If European countries do not meet their commitments under a nuclear deal then Iran will "strongly" take more steps to reduce its own obligations, a senior Iranian parliamentarian said on Thursday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 deal last year and reimposed sanctions to pressure Iran to negotiate further on its nuclear program as well as on its ballistic missiles and regional policy.
Iran has called on Britain to release its seized oil tanker and warned foreign powers to "leave the region because Iran and other regional countries are capable of securing the regional security". The Royal Marines seized the tanker last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, told the IRNA news agency: "This is a dangerous game and has consequences ... The legal pretexts for the capture are not valid ... The release of the tanker is in all countries' interests."
President Trump's pick to become the military's next top officer says Iran has raised its "intensity of malign activity" since the U.S. pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's comments Thursday come following the Islamic Republic's harassment of a British oil tanker yesterday in the Strait of Hormuz. Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize the vessel but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.
UANI IN THE NEWS
...While on July 7, Pompeo advocates further isolation and sanctions, Russia and China are impediments to Tehran's isolation. Per a report, by United Against Nuclear Iran. But it is highly likely the workaround will be ineffective. Hence, China and Russia may fill the vacuum created by EU retreat from Iran. UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace said, "By increasing their ties to Iran, both Russia and China are revealing the shallowness of their past commitments to fighting terrorism and controlling the spread of nuclear weapons."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saudi Arabia has called on the international community to take a firm stand against Iran's nuclear program, stressing the importance of stopping Iran's transgressions and breaches of international agreements and treaties related to its nuclear program. The Kingdom's statement came at a special session of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on Wednesday.
A special meeting of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors wrapped up Wednesday with no formal action on Iran's two recent violations of the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA. The meeting let both the U.S. and Iran spell out their starkly different views, and came amid continuing tensions: Iran has given Europe - which is attempting to get trade going with Iran - a 60-day time frame to save the nuclear deal, and President Trump threatened more sanctions even as the IAEA meeting was taking place.
Iran was plainly looking to seize a British oil tanker Wednesday - but HMS Montrose motored to the rescue. It's a sign of Tehran's growing bellicosity - and not just over the 2015 nuclear deal. The aborted hijacking was the work of several armed Revolutionary Guard boats, who'd ordered the British Heritage to sail into Iranian waters as it entered the Strait of Hormuz. Montrose, monitoring from five miles away, intervened in time.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for now, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, in a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 24 had said Zarif would be blacklisted that week, an unusual public stance because the United States typically does not preview such decisions to keep its targets from moving assets out of U.S. jurisdiction.
A British warship forced three Iranian boats to back off after they sought to block a British tanker from passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday, in the latest escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West. "Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz," the British government said. "We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region."
Iran's decision to ramp up uranium enrichment is prompting debate over whether the U.S. should -- or even can -- invoke a threat that negotiators built into the 2015 nuclear agreement but hoped would never be used: a "snapback" of international sanctions. Although President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord last year, the administration is being pressured by some American hard-liners to invoke a mechanism that ultimately would trigger a return to United Nations Security Council sanctions beyond those the U.S. is already imposing unilaterally.
Senior administration officials now agree that China defied U.S. sanctions when it imported more than a million barrels of crude oil from Iran last month. But they are grappling with whether - and how - to hit back, according to three U.S. officials. The State Department had considered issuing a waiver allowing Chinese companies to receive Iranian oil as payment in kind for their investment in an Iranian oil field, but that idea has been abandoned.
Iran may have stood down from its hardline stance that conditioned negotiations with the United States by Washington's return to the nuclear deal it left in May 2018, before imposing hard sanctions on Tehran. Although President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have repeatedly said that Washington's return to the nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was Tehran's precondition for negotiating with the United States, Tehran appears to have softened its stance recently.
Chief of the Joint Staff of the Iranian armed forces says "Iran will not pay the cost for stopping the flow of drugs to Europe if sanctions continue." According to Iranian State TV, Mohammad Hossein Baqeri made the remark during a flag raising ceremony in Mashhad in northeastern Iran on Thursday July 11. The threat has been made several times before by other officials including Iran's current and former police chiefs in an apparent attempt to frighten Europeans and encourage them to persuade the U.S. to reduce its pressure on Iran.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Twenty five years ago this month, the world watched in horror as rescuers in Buenos Aires picked through the rubble of a Jewish community center, searching for survivors of a suicide bombing that leveled the building, killing 85 people, including a five-year-old boy, and wounding 300 more. Every year since, the international community has mourned the loss of life, holding rituals of remembrance and issuing demands for accountability for the Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists who organized the massacre.
Argentina's government is planning on designating the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group as a terror organization for its role in the terror attacks against the Israeli embassy and the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported on Tuesday. "We are evaluating different possibilities. One of them is to pass a decree," sources in the Ministry of Security and the Financial Intelligence Unit told the newspaper. The two entities have been tasked by President Mauricio Macri to find the "most rapid" solution to achieve the goal of including the Iranian-backed group in the list of terror organizations.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Global rights defender Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concern over three imprisoned Iranian journalists who have been on hunger strike for weeks. The Paris-based international organization says, photojournalist and blogger, Soheil Arabi has been on hunger strike for more than twenty days, while two reporters working for a student magazine, Ms. Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Hossein Mohammadifar, have also gone on hunger strike since last week.
The Iranian Human Rights News Agency, HRANA, reported on Wednesday July 10 that outspoken political activist Mohammad Nourizad, has been jailed. Nourizad was one of the signatories of a statement by 14 Iranian activists who called on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to resign in order to end the country's political deadlock. Nourizad had said on Monday that he was going to Tehran's Evin Prison, where he was summoned to offer explanations about his visit to flood stricken areas in northern Iran in April.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
President Donald Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran on Wednesday, the White House said, the same day the U.S. president threatened to "substantially" increase sanctions on Tehran to curb its nuclear activities. Iran recently started enriching uranium beyond a limit established in a 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, a deal from which Trump withdrew. Trump has since intensified economic sanctions on Tehran, and tensions have escalated.
In the wake of months of tensions between the United States and Iran, President Donald Trump's pick to serve as the Pentagon's top military official downplayed the potential for conflict with Tehran in his confirmation today. Gen. Mark Milley, currently the Army's top officer, said in Senate testimony that Iran's military activity in the Middle East has increased since Trump opted to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018...
The standoff in the Persian Gulf may seem like a battle between Washington and Tehran. However, if the situation worsens, U.S. allies are at risk of becoming a focal point in the dispute. At worst, they could become collateral damage. On Thursday, it was the Brits who found themselves in troubled waters as a British tanker transited the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway used for much of the world's oil shipments.
The British Heritage super tanker is owned by BP, under a British flag, and on charter to an Anglo-Dutch company, so it's unsurprising that the ship appeared to abandon suddenly its plans over the weekend as it sailed within sight of Iran. Anger in Iran had been growing over the seizure of one of its tankers by British commandos off the coast of Gibraltar last week, and the country's military had threatened some kind of retribution.
It's hardly a secret that European leaders dislike Donald Trump. Over the past two years, the U.S. President's divisive personal style, and his confrontational rhetoric on everything from Europe's deficient defense spending to bilateral trade, have severely strained trans-Atlantic relations. And yet, on at least one issue - Iran - European countries are slowly but surely drifting into alignment with the White House, even if they are doing so grudgingly.
As key leaders in the United States government escalate another conflict with threats of violence, we must find a creative way to avoid another war and transform the conflict into an opportunity for mutual growth. How can we do this? We can shift our approach and reasoning to a just peace framework. This offers more creative possibilities and potential for sustainable peace.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's armed forces present the most "formidable conventional and unconventional" threat in the Persian Gulf as the U.S. tries to press the Islamic Republic to end its nuclear program, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Despite rising tensions, the U.S. "does not want war with Iran," General Mark Milley said in written responses to lawmakers' questions for his hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's housing sector is in a dire state, with prices skyrocketing and sales plummeting across the country, especially in metropolises. The government of President Hassan Rouhani and the parliament have several major initiatives in the works, but do they really stand a chance at turning the faltering sector around? When President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that the United States was withdrawing from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and unilaterally imposing harsh economic sanctions, a currency crisis developed in Iran that shot up inflation.
CHINA & IRAN
The Trump administration tends to view Iran in isolation or as a Middle Eastern problem-a regional nemesis with nuclear ambitions that threatens Israel and America's Arab allies. This is a mistake. Iran sits at the critical cross section of the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the vital trade routes cutting across the Asian continent. At the moment, though Donald Trump doesn't seem to see it, the administration's Iran policy is reverberating across the globe and helping China in particular, in part by hurting the U.S.'s staunch ally, India.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release an oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA. "This is a dangerous game and has consequences ... the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid ... the release of the tanker is in all countries' interest," the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said. Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released.
Britain is concerned about action by Iranian vessels to stop a commercial oil tanker, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Thursday, calling for a de-escalation of tensions. Earlier on Thursday, the British government said three Iranian vessels tried to block the passage of a BP-operated tanker through the Strait of Hormuz but withdrew after warnings from a British warship. "We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region," the spokesman told reporters.
French President Emmanuel Macron's special envoy to Tehran had brought a proposal to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States, but Iran has accepted the proposal in its current form, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on Thursday July 11. Zarif made the remark one day after he held talks with Macron's special envoy to Tehran, Emmanuel Bonne, on Wednesday. On the same day, Bonne had also separately met Iran's security chief Ali Shamkhani.