Iran will continue reducing its commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal until it reaches the "desired result," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday, according to his official website. "We will continue the reduction of commitments," Khamenei said in a meeting with commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards. "The responsibility is with the Atomic Energy Organization and they must be carry out the reduction ...in a precise, complete and comprehensive way and continue until the time we reach a desired result."
The brother of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges, the state news media reported on Tuesday, and four people were sentenced in another case on charges of spying for the United States and Britain, with one person facing the death penalty. The penalties added to the perception that Mr. Rouhani is under increasing pressure in Iran, where he won elections in 2013 and 2017 partly on promises to curb corruption and end the country's prolonged economic isolation.
When Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted pictures of himself video-chatting with the country's United Nations envoy, who is in a New York hospital fighting cancer, he wanted to highlight U.S. travel restrictions on him and gain sympathy at a time of heightened tensions with the United States. Instead, many Iranians living abroad reminded Zarif on social media that they face similar restrictions due to repression in the Islamic republic of Iran that makes it risky for them to visit their homeland.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Calls for the European Union to pursue a cohesive, unitary foreign policy are growing, and it is not difficult to understand why. Member states have traditionally conducted their foreign affairs unilaterally, but for many Europhiles, this seems increasingly untenable in a world of contracting globalisation, geopolitical friction and bellicose nationalism. Just last year, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron gave support to the idea of a 'European security council,' while the latter even floated the question of creating a "true, European army."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran supports a plan by European countries to bolster a nuclear deal that Tehran reached with the West in 2015 and from which the United States withdrew last year. Rouhani said the plan included preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, securing its support for regional peace, lifting U.S. sanctions and the immediate resumption of Iranian oil exports. Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting, Rouhani said: "We agree with the general framework by the Europeans."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranians in Turkey are finding ways to sidestep laws in their home country to buy properties and get Turkish passports, hoping to protect their savings even as the United States ramps up sanctions on Iran. As they find ways around Iran's money-transfer restrictions, the spike in home-buying has propelled Iranians to become Turkey's second-largest foreign property buyers, behind only Iraqis. Hundreds of professional Iranians have been forced to make "dodgy money transfers" simply to get by, said one former electrician shop owner who now helps his countrymen buy homes in Istanbul.
The energy market must be non-political in order to prevent interference, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Wednesday, according to the official IRNA news agency. "The energy market must be non-political in order to prevent unilateral and illegal interference," Zanganeh said upon arrival in Moscow for a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF).
Iran is building a $1.8 billion oil pipeline to its port of Jask outside the mouth of the Gulf, the country's oil minister said, as part of plans to protect its exports against potential problems in the region and to boost shipments of Caspian oil. Iran has been planning since at least 2012 to set up the terminal on the Gulf of Oman, just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the US administration of using the Dollar as a weapon and demanded that the international community confront American "unilateralism." Rouhani's comments came in an address at the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Tuesday. The leader is partaking in the summit at a time his country is suffering economically due to the maximum pressure policy imposed by the Trump administration.
The mixed messages that Iran received from the U.S. about sanctions undermine the possibility of bilateral talks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, in a speech broadcast live on state TV. It was not acceptable for U.S. President Donald Trump to say in public that he would intensify sanctions while European powers were telling the Islamic Republic in private that he was willing to negotiate, Rouhani said. European powers were continuing efforts to arrange talks, Rouhani said.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani left President Trump hanging concerning a secret Sept. 24 phone call between the two world leaders brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, said a New York Times report published Monday. Trump had expressed the desire for a phone call, if not an actual meeting, with the Iranian leader during the U.N. General Assembly, but Rouhani held steadfast in refusing to even speak to Trump before sanctions have been lifted.
The international community must confront America's hostile approach, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday as tensions have spiked between the Islamic Republic and the United States. "The international community must confront America's hostile and unilateralist approach by taking a definitive decision and effective actions," Rouhani said at a speech at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union in Armenia, according to the official IRNA news agency.
The Iranian government says that nearly 1,800 ancient artifacts have arrived in Iran as part of the return of thousands of antiquities loaned decades ago to the University of Chicago. The government website says the artifacts arrived in Tehran on Monday, accompanied by two academics from the university. This is the fourth consignment of artifacts to have been returned since 2004. Other shipments were also made in 1948 and 1950.
Even as the Donald Trump administration has struggled to rally the international community to respond to a series of alleged Iranian attacks in the Gulf that culminated in this month's strike against a Saudi oil facility, the US is making another effort to forge a military alliance of Middle Eastern states. Over the past several weeks, the State and Defense Departments have gathered a bloc of Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, despite an ongoing blockade of Doha. Egypt exited the alliance last year.
Expect more desperate Iranian efforts to prompt a U.S. military response in the Persian Gulf. Trump's sanctions have cut off 90 percent of Iran's oil revenues. Soon Tehran's shattered economy will be followed by more pent-up domestic unrest of the sort that Barack Obama ignored in 2009, when he felt that the continued viability of the murderous theocracy fed his bizarre dreams of enhancing a new Shiite, Persian hegemony to counterbalance the Sunni Arabs.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command visited Riyadh over the weekend to discuss with the head of Saudi Arabia's naval forces reinforcing defenses against Iranian threats, the command said on Tuesday. The meeting followed a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on two Saudi oil facilities that initially knocked out more than 5% of global supply. The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia blamed the strike on Iran, which denies involvement. Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group has claimed responsibility.
Iranian courts have sentenced one man to death for spying for the US and jailed two others for 10 years for the same crime, as well as imprisoning a fourth person for six years for spying for Britain, an Iranian judiciary spokesman has said. "One person has been sentenced to death for spying for America ... but the ruling has been appealed," Gholamhossein Esmaili told the judiciary's news website, Mizan, on Tuesday.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Lebanon is transfixed by reports that Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave $16 million to a South African model with whom he was romantically linked. The money transfers began in 2013, when Hariri was not in office, and no laws appear to have been broken. For some, it is a welcome diversion from a deepening economic crisis, for others, a reminder of the yawning gap between Lebanese, who are struggling with a serious currency crunch, and their leaders.
The head of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps on Tuesday claimed that Israeli aircraft targeted him and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Qassem Soleimani made the comments during his first major interview, a lengthy one-on-one that was screened on Iranian television.
The Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 is still delivering oil to Syria, despite Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's promises to Britain, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday. In a tweet, Pompeo shared a satellite image of the tanker near the Syrian coast, accusing Iran of breaking its assurances not to sell crude oil to the country, after it was previously detained on July 4 by British forces for breaching European Sanctions.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran's statement that Saudi Arabia sent messages to its president through other countries was "not accurate", Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom's minister of state for foreign affairs, has said. Saudi Arabia blames Iran for an attack on two Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14, a charge Tehran denies. On Monday, an Iranian government spokesman said Saudi Arabia had sent messages to Iran's president through the leaders of other countries, but did not specify their content.
Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said on Tuesday he welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's willingness to resolve issues with Iran through talks. The Saudi Crown Prince had said he preferred a political resolution rather than a military one to the issues with Iran in an interview with the CBS program "60 Minutes" broadcast on Sunday. "We welcome Mohammed bin Salman being quoted as saying he wants to resolve issues through talks with Tehran," Al Jazeera quoted Larijani as saying.
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri admitted on Tuesday that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) offer support to the Houthi militias in Yemen. "We offer our advisory and intellectual support to Yemen's national army," Bagheri told Phoenix Chinese channel during his last visit to Beijing. However, Bagheri failed to mention what kind of intellectual and advisory help his Guards were offering to Houthi rebels.
Is "maximum pressure" campaign used by President Trump against Iran leading the United States and Saudi Arabia toward war or negotiations? He temporarily diffused the crisis over the Iranian drone and missile attack on Saudi oil facilities by limiting the United States reaction to bolstering Saudi air defenses and sending a few hundred more American troops.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen have denied entry to the top UN human rights official and ordered his plane to take off from the capital, Sanaa, just after landing, officials said on Tuesday.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iranian news outlets have widely denied reports that Baghdad has ordered the Iraqi consulate to suspend its activities in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad. Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), the deputy Governor-General of Mashhad Hassan Jafari said late Tuesday, October 1, that the Iraqi consulate was still operating as usual and reports about its closure baseless. "There was a 'slight misunderstanding' that was later resolved, and there is no problem between the consulate and Iran," Jafari was widely cited as saying.
Iran has pledged to further support Iraq's reconstruction as the neighboring nation announced the official reopening of the border with Syria, which has also been ravaged by conflict and is a mutual ally of Tehran and Baghdad. At a ceremony remembering those who were killed in Iraq's war against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), Iranian ambassador Iraj Masjidi reiterated that his country "has always supported and will support Iraq's national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
TURKEY & IRAN
At a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is getting the cold shoulder from most Arab states and Iran is crushed under the US administration's tightening sanctions, we might expect a strong embrace between these two non-Arab countries. And glancing over the headlines, it seems like Ankara and Tehran are on the way to being best friends, courtesy of Russia. The regional common denominators provide crucial ample opportunities for cooperation. Expanding bilateral relations on tourism, regional security and cultural exchanges could benefit both countries.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed his country's readiness to supply more natural gas to neighboring Armenia and deepen broader Armenian-Iranian relations when he visited Yerevan on Tuesday. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reassured him that Armenia remains committed to closer ties with Iran despite U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
The mounting evidence that Iran was behind the September cruise missile and drone strikes on two Saudi oil facilities has left Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the United States looking for options to "deter Iran" without igniting an all-out war in the region. This week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made it clear that Saudi Arabia wants to avoid a military confrontation with Iran. What do we know about cyber-operations, one of the options on the table?