Drone attacks claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia on Saturday, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country's crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies. The attacks immediately escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a standoff between the United States and Iran, even as key questions remained unanswered - where the drones were launched from, and how the Houthis managed to hit facilities deep in Saudi territory, some 500 miles from Yemeni soil.
Iran will adopt a policy of maximum crude production if the United States lifts sanctions on the country's oil industry, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Saturday. "Maximum production would be the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum's policy in case (U.S.) sanctions are eased on Iran's oil industry," the ministry's official news website SHANA quoted Zanganeh as saying. Since exiting from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last year, U.S. President Donald Trump has reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Iran has dismissed the possibility of a meeting between the country's president, Hassan Rouhani, and President Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the country's state-run news media reported on Monday. "Neither is such a plan on our agenda nor will such a thing happen," Seyed Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference, according to Fars, a state-run outlet. "This meeting will not be held."
UANI IN THE NEWS
...All the signs show that the "maximum pressure policy" on Iran will not end, while Iran has not the capacity to step back, and the chances of US government changing its policies are very low. As a fact, UANI tweeted that: In Baghdad, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy - Iran-supported Shiite militias have taken out billboard ads with the slogans "Death to America - Death to Israel"!!! That's all shows that the main problem is by Iran's side and not the International community.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
John Bolton's departure as national security adviser stemmed from a disagreement Monday over a suggestion from President Trump that the United States might lift some sanctions on Iran as a negotiation tool, a person close to Bolton said Saturday. Bolton submitted a letter of resignation Tuesday morning, although Trump tweeted that he had fired his top in-house national security aide. Trump cited multiple policy differences with Bolton, and later claimed Bolton had "set us back" in negotiations with North Korea.
Global energy prices have spiked after an attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure as President Donald Trump warned Iran that America was "locked and loaded" to respond to an assault it alleges Tehran orchestrated. Benchmark Brent crude gained nearly 20% in the first moments of trading Monday before settling down to 10% higher. A barrel of Brent traded up $6 to $66.28. U.S. benchmark West Texas crude was up around 9%.
South Korea's imports of U.S. crude oil soared in August, whereas its imports of Iranian oil stayed at zero for a fourth month in a row, following U.S. sanctions waiver end in May, customs data showed on Sunday. Imports from the United States were 1.43 million tonnes in August, or 348,562 barrels per day (bpd), up 61.4% from 887,559 tonnes a year earlier, according to the customs data. Going forward, South Korea, the world's fifth-largest crude oil importer, is set to keep importing in American oil.
Iran signed a $440 million contract on Saturday with local company Petropars to develop the Belal gas field in the Gulf, Iranian state television reported, saying the country's vital energy sector was active despite U.S. sanctions. "This contract and other upcoming contracts show that we are working under the sanctions. The sanctions have not stopped us and we are active," Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said at the signing ceremony in remarks carried by state TV.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Sunday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers in the region were within range of Iranian missiles after the U.S. accused Iran of leading attacks on Saudi oil plants, raising tensions in the Middle East. Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group said it attacked two Saudi Aramco oil plants on Saturday at the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, knocking out more than half the Kingdom's output.
On Aug. 29, Iran attempted to put its newest commercial satellite, the Nahid-1, into orbit from a test range in the country's north. The endeavor ended inauspiciously, with the rocket blowing up on the launchpad - marking the third such Iranian failure this year alone. Nonetheless, the unsuccessful test elicited a strong reaction from Washington. President Donald Trump took to Twitter the next day to publicly troll the Iranians for the botched launch attempt - and to hint that it might have been America's doing.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Women will be allowed into stadiums across Iran to watch soccer matches "as soon as possible," the country's vice-president for parliamentary affairs told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. Hossein Ali Amiri said preparations such as installing separate entry gates and separate women's areas were underway at big stadiums, IRNA quoted him as saying. He confirmed that women will be allowed attend an Oct. 10 World Cup playoff between Iran and Cambodia, as required by FIFA, the tournament's organizers.
Saeid Mollaei has been in hiding since he left the Iranian judo team last month, saying he had been ordered to withdraw from the world championships on political grounds. Now he's training for next year's Olympics without a guarantee he can compete. Mollaei was the defending world champion, and Israel's Sagi Muki his biggest rival for the gold medal. There was one problem - Iran has a policy of boycotting all competitions against Israelis, even if that means an athlete's training was all for nothing.
A British-Australian woman jailed in Iran has been identified as Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne. The academic's family issued a statement through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade saying they were in close contact with the Australian government, and thanking both the government and Moore-Gilbert's university for their support. "We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie's safe return is through diplomatic channels," the family said in the statement.
Harsher regulations aimed at controlling the political behavior of students in Iranian universities are being implemented, regardless of protests. The amended regulations passed by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council's Committee for the Islamization of Universities of Iran on April 21, 2019, empowers university authorities to punish students for their peaceful online activities. The decision to tighten controls followed the arrests of dozens of students after widespread unrest in Iran in 2017-2018, when university students were also active.
The tragic death of a young Iranian woman who was arrested while trying to sneak into a stadium to watch a men's soccer match has led to an outpouring of grief, outrage, and calls for FIFA to ensure Iran ends a ban on female spectators that has endured for 40 years. Twenty-nine-year old Sahar Khodayari died several days after setting herself alight on September 2 outside a courthouse where she had been summoned after being arrested for trying to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium in March dressed as a man.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday the United States was "locked and loaded" for a potential response to the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, after a senior U.S. administration official said Iran was to blame. Trump also authorized the use of the U.S. emergency oil stockpile to ensure stable supplies after the attack, which shut 5% of world production and sent crude prices soaring more than 19% in early trade on Monday, before moderating to show a 10% gain.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday appeared to play down the chances that he might be willing to meet with Iranian officials, saying reports that he would do so without conditions were not accurate. "The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, 'No Conditions.' That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)," Trump said on Twitter. In fact, as recently as on Sept. 10, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "He (Trump) is prepared to meet with no preconditions."
Iran said on Monday President Hassan Rouhani will not meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at the United Nations, a day after the White House left open the possibility of talks between them. "Neither is such an event on our agenda, nor will it happen. Such a meeting will not take place," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV. Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected a meeting and any talks with Washington while Iran is subject to sanctions, which Trump re-imposed after withdrawing last year from Tehran's 2015 nuclear accords with world powers
President Donald Trump appears to be disputing the comments of senior aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, saying he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without precondition. Following attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure for which the U.S. alleges Tehran bears responsibility, Trump tweets that "The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, 'No Conditions.' That is an incorrect statement."
Just days after President Donald Trump was discussing easing sanctions against Iran, he's now threatening a U.S. military response if it's proved the Islamic Republic staged yesterday's spectacular attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Trump said the U.S. is "locked and loaded" as he awaits word on verification of Iran's role from Saudi Arabia, even though Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other administration officials already blamed Tehran.
While the international community works to determine who is responsible for the most recent attack on Saudi energy facilities, the US government has already pointed the finger at Iran. Despite initial claims of responsibility by the Houthis, a rebel group backed by Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo placed the blame squarely on Iran and said the attacks did not originate in Yemen. Though Iran denies responsibility for the attacks, Saudi Arabia issued a statement Sunday that the attack "either came from Iraq or from Iran."
Since President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic has tested U.S. resolve with military escalation across the Middle East. Likely Iranian involvement in attacks on Saudi oil production over the weekend marks a new phase in this destabilizing campaign, and it's no coincidence this happened as Mr. Trump is considering a softer approach to Tehran.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has repeated a threat on Sunday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers were within range of Iranian missiles, a day after Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group attacked two Saudi Aramco plants. "Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles," said the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force Amirali Hajizadeh.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran meet on Monday to try to secure a lasting truce in northwest Syria following attacks by the government that risk deepening regional turmoil and pushing a new wave of migrants toward Turkey. The summit in Ankara, bringing together countries whose Syrian allies are combatants in a ruinous eight-year-old war, will focus on the Idlib region, the last remaining territory held by rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea warned that US sanctions on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah will target anyone that provides material support for the group, regardless of the sectarian or political affiliation. Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Friday, Mr Billingslea appeared buoyant on the impact of the Trump administration sanctions on Iran and its juggernaut proxy, Hezbollah.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Trump administration intensified its focus on Iran Sunday as the likely culprit behind attacks on important Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, with officials citing intelligence assessments to support the accusation and President Trump warning that he was prepared to take military action. The government released satellite photographs showing what officials said were at least 17 points of impact at several Saudi energy facilities from strikes they said came from the north or northwest.
Iran said on Monday accusations that it had a role in the attack on Saudi oil installations were "unacceptable" and "baseless", state television reported, after a senior U.S. official said the Islamic Republic was behind it. "These allegations are condemned as unacceptable and entirely baseless," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV.
Iran is ready to cooperate with the United Nations and countries seeking peace and stability in Yemen and the region, an Iranian government spokesman said on Monday, after weekend attacks on Saudi oil sites claimed by Yemeni forces aligned with Tehran. "I'm herewith announcing that Iran is fully prepared to cooperate with the United Nations and all countries seeking peace in Yemen and the return of stability to Yemen and the region," the spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said in remarks carried by state television.
Following the Houthi attack on Saturday on Saudi Aramco's crude-oil processing facility, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an obvious and necessary point: Blame Iran. It is obvious because the Houthi rebels in Yemen lack the drones, missiles or expertise to attack infrastructure inside Saudi Arabia. In 2018, a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen examined the debris of missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into Saudi Arabia and concluded there was high probability the weapons were shipped in components from Iran.