Member states from the United Nations atomic agency board voted Friday to condemn Iran for failing to cooperate with its probe of Tehran’s nuclear activities, a move that gives the Trump administration new ammunition in its push to kill the Iranian nuclear deal. The resolution, the first since 2012 to call out Iran for not cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, comes as the U.S. mounts a multi-front campaign to press Iran to come back to the negotiating table and agree a new, stricter and broader agreement on nuclear and other activities.
Iranian security forces on Monday arrested the founder of an influential student charity organization and two of his aides, and sealed the group’s offices in Tehran, a local news website reported. The report by fararu.com said authorities appeared at the home of Sharmin Meimandinejad, the charity’s founder, and arrested him. It said that around the same time, Morteza Kaymanaeh, the spokesman for the charity, and another of its employees, Katayoun Afrazeh, were also arrested.
An Iranian ship was approaching the Venezuelan port of La Guaira on Sunday with a cargo of food that will supply the South American nation’s first Iranian supermarket, according to Refinitiv Eikon and Iran’s embassy in Venezuela. Iran supplied 1.5 million barrels of fuel to Venezuela last month amid a collapse of refinery operations and tightening sanctions by the United States that has made it more difficult for Venezuela to obtain fuel on international markets.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
International nuclear inspectors and the United States accused Iran on Friday of hiding suspected nuclear activity, the first time in more than eight years that Tehran has been accused of obstructing inspections, paving the way for a new confrontation with Western powers. The accusation came in a resolution passed by the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog, after its new director general, Rafael Grossi, reported that Iranian officials had repeatedly blocked inspectors and “sanitized” a site they wanted to visit beginning last July.
The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says the new resolution of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sets "no obligation" for the Islamic Republic. In a memo published by the country's official news agency, IRNA, on Saturday, June 20, the spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi insisted that the IAEA's request to inspect two sites suspected of nuclear activity in Iran was "based on alleged and forged documents" obtained through "Israeli intelligence operations."
While the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragedy of George Floyd's death grasp all attention, the Iranian mullahs are closer than ever to making nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that the regime has blocked inspections of two suspected locations. The IAEA says Iran's enriched uranium stockpile now exceeds the nuclear deal (JCPOA) limit. The Daily Express reported that Iran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb within months.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States’ three closest European allies said Friday they would not support the Trump administration’s threats to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran, but they urged Tehran to allow access to two secretive sites where nuclear material may be stockpiled. France, Britain and Germany — who all negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, alongside the United States, Russia and China, and have struggled to keep it alive after President Trump withdrew from the accord — also said they wanted to hold talks with Iran over its violations of the agreement.
Iran’s currency plummeted against the U.S. dollar as the country continues to grapple with the economic implications of U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus. The rial fell to as low as 188,000 against the the dollar in the free market on Saturday, according to foreign exchange shops and websites. The currency traded at around 150,000 when the country recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February. The rial has nosedived by more than 500% in value from 2015 when the Islamic Republic accepted curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief.
Iran is drawing up plans to offer discounts to some foreign airlines using its airspace, state news agency IRNA quoted a senior aviation official as saying on Saturday, after a slump in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic and regional tensions. Nasser Aghaei, director of the state-run Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company, said the discounts would go to the top eight airlines providing transit income as well as airlines boosting their flights by 20%.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A fugitive Iranian judge wanted by Iran on corruption charges and by right groups for jailing and torturing journalists was found dead of apparent suicide Friday at a hotel in Romania where he had been staying, according to Iranian officials. The judge, Gholamreza Mansouri, was a co-defendant in a major financial corruption trial involving several senior judges accused of embezzlement and bribery. Mr. Mansouri fled Iran, with Iranian prosecutors saying he absconded with a half-million euros he had obtained through bribery.
An Iranian dissident was seriously injured in a knife attack in the northern Dutch city of Leeuwarden, a local newspaper reported on Saturday, citing the victim’s family. The man, who was named by the Leeuwarden Courant newspaper as Sadegh Zarza, fled Iran in the 1980s and currently serves on the board of a Dutch organization that is critical of Tehran. Police in the city confirmed that a 64-year-old man was stabbed on Friday and said a 38-year-old suspect who lives in Rotterdam had been arrested at the scene.
Iran has withheld confirmation of its apparent recent execution of a Kurdish activist, in the latest example of its long-running practice of secretly executing ethnic minority dissidents. Kurdish activist Hedayat Abdollahpour’s brother Farhad told VOA Persian that their father received a call on June 10 from an official who asserted that Hedayat was executed on or around May 21 in the northwestern town of Oshnavieh.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
It's not every day that Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, borrows from the lexicon of international relations theory. Highlighting the Islamic Republic's proliferation of conventional arms, Khamenei bragged in a recent address that Iran managed to change "the balance of power" in the Levant against Israel. Rhetorical flourishes aside, the content of Khamenei's statement is not new. For years, Tehran has spread weapons across the Middle East to further its revisionist vision of an ideal regional order. But this is only part of a larger problem.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami has appointed Brigadier General Hossein Nejat as his deputy commander in charge of Sarallah, the most important security command in Tehran. In theory, Sarallah is under the direct command of the IRGC's commander in chief. But as he is too busy fulfilling his other responsibilities, he delegates his authority to a deputy commander. Therefore, Hossein Nejat is effectively the commander of Sarallah in Tehran. But why this appointment is significant?
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran is considering making it mandatory within days to wear masks in public places and covered spaces, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday, as the tally of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to rise above 200,000. “Mainly for crowded and covered areas...we may make (masks) compulsory in a week, more or less. But first plenty of inexpensive masks should be made available for the people,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast by state television.
The UK is working with Gulf countries to help them develop their defences against subversion and cyber attacks because of deep concerns over Iran’s destabilising activity across the region. Britain is increasing its range of tools to respond to Iranian hacking and increasing its work with regional allies, the country’s foreign ministry said in a submission to MPs investigating the effectiveness of the UK’s policies towards Tehran.
The Speaker of Iran’s parliament Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf (Ghalibaf) has been in the news more often lately, trying to involve himself in local politics and foreign policy. He recently torpedoed the idea of negotiations with the US. He is hostile to America and Europe, and encourages distrust of both. He wants “smart and active resistance” to the West and also wants to undermine any potential nuclear inspections or IAEA reports.