Iran plans to start enriching uranium at an underground facility Wednesday, Tehran officials said, in a significant step away from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal that could raise pressure on Europe to take action. A 15-year ban on any enrichment of uranium at the Fordow nuclear plant was one of the central achievements of the deal. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for a nuclear weapon. The site, buried deep within a mountain, is considered impregnable to most conventional weapons, presenting a major hurdle to any military effort aimed at stopping Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Two men have pleaded guilty to acting as illegal agents of the government of Iran on charges stemming from monitoring a Jewish center in Chicago and Americans who are members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI announced Tuesday. Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident living in Costa Mesa, Calif., pleaded guilty Monday to one count of violating U.S. sanctions, according to court records.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tweeted that the people of Iraq and Lebanon have a right to free themselves of Iranian "regime's" influence. He wrote on November 5, Iraqis and Lebanese are discovering "that Iranian regime's top export is corruption, badly disguised as revolution." Large protests against economic hardship and corruption by the political elite have gripped the two countries for more than a month.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran will begin injecting gas into centrifuges at its Fordow uranium-enrichment facility in its latest step away from the 2015 nuclear accord it struck with world powers, President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday. In a televised address, Rouhani said the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran would begin the new measures Wednesday, feeding gas to more than 1,000 centrifuges installed at the plant.
Iran's expansion of uranium enrichment activities in defiance of key nuclear commitments is "a big step in the wrong direction," a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, after Tehran announced it would start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility. "We fully support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in conducting its independent verification role in Iran and look to the IAEA to report on any developments," the spokesperson said in a statement.
U.N. nuclear inspectors are on the ground in Iran and will report back on relevant activities, an International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman said on Wednesday after Iran said it injected uranium gas into centrifuges at its Fordow site. "We are aware of the media reports today related to Fordow. Agency inspectors are on the ground in Iran and they will report any relevant activities to IAEA headquarters in Vienna," the spokesman said in a statement.
Iran will enrich uranium to 5% at its underground Fordow nuclear facility on Wednesday, its nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday, adding the country had the capability to enrich uranium to 20% if needed. "Tomorrow we will enrich uranium to five percent at Fordow ... Right now we have enough 20% enriched uranium but we can produce it if needed," the Students News Agency ISNA quoted Salehi as saying, a day before Iran takes its fourth step to further scale back its commitment to a 2015 nuclear deal.
Foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday that Iran's decision to take a new step to reduce commitments to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal posed a threat to Britain's national security. Iran said on Monday it had launched a new batch of advanced centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment, following the withdrawal from the nuclear pact by the United States. "Iran's latest actions clearly contravene the deal and pose a risk to our national security," Raab said.
France called on Iran to reverse its latest decisions to reduce commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal which contravene the accord and Paris said it was now awaiting a report from the international nuclear watchdog on the issue. "The announcement by Iran on November 5 to increase its enrichment capacity goes against the Vienna agreement, which strictly limits activities in this area," French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.
Iran is taking a significant new step in reducing its commitments to a landmark nuclear deal following the United States's pullout last year, with President Hassan Rouhani announcing it will begin injecting uranium gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges at the underground Fordow plant as of Wednesday. The centrifuges previously spun empty without gas injection under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between Iran and world powers in 2015.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The U.S. Treasury announced Monday that it had sanctioned nine Iranians who are among supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's inner circle for "advancing Iran's radical agenda," a move that seeks to block funds to those who "oppressed the Iranian people, exported terrorism and advanced destabilizing policies around the world." The sanctions were handed down Monday and coincided with the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by student militants and the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis which lasted 444 days.
"Dear head of the household, your subsidies have been eliminated". That was the text message sent to hundreds of thousands of Iranians over the summer informing them that they and their dependents were no longer eligible for monthly cash subsidies from the government. Some 78 million of Iran's 83 million citizens receive government cash handouts of around 455,000 rials ($10.8) a month under a programme launched in 2010 by former populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The former chairman of Iranian parliament's influential National Security and Foreign Policy Commission says that Iranian crude oil exports are currently twenty times less than what it was before sanction were imposed by Washington. Speaking to the parliament's website, Khane-ye Mellat (the House of Nation), Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh called upon Iran's Foreign Ministry to devise a strategy to find a way out of the deadlock. Before the new U.S. sanctions, Iran used to export nearly 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A former Iranian beauty queen has spoken of the toll on her mental health as she enters her fourth week stranded in a Philippines airport, fearing that she will be deported to Tehran and executed for criticising the Iran regime if her asylum claim fails. "I'm not in good condition," Bahareh Zare Bahari, 31, told the Guardian on Wednesday from Manila's Ninoy Aquino international airport. "My hair has started falling [out, and is in] bad condition because of the stress. Sometimes mentally I become too sick ... I have no privacy here, because there's no door in the room, so I'm always worried when I want to change my clothes."
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
On the 40th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani declared Tehran was taking another step away from the 2015 nuclear agreement, while the U.S. announced new sanctions aimed at turning the economic screws even tighter on the cash-strapped regime. In a televised address Rouhani said Iran will begin injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges at its nuclear facility in Fordo, a first step if Iran eventually wants to produce enriched uranium.
The heads of government agencies including the FBI, Department of Justice and National Security Agency warned in a joint security statement Tuesday that "foreign actors" would seek to interfere in the 2020 election. "Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions." Why it matters: The announcement comes as House Democrats probe whether President Trump pressed Ukraine to interfere in next year's election by asking the nation's leader to investigate his potential 2020 opponent former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Forty years ago this week, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized by revolutionaries apparently angered by diplomatic contacts between the nine-month-old, post-Shah Islamic regime and U.S. officials. This motive, seeking to make the new Iran implacably and permanently hostile to the United States, has been very successful, in the judgment of most of us. The elusive question has been whether the people of Iran share their government's view so that by changing their leadership, a new relationship could be created.
A spokesman for Iran's armed forces has threatened a "crushing response" against any U.S. aggression and allies who host American troops. "Any place and any point of any territories which host the US and its allies' interests will be threatened (in case of any war) and the Islamic Republic has proved that it has the capability to do so," Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi said during a Sunday interview with Iranian Fars News Agency.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Iranian Central Bank has made it mandatory for all banks in Iran to establish an anti-money laundering unit. The initiative appears to be an effort by the Rouhani administration to circumvent the legislative deadlock over meeting the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The latest deadline set by FATF gives Iran less than four months to join international conventions against money laundering and funding terrorism.
The former managing director of the Islamic Republic Ports and Shipping Organization (PSO) and member of ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Saeedi, has been arrested in Tehran, local news outlets report. Young Journalists Club (YJC), which is affiliated with the Islamic Republic's state-owned Radio and TV network, reported on Tuesday, November 5, a former managing director of the PSO has been charged with receiving $4 million bribes and arrested last Monday evening.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
[Iran is] violating the [nuclear] agreement and running to tell everyone, and not by chance. Only a day after his country announced the activation of 30 centrifuges, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that starting tomorrow they will inject gas into the centrifuges in the nuclear reactor in Fordow, a reactor that Iran pledged to use strictly for research purposes.
Two Iranians who were charged with collecting information on Israeli and Jewish targets in the US and on opponents of the Iranian regime have pleaded guilty to acting on behalf of Tehran, the US Justice Department announced Tuesday. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were arrested last year.
The German-Israeli Association (DIG) elected as its new director the Christian Democratic Union Party politician Uwe Becker, who pledged in late October a more aggressive posture toward Chancellor Angela Merkel's largely pro-Iranian regime and Hezbollah policies. Becker immediately called for a full ban of the terrorist entity Hezbollah in Germany and new sanctions targeting the Iranian clerical regime.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei has confirmed that President Hassan Rouhani has sent letters to the Saudi and Bahraini kings in an effort to resolve tensions with the two Arab countries. At a weekly press briefing in Tehran on Nov. 4, Rabiei said the letters embodied Iran's strategy of "seeking peace and stability" in the region. The Iranian official noted that US pressure should not be allowed to "create gaps" between neighbors, which share "cultural and religious commonalities and have been living in peaceful coexistence."
Kuwait's deputy foreign minister Khaled al-Jarallah said on Tuesday that Kuwait conveyed messages from Iran to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain regarding the situation in the Gulf region, and "until now no answers have emerged". The Iranian Foreign Ministry had said last month that Iran is prepared to hold talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia, "with or without the help of a mediator".
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi protesters mock Iran's leaders, firebomb the offices of its local political allies and threaten its diplomatic missions. The anti-government protests that have convulsed Iraq in the past month are fueled by economic grievances and are mainly directed at Iraq's own political leaders. But they have also exposed long-simmering resentment at Iran's influence in the country, with protesters targeting Shiite political parties and militias with close ties to Tehran.
It has long been clear that Donald Trump's policies and postures in the Middle East have an almost preternatural capacity to backfire. His sudden and messy withdrawal from north-east Syria last month has left Vladimir Putin's Russia holding the ring - with an undeserved but understandable reputation for being more reliable than the US - and awards Turkey its third enclave in northern Syria.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran's intelligence ministry on Tuesday said any cooperation with the British Council was banned and would result in prosecution, the ministry's website reported. "Britain ... was planning to implement a project for cultural networking purposes in cooperation with the British Council in Iran ... any cooperation with the British Council is prohibited and will result in prosecution," the ministry said in a statement.
A 46-year-old Iraqi man was on Wednesday charged with spying for Iran by gathering information on Iranian refugees in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. Prosecutor Hans-Jorgen Hanstrom says the man, who was not identified, collected "personal information" about Iranian Arabs, known as Ahvazis, for Iran "under the cover of representing an Arabic online newspaper." Hanstrom said the man was active during a four-year period ending February 2019, and also allegedly infiltrated online forums for opposition supporters, and gathered login information for routers.