houthi terrorists, local media reported. Coast Guard forces in the Red Sea sector were able to intercept a boat at sea, and arrested members of the smuggling cell, who are Houthis associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and operate within the weapons-smuggling network, Al Watan newspaper said.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
The State Department-led maximum pressure campaign against Iran has revealed serious fissures between the Trump administration and the E3, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Not only have the Europeans refused to join the economic-sanctions campaign, but more recently they rejected Secretary Mike Pompeo’s attempt to extend the arms embargo against Iran. The campaign also has underscored Iran’s resiliency as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Despite the political and economic failure of its proxy states, like Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, Iran continues to find means to reinforce its proxies.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Bahrain’s interior minister said on Monday that normalising ties with Israel protects Bahrain’s interests and strengthens its strategic partnership with the United States, amid an ongoing threat from Iran. “It is not an abandonment of the Palestinian cause ... it is to strengthen Bahrainis’ security and their economic stability,” minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in a statement. Bahrain on Friday said it would normalise relations with Israel, following the path of the UAE who declared it would do the same a month ago, in moves forged partly through shared fears of Iran.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Responding to the execution of young Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari, the former Vice President of the International Football Federation, FIFA, Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, is calling for the banning of Iran from participating in all international sports events. The half-brother of King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prince Ali tweeted on Sunday, September 13, "It is with horror to learn that Navid was murdered in Iran without a fair and open trial." He added that if the international sports bodies want to indeed stand against such moves, they should "ban Iran from any international competitions until they adhere to basic human rights."
Britain must strike an independent foreign policy post-Brexit that is significantly tougher on Iran, a leading backbench MP has said. With the UK no longer shackled by presenting a united European Union front it should establish a hard line on Tehran similar to that adopted by America, said David Jones MP, arguing that Europe’s position was “appeasement to Iran”. The former Secretary of State for Wales has also called for an international inquiry into a massacre in Iran in which allegedly 30,000 political prisoners, including children, were executed in 1988.