Iran and Venezuela, oil producers grappling with crippling U.S. sanctions, signed a 20-year cooperation plan in Tehran on Saturday, with the Islamic Republic's supreme leader saying the allies would continue to resist pressure from Washington. The signing ceremony, carried by Iranian state TV, was overseen by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and took place at the Saadabad Palace in north Tehran. The plan includes cooperation in the fields of oil, petrochemicals, defence, agriculture, tourism, and culture.
Two members of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division died as “martyrs” in Iran in separate incidents over the weekend, Iranian media reported on Monday. The term is typically a designation given to those on important assignments. The deaths of the two men come as tensions remain high over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers, and its uranium enrichment program that is now closest it has ever been to weapons-grade levels. While authorities offered no suggestion of foul play in the men’s deaths, Israel has been accused of killing other high-ranking Guard members amid the growing crisis.
Iran said an agreement with the US that could help revive the 2015 nuclear deal was “within reach,” days after its decision to further restrict monitoring of atomic sites prompted warnings that the pact was almost beyond saving. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran that Iran’s June 8 removal of some International Atomic Energy Agency cameras were “technical measures” and “reversible.” The comments suggest Iran is testing the absolute limits of brinkmanship as it demands the US remove its elite military units from a list of terrorism sponsors.
UANI IN THE NEWS
#Venezuela signs a 20-year cooperation plan with #Iran: 'It's a reflection of two rogue regimes that fall under the banner of anti-imperialism,' @JasonMBrodsky tells @laura_i24.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Long-running tensions over Iran's nuclear capabilities may have reached a point of no return this week, thrusting the Middle East into uncharted waters. Tehran has ramped up uranium enrichment at a pace not seen since the 2015 signing of a landmark deal, which saw Iran curb uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief, before former United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Analysts believe that Tehran may have already attained the material needed to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency on Sunday urged Iran to resume talks "now" to avoid a crisis that could make it "extremely more difficult" to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran this week disconnected some cameras allowing international inspectors to monitor its nuclear activities in response to a Western resolution passed June 8 in which the UN agency denounced Tehran's lack of cooperation. Twenty-seven surveillance cameras "have been removed," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in an interview broadcast Sunday by CNN, calling it a "very serious move."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran’s currency Sunday dropped to its lowest value ever as talks to revive the country’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers remained deadlocked. Traders in Tehran exchanged the rial at 332,000 to the U.S. dollar, up from 327,500 on Saturday. That marked more than a 4.4% change compared to June 1 when it traded at 318,000 to the dollar. Iran’s currency was trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The rial’s new low came as U.S. sanctions against the country are still in force.
As the price of gas in the United States rises, a Greek oil tanker that was seized by Iran holds tens of thousands of gallons of oil worth more than $100 million that were headed to Texas, according to an administration official and a former administration official. In late May, the tanker Prudent Warrior was traveling from Iraq to the U.S., according to the officials, when Iran seized it in international waters in the Persian Gulf and led it into Iranian territorial waters.
Argentine authorities have grounded an Iran-linked Venezuelan Boeing 747 cargo plane, a local opposition lawmaker and Iranian state media said on Sunday, in an unfolding drama that is throwing a spotlight on political undercurrents in Latin America. The Emtrasur cargo plane, sold to Venezuela by Iran's Mahan Air a year ago according to the Iranian airline, arrived in Buenos Aires on June 8, flight tracking data show. It was then seized by authorities, the lawmaker and Iranian media said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Amnesty international says the international community must use all diplomatic means available to stop the Iranian authorities from amputating the fingers of eight men convicted of theft. “Amputating prisoners’ fingers is a form of torture, and is yet another shocking reminder of the shameless inhumanity of the criminal justice system in Iran, which legalizes torture, a crime under international law,” Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy regional rirector for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement released on June 10.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian authorities said Friday they have arrested 13 burglars who cut into the vault of a Tehran state bank from a neighboring building and stole 168 safe deposit boxes. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Tehran Prosecutor Ali Salehi as saying that three of the suspects were arrested in an undisclosed country abroad, while the rest were apprehended in the Iranian capital and the north of the country. A car containing stolen property was found abandoned at Imam Khomeini Airport, the prosecutor added.
CONGRESS & IRAN
A group of bipartisan US lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday to integrate regional countries' air defense systems to thwart Iran's threats. The "Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defense Act" would authorize the US Defense Department to cooperate with Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other regional allies and the entire Gulf Cooperation Council, and requires the Pentagon to submit a strategy for integrated air and missile defense system within six months.
TURKEY & IRAN
Driven apart by clashing regional interests, Turkey and Iran appear headed for a face-off in Syria, with Tehran explicitly opposing Ankara’s plan for a fresh military operation against Kurdish-held areas, wary of risks to its own posture in the region. Turkey has failed to get a green light from the United States to press ahead with the plan, while Russia appears to be stalling. The Iranians, meanwhile, have sent militia reinforcements to two Shiite settlements northwest of Aleppo, not far from a key area in Ankara’s crosshairs, while trying to talk Turkey out from making the move — apparently with little success thus far.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran’s state-run shipping company said it started its first transfer of Russian goods to India, using a new trade corridor that transits the Islamic Republic, an Iranian port official said. The Russian cargo consists of two 40-foot (12.192 meters) containers of wood laminate sheets, weighing 41 tons, that departed St. Petersburg for the Caspian Sea port city of Astrakhan, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said on Saturday, citing Dariush Jamali, director of a joint-owned Iranian-Russian terminal in Astrakhan.