The Trump administration has decided to impose new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on a country reeling from the novel coronavirus and an ongoing currency crisis, three officials familiar with the decision said Wednesday. The measures will target the few remaining banks not currently subject to secondary sanctions in a move European governments say is likely to diminish channels Iran uses to import humanitarian goods, such as food and medicine, officials said.
The U.S. Justice Department seized 92 websites it said were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to spread disinformation. Four of the web domains -- Newsstand7.com, usjournal.net, usjournal.us and twtoday.net -- were disguised as genuine news outlets based in the U.S., which the Justice Department determined were controlled by the Iranian guard. The sites appeared to target Americans with Iranian propaganda about U.S. domestic and foreign policy, according to documents released Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi President Barham Salih on September 21 that continued attacks on US interests in the Green Zone by Shia militias would lead Washington to close its embassy and fully withdraw US military forces from Iraq. Pompeo emphasized that the US would not tolerate being targeted by Shia militias, particularly Iranian-backed ones. The same message was again delivered to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on September 26. This US warning has raised serious concerns in Iraq, particularly among Shia political and militia leaders, most of whom condemned such attacks.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Iran significantly increased its illicit export of heavily sanctioned crude oil, busting through tough U.S. sanctions meant to halt the regime’s access to hard currency, according to a watchdog group. Iranian oil exports peaked at 1.2 million barrels per day in September, a significant increase from the 70,000 barrels per day it was exporting in April, according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an advocacy group tracking Tehran’s efforts to bust U.S. sanctions on its crude oil trade. New satellite images show the National Iranian Tanker Company, the regime’s heavily sanctioned oil fleet, engaged in ship-to-ship transfers of crude in the middle of the Persian Gulf.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Trump administration plans to impose sanctions as soon as Thursday on Iran’s financial sector to further choke off its economy from the outside world, according to people familiar with the matter. The move would effectively leave Iran isolated from the global financial system, slashing the few remaining legal linkages it has and making it more dependent on informal or illicit trade. Earlier rounds of U.S. sanctions have crushed its economy by curbing oil sales and most other trade. The administration has been weighing the move for weeks, Bloomberg News reported last month.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
An Iranian dissident has contracted the coronavirus at a prison in northern Iran, according to a knowledgeable source, highlighting what U.S. and U.N. officials say is a worsening pandemic threat facing Iran’s prisoners of conscience. In a message sent Tuesday to VOA Persian, an Iran-based source close to the family of dissident Farhad Meysami said Meysami tested positive for the virus at Rajaei Shahr prison in the city of Karaj and was transferred that morning from his ward to a so-called prison “safe room” for isolation. The source had no further details on the conditions of Meysami’s detention.
Long lines of police vehicles carrying arrested “thugs” — mostly Iranians accused of theft and knife attacks — are becoming increasingly commonplace scenes in the capital, Tehran, and in a few other cities in what authorities are calling “maneuvers of power” and law enforcement. Footage of “big thugs turned into mice” was broadcast from state TV, showing handcuffed detainees in slippers, standing in the back of police vans that cruised through neighborhoods where the suspects allegedly committed crimes.
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has become increasingly paranoid, and thus even more of a pariah. It is concerned about signs of seething popular anger over the dire economic conditions of its people. The regime’s inept management of the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions imposed by the U.S. have compounded these tensions. Nothing captures the nature of the country’s economic woes as well as the fall in the value of the country’s currency. It is today worth only 1/400th of its value in 1979, the year the regime came to power.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran reported its highest daily number of deaths from the coronavirus, with 239 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the country’s Health Ministry said Wednesday. The figure comes a day after new cases of Covid-19 hit a record for the third time this week. On Wednesday, a further 4,019 infections were reported bringing the total to 483,844, Sima Sadat Lari, Health Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement on state TV. Total deaths stand at 27,658.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday there was a danger that fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces could turn into a regional war. Rouhani also told a cabinet meeting that it was “totally unacceptable” for any mortar bomb or missile to land on Iranian soil after Iranian media said stray shells from fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave had fallen on villages near Iran’s northwestern border, wounding a child and damaging buildings. Iran lodged a formal protest to Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday over violations of Iran’s “territorial integrity,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement carried by local media.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
An outgoing interview by IDF intelligence analysis chief Brig.-Gen. Dror Shalom on Wednesday has once again laid bare some stark differences within Israel’s intelligence community about how best to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. All Israeli defense officials frame the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program as a major threat. But there are substantial disagreements about the degree of the threat, how soon it will be a threat and what to do about it.
On November 15, 2019, the Iranian government sparked outrage. The cost of fuel in the country, officials announced, would increase drastically. The cost of the first 60 litres of fuel purchased each month would increase by 50 per cent. Higher volumes would jump 300 per cent. People took to the streets. The resulting protests and violent government crackdown was the deadliest unrest in the country for more than 40 years. Security forces used water cannons, tear gas and batons as around 200,000 protestors expressed political tensions going far beyond fuel price increases. At times, the authorities opened fire on unarmed protestors.