The United States is still pursuing its campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, even after President Donald Trump parted ways with his hard-line national security adviser John Bolton. Mnuchin, in an interview with CNBC, also said that there is no current plan for Trump to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month, although he reiterated that Trump is open to meeting with Rouhani with no preconditions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week offered fresh reason why the Iran nuclear deal was never good enough - namely, new proof that Tehran has been cheating on its nuclear promises for years. Specifically, Bibi revealed the existence of a secret nuke-research site that Iran never revealed, even after it promised to suspend its nuclear program in the 2015 accord. The photos show major activity at the site in the early 2000s - and then, more recently, the same cluster of buildings reduced to rubble.
The United States has evidence that the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 has transferred its crude oil to the Syrian government, breaking assurances it gave not to sell crude to the country, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
UANI IN THE NEWS
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering easing sanctions on Iran to pave the way for a public meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York at the United Nations General Assembly later this month. Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told JI that easing sanctions just to meet the Iranian president, "who isn't its supreme decision-maker, isn't maximum pressure."
A former Democratic nominee for vice president has said that the 2020 Democrats should be supporting Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" strategy on Iran, rather than pledging to rejoin the nuclear deal. Joseph I. Lieberman, chairman of United Against a Nuclear Iran, wrote an op-ed for USA Today on Monday in which he laid out how the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a bad deal for the US and the rest of the world. He said it "only paused Iran's nuclear project, instead of ending it", did nothing to stop Iran's regional aggression, terrorism, or repression of the Iranian people.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A character in Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" describes how he went bankrupt: gradually, and then suddenly. After the latest news out of Tehran, the same can be said for Iran's continued progress toward a nuclear weapon. Last weekend Iranian officials announced the third in an unfolding series of ultimatums, whereby Tehran progressively ratchets up its violations of the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) unless Europe offsets the pain of U.S. sanctions.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Thursday a visiting senior US treasury official assured him that sanctions against Iran would remain in full force. "I just finished an excellent working meeting with Sigal Mandelker, the under secretary of the treasury," he wrote on his Twitter account. "I was happy to hear from her that contrary to media reports there is no change in US sanctions policy toward Iran and they will continue at full strength."
The United States said Thursday that Iran had shown itself to be untrustworthy after a tanker apparently delivered oil to Syria in defiance of promises. "I think the importance here to our friends around the world in the international community is to note that once again you have been lied to and misled by the Iranian regime," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In 2017, Jolie King and Mark Firkin hit the road in a white Toyota Land Cruiser, beginning a journey that over the next two years would take them from their home in Perth, Australia, across large stretches of Asia as they meandered toward Europe. Photos and videos posted on social media accounts documenting their adventure show the pair swimming in the turquoise waters of Bali, trekking to Everest base camp and driving through the valleys of Pakistan surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
An Iranian activist is lashing out at FIFA following the death of a female fan who set herself on fire after she was denied access to a soccer stadium in Tehran. Maryam Shojaei is a member of the women's advocacy group @OpenStadiums, which lobbies against Iran's longtime ban on females attending sporting events at stadiums in the country. Her brother, Masoud Shojaei, is the captain of Iran's national football team. She says the sport's world governing body hasn't done enough to confront the ban, especially in the wake of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari's death.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she met last week with her Iranian counterpart, seeking to secure release of three citizens held by Tehran. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Tuesday confirmed two British-Australian women and the Australian boyfriend of one of them had been jailed in Iran. The detentions threaten to inflame tensions between the West and Tehran. DFAT named two of detainees as Australian Mark Firkin and British-Australian Jolie King.
Harsh verdicts issued against journalists and political activists show that the cost of advocacy for reform and civil liberties is still high in Iran despite pledges by moderate President Hassan Rouhani to change the status quo. Marzieh Amiri, a journalist with the Reformist Shargh, was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison and 147 lashes last month. She was arrested while covering an International Workers Day rally in Tehran. According to Reporters Without Borders, she is now one of 10 female journalists behind bars in Iran.
While the International Football Federation (FIFA) is set to dispatch a delegation to Tehran to look into the case of a female football fan who recently committed suicide by self-immolation, the Islamic Republic has issued a warrant to arrest a movie superstar in Iran for supporting the victim. A news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Fars, reported that a judge had issued a warrant for arresting Saba Kamali, a famous movie and theater actress.
Sahar Khodayari, disguised as a man due to Iran's ban on women in stadiums, attempted to attend a soccer game between Tehran's Esteghlal FC and Abu Dhabi's Al Ain FC at Tehran's Azadi Stadium in March 2019. She was arrested and released on bail days later. At the courthouse earlier this week, where her case was postponed, she reportedly overheard she could face six months in prison. She set herself on fire outside of the courthouse and later died at the hospital.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says President Donald Trump has no plans to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while he's in New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month. Mnuchin said Thursday that such a meeting is "not planned at the moment," even though Trump has made clear "he would sit down with Rouhani with no condition" to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Mnuchin also insists that the recent departure of former national security adviser John Bolton will not dramatically change the Trump administration's posture on Iran.
President Donald Trump seems to be setting the stage for renewed talks with Iran over its nuclear program, raising the prospect of easing U.S. sanctions in exchange for a meeting with the Iranian president. Unless he reconsiders his goals for these negotiations, he's going to make a serious mistake. After abrogating the nuclear deal that his predecessor signed with Iran in 2015, Trump has stated his basic conditions for a new one: "no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles and a longer period of time."
The abrupt and acrimonious departure this week of John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump's third national security advisor, has raised plenty of hopes in Washington and elsewhere for a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. That's not at all likely, given the Trump administration's stated desire to maintain its maximum pressure campaign and the Iranian regime's repeated refusal to enter negotiations with the current administration. Instead, an economically strangled Iran will likely continue to violate its nuclear commitments under the 2015 deal and possibly seek to reignite confrontation in the Persian Gulf.
President Donald Trump on Thursday said he believes that Iran's leadership wants a meeting, adding to expectations that he is trying to arrange a summit with his Iranian counterpart at the upcoming UN assembly. "I can tell you that Iran wants to meet," he told reporters at the White House. Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with President Hassan Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, the Iranians have so far not given a positive response.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
In an open letter to the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary, Tehran's outspoken representative in the Iranian parliament, has lambasted judges for issuing harsh sentences. Recent harsh verdicts and arrests of dissidents, activists and journalists has led to a wave of criticism and condemnations in Iran. Referring to Sahar Khodayari who recently committed suicide by self-immolation, and Sattar Beheshti who died in early November 2012 a couple of days after being arrested, Ali Motahari urged the head of the judiciary to employ judges whose "wisdom dominates their knowledge."
Political satirist Kiumars Marzban could spend more than a decade in an Iranian prison just for doing his job. Marzban is among the recent victims of an intensified state crackdown in Iran that has resulted in unusually harsh prison sentences for journalists, human rights lawyers, women protesting the compulsory hijab rule, labor rights activists, and others.
Iran's leadership has denied basic human rights to the people of Iran, especially women. For 40 years, Iran's pro-democracy movement has remained active, despite frequent and often severe reprisals by the regime. The international community has witnessed hints of this movement's potential at various historical moments, such as the 2009 protests and the nationwide uprising that spread across every major city of Iran in early 2018. That Iranian women have played a unique role in these uprisings is not a coincidence.
Iran and the United States are as close to direct conflict as they have been for three decades, since Operation Praying Mantis in 1988 which was, at the time, the largest surface naval engagement since World War II. A lot of ink has been spilled and oxygen expended discussing the matter, some of it good and some of it simplistic.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
The Arab ministerial committee, made up of ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, has condemned Iran's support for the Houthi militia in targeting Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles. A statement by the committee condemned the ongoing support by Tehran for terrorism in the Arab region and its violation of the Security Council resolution no. 2216 (2015), which requires militia to be disarmed.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel must be allowed to act freely against Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday during a visit to Sochi, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss security coordination in Syria. The two leaders have met more than a dozen times in recent years and the countries' militaries have been working to avoid accidental clashes in Syria, where Israel says it has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iranian targets to stop Tehran establishing a permanent military presence there.
The human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center urged in Berlin on Wednesday that the German government ban the Lebanese terrorist movement Hezbollah in the federal republic. "We live in a time when violent attacks against Jews have almost become routine, including the beating of an Israeli because he spoke Hebrew on a Berlin Street Tuesday night," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean.
A Lebanese man wanted by the US for allegedly supplying drone technology to Hezbollah once formed an aviation company in partnership with an Iraqi militant who has been sanctioned for assisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard, an investigation by The National has found. Lebanese corporate records show that Samir Berro was a co-founder of Beirut-based Gulf Bird in 2007 along with an Iraqi national identified as Shibl Muhsin Obaid.
Future U.S. sanctions could target allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon, extending beyond direct affiliates of the Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group, a U.S. envoy said on Thursday. "In the future we will designate, because we have to, individuals in Lebanon who are aiding and assisting Hezbollah, regardless of their sect or religion," the new U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs David Schenker said in an interview with Lebanon's LBCI television.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia has called on the world community to confront Iran's radicalism and Tehran's violation of its nuclear obligations. Saudi media have quoted Abdullah bin Khaled bin Sultan Al Saud, the country's new permanent representative at the United Nations in Vienna as having said at the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors' meeting that the world should work on a comprehensive international accord about Iran's nuclear program.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron stood on a terrace overlooking the Atlantic in Biarritz last month, puffing on one cigarette after another as the G-7 leaders huddled inside. Emmanuel Bonne had kicked his university habit years before, but started up again when he was handed his first assignment for the Macron administration: get Iran and the U.S. back to the negotiating table.
Tens of millions worth of seized Iranian government properties have been sold off in Canada and the proceeds handed to victims of terrorist groups sponsored by the regime, Global News has learned. According to a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month, the victims got a share of the money earned through the sale of Iran's buildings in Ottawa and Toronto.