Two Iranian-flagged tankers transporting fuel are sailing round Africa’s Cape of Good Hope en route to the Atlantic Ocean, according to Refinitiv Eikon’s vessel tracking data. The medium-size vessels Forest and Fortune, carrying about 300,000 barrels of fuel each loaded at Iran’s Bandar Abbas terminal last month, are bound for Venezuela, according to sources with knowledge of the shipment. Gasoline scarcity in Venezuela has worsened in recent days due to insufficient domestic production, leaving long lines of drivers waiting in front of stations and increasing the need for imported fuel.
Iran said it had warned U.S. aircraft to keep away from military drills its holding over three days in a large maritime region reaching from the Persian Gulf to the northern Indian Ocean. Military spokesman Commodore Shahram Irani said foreign manned and unmanned aircraft had been cautioned on Wednesday to avoid the exercises taking place over 2 million square kilometers of ocean, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The area lies to the east of the Strait of Hormuz, a major choke point for oil shipments.
Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later this month along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, China's defense ministry announced Thursday. The "Caucus 2020" drills will deploy wheeled vehicles and light weaponry to be flown to the drill location by China's latest version transport aircraft, the ministry said in a news release. The exercises running September 21-26 will focus on defensive tactics, encirclement and battlefield control and command, the ministry said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon, the UK's foreign secretary said on Thursday. The Islamic Republic “must comply with its nuclear commitments and preserve the JCPOA,” Dominic Raab said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal agreed between Iran, US and European powers. Raab made the comments after meeting with the foreign ministers of fellow E3 countries France and Germany.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Foreign ministers from the UK, France and Germany have agreed to hold out against US demands to snapback all UN sanctions on Iran, despite intensified pressure from the US specifically on the UK government to fall into line. The US was left isolated at the UN security council last month when it said it wished to reimpose snapback sanctions, with the European nations – known collectively as the E3 – arguing that the US was no longer a participant in the deal and so unable to act unilaterally. The US, which left the deal in 2018, described the E3 position as crackers and pandering to terrorists.
In an economy besieged by sanctions and handicapped by corruption, the Tehran Stock Exchange offered a rare opportunity for making profits and creating wealth. That opportunity, however, has proved to be a mirage. From a peak index of 2,065,114, the exchange — known as the TSE — fell to 1,631,941 last week, signaling a 20% drop, erasing millions of dollars of value of different portfolios and financial asset holdings. Iranian investors took to social media to share screenshots of their portfolios with all stocks in the red.
New data released by Iran's major trading partners show a significant drop in Iranian imports, as well as the nations' exports to Iran. The Indian Ministry of Finance shared data Wednesday showing a 23-fold drop in India's imports from Iran in the first seven months of 2020. India imported $3.2 billion of products from Iran in the first seven months of 2019, with that figure dropping to a meager $140 million in the same period in 2020.
While much of the international community has been focusing on maintaining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, Iran’s latest acceleration of its ballistic missile program has received little attention, scrutiny or criticism. In spite of the economic and political pressure the Iranian regime has been facing, its ballistic missile program has been advancing at a rapid pace, particularly when it comes to the proliferation of longer-range precision-guided weapons.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Dual British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed for five years in Iran on spying charges, will face a new trial in the coming days. Her sentence was to expire next April but she has been hit with new charges that have not been made public. The charity worker and her young daughter were detained at Tehran’s airport in 2016 after visiting her family. She strongly denies all the charges against her. As Henry Ridgwell reports, her family believes she is being used as a bargaining chip in a dispute over payment for tanks purchased before the Iranian Revolution but never delivered.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
President Hassan Rouhani is facing criticism for reopening schools while the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 22,000 people so far. In his latest speech Sept. 9 at a Cabinet meeting, Rouhani addressed some of the criticism he is facing by saying the health of students is a “priority” for the administration, but he said they do not want students “to be held back from their studies from six months or a year.” "This would be difficult on families,” said Rouhani.
In an op-ed recently published by the Iranian newspaper Shargh, Tehran University professor and pro-reform analyst Sadegh Zibakalam compared Iran’s reformists to a patient in need of a respirator so that they could stay alive until the Iranian presidential election in June 2021. Zibakalam claimed that a last minute “awakening” had led many Iranians to rush to the polling stations in the 2017 presidential election when they did not originally intend to vote.
An outspoken whistle-blowing journalist, Yashar Soltani, has challenged a preacher close to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to explain a suspicious purchase of land he made in 2012. A day earlier, Khamenei's close ally, the mid-ranking clergyman Alireza Panahian, said in an interview that an apartment was presented to him as a friendly gift. Panahian, a preacher and favorite student of Khamenei, is also the head of Khamenei's "think tank for universities."
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran demanded the U.K. government take “urgent steps” to return hundreds of millions of dollars for undelivered military equipment it paid for decades ago -- just as a British-Iranian woman faces new charges at a Tehran court. Iran and the U.K. have been locked in a long legal battle over Tehran’s payment for 1,750 tanks more than four decades ago. After the shah of Iran was deposed in the 1979 revolution, the U.K. withheld the bulk of the order. The demand on Thursday to settle the debt came days after Iran said it presented a new indictment against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and expects her to appear in court later this week.