The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on nine entities allegedly operating in or providing materials to Iran’s metals sector, including four large Iranian steel, aluminum and iron producers and some of their foreign subsidiaries and sales agents. The sanctions are the latest effort by the Trump administration to increase pressure on Iran. The Treasury Department alleged Iran’s government used revenue from metals exports to fund its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other malign activities in the Middle East.
Iran’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday that he believes a U.S. resolution to extend an arms embargo against his country will be defeated and warned it would be “a very, very big mistake” if the Trump administration then tries to re-impose U.N. sanctions. Ambassador Majid Ravanchi said restoring U.N. sanctions will end the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers and release Tehran from all its commitments. “If that happens, Iran will not be under constraint as to what course of action it should take,” he said reporters. “All options for Iran will be open.”
Iran plans to export oil from a port on its Gulf of Oman coast by March, the president said on Thursday, a shift that would avoid using the Strait of Hormuz shipping route that has been a focus of regional tension for decades. Tensions have spiked between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, hammering its vital oil exports.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Politicians and state-controlled news outlets in Iran this week paid significant attention to a recently released report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the possibility of Iran’s nuclear file being sent to the UN Security Council (UNSC). Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned the European powers against involving the UNSC, according to the Tasnim News Agency. He said that, if Iran’s nuclear file was sent to the UNSC, the Islamic Republic has the ability to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States on Thursday blacklisted four companies in Iran’s metals sector, as well as one German and three Emirati subsidiaries of Iran’s largest steelmaker that Washington said generate millions of dollars for Tehran’s metals industry. The Treasury Department said in a statement that the sales agents together generated tens of millions of dollars annually from the foreign sale of Mobarakeh Steel Company products, contributing to billions of dollars generated overall by Iran’s steel, aluminum, copper and iron sectors.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday, June 25, the 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) Goureh-Jask oil pipeline would enable the Islamic Republic to export its oil without relying on the Strait of Hormuz. Describing the project as "strategic", the mid-ranking cleric said 404 kilometers of the pipeline has been laid so far. "What is strategic about this project is that many countries in the region have managed to find a second way to export their oil using other routes whenever the Strait of Hormuz faces danger," Rouhani said while inaugurating the project.
The United States, Israel and Iran all seem set to continue their roles in the fight in Syria. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, which largely determines Iran’s Syria strategy, is keeping the heat on Iran President Hassan Rouhani to maintain Iran’s focus on its commitments there, despite pressure and attacks from the United States and Israel.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
In its latest annual report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Iran will remain on tier 3 of the U.S. list of human trafficking because it does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. In his message in conjunction with the annual report, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for tougher legal action against human traffickers by all governments, as well as increased support for victims, including the establishment of therapy and rehabilitation centers for them.
State institutions in Iran are pressuring mental health workers to avoid controversial issues such as honor killings and violence against women, wife and child marriages on social media to avoid controversies about sharia laws. A psychologist who could not be named for her own safety told Radio Farda that recently a prominent colleague with great following on social media lost his license to practice because he had extensively discussed these issues on his social media accounts.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded the alarm on Thursday about the possibility of Iran acquiring Chinese and Russian jets if the current arms embargo imposed by the UN security council is not renewed in October. Speaking via a video conference organised by the German Marshall Fund think tank, Mr Pompeo warned the Europeans about the prospect of the embargo expiring in less than four months. “In October of this year, the arms embargo will expire. That can’t happen, or the Iranians will be permitted to buy weapons systems," he said.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
A court in Denmark on Friday found a 40-year-old Norwegian man of Iranian descent guilty of spying for Iran and accessory to attempts to commit murder on Danish soil. The man, who was not identified by the court, “collected information about an exiled Iranian in Denmark” during the period Sept. 25-27, 2018. The Roskilde city court, west of Copenhagen, said it was “proven” that the information was handed over to a person working for an unnamed Iranian intelligence service. It added that online chats between the defendant and the person working for the Iranian intelligence service “weighed in” as evidence.
Iran’s announcement that it is planning to build a permanent base in the Indian Ocean demonstrates that, for all the setbacks Tehran has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and US-led sanctions, it has lost none of its appetite for expanding its military operations. One of the founding pillars of the Iranian revolution in 1979 was the requirement to disseminate its own brand of radical Islam throughout the Muslim world, to the extent that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has now established a truly global network of bases, ranging from Latin America to South-East Asia.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An explosion at an Iranian gas storage facility close to a sensitive military site near the capital Tehran was caused by a tank leak, a defence ministry spokesman told state TV on Friday. The explosion took place in the ‘public area’ of Parchin, said the spokesman, Davoud Abdi, as opposed to the military site, where Western security services believe Tehran carried out tests relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has denied it carried out such tests.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran’s unacceptable behaviour is disrupting the Middle East and Tehran will be held to account if it continues along the path of aggression, the region’s most senior British general has said. The country’s military activities have led to a “destabilisation” of the Middle East and Iran faces further international isolation if it continues, said Lt Gen Sir John Lorimer. “We have long said that that behaviour is unacceptable and must not be repeated,” he told The National in an extensive interview.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Nothing will stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, so Israel must work on a menacing deterrent capability to keep the Islamic Republic in check even beyond its eventual attainment of them, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit has told The Jerusalem Post. Speaking to the Post about the English version of his book Head of the Mossad (University of Notre Dame Press), which will be out in stores in September, Shavit covered a wide range of other issues, including annexation, cooperation with the CIA, US-China quantum technology competition and counterintelligence.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi security forces raided a headquarters belonging to a powerful Iran-backed militia in southern Baghdad late on Thursday and detained more than a dozen members of the group, government officials and paramilitary sources said. The raid was the most brazen action by Iraqi forces against a major Iran-backed militia group in years and targeted the Kataib Hezbollah faction, which U.S. officials have accused of firing rockets at bases hosting U.S. troops and other facilities in Iraq. Iraqi government officials and paramilitary sources then gave contradicting versions of what followed.