The United States on Wednesday blacklisted an "oil for terror" network of firms, ships and individuals allegedly directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of U.S. sanctions. Washington also issued a new international shipping advisory about IRGC's use of "deceptive practices" to violate U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales and warned that those doing business with blacklisted entities "are now exposed to U.S. sanctions," said State Department official Brian Hook, who oversees Iran policy.
Iran warned it would take further steps to breach the 2015 nuclear accord later this week, heaping more pressure on European countries scrambling to provide Tehran with relief from U.S. economic sanctions and avert the deal's collapse. France is leading efforts on a possible $15 billion economic lifeline for Tehran in return for its full compliance with the multilateral nuclear accord. Iran began to break some deal limits in July as it pushed back against sanctions that the U.S. imposed on it after pulling out of the deal last year.
A senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday the United States would not provide any sanctions waivers to accommodate a French proposal to extend a $15 billion credit line to Iran. "We did sanctions today. There will be more sanctions coming. We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers," Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The two-day visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Brussels is an incredible opportunity to address several important issues regarding cross-Atlantic relations, especially the threat posed by Iran, and create a unified strategy to deal with them, according to former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi. Terzi, a member of United Against Nuclear Iran's Advisory Board, wrote that American officials see this as a chance to "reset" the relationship between the US and Europe and that European officials hopefully feel the same.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran will abandon restrictions on nuclear research and development, including on the advancement of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, as the next step toward reducing its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday. Rouhani made the announcement in a televised address and said the change would go into motion Friday. Under the nuclear pact it struck with world powers in 2015, Iran is allowed limited research and development on advanced centrifuges, which accelerate the production of fissile material that can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
Reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency don't usually make for riveting reading, so you may have missed last Friday's latest, soporifically headlined "Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)." Don't be fooled. Buried in the report are two oblique sentences hinting at a mystery about which you may soon hear a great deal. "Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran relating to Iran's implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol require full and timely cooperation by Iran," the report says.
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will announce a new step in scaling back its nuclear commitments by Thursday despite a diplomatic push for relief from US sanctions. "I don't think that... we will reach a deal, so we'll take the third step and we will announce the details today or tomorrow," Rouhani was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the presidency website. Iran and three European countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been engaged in talks to save a landmark 2011 agreement that has been unraveling since the US withdrew from it in May last year.
Iran was poised Thursday to begin work on advanced centrifuges that will enrich uranium faster as the 2015 nuclear deal unravels further and a last-minute French proposal offering a $15-billion line of credit to compensate Iran for not being able to sell its crude oil abroad because of U.S. sanctions looked increasingly unlikely. Meanwhile, Iran released seven crew members from a detained British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in a goodwill gesture and the mariners flew out of Iran, the ship's owner said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Trump administration stepped up pressure on Iran on Wednesday, imposing sanctions on an oil shipping network with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and offering a reward of up to $15 million for anyone with information that could disrupt its faltering economy even further. The new measures are the latest installment in a campaign of "maximum pressure" aimed at forcing Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, from which the administration withdrew last year, and cease a range of activities that the U.S. and its allies say destabilize the Middle East.
The Trump administration views a French proposal to extend a $15 billion credit line to Iran with some skepticism, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, adding that they had not seen any concrete proposal that would be in keeping with U.S. sanctions on Tehran. "We are pretty skeptical of this," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call. France has floated such a plan, sources have said, but it would need U.S. approval.
The US Treasury is nothing more than a "jail warden", Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday, a day after Washington imposed fresh sanctions designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil. The United States on Wednesday blacklisted an "oil for terror" network of firms, ships and individuals directed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of US sanctions.
The Trump administration cast new doubt Wednesday on efforts by France to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran as Washington sanctioned what it called an Iranian "oil-for-terror" exporting network. The comments from President Trump and top members of his administration could well end efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron to provide Tehran with sanctions relief and keep the country from pulling out of the 2015 nuclear accord.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
A European trade mechanism to barter humanitarian and food goods with Iran will not work until Tehran sets up a mirror company and meets international standards against money-laundering and terrorism financing, a French diplomatic source said. Britain, France and Germany, parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year's U.S. withdrawal, salvage trade promised to Iran under the accord and still prevent Tehran from developing nuclear bomb capability.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A young woman who set herself on fire on September 1 outside the public prosecutor's office in Tehran is among football-starved Iranian women detained outside Iran's main sports arena, Azadi stadium. "The 29-year-old is suffering from third-degree burns, and currently under life support," says the CEO/president of Motahari Emergency and Burns hospital in the Iranian capital city.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
President Trump on Wednesday left open the possibility of meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly later this month in New York City. "Sure. Anything's possible. They would like to be able to solve their problems. They've got a big problem. They're getting killed financially," Trump told reporters at a White House hurricane briefing when asked about a possible meeting.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Trump administration is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information that can help disrupt the financial apparatus of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The State Department through its Rewards for Justice program is offering the funds for information on the revenue sources of the military unit, which the Trump administration sanctioned as a foreign terrorist organization in April, according to details obtained by The Hill. This includes information on the financial sources of the IRGC-Qods Force.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Whenever the regime in Iran announces a plan intended to inflict pain on prominent Americans, we tend to laugh it off - assuming we even notice in the first place. I'm not sure how many of us picked up on Tehran's recent announcement that it was implementing sanctions against several prominent Americans (including national security adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin). For one thing, no real authority or power beyond Iran's borders will assist Tehran in enforcing its edicts.
Trump administration's recent decision to impose sanctions on Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ignited a discussion in western media and political spheres about the nature of the Islamic Republic. The Democrats and leftists in the US, as well as their allies in Europe, appear to believe that there is an intensifying power struggle between moderates and hardliners in Iran. Based on this belief, they argue that the best policy to seek normalisation in relations with the Islamic Republic is to support the moderates over the hardliners, so that Iran can reform itself from within in the long term.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for an increase in U.S. pressures against Iran amid international efforts to broker a diplomatic solution to the Iran-U.S. standoff. Netanyahu said Thursday morning before leaving for London, "This is not the time to conduct talks with Iran - this is the time to increase the pressure on Iran," before traveling to London to meet his British counterpart and "a top U.S. defense secretary.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Thursday not to open a dialogue with Iran, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he may meet his Iranian counterpart to resolve a crisis over Tehran's nuclear program and sanctions against it. "This is not the time to hold talks with Iran. This is the time to increase the pressure on Iran," Netanyahu told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to London.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heard that President Donald Trump said he was open to meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif was in Biarritz, France, during the Group of 7 (G-7) meetings, Netanyahu reportedly panicked. Terrified that President Trump would meet with Zarif, he frantically tried to reach Trump. Netanyahu was unsuccessful - perhaps because Trump deliberately avoided speaking to him - but, in any event, Trump did not meet with Zarif.
Shortly before the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was levying economic sanctions against Lebanon's Jammal Trust Bank. In this case, the term "sanctions" does not elucidate the extent of absolute damage this will cause the bank.
The threat to Israel was delivered in no uncertain terms: "Attacks against Lebanon will threaten all your soldiers and settlements," said Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in a video posted on Monday. The head of the Lebanese Shiite militia also said the group could carry out attacks "deep inside Israel" in retaliation to any further offensives. Nasrallah said that the "red lines" on the border drawn by Israel no longer existed.
Hilal stretched his legs in a plastic chair on the veranda outside his house, close to a Hezbollah military base in Hermel, Lebanon. Even in late summer, the night air here has a crisp edge to it, and stars dot the sky above the rust-red hills that separate the country from neighboring Syria.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Saudi-led Arab coalition announced on Wednesday that the Iran-backed Houthi militias fired a ballistic missile that later crashed in Yemen.Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said the militias fired the rocket from residential areas in the in Shar district in the Saada province.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran has released seven of the 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized earlier this summer, Sweden's foreign minister said on Wednesday. The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.