Several days after the massive July 2 explosion that destroyed the upper level of Iran’s centrifuge upgrading and uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, reports emerged in Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Mossad Director Yossi Cohen to stay on an additional year once his five-year term expires at the end of the year. However, "the head,” as the spy agency director is known, only agreed to a six-month extension.
The powerful Hezbollah group said on Tuesday it is in talks with the Lebanese government about the possibility of Iran supplying the country with refined oil products in exchange for Lebanese pounds. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, said a “calm discussion” was underway with the Beirut government over the idea that would ease the pressure on Beirut’s hard currency reserves. Lebanon is suffering an acute financial crisis and hard currency liquidity crunch.
A rumor campaign in Iran, apparently being pushed by populist and nationalist voices, has asserted a secret deal by the regime foresees a roadmap agreement with China that would give China rights to some islands. Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi had to deny reports that there are islands at the center of a comprehensive program between Iran and China. Mousavi’s comments were reported on Tasnim and Fars News in Iran. He argued that China will be the world’s leading economic power in the new future and that it is time for Iran to link with this great power in western Asia. It was time to leave behind the western-dominated powers. This is a theme that pro-Iran voices, such as Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, also said yesterday.
UANI IN THE NEWS
While the world’s attention is focused on the coronavirus and the potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, there are major events happening in the Middle East regarding Iran’s missile program and its nuclear ambitions. Given these developments, it’s important to look at the wider context with a focus on the dangerous strategy developed by Iranian leaders who call for the destruction of Israel. On June 26th, a mysterious explosion occurred outside the Iranian capital of Tehran at a major missile production facility. A week later, a fire was reported at Natanz in a facility for the production of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. Some analysts raised the possibility of a cyberattack, and a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper attributes the attacks to Israel.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A website close to Iran's Supreme Council of National Security (SCNS) has published a commentary on the blast at Iran's "centrifuge assembly line" in Natanz which says the incident was “a deliberate attack”. However, Nour News added, "an air strike on the Natanz plant is almost impossible”, due to strong air defences. The is the first time a source close to the Iranian government acknowledges there has been an "attack" on the nuclear establishment.
Mossad chiefs don’t tend to give interviews. Certainly not while in the post and, in many cases, hardly ever even after they’ve retired. Shabtai Shavit, the seventh of the 12 Mossad directors to date — whose term extended from his 1989 appointment by Yitzhak Shamir, through Yitzhak Rabin’s second stint as prime minister, to Shimon Peres’s brief post-assassination premiership — is a case in point. Never mind media silence, Shavit wasn’t even publicly identified as the head of the Mossad until after he had stepped down in 1996.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian oil production has reached its lowest point in almost four decades, according to industry experts, with the country’s storage facilities fast approaching full capacity. The news comes amid a dip in Iran’s oil exports due to a crash in global demand, and in a period when its refineries have been hampered as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. With over 11,000 confirmed fatalities, Iran has suffered the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, affecting all areas of industry.
Judicial Deputy of Tehran Prosecutor on Monday said many of the exporters flagged by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) for not transferring currency earnings to the government FOREX system cannot be identified or are "fake entities". Speaking on a state-run television program on Monday, Mohammad-Reza Sahebi said some of the people whose names are seen on government foreign trade authorization cards on the 150 person list submitted to the judiciary for prosecution "had no inkling about the exports made in their names".
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A female Iranian dissident imprisoned by her nation’s Islamist rulers since 2016 has been handed a second conviction for engaging in peaceful acts of anti-government protest while in jail. Speaking to VOA Persian by phone from Tehran last Thursday, the father of jailed activist Atena Daemi said a Revolutionary Court in the Iranian capital notified his daughter’s lawyer Mostafa Nili of the conviction the previous day. Hossein Daemi said the court presided over by Judge Amouzadeh convicted his daughter of two charges of spreading anti-government propaganda and disrupting prison order.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Two people were killed in an explosion at a factory in the south of Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported on Tuesday, in the latest in a series of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites. “Human error was the cause of the blast in a factory ... Two people were killed and three others were injured,” said local official Amin Babai, adding that the explosion happened in “an industrial zone” at Baqershahr near Tehran. “The explosion that was caused by some workers’ negligent handling of oxygen tanks.... was so powerful that the walls of a factory nearby were also totally destroyed.”
Iran suffered its deadliest day of the coronavirus outbreak, as the country’s health minister said warnings about the spread of the disease had fallen on “deaf ears.” Authorities reported on Tuesday that 200 people had died from Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, a sharp spike from the previous high of 163 recorded on July 5. The total death toll reached 11,931 out of 245,688 known cases. “I repeatedly said to our people that it’s extremely dangerous to understate the situation,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state TV just before the latest figures were made public.
CHINA & IRAN
In a statement on Tuesday, Iran's exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi condemned a planned 25-year agreement Iran is seeking to sign with China. "The regime dominating our country is seeking to sign a despicable 25-year agreement with China to plunder Iran's natural resources and accepting a foreign army in our homeland, " Prince Reza Pahlavi said in the statement which was published on his official Telegram Channel. He added that the agreement "planned with the direct approval and support of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic is an undeniable betrayal of Iran's national interests".
IRAQ & IRAN
Hisham al-Hashimi, an internationally known Iraqi expert on extremist groups and militias in Iraq and Syria, was assassinated in front of his house in Baghdad's Ziyouna district in the early evening July 6. Hashimi was shot dead by two gunmen while he was leaving his house. Hashimi was jailed as an opposition figure under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. After Hussein's overthrow in 2003, Hashimi led several research projects on the Islamic extremist groups, including the books “History of al-Qaeda in Iraq” and “Organization of the Islamic State from Within.” He was a valuable source of analysis on the extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, and Iraqi politics more broadly, for many leading media and research centers, including Al-Monitor, and had a reputation for honesty and integrity throughout Iraq.
Iraq partially reopened its southern Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran on Tuesday after more than three months of closure to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, border officials said. The crossing was being opened only for the trade of foodstuffs, allowing in some 500 trucks from Iran per week and would open every Wednesday and Sunday from now on, one of the officials said. Iraq closed its international borders and provincial boundaries in March except for the delivery of essential goods such as food as it sought to curb the spread of the coronavirus.