The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Monday that destroying arch-rival Israel has become an "achievable goal" thanks to his country's technological advances. "This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer... a dream (but) it is an achievable goal," Major General Hossein Salami said, quoted by the Guards' Sepah news site. Four decades on from Iran's Islamic revolution, "we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the imposter Zionist regime", he said.
Iran's main resistance group claimed Monday to have intelligence detailing how Tehran was behind the recent attacks on a Saudi oil facility -- just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani challenged the international community to provide such evidence of its involvement. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said it has received information from within the government that detailed the missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.
Iran says a reported European Union threat to drop the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose previous sanctions is a joke and dead on arrival. Speaking to reporters at his weekly press conference on Monday, September 30, Abbas Mousavi referred to a report from The Guardian saying that the European Union has privately warned the Islamic Republic that it might be forced to start dropping the JCPOA in November if Tehran goes ahead with its threat to take new steps away from the deal.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to discuss Iran's nuclear deal and situation in the Strait of Hormuz with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at their bilateral meeting in Armenia on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Despite a European warning, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that the country would move ahead with plans to gradually reduce its nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). After the 2018 US exit from the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, Iran announced that it would remain in the deal but reduce its commitments as a strategy to pressure Europe to secure the sale of its oil.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Oil prices fell more than one percent Monday after Saudi Arabia's de facto leader said war with Iran would destroy the world economy and hinted instead at a non-military solution. Washington, Riyadh, Berlin, London and Paris blame Iran for attacks that damaged the Saudi oil sector on September 14 and forced the world's largest crude exporter to sharply reduce production. Stock markets were mostly higher as traders tracked the latest twists and turns regarding the US-China trade war. The dollar was mixed against main rivals.
Iran's state TV says the country plans to send three satellites into orbit in the next three months despite a failed launch in August. State television on Tuesday quoted the head of Iran's space agency, Morteza Barari, as saying the satellites were to transmit data for civilian purposes such as navigation, agriculture and the environment. He didn't elaborate. In September, Iran acknowledged an explosion in its space center before a satellite launch, the third failure involving a rocket this year.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran has arrested the prosecutor who had ordered a block on access to the popular messaging app Telegram. The semi-official Tasnim news agency said on Tuesday that Bijan Ghasemzadeh was detained on corruption charges last Friday. It did not say whether the charges were related to the Telegram case. Iran has arrested dozens of judges and judicial officials on similar charges over the past months.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Defending his achievements during the United Nations General Assembly, the Islamic Republic President Hassan Rouhani claimed on Monday that the remaining signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal, "had discussions within the framework of the P4+1, and preparations for a P5+1 meeting were made, which had been agreed upon by all parties." Mentioning "all parties" would mean the United States was also involved in the agreement Rouhani spoke about.
Whatever lay behind the indecisive Trump administration response to the alleged Sept. 14 Iranian missile and drone strike on Saudi oil facilities, one thing is clear. The United States' ability to project power into the Persian Gulf region via carrier strike groups, the go-to U.S. option in such situations for decades, is not what it used to be, nor what it might have been. Not long ago, a modern version of gunboat diplomacy-dispatching carriers or guided missile cruisers to the region to loiter menacingly offshore-could have decisively influenced events.
The telephone line had been secretly set up. President Trump waited on the other end. All President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump's voice would be piped in via speaker. Mr. Rouhani and his aides were blindsided by the offer, presented to them by President Emmanuel Macron of France on an unannounced visit last Tuesday night to their quarters at the Millenium Hilton Hotel near the United Nations, where world leaders had converged for the annual General Assembly.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian courts have sentenced one person to death for spying for the CIA and jailed two others for 10 years for the same crime, as well as imprisoning a fourth person for 10 years for spying for Britain, the judiciary said on Tuesday. The verdicts come amid spiraling tensions between Tehran and the United States since President Donald Trump last year withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy in order to force Tehran to renegotiate the pact.
But how would America respond? The Iranian air force on paper is one of the biggest air arms in the world. Its order of battle includes around 350 fighters, more than twice as many as the Royal Air Force possesses. But most of Iran's fighters are old and outdated. The ones that aren't old are just new copies of old designs. The air force's squadrons fly American-made F-14s, F-5s and F-4s dating from the 1970s, some 1980s-vintage MiG-29s and Sukhoi fighter-bombers and a few J-7s that the Islamic Republic bought from China during the 1990s.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Two leading conservative and reformist figures have expressed concern over the apparent indifference of the electorate in Iran as the country's parliamentary elections are fast approaching. They list populism, the decline in the status of the Majles (Parliament), the biased vetting of the candidates by a hardliner watchdog council and the reformists' poor performance in the current Majles as some of the reasons making voters more indifferent.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out nuclear negotiations with the United States, and on Sept. 26 apparently wrote off Europe as well. That leaves Moscow in the catbird seat as it works with Tehran to develop a system that benefits them both by evading US sanctions. Khamenei has lost patience with Europe. French President Emanuel Macron has so far failed to make good on an initiative to provide a $15 billion international line of credit via the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) system.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran said Monday that the missile-and-drone attack on major Saudi oil sites was an act of "legitimate defense" by Yemen's Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The Sept. 14 assault was claimed by the Houthis, though Saudi Arabia says it was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran." The kingdom has been at war with the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015. Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an "all-out war."
A Houthi rebel leader welcomed comments by Saudi Arabia's crown prince on stopping the fighting in Yemen, the latest signal momentum is growing behind efforts to end a conflict that's pushed the Gulf to the brink of war. "The optimism of Mohammed Bin Salman on stopping the war is positive," a member of the rebels' ruling political council, Mohammed Al-Houthi, said on Twitter. Turning the opening into meaningful negotiations requires "seriousness and dealing realistically" with the situation, he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi says he believes Saudi Arabia is looking to de-escalate tensions with its regional arch foe, Iran, adding that it is in everybody's interest to prevent further war in the region. Abdul Mahdi made the comments in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, excerpts of which aired on Monday, days after he visited the kingdom where he held talks with King Salman.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has edged away from a possible military confrontation with Iran despite its devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities, as the kingdom seeks to cool regional tensions and rehabilitate its image a year after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, voiced support for a political solution to relations with its regional rival in comments during an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" aired on Sunday.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has dismissed claims by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that they carried out a large-scale ambush that led to hundreds of deaths and the capture of thousands of prisoners of war. In a Monday news conference, coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki called the Houthi announcement "theatrical," describing it as part of "attempts to mislead" international and regional media.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq reopened its Qaim border-crossing with Syria on Monday after eight years of closure amid regional turmoil, in the latest sign of normalization between Baghdad and Damascus and a win for their mutual ally Iran. The crossing, which Iraqi officials declared open for travelers and trade, is crucial for Iran's bid to cement its growing sway over a corridor of territory from Tehran to Beirut.
Iran's Passive Defense Organization chief has said that "America has started its cyber war against Iran, without providing more details. Gholamreza Jalali has also said that this is a "strategic mistake" by the United States and Iran "decisively will resort to cyber defense", ISNA news website reported on October 1. Jalali is an Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) brigadier general. Earlier in May Jalali had accused the U.S. of using "social media for media and psychological operations to Influence Iranians".