The head of the United Nations atomic energy watchdog said Thursday that Iran is removing 27 cameras used by the agency to monitor the country’s nuclear sites, a move that he warned could deliver a “fatal blow” to the stalled international negotiations to restore a 2015 nuclear deal. The removal of the cameras followed the passage of a resolution Wednesday by the watchdog’s board censuring Iran for not cooperating with an investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared nuclear sites. Only Russia and China voted against the resolution.
The Pentagon would work with Israel and several Arab states to integrate air defenses to thwart threats from Iran, under proposed bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress on Thursday. The bill is the latest attempt by the U.S. to bolster defense cooperation between Israel and the broader Middle East following normalization of relations with several Arab states. Once hostile toward Israel, those governments have been edging closer to the majority Jewish state. The proposal aims to prod them to better coordinate across the region, congressional aides said.
Iran expects an oil cargo confiscated by the United States off the coast of Greece to be returned in full, Tehran's ambassador to Athens said on Thursday, following a Greek court ruling quashing the original decision to confiscate it. The case arose when Greece in April impounded the Iranian-flagged Lana, formerly Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, near the island of Evia due to European Union sanctions. The ship was released due to complications over its ownership. The United States in May confiscated part of the Iranian oil cargo onboard, transferring it to another ship, following the initial Greek court ruling. read more
UANI IN THE NEWS
…United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a watchdog group that tracks violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, said the government documents corroborate its own research about "the ease with which Amazon is used to evade U.S. sanctions." The organization has documented how Amazon is "complicit in allowing products available for sale on its marketplace to flow into Iran for years." In 2020, for instance, UANI informed Amazon officials that several Iranian websites were promoting their ability to get Amazon goods into Iran by having them first delivered to an address in the United States. "One of the more egregious perpetrators, Iranicard, features the Amazon logo prominently and extensively on its website, including the landing page," UANI reported at the time.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Thursday that it will "further complicate" efforts to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if Iran removes cameras that monitor its nuclear program and could lead to "a deepening nuclear crisis and further economic and political isolation for Iran." The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier Thursday that Iran will "basically" remove all cameras installed under the 2015 nuclear deal, after the country was censured earlier this week by the IAEA's Board of Governors for not fully cooperating with the nuclear watchdog.
Germany, the United Kingdom and France on Thursday urged Iran to “cease its nuclear escalation” and “urgently conclude the deal currently on the table” to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. “There has been a viable deal on the table since March,” they said in a joint statement. “We regret that Iran has not seized the diplomatic opportunity to conclude the deal. We urge it to do so now.” Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Three rights groups on Thursday urged Facebook and Instagram owner Meta to overhaul its policies for Persian-language content on Iran, complaining restrictions had impeded the ability of Iranians to share information during ongoing protests. London-based freedom of expression group Article 19, global digital rights group Access Now and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said Meta had to change policies on potentially sensitive content as well as human and automated moderation. With the internet heavily censored in Iran, Instagram is now the main platform for communication in the Islamic republic as it remains unblocked.
The Iranian Teachers' Unions Coordination Council has called for a new round of street protests to demand higher wages and the immediate release of detained teachers from previous demonstrations as unrest in Iran continues to spread. The council said in a statement on June 9 that teachers across Iran should hold a protest rally on June 17 after four teachers were arrested last month just ahead of demonstrations held in several cities on May Day, which coincided with Teachers' Day in Iran.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran’s proxy militias are engaged in an "invisible jihad" against Christians in the Middle East and are having success in their efforts to push out and reduce the numbers of Christians, according to a new report. The report by the Philos Project, a nonprofit organization and community that promotes Christian engagement in the region, says that the Iranian regime envisions Muslim demographic purity and that its militias have "labored to create conditions that forced Christians out." "Iran’s proxy militias in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen have played a significant, though largely unrecognized, role in the dramatic decline of Christians in the region," the report outlines.
Attacks by Iranian proxies against bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria are increasing, say U.S. officials, and the U.S. has not responded with force since 2021. There were seven attacks in May, as many attacks in May as February, March and April combined, and there have been a total of 29 since October without a kinetic U.S. response. No Americans have been killed in these incidents, but a U.S. intelligence assessment found Iran may believe its proxy groups have killed and injured Americans, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the assessment. Iranians often boast about battlefield successes that are not substantiated. Earlier this year, Iranian officials claimed to have killed Israelis at a safe house in Irbil, which turned out to be untrue. The attacks have been carried out by Iranian-backed militias, say the officials.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, with the snap trip coming as efforts to salvage a deal over Iran’s nuclear program are stalled in a deepening standoff with Tehran. The visit was Bennett’s second public trip to Abu Dhabi since Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize ties in 2020 after years of quiet cooperation, mainly over their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.