European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will travel to Iran on Friday to try to urge Tehran to seal an agreement to revive the nuclear deal with world powers signed in 2015 that the United States withdrew from but is now seeking to save. Called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and struck by Iran and six major powers, Tehran limited its nuclear program to make it harder for it to get a bomb in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps named a new intelligence chief on Thursday, after a string of suspicious deaths of military officers and scientists raised tensions between Tehran and its regional adversaries. Hossein Taeb, a cleric who headed the Guard’s intelligence wing for more than a decade, was succeeded by Gen. Mohammad Kazemi, according to a statement on the official IRGC news website. Mr. Taeb was named an adviser to the IRGC commander, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami.
Authorities in Argentina and Paraguay are trying to shine light on the jumbo-jet sized mystery surrounding a cargo plane with Iranian and Venezuelan crew that has been grounded outside Buenos Aires more than two weeks. Prosecutors in the two South American countries have launched investigations to figure out whether the crew members — 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians — have any ties to international terrorism or other illicit activity. Cecilia Incardona, the prosecutor leading the case in Argentina, is focusing her inquiries on the Iranian pilot, Gholamreza Ghasemi, and his possible ties to international terrorism.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… “I think this is an earthquake in Iran’s intelligence community given Taeb’s tenure’s longevity and his closeness to the Office of the Supreme Leader,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told Al Arabiya English. “Taeb’s legacy is one of corruption, repression, and controversy. The fact that he has been named as an advisor to the IRGC’s commander-in-chief rather than another more significant position can be seen as a demotion, assuming this holds,” said Brodsky. Founded in 2009, the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization is an intelligence agency that operates parallel to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.
…The Panama-flagged Arc 1 (IMO: 9268112) attracted media attention in early May when US lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran alerted Croatian authorities of the pending arrival of the vessel and suspected provenance of the cargo of about 80,000 tonnes of crude. UANI’s representation included satellite images of the tanker receiving Iranian crude via a ship-to-ship transfer off Malaysian waters on April 2. The tanker briefly diverted to Italy upon arrival in the Adriatic Sea, where it refuelled before sailing back to Croatia around May 20. It had remained at anchor ever since.
…“Taeb’s departure is a symbol of the paranoia inside the regime,” a policy director at the think tank United Against Nuclear Iran, Jason Brodsky, said. Mr. Kazemi who replaced Mr. Taeb is a “shadowy character who is more focused on internal intelligence,” Mr. Brodsky told the Sun. Mr. Kazemi will likely assume the usual IRGC intelligence unit’s duties. Yet, the new chief’s background as a domestic spy was undoubtedly on the Mr. Khamenei’s mind as he made the decision to replace Mr. Taeb.
Dopo un mese nel porto di Fiume, in Croazia, la ARC 1, nave battente bandiera panamense e sospettata di trasportare petrolio iraniano, è ripartita. Direzione Tsingtao, città portuale della Cina che si affaccia sul Mar Giallo. Anzi, no: Malta. Claire Jungman, chief of staff di United Against Nuclear Iran, ha segnalato per prima la partenza della petroliera e successivamente anche il cambio di destinazione. A bordo della ARC 1 c’è “miscela malese” ufficialmente. Ma, come raccontato su Formiche.net nelle scorse settimane, è forte il sospetto che si tratti semplicemente di un tentativo di occultare greggio iraniano per poterlo vendere in Europa aggirando le sanzioni imposte dagli Stati Uniti.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s Foreign Minister and its lead negotiator in the stalled nuclear talks discussed the fate of the 2015 atomic deal with European Union officials on Thursday. Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s top diplomat, said he contacted his EU counterpart Josep Borrell during a visit to Tehran by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Amirabdollahian told reporters at a joint press conference with Lavrov that in the past few hours, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, also spoke with Enrique Mora, the EU envoy mediating between Tehran and Washington.
Moscow fully supports the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday after talks in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart. Repeating Iran's stance at a joint news conference with Lavrov, Hossein Amirabdollahian said all sanctions against Iran should be removed to revive the pact and blamed Washington for stalling talks that started over a year ago. "We are pursuing the full re-establishment of the deal with no concession on our position," Amirabdollahian said, adding he hoped to keep negotiations on track and invited the United States to be pragmatic and help the talks enter a final phase.
Iran said Thursday that it remains "serious" about reaching a revived nuclear deal with major powers that ends economic sanctions and to which the United States is again a party. Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov as talks between the parties in Vienna remain stalled. "The nuclear negotiations train has reached difficult stops as they near the end," Amir-Abdollahian said. He stressed Iran was "serious about reaching a good, strong and lasting agreement" and called for similar realism from the US side.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The price of chicken and milk in Iran has doubled from a month ago, while the price of cooking oil has quadrupled since May amid soaring inflation that has triggered weeks of protests. Shop owners, teachers, pensioners and others have been taking to the streets to demand that pay and pensions are adjusted to match sharply rising prices. US sanctions, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and, more recently, a global food crisis caused in part by the Russian invasion of Ukraine are some of the factors contributing to the price increases.
Iranian state media reported Friday that authorities have detained five people accused of organizing a skateboarding event where dozens of teenagers mixed freely and girls didn’t wear headscarves. A video of the “Go Skateboarding Day” held off a boulevard in the southern city of Shiraz went viral on social media, prompting anger among conservative religious authorities in a country where the wearing of a Muslim hijab is mandatory for all women and teenage girls. The state TV report said the provincial judiciary was looking into the event, while the state-run IRNA news agency reported that a rally to oppose Western-style gatherings of teenagers would be held after Friday prayers in Shiraz.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran said on Friday Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s accusation of an Iranian plot to harm Israelis in Istanbul was "ridiculous" and aimed at damaging Iranian-Turkish relations. At a news conference in Ankara on Thursday, Lapid thanked his host Turkey for helping abort a suspected Iranian plot against Israelis in Istanbul and said the effort was still underway. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted in a ministry tweet as saying Lapid’s “ridiculous” allegation was a “pre-designed scenario to destroy relations between the two Muslim countries", referring to Turkey and Iran.
TURKEY & IRAN
Israel's incoming prime minister on Thursday thanked Turkey for thwarting an Iranian assassination plot against its tourists in Istanbul that prompted an urgent call for the Jewish state's citizens to return home. The comments from Israel's visiting Foreign Minister Yair Lapid -- set to assume the helm of a caretaker government in the coming days -- came after Turkey reported detaining eight members of the alleged Iranian cell. "We are full of appreciation for the Turkish government for this professional and coordinated activity," Lapid said after talks in Ankara designed to highlight a warming in relations between the two occasional regional rivals.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Sweden's foreign ministry has advised its citizens against travelling to Iran ahead of the conclusion of a trial that has soured relations between the two countries. "Due to the security situation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to Iran," the ministry said in a statement. Relations between the two countries soured after Sweden put on trial a former Iranian official on charges of war crimes for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s. The verdict is due on July 14.