President Trump appeared to take a step back from his administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran on Wednesday, leaving open the possibility of easing economic sanctions before starting new nuclear negotiations with Tehran. Although he also warned Iran against restarting production of the material necessary to make a nuclear bomb - as the clerical government in Tehran has threatened - Mr. Trump made clear he was ready for diplomatic talks.
Iran has denounced a "U.S.-Israeli plot" to put pressure on the U.N. nuclear watchdog, after the IAEA called in recent days for more cooperation from Tehran following what diplomats say was the detection of uranium particles at an undeclared site. The International Atomic Energy Agency has broad powers to inspect Iran under its 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers. The IAEA has issued its calls in recent days for Iran to cooperate, without saying specifically what prompted them, saying this is confidential
Data received by Radio Farda show that the combined onshore Iranian oil inventories and floating storage have spiked to near all-time highs just under 120 million barrels. The data provided on Wednesday, September 11, by data intelligence firm Kpler show that the volume of unsold Iranian crude oil in the past four months, from May 1 to August 31, has doubled, with 70% of it floating on high seas.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saudi Arabia called on Wednesday the international community to take deterrent measures against Iran's violations of the 2015 nuclear deal. Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan, the Kingdom's ambassador to Austria and permanent representative to the United Nations and international organizations in Vienna, stressed the importance of reaching a "comprehensive international agreement" on Iran's nuclear program. Such a pact would limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and ensure international peace and security, he added.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran's envoy to London said on Wednesday the oil cargo of tanker Adrian Darya 1 was sold at sea to a private company, denying Tehran had broken assurances it had given over the vessel, but he insisted EU's Syria sanctions did not apply to Tehran. "At (the) meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, it was emphasized that British authorities' action against the tanker carrying Iranian oil was in violation of international law," ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter after being summoned in London.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said it would be a "serious mistake" for President Donald Trump to ease sanctions against Iran to help secure a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani. "Whether or not a meeting occurs, lifting sanctions on Iran, giving the ayatollah an economic lifeline while Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be profoundly harmful and a serious mistake," Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview Wednesday at the Capitol.
U.S. President Donald Trump left open on Wednesday the possibility that the United States could ease sanctions on Iran, adding he believes Iran wants to strike a deal with Washington on its nuclear program. "We'll see what happens," Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the possibility the United States would ease up on its "maximum pressure" campaign. Trump's firing of his hard-line national security adviser, John Bolton, on Tuesday prompted speculation that Washington's policy toward adversaries such as Iran could ease.
Iran will not negotiate with the United States while sanctions on Tehran are still enforced by Washington, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Wednesday, according to Iranian state media. "From the perspective of Iran's government, parliament and people, with the sanctions still in place, negotiations with America have no meaning," Rouhani said, quoted by the state broadcaster IRIB.
The U.S. plans to use expanded counterterrorism powers to target foreign financial institutions that facilitate terrorist financing, leaders of terrorist groups and those participating in terrorist training over the internet, a U.S. Treasury Department senior official said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Two Australian social media influencers have been detained in Iran for taking illegal photos with a drone, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. In a statement Thursday, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) confirmed that Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King were being held in Iran. On Thursday, a source with knowledge of the situation said the pair were arrested in July, accused of taking illegal photos with a drone. The source also confirmed that King is a British-Australian dual citizen.
Australia's foreign minister said on Thursday her government is pressing Iran to free three Australian citizens from a Tehran prison and she did not believe their arrests were related to Iran's current conflicts with the West. Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the Senate that she had raised the arrests of two British-Australian women and an Australian man "many times" with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the Australian Embassy in Tehran had made "repeated representations to very senior Iranian officials" on the prisoners' behalf.
It was the trip of a lifetime, a globe-trotting adventure halfway across the world, chronicled online for family and friends back home and for followers online. But in the eyes of the regime in Tehran - squeezed by sanctions and paranoid about the motives of outsiders - the act of flying a drone near a military installation on the outskirts of the Iranian capital appeared as an act of espionage. The arrest, 10 weeks ago, of Australian couple Mark Firkin and Jolie King (who also holds a British passport) has cast in stark relief the mistrust that characterises Iran's view of the west, and foreigners within its borders.
FIFA officials will visit Iran, following the death of a female fan who set herself on fire in protest at her arrest for attending a match, world soccer's governing body told Reuters on Wednesday. Sahar Khodayari, dubbed "Blue Girl" due to her favorite team Esteghlal's colors, died in hospital on Monday after her self-immolation outside a court where she feared being jailed for six months having attended the match in disguise as a man.
Two days after a young female football fan died of her self-immolation injuries, President Hassan Rouhani's government exhibited contradictory reactions, while domestic and international criticism continues unabated. The Blue Girl, as she was dubbed on social media was being prosecuted for trying to enter a stadium to watch a men's football (Soccer) game; forbidden for women in Iran. She poured gasoline on herself and lit it on September 1 as an act of protest against this particular discriminatory policy.
Ms King, who also holds a UK passport, and Mr Firkin were blogging their travels in Asia and the Middle East. They were reportedly arrested 10 weeks ago near Tehran but news of the arrest, and that of another British-Australian woman, came to light on Wednesday.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Billboards with the slogans "Death to America - Death to Israel" have appeared in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in recent days. There are at least five of the large signs in central Baghdad, some less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi presidential palace and the national government's headquarters. The signs appear to be part of a campaign by Iran, carried out through proxy groups that directly threaten U.S. troops in Iraq, to demonstrate its strength and reach in the region as tension between Washington and Tehran threatens to explode into conflict.
President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion credit line to the Iranians if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal. Trump has in recent weeks shown openness to entertaining President Emmanuel Macron's plan, according to four sources with knowledge of Trump's conversations with the French leader.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to annex the Jordan Valley and his frequent accusations against Tehran were ploys to win re-election, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported. "Netanyahu seeks votes to stay in power through accusations against Iran and later he announces a malicious intent to annex yet another part of Palestine so he can stay in power and carry on with expansionism and aggression," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by Tasnim.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
British foreign minister Dominic Raab raised concerns about the number of dual-nationality Britons detained in Iran and the conditions in which they were being held, a foreign office statement said on Wednesday. "The Foreign Secretary met the Iranian Ambassador this morning and raised serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention," the Foreign Office statement said.
The summoning of the Iranian ambassador to the British Foreign Office on Wednesday over broken assurances about the destination of an Iranian oil tanker, and now the arrest of two British-Australian nationals, marks yet another stage in the mutual blame game between Britain and Iran that leaves the relationship stuck deeper in a frustrating rut. From the British perspective, well articulated by the former Middle East minister Alistair Burt, those in the UK government who would have liked to build a new relationship with Iran in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal feel very badly let down by Tehran.