The U.S. accused Iran of intimidating nuclear inspectors after a woman from the United Nations atomic agency was blocked from entering the country's main enrichment site and briefly stopped from leaving the country, as tensions mounted over the 2015 nuclear deal. Western diplomats said on Thursday that the inspector had been held by Iranian authorities last week and her papers confiscated after she had been prevented from entering Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz, some 180 miles south of Tehran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency had validated his longstanding allegation that Iran has been maintaining a secret nuclear site in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty - a claim that the agency did not publicly confirm. Mr. Netanyahu's assertion came as the Vienna-based agency held a closed-door meeting on Thursday about questions concerning Iran's "safeguard declarations," but did not specify more precisely what had been discussed.
Europe has not yet taken a decision on how to respond to Iran's decision to resume enriching uranium, which is restrained under its non-proliferation deal, but every step Tehran takes makes things more difficult, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. Iran said on Thursday it had resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear plant, stepping further away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the United States pulled out of it.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran's recent "nuclear escalations" raise concerns that should move all countries to increase pressure on Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pomeo said on Thursday, as Iran resumed uranium enrichment at one of its nuclear facilities. "Iran's expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout," Pompeo said in a statement.
Iran moved a cylinder or uranium hexafluoride gas to its Fordow site and connected it to centrifuges there in breach of its nuclear deal with major powers, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, but it made no mention of uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Wednesday that the cylinder was connected to two cascades of centrifuges for passivation, "a preparatory activity conducted prior to enrichment", an IAEA spokesman said in a statement.
The Iranian government is under growing domestic pressure to pull out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty next year, the country's ambassador to the UK has said. Hamid Baeidinejad said it was government policy to remain in the treaty but there were growing calls to pull out next year, when it is due for renewal, as it required Iran to make one-sided commitments. "There are views by some circles, some personalities, that Iran has not benefited from membership of the [treaty] and it is time to withdraw," he said, adding that Iran remained committed on religious grounds to not developing nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iran lied about its nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday evening as tensions increased between Tehran and the international community over its renewed enrichment of uranium at its Fordow facility. "A year ago, speaking at the UN, I exposed Iran's secret nuclear warehouse in Turkuzabad," Netanyahu said. "This morning, a special board meeting of the IAEA published its findings on Iran's activities in the no-longer secret facility...
Iran has prevented a United Nations nuclear inspector from entering a uranium-enrichment facility and revoked her credentials after Iranian officials said she tested positive for explosive nitrates. The move drew condemnation from the United States, which called Iran's decision to expel the inspector an "outrageous provocation." A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, confirmed that one of its inspectors was "temporarily prevented from leaving Iran" last week.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The US State Department last week released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism document. The report describes the Islamic Republic as the "world's worst state sponsor of terrorism" in 2018. It also lists Iran's staunch ally, the Syrian government, as a state sponsor of terrorism. While the report looks at Iran's activities in 2018, it is important to examine how its behavior has changed this year, as there has been a significant surge in Iran's support for terrorist activities.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Federal prosecutors in Detroit have charged an engineer with sending corporate trade secrets to a brother in Iran. Amin Hasanzadeh (Ha-SAN'-za-day) of Ypsilanti is also accused of lying on immigration forms by failing to disclose his service in the Iranian military. He has permanent resident status in the U.S., commonly referred to as a green card. The FBI says the 42-year-old Hasanzadeh sent confidential documents to Iran while working at a Michigan company that serves the auto and aerospace industries.
The U.S. and European Union condemned Iran's recent brief detention of a United Nations nuclear watchdog inspector, saying the country must face consequences for the "outrageous provocation." The female inspector was detained at the Natanz nuclear facility and her travel documents confiscated by Iranian officials last week. Iran later confirmed the inspector was blocked from accessing the Natanz site over concerns that she was carrying "suspicious material."
Since the revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979, Iran has been the greatest destabilising influence in the Middle East. As a Shia power in a predominantly Sunni region, its transformation into a theocratic state was always going to be problematic. The West's response was to prop up Sunni Arab counterweights, notably Iraq under Saddam Hussein which then fought an eight-year war with Iran in which 500,000 people died only to end in stalemate.
The attack attributed to Iran on Saudi Aramco oil facilities is the latest in a series of Iranian escalations-the May 14 and June 13 tanker attacks, the June 20 downing of a U.S. drone, and July 19 seizure of the Stena Impero, a British oil tanker-in recent months that have been met with relatively minimal response by the U.S. or international community. The attack on Saudi Arabia only resulted in a renewed push for diplomatic engagement with Iran on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and new U.S. sanctions which will only achieve incremental material economic impact.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian media reported on Friday that Iran had shot down a drone over its southern port city of Mahshahr, without providing further details. "Iran's army has downed an unknown drone in the port city of Mahshahr," the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Other Iranian news outlets carried the same report, without elaborating on whether it was a military or civilian drone. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Iran's top military commanders on Thursday presented an upbeat picture of the capabilities of the country's armed forces without mentioning any details or concrete evidence. IRGC Commander Hossein Salami has said during a flag raising ceremony in Tehran on Thursday, November 7 that "Iran has closed all doors to the enemy," adding that "No one in Iran echoes the enemies voice."
A new research paper published by the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies says Iran has developed a "sovereign capability to conduct warfare through third parties" in the Middle East." Meanwhile, the paper concludes that "This sovereign capability is of greater strategic value to Tehran than its conventional forces, its ballistic missiles or even its rejuvenating nuclear programme."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least five people have been killed and 330 others injured after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Iran on Friday, Iranian state-run Press TV reported. Press TV said emergency and evaluation teams are operating and Red Crescent teams have been dispatched to the area. The tremor struck at around 2:00 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m ET Thursday) in Iran's East Azerbaijan Province and there have been more than 50 aftershocks, Press TV said. It added that buildings in the area have been destroyed.
Two well-known brothers are once again causing a stir among Iranian hard-liners, leading a relatively younger generation of far-right political conservatives in a revolt against the old guard. The two are Vahid Jalili, 46, who has been involved in cultural affairs and is a senior figure among the new wave of hard-liners, and his 54-year-old sibling, former nuclear negotiator and presidential candidate Saeed Jalili. The most recent row began when Vahid Jalili launched an onslaught of criticism against state TV, which has a monopoly over radio and TV channels in Iran.
Iran's Commercial Code Reform Invites Turmoil | Al Monitor
After years of delay, Iran's parliament suddenly approved 331 articles of the first book of a massive trade reform bill in just one week in mid-September. This came as a surprise to many economic and legal analysts and raised concerns about the fate of the remaining four commercial code books awaiting lawmakers' final verdict. To highlight some major disadvantages of the bill, it is fairly argued that it's fraught with myriad ambiguous terms that are open to misinterpretation and prone to conflict with the country's business procedures.
Come and enjoy our free training workshops for polygamy, a controversial Persian ad on Instagram invites users in Iran to try the service. The ad shows a "happily smiling family"; a man, his four "cheerful" wives, and their three joyful children, waving flags of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The owner of the Instagram page is an entity called Watan Tohidi (Monotheistic Homeland)/ Hayat Hosna (Good Life), or WTHH.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A US-led naval coalition officially launched operations in Bahrain on Thursday to protect shipping in the troubled waters of the Gulf, following a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran. The coalition, aimed at warding off the perceived threat to the world's oil supply, has been in the making since June.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
For all Iran's efforts to establish a powerful network of allies throughout the Middle East, Tehran's attempts to achieve its long-held goal of regional domination are currently experiencing their most severe challenge in years as a result of the anti-government protests that are taking place in Lebanon and Iraq. A definitive report published in London this week by the influential International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank sets out in detail how Iran has spent decades building what it calls "networks of influence" throughout the Middle East in an attempt to gain an advantage over its many adversaries.
Since October, protests in Iraq and Lebanon have re-energized the Middle East region as hundreds of thousands of young people descend onto public squares, repeating 2011 Arab Spring slogans that call for regime downfall. But while Iraq and Lebanon could offer great promise if protesters learn from past failures in the region, they could also prove to be bloodier if Iran gets its way.
Twitter has suspended the accounts of a prominent U.S.-based Iranian opposition group and several of its supporters for alleged violations of the company's rules, marking the company's latest intervention in a bitter online feud between Iranian government opponents and supporters. The account of the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC), a nonprofit group that supports what it calls the Iranian people's "struggle for democratic change" and a "non-nuclear government," was suspended Wednesday and remained blocked a day later.