A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander urged Iraqi Shi'ite militias to step up attacks on U.S. targets during a meeting in Baghdad last week, three militia sources and two Iraqi security sources familiar with the gathering said. American forces in Iraq and Syria were attacked several times following the visit by an Iranian delegation led by Revolutionary Guards intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, which came after deadly U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias at the Syrian-Iraqi border on June 27. While encouraging retaliation, the Iranians advised the Iraqis not to go too far to avoid a big escalation, three militia sources briefed on the meeting said. The Iranians did, however, advise them to widen their attacks by retaliating against U.S. forces in Syria, according to one of the three militia sources, a senior local militia commander briefed on the meeting.
An Iranian American journalist living in Brooklyn who has been a sharp critic of the Iranian government was the target of an international kidnapping plot orchestrated by an intelligence network in Iran, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. In an indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan, four Iranians were charged with conspiring to kidnap the journalist and author, Masih Alinejad. Ms. Alinejad was not identified by prosecutors, but confirmed in an interview that she was the intended target of the plot.
Nuclear talks between world powers and Iran aren’t likely to resume until after the Islamic Republic installs its new president next month, all but eliminating the chances of an early resurrection of their accord struck six years ago Wednesday and a jump in Iranian oil exports. A seventh round of negotiations in Vienna is expected to convene around mid-August, according to two officials familiar with the schedule, who asked not to be identified in line with diplomatic rules. A third European attache, who also requested to remain unidentified, said Iran was only expected to resume talks once Ebrahim Raisi has been sworn in as president early next month.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Maersk Tankers itself almost loaded Iranian crude a few months ago after STS transfers, but those transfers were stopped before the Denmark-based tanker operating giant took any Iranian oil after a tip from U.S. nonprofit and non-partisan policy organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Maersk Tankers is using technology to track vessels and is closely investigating the ownership structures of the companies and tankers it works with, according to Reuters. The UANI organization has found that Iran alone is using dozens of tankers to hide the origin of its oil. UANI has been sending its findings to flag registries, which have also stepped up the scrutiny and conducted investigations and hearings. The registries have also banned vessels or de-flagged vessels altogether. “Between one-third to one half of Iran’s oil is exported via furtive STS transfers, loaded from Iranian to foreign tankers in the open seas, away from terrestrial tracking. It must be stopped,” UANI says.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s outgoing president on Wednesday warned his country could enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels of 90% if it chose, though it still wanted to save its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, carried by the state-run IRNA news agency, came as he also criticized Iran’s wider theocracy for not allowing his government to reach a deal soon to restore the 2015 atomic accord. Rouhani’s powers have waned as the public soured on his government amid an economy suffering under U.S. sanctions.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif submitted to parliament what was seen as his final report on the status of the talks over the revival of the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In the 213-page document, Zarif declared Iran was "only one step away" from getting the deal back on track. Since February, six rounds of the JCPOA revival talks have been held between Iran and the other signatories, namely the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The State Department informed Congress late Tuesday that it would waive sanctions on Iran's illicit oil trade so that the country can access frozen funds from South Korea and Japan, the same day the Department of Justice announced charges on an Iranian spy network that sought to kidnap an American. The waiver, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, allows the "transfer of Iranian funds in restricted accounts to exporters in Japan and the Republic of Korea," according to a notification sent to Congress by the State Department. The waiver allows Iranian money that had been frozen as a result of American sanctions to be freed up without violating the law.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats shared some common ground this weekend as an unlikely collaboration of lawmakers joined in calls from Iranian dissidents for a democratic Iran and for the regime to be removed. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, Rick Scott and Thom Tillis, alongside Democrat Sens. Cory Booker, Bob Menendez and Maggie Hassan all took part of the "Free Iran World Summit." Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY, also spoke at the event.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
US foe Iran has accused the United States of “interference” in Cuba’s internal affairs after unprecedented protests hit the communist-ruled island which has been under US sanctions for decades. The protests erupted spontaneously in several cities on Sunday as Cuba endures its worst economic crisis in 30 years, with chronic shortages of electricity, food and medicines. “While the United States is primarily responsible for the numerous problems of Cuba’s people, it has now come out in support of Cuba’s protests,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement late Tuesday.
From one end of Iran to the other, citizens are suffering. The regime is failing the people at all levels. Water shortages are endemic. Power outages are a matter of course. The sick and impoverished, livestock and crops are all dying from lack of water, oxygen and overheating. Petroleum workers are on strike due to starvation-level wages. Wherever one turns in Iran, everything is broken. The regime has two plans to avoid the wrath of the people—repression and sanctions relief. And the Biden administration is giving the Iranian regime every reason to believe that it can pull off both.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Republican lawmakers are determined to preserve President Joe Biden’s power to wage military campaigns in Iraq, even against the commander-in-chief’s wishes. It’s a strange dynamic for members of Congress, who have long seen presidents of both parties expand and sometimes abuse their war powers even after campaigning on ending conflicts in the Middle East. Nearly 20 years after the horrors of Sept. 11, GOP lawmakers are now in the awkward position of fighting to maintain a Democratic president’s authority to conduct military operations without congressional approval.