U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that U.S. and partner forces seized a boat in June carrying Iranian weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen as he renewed his call for the U.N. Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran. “The Security Council must extend the arms embargo on Iran to prevent further conflict in the region,” Pompeo told a State Department news conference. “No serious person can possibly believe Iran will use any weapon it receives for peaceful ends.”
A powerful Iran-backed militia said Wednesday there would be “escalation” if Iraq’s prime minister continues to clamp down on armed groups, as tensions spiked following the killing of a prominent analyst, pitting the state against rogue elements. Hostilities have flared as Iraq reels from the assassination of Hisham al-Hashimi, 47, who was gunned down by unknown assailants on motorbikes outside his Baghdad home Monday. He had received death threats from the Islamic State group and Iran-backed militia groups.
A highly controversial document outlining a proposed long-term pact between and China has been leaked amid strong public criticism of what has been dubbed as Iran’s capitulation and a sell-out of national resources. The document titles, "Comprehensive Plan for Cooperation between Iran and China" for the next 25 years, was first mentioned last month but government officials refused to spell out its details. Many, including politicians and analysts in and out of Iran have been discussing and criticizing "the 25-year-long contract between Iran and China.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
There is growing support among outside security experts for the notion that an "incident" at Iran's main nuclear-enrichment facility last week was an act of sabotage in a shadow war aimed at setting back Tehran's nuclear activities. Many analysts believe that a foreign state, possibly Israel, was behind the July 2 fire at the Natanz facility in Iran's central Isfahan Province. The conflagration caused "considerable financial damage," according to Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, which had originally sought to downplay the incident.
Chinese diplomat said Beijing would continue to work for a political and diplomatic resolution of issues surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. To this end, "China will maintain close communication with relevant parties, facilitate peace [and] promote talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular press conference this week, the ministry's website reported.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington would stop possible Iranian oil exports to its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. “We’ll do everything we can to make sure that Iran cannot continue to sell crude oil anywhere, including to Hezbollah in the region so that the resources that fund and underwrite the world’s largest state sponsor of terror won’t be made available to them,” Pompeo told a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.
Amazon will pay $134,523 after violating U.S. sanctions by selling goods to people in Crimea, Iran and Syria, although the low penalty amount reflects "that Amazon’s apparent violations were non-egregious and voluntarily self-disclosed," the Treasury Department said Wednesday. Amazon agreed to settle with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control after selling goods to sanctioned individuals, individuals located in or employed by the foreign missions of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria and failing to report several hundred transactions in a timely manner.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
The United States on Wednesday blasted a UN finding that a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general was unlawful, saying the report whitewashed Qassem Soleimani's record. "It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defense while whitewashing General Soleimani's notorious past as one of the world's deadliest terrorists," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least six members of the newly elected Majles (Iranian parliament) have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus as a new wave of the epidemic is raging in Iran. The latest victim is the representative of the city of Oroumieh (Urmia), Vahid Jalalzadeh. A former Governor of West Azerbaijan (2009 to 2013 in the Government of hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), Jalalizadeh has been quarantined, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked Fars news agency reported on Wednesday, July 8.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani mounted a rosy defense of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the latter was cornered by the hard-line lawmakers who are in full control of the country’s new parliament. In a televised cabinet meeting July 8, Rouhani expressed admiration for Zarif as the embodiment of Iran’s political power. Rouhani also borrowed from the “constant praise” that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lent Zarif and his emphasis that the foreign minister “ought to be respected.”
Three weeks ago a paper written by the staff at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Institute for Policy and Strategy argued that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s focus on extending Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank was deflecting his attention and that of the world from Israel’s main threat: Iran. The title given to the paper summed it up concisely: “Annexation ‘in,’ Iran ‘out,’ Israel harms the struggle against a nuclear Iran.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran has signed a new military agreement with Syria, vowing to boost the war-torn country's air defense power and challenge the U.S. presence there. Iranian Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Revolutionary Guard commander and chief of staff of the Islamic Republic's armed forces, met Wednesday with Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub to sign a new deal to strengthen defense ties between the two allies. Tehran and Damascus are partnered in the war against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) but are also part of the Axis of Resistance opposed to Israel and the United States.
Israel has asked the US Department of Defense to speed up delivery of its KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft, as tensions rise with Iran. In March the US Department of Defense announced approval to sell new KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft to Israel, with delivery expected in four years. However, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that Israel has requested that the aircraft be delivered within two years.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday called on the International community to “deal seriously with the nuclear and ballistic programs being developed by Iran" and to take appropriate measures to extend the UN arms embargo on the country. According to the Saudi state news agency SPA, the call was made during a cabinet meeting to review the U.N. Security Council's discussion of a report on Iran's alleged involvement in missile attacks against the Saudis.
IRAQ & IRAN
Weeks before he was fatally shot in Baghdad, Husham al-Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi writer and leading expert on extremist groups, sought advice from a friend after allegedly receiving a chilling message from Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah (KH). His friends are now questioning whether the Shiite militia is responsible for the killing. His death has been widely mourned in Iraq, prompting many to speculate on the future of the country amid Iran’s network of influence. “I told him to leave Iraq immediately,” said Ghaith al-Tamimi, an Iraqi researcher and a close friend of Hashimi.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Negotiations to end the long-running war between Afghanistan’s central government and the Taliban slowly inch along, punctuated by spasms of violence. The Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) often lash out with attacks on the Afghan security forces and civilians, with the ISKP frequently targeting Shiite communities. Any settlement will likely require the United States to withdraw most combat troops from the country.