Iran's Oil Minister on Monday told reporters that all foreign countries are now refusing to sign agreements with Iran in all areas due to the U.S. sanctions and are even discontinuing existing contracts. Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said a previously negotiated agreement with India to develop the offshore Farzad gas field shared with Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, has been cancelled because no country is willing to sign agreements with Iran in any area and added: "We need to rely on our own domestic capacities".
Iraq’s new prime minister arrived in Iran on Tuesday, his first official visit abroad since taking office more than two months ago, Iranian media reported. State television showed footage of Mustafa al-Kadhimi landing at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. The TV said al-Khadhimi would meet top Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. “We hope to have constructive talks for deepening relations” between the two nations, said Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei.
Iran bowed to domestic pressure by suspending the death sentences of three alleged antigovernment protesters, but executed a man convicted of spying for the U.S. and Israel in a sign it would show no leniency toward those accused of collaborating with its foreign foes. Iran’s judiciary said Monday it had agreed to retry three protesters who were arrested during demonstrations in November over the country’s troubled economy and sentenced to death. The suspension of the death sentences followed a weeklong campaign on social media in which hundreds of thousands of Iranians pleaded to have them overturned.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Leaked news this month that China and Iran had come to the verge of signing a 25-year trade and military partnership agreement struck like a geopolitical storm in Washington — a rising rival of America and a longtime foe joining forces to threaten the United States’s predominant position in the Middle East. The agreement ambitiously promises to bring a huge Chinese presence into Iran’s economic development, in exchange for a regular supply of heavily discounted Iranian oil.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The International community should hold Iran to count for its violations of its nuclear deal with world powers, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said during a visit to Jerusalem by his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó on Monday. Hungary is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, and as such as received its recent reports of Iranian breaches of the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
A Turkish banker was properly convicted of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions in a case that strained relations with Turkey, a federal appeals panel said Monday. The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan concluded that Mehmet Hakan Atilla received a fair trial after he was arrested in 2017 during a business trip to the United States. A three-judge panel said there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's guilty verdict, including wiretapped conversations and hundreds of documents establishing that “Atilla was a knowing participant in the sanctions evasion scheme that involved routing hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system.”
Iran's national currency gained 10 percent of its value back on Monday after several deep plunges in the past few days following the injection of $300 million into the market for businesses seeking imports. The rial hit an all-time low of 260,000 against the U.S. dollar on Sunday with an almost 10,000 rial drop in one day at the early hours of trading. On Monday, however, it rose by about 10 percent to 22,950 against the dollar to gain the value it held ten days ago. This is still 43 percent less than its value in comparison with late March.
Iran's ambassador to Russia has called on Moscow and Beijing to unite with Tehran in an anti-U.S. sanctions club to resist pressure from Washington, D.C. and make it more costly for American administrations to undermine its rivals. Ambassador Kazem Jalali urged Russia and China to ramp up their support of Iran, which for the last two years has been struggling under President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign. In an interview published Tuesday, Jalali told the Kommersant newspaper it is "high time we created a club of countries hit by sanctions," according to the Tass state news agency.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Reacting to more than 11 million tweets calling for an end to executions in Iran, the Islamic Republic Judiciary spokesman has said, "We are not obliged to listen to the counter-revolutionaries, aggressive opposition movements and the media empire." Furthermore, Gholam Hossein Esmaeili dismissed the record-breaking and unprecedented online campaign as “produced by robots." The hashtag, "No to Death Penalty," launched July 14 was initially used to stop the execution of three young men who were arrested during last November’s protests in Iran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Chairman of Iran's Red Crescent Society (IRCS) Karim Hemmati on Monday announced that the United States has allowed the launch of a financial channel for transfer of international humanitarian aid to Iran. Speaking to the government news agency IRNA Hemmati said the launch of the channel was negotiated through the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross with the U.S. Department of Treasury and Diplomacy Division.
Disagreements over the weapons embargo on Iran loom large before a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Britain on Tuesday. Mr Pompeo, who is leading a diplomatic offensive for an extension to the embargo on Tehran, will arrive in London to meet British officials before heading to Copenhagen on Wednesday. The US State Department said he would meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to discuss global priorities. The US is looking at a probable defeat in the UN Security Council and disagreements with Russia and China over the 13-year-old arms restrictions.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has seen a record 229 deaths from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, health ministry figures showed on Tuesday. Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April, at least partly to boost an economy battered by U.S. sanctions. The Islamic Republic has recorded a total of 14,634 deaths from the coronavirus, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV, adding that the country has seen 278,827 infections and 242,351 recoveries.
An explosion hit a power plant in the central Iranian province of Isfahan on Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported, saying it was over faulty equipment and caused no casualties. A "worn out transformer... at Isfahan's Islamabad thermal power plant exploded at around 5:00 am today," the managing director of Isfahan's electricity company Said Mohseni told the agency. The facility returned to normal working conditions after about two hours and Isfahan's power supply was uninterrupted, he added.
The Secretary of The Islamic Republic's hardliner-dominated Guardian Council (GC), ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has called for expanding the already powerful body's authority. Jannati says the GC should be involved in drafting laws from the outset and have the authority to remove "wrong-doing" lawmakers from Majles (Iranian parliament). Speaking to the members of the newly-elected parliament's presidium on Monday, July 20, the ultraconservative cleric repeatedly emphasized the "importance of oversight," insisting, "Although the GC's oversight on the members of Majles is permanent, it should also have the power to dismiss the MPs."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Syrian air defenses on Monday intercepted a new Israeli “aggression” above the capital Damascus, state media said, in the latest wave of attacks that Western intelligence sources have said were Israeli strikes on a major Iranian-backed ammunition depot on the edge of the capital. State television said Israeli missiles had flown over the Syrian Golan Heights where they conducted raids around the capital and live footage showed blasts across the skies of the capital.
CHINA & IRAN
Beijing is reported to be in the final stages of approving a $400 billion economic and security deal with Tehran, which some analysts say could give China a vast and secure source of energy and a strategic foothold in the Gulf. Iran’s foreign ministry has confirmed that the potential agreement includes significant infrastructure investments and closer cooperation on defense and intelligence sharing. It’s also rumored to include discounts for Iranian oil.
Iran’s foreign minister recently said his government is negotiating with China for a 25-year “strategic partnership” involving a reported $400 billion in Chinese investment. Cue the media circus. Global headlines heralded the deal as a “major pact” that presents a “bold challenge” to the U.S. Not so fast. For starters, this is a deal between two dishonest regimes that pride themselves on propaganda. The scale and feasibility of the deal deserve healthy skepticism. We should doubt Beijing’s capacity to fund $400 billion of Iranian infrastructure.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Canada does not put much credibility into Iran’s interim report on the downing of a Ukrainian airliner, which Tehran blamed on a misaligned radar and human error, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday. “I don’t put much credibility into that report. It’s not just the result of human error - I think that would be an oversimplification of what really happened,” he said in a phone interview. All 176 people aboard - including 57 Canadians - died after two missiles hit the plane shortly take-off from Tehran.