Iran seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, state television reported on Sunday, the third time Tehran has reported detaining a tanker in the last month as the United States applies its campaign of "maximum pressure," sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the country. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps detained the tanker on Wednesday along with the seven members of the ship's foreign crew, according to official Iranian news agencies, which cited a naval commander.
Iran will take another step to reduce its compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Saturday, according to parliamentary news agency Icana. Iran has repeatedly said it will reduce its commitment to the nuclear accord in stages and may even withdraw from the pact altogether unless the remaining signatories find ways to shield its economy from US sanctions. Washington pulled out of the deal last year.
A U.S.-led plan to police the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz against perceived Iranian aggression will soon gain the commitment of several ally and partner countries, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Saturday. Esper said representatives from more than 30 countries attended a conference earlier this week at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Florida to discuss Operation Sentinel, a coalition of nations meant to safeguard shipping lanes in the Middle East.
UANI IN THE NEWS
BRODSKY: Iran wants to turn [Houthis] into a proxy in the Hezbollah-like model its been employing in Lebanon and elsewhere. The U.S. is on the right side and the maximum pressure campaign is an opportunity for Iran to come back to the negotiating table and negotiate a broader deal that would not just cover the nuclear file but the ballistic missile issue and the arms embargo.
...Jihad al-Binaa has provided Lebanese communities with wide-ranging services in agriculture, training and construction since it was founded in 1988 as the development association of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed political and military group. "Political ties are generally fragile," David Daoud, a Hezbollah and Lebanon research analyst at the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, told Al-Monitor. "Social ties, by contrast, are far more durable. Once you build those, they're hard to break."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran will leave its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, if Tehran's interests were not protected by other parties to the pact. "Iran will leave its 2015 nuclear deal with powers if necessary," Zarif told a news conference broadcast live on state TV, "calling on Europeans to accelerate their efforts to shield Iran's economy from U.S. sanctions."
Iran announced plans to take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday, in an attempt to win protections from the Trump administration's sanctions. "The third step in reducing commitments to [the nuclear deal] will be implemented in the current situation," Zarif told ICANA, an official Iranian news agency. He did not specify the nation's next nuclear moves.
The International Atomic Energy Agency must be unyielding in reporting any failure by Iran to comply with a landmark nuclear agreement that is gradually unravelling, according to a leading contender to head the UN's nuclear watchdog. Rafael Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who is in the running to take over the IAEA after the death of its previous director-general, Yukiya Amano, in July, said the agency had to "tell it as it is" and stick to its mandate of policing compliance with the 2015 deal.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, defying sanctions imposed by the United States to choke off Tehran's main source of income, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The Times examined the movements of more than 70 Iranian tankers since May 2, when the American sanctions took full effect.
Iran's foreign minister on Monday lambasted recent U.S. financial sanctions against him, calling the move a "failure" for diplomacy amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. "Imposing sanctions against a foreign minister means failure" for any efforts at negotiations, Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at a press conference in Tehran, adding that it also means the side imposing the measures is "opposing talks." The U.S. administration last week announced sanctions on Zarif, a month after President Donald Trump had imposed similar sanctions on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Reports alleging that fuel tankers appeared to breach U.S. sanctions against Iran were cited in court filings by a bank as it sought to seize the ships, accusing the owners of loan default. The accusations, which led to the the temporary arrest of the vessels in Singapore late last month, come as the U.S. seeks to isolate the regime in Tehran by cutting off oil sales, a major source of revenue. They also underscore how traders and shippers suspected of violating sanctions can run afoul of their own lenders, not just governments.
Since President Donald Trump issued executive orders saying he was sanctioning individuals such as Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Shi'a militia commanders in Iraq, some of them beholden to Tehran, many analysts have dismissed the moves as merely "symbolic." Is sanctioning individuals who are unlikely to travel outside areas where they are protected in the Middle East a political jab that only agitates America's adversaries?
For the first time since a standoff between the United States and Iran escalated into attacks on oil tankers, Iran has conducted a medium-range ballistic missile test. According to U.S. officials, Iran test-fired a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile earlier this week that traveled 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) - distance enough to hit Saudi Arabia and come close to Israel.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Nearly 1600 under-fifteen-year-old girls married in the last Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2019), in the province of Hamadan, western Iran. Furthermore, the local director of the registry office, Assad Hassanzadeh, disclosed that at least 44 under-fifteen-year-old girls gave birth in the same period. The Islamic Republic of Iran signed the UN Convention on the Right of the Child in 1991 and ratified it three years later. Nevertheless, according to article 1041 of the country's Civil Law, there is no minimum age for marriage in Iran.
In a telephone conversation with his family, the Iranian-Swedish scientist and disaster medicine expert, Dr. Ahmad Reza Jalali (Djalali) has revealed that he has been under pressure to admit new charges and participate in another "forced confession" in front of cameras. Speaking to Radio Farda on Saturday, August 3, Jalali's wife, Vida Mehran Nia disclosed that her husband had been taken to solitary confinement outside Tehran's notorious prison, Evin.
Monireh Arabshahi, Yasamin Aryani, and Mojgan Keshavarz, three women who have been held in Iranian custody since April of this year for "disrespecting compulsory hijab," have been sentenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Court to prison terms of at least 16 years each for disobeying the country's Islamic dress code. The women were each given five years on charges of "assembly and collusion to act against national security," one year for circulating "propaganda against the regime" and ten years for "encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution."
An Iranian serving a life sentence on a conviction of designing a "pornographic" website has fled the country while on short-term release from prison and has arrived in Canada, the foreign ministry and Iranian authorities said. "Canada welcomes the news that Saeed Malekpour has been reunited with his family in Canada," Canada's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement received by AFP. "We have advocated for Mr Malekpour's release and are pleased that he is now in Canada," the spokesman said, without elaborating due to privacy considerations.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly received an invitation to speak with President Trump at the White House last month, but Tehran decided against such meeting. Zarif was targeted by the Trump administration this week, imposing punitive financial sanctions on him in an effort to further pressure Iran to end its activities in the Persian Gulf region. The move to penalize Zarif follows Trump's earlier executive order placing sanctions on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
U.S. foreign policy should be designed with one constituency in mind: the American public. The public expects policymakers and lawmakers in Washington to always keep their interests, not global abstractions, front-of-mind and do what is best for the country's national security. When decisions are made that unnecessarily complicate conflict resolution or shut the door on diplomacy (sanctioning the Iranian foreign minister, to take the most recent example) the public expects Washington to reassess, think about the long-term, and correct the mistake.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran said on Sunday that one of its fighter jets had crashed in the southern province of Bushehr because of technical problem, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported, adding that two people onboard the jet were safe. "The fighter jet crashed due to technical issues in the Tangestan area. Its pilot and co-pilot are safe," Mehr quoted the governor of Tangestan Abdolhossein Rafiipour as saying. Tangestan is a county in Iran's Bushehr province.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
After months of debate and speculation, Iran's government has officially recognised cryptocurrency mining as an industry. Crypto miners run powerful "farms" of computer gear that compete within a global, decentralised computer network to verify transactions made with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. As approved and notified by the government, mining cryptocurrencies is legal both inside and outside metropolises, in addition to free and special trade zones, provided applicants obtain a permit from the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
In the short run, at least, President Donald Trump's beef with Iran has more to do with its aggressive, destabilizing foreign policy in the Middle East than with its nuclear program, which, experts agree, is years away from producing even a single nuclear device. The chief institution responsible for implementing the political warfare and military aspects of that foreign policy is the Pasdaran-better known in the West as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iran seized a foreign oil tanker and its seven crew members in the Persian Gulf last week, state media reported Sunday, the third time the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has detained a ship in less than a month. The Guards said in a statement that they seized the ship Wednesday night near Farsi Island, north of the Strait of Hormuz. The official news agency IRNA quoted the Guards as saying that the ship was carrying 700,000 liters of smuggled Iranian fuel that had been transferred to it from other ships and were being transported "to Persian Gulf Arab states."
Iran will no longer turn a blind eye to "maritime offenses" in the Gulf, its foreign minister said on Monday, a day after it seized an Iraqi oil tanker there that it accused of smuggling fuel. Revolutionary Guards seized the tanker and its seven crew near Iran's Farsi Island north of the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported, in show of power amid heightened tension with the West that minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed U.S. authorities for fomenting. "Iran used to forgo some maritime offenses in ... (the) Gulf but will never close (its) eyes anymore," Zarif told a news conference.
Iran is responsible for security in the Persian Gulf and is acting more vigorously to protect it, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, suggesting that a showdown between his country and Western powers over crucial shipping lanes could escalate. "We used to overlook some violations but no longer," Zarif said at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran. Iran has the longest stretch of coastline with the waterway in the region and is responsible for its security, he added.
Iraq's oil ministry announced on Sunday it has no connection with an oil tanker seized by Iran and claimed to be smuggling oil, Iraqi media reported. Earlier on Sunday, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps said that it has seized an oil tanker smuggling oil in the Persian Gulf. Since then Iran has maintained silence. According to the Iranian announcement the tanker was transporting les than 5,000 barrels of diesel. The Iraqi oil ministry said it "does not export diesel to the international market."
While many Iranians on social media are complaining about what they believe is Iran's unfair share of the Caspian Sea, the spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran's Foreign Ministry has dismissed "speculations" about the legal regime of the Caspian Sea as "untrue." The speculations and criticism of the Iranian government for compromising "Iran's rights" started on 29 July, when Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at Iran's Parliament (Majles) that the Caspian Legal Regime has been "finalized."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel's new Arrow 3 anti-missile system has just passed a major milestone. Not in Israel, but 6,000 miles away in Kodiak, Alaska. The Arrow 3 test on July 28 comes just days after Israel's arch-enemy Iran itself tested a new ballistic missile. "Flight Test Arrow-01 demonstrated the Israeli Arrow Weapon System's ability to conduct a high altitude hit-to-kill engagement," said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency announcement.
CHINA & IRAN
The Speaker of Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, has once again relished the thought of "looking to East", and dreaming about a long term "strategic relationship" between Tehran and Beijing. "Looking to East", and dreaming of a closer relationship with China and Russia have always been a favorite refrain for the Islamic Republic's officials, especially when they find themselves facing outside pressures.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash says the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia prefer a political approach to their problems with Iran. Emphasizing continued cooperation between the two Arab countries, Gargash tweeted on August 2 that the two states believe in a political approach rather than confrontation with Iran. Meanwhile, the UAE official accused Qatar of trying to take political advantage of the meeting between Iranian and UAE coast guard officials which took place on July 30.
The 15th joint coast guard meeting between Iran and Qatar was held Sunday in Tehran to develop field cooperation and boost bilateral good-neighborly relations, according to Iranian media. The Iranian side was headed by Border Guard Commander Brigadier General Ghasem Rezaei and the Qatari delegation was headed by Lieutenant Colonel Abdulaziz Ali al-Mohannadi, assistant director-general of the country's Coasts and Borders Security, according to IRNA.
Bahrain accused on Sunday Iran and Qatar of plotting to target its national unity and of promoting sedition and chaos. Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa said the Qatari and Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain aren't new, but come in different forms. He explained that Iran relies on fanning the flames of sectarianism to interfere in Bahrain's internal affairs blatantly, while Qatar seeks to undermine social cohesion and damage family bonds, which represents an affront to authentic Arab and Islamic values and customs.
Yemeni Houthi forces launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's King Khalid airbase and Abha and Najran airports, the Houthis' military spokesman said on Monday. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen said later that Houthi drones had been intercepted and downed heading in the direction of civilian airports. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said the attack on Abha airport "hit its targets" and air traffic was disrupted at both Abha and Najran. All three locations are in southwest Saudi, near the border with Yemen.
Observers said there was strong coordination between the Iran-backed Houthis and the jihadist groups of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in carrying out simultaneous attacks in Aden in which at least 49 people were killed. The attacks August 1 also highlighted Iran's role in enabling the massacre by providing the Houthis with advanced weapons, observers said. The militants attacked a military camp in southern Abyan province with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles around midnight, setting off clashes that lasted until early morning of August 2. The troops targeted were members of a force trained by the United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels since 2015.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran said on Sunday that an oil tanker sized by its elite forces in the Gulf for smuggling fuel was an Iraqi ship, the official IRNA news agency reported. "The oil tanker that was captured on Wednesday for smuggling Iran's fuel to other countries was an Iraqi ship," IRNA said, quoting Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Senior U.S. leaders expressed confidence that they will be able to convince allies to help protect shipping in the Persian Gulf area against Iranian threats, but they provided no new details Sunday on which nations may be willing to participate. Speaking at a meeting between U.S. and Australian leaders, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has already gotten a good response from allies and some announcements could be expected soon. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that a lot of conversations are taking place.
U.S. efforts to build a global coalition to protect ships passing through the Persian Gulf continue to bear little fruit, with key ally Australia still undecided about whether to join. Australia Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Sydney, said Australia was "deeply concerned" about heightened tensions in the region, and the request made by the U.S. was "a very serious one, and it is a complex one."
Just over a fortnight ago, Iran had no qualms about seizing the Stena Impero while the British-flagged vessel was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. This was a direct result of Britain's overly friendly overtures towards Iran being interpreted as weakness. But now that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken residence at 10 Downing Street, the UK now has an opportunity to change course with Iran. London was an enthusiastic signatory of the 2015 nuclear deal.