Iran said Tuesday it is building a sophisticated new building near its underground Natanz nuclear site, state TV reported. The report quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the country’s nuclear department, as saying the new structure is being built in the wake of a July explosion that damaged a building that housed centrifuge machines. “Regarding the evil action and sabotage that was carried out, it has been decided to establish a more modern, vaster and inclusive (building) to be constructed in the heart of the mountains around Natanz,” Salehi was quoted as saying.
Gasoline shortages have returned to Venezuela, sparking mile-long lines in the capital as international concerns mounted Tuesday that Iran yet again may be trying to come to the South American nation’s rescue. Three Iranian tankers that delivered gasoline to Venezuela earlier this year have turned off their location tracking devices for up to three weeks, raising suspicions among global ship trackers that the tankers are again headed to Iran’s ally. Iran uses cloaking to evade detection by the United States, which seeks to block shipments to Venezuela in a campaign aimed at forcing socialist President Nicolás Maduro from power.
Sexual abuse is a taboo topic in Iran. The country's state-run media ignore or actively censor news of rape, harassment or abuse allegations. Few victims choose to come forward in a country where strict Islamic laws require four witnesses to confirm a rape allegation. With the legal bar set so high, prosecutions are rare and convictions even rarer. In spite of this stifling atmosphere, technology is giving a voice to victims of sexual harassment and violence. Iranian women and men are sharing their stories on social media. While there's a long way to go, the hashtag "IranianMeToo" has picked up steam on Twitter, reflecting a push for change and a desire to turn the spotlight on serial perpetrators.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran has begun to build a hall in “the heart of the mountains” near its Natanz nuclear site for making advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Tuesday, aiming to replace a production hall at the facility hit by fire in July. Iran said at the time that the fire was the result of sabotage and had caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges. “Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela that the United States seized last month is now being taken to Texas by two tankers due to arrive in coming days, part of Washington’s efforts to disrupt trade between Caracas and Tehran, according to sources and data. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice said 1.12 million barrels of Iranian gasoline originally going to Venezuela were in U.S. custody following Washington’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.
Iran will set aside 1% of its sovereign wealth fund to stabilize the country’s stock market after its main index of shares lost over a fifth of its value in a month, sparking fears of further falls. The fund will deposit the unspecified amount on Saturday, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a press conference on Tuesday, according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency. The report didn’t give details of how the mechanism would work.
President Trump recently demanded the indefinite restoration of the United Nations's sanctions on Iran that were terminated by the Obama-Biden nuclear deal — including an arms embargo that was scheduled to expire in October. Russia and China will contest Trump’s assertion and threaten sales of advanced conventional weapons to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. To defend America’s security, Trump should use his own sanctions toolbox to enforce disputed multilateral restrictions, whether Moscow and Beijing like it or not.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A British-Iranian woman held for years in Iran after being detained in 2016 while visiting family is set to face additional charges, Iranian state television announced on Tuesday, a move that could deepen the diplomatic impasse in the case. The woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, was sentenced to five years in prison after the Iranian authorities accused her of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government — charges that she, her family and international rights groups have long denied. According to an Iranian state television website, which cited an unnamed official, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her lawyer were informed this morning of a “new indictment.”
An Iranian wrestler accused of murder after taking part in anti-government protests two years ago may be executed soon, international sports groups fear as they intensify a last-ditch campaign for clemency. “We really are at one minute to midnight,” Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association, which represents 85,000 professional athletes, said Tuesday. The charges against the wrestler, Navid Afkari, 27, have drawn widespread skepticism in Iran and abroad, with many government critics saying he is being used as an example to silence dissent.
A global union representing 85,000 athletes called on Tuesday for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executes champion wrestler Navid Afkari whose case has stirred outcry. The 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler faces two death sentences after being convicted of stabbing a water security guard to death and other charges relating to anti-government protests in 2018, according to state media. “The horrific act of executing an athlete can only be regarded as a repudiation of the humanitarian values that underpin sport,” said World Players Association (WPA) director Brendan Schwab in a statement.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging the UN Human Rights Council to take measures to defend Iranian journalists and citizen journalists who are being "censored, threatened, detained arbitrarily, mistreated and sometimes tortured" for their journalistic activities. In a statement on September 8, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said at least five journalists have been targeted in the latest crackdown on the media in Iran, weeks after the Human Rights Council published a damning report on the situation of human rights, including the freedom to inform, in the country.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is preparing a new exercise that will involve the navy, army and air force. It will take place over a huge area of “millions” of square kilometers and will include the Strait of Hormuz, the shores of Makran, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean, Iran says. This new drill comes on the heels of increased military activity in Iran designed to show the US and the Gulf states that the Islamic Republic has improved its precision weapons and drones.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Islamic Republic Minister of Communications and Information Technology (ITC), Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, says the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces will begin developing infrastructure related to cyberspace. Speaking at the opening ceremony of a data center on Sunday, Azari-Jahromi said, "Messengers are another critical issue that the General Staff is helping with." Azari-Jahromi had previously dismissed the idea of involving the military in Iranian cyberspace.
Following a barrage of harsh criticism, Mohsen Haji-Mirzaei, the Iran's Minister of Education, said on Monday, September 7, that "Students are not obliged to attend schools." A week earlier, Haji-Mirzaei insisted that Iranian students begin to come back to reopened schools outside the red-zoned areas. In a change of opinion, Haji-Mirzaei told citizens, "From the beginning, we said that students' presence at schools is not mandatory. We said that our priority is face-to-face education, which is more appropriate for several reasons.
IRAQ & IRAN
A court in Tehran has sentenced two Iraqis and one Iranian to prison over their participation as minors in a purported suicide mission planned by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, according to the government-run Iran daily. All were said to be part of a 21-member team that had crossed the Iraq-Iran border some three years ago to carry out the planned attack, which was not described in any detail. Their sentences were handed down on September 6.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Britain's foreign secretary on Tuesday said Iran was working with Hezbollah and Hamas to foment instability throughout the Middle East, as legislators pressed for Britain to support reimposing sanctions on Tehran. Dominic Raab was answering a question from Tom Tugendhat, a fellow Conservative and chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee. Mr Tugendhat had said that every country had the right to restore sanctions if Iran was breaking the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.