The U.S. charged an Iranian online financial services company and two of its senior executives with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, U.S. prosecutors said. Seyed Sajjad Shahidian, Vahid Vali and the company, Payment24, were criminally charged with conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S., money laundering, identity theft and wire fraud, according to an indictment unsealed Monday in federal court in Minnesota. Mr. Shahidian, the company’s 33-year-old founder and chief executive, was arrested and extradited from the United Kingdom and was arraigned Monday, prosecutors said.
Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei called for the West Bank to be “armed” and compared the Palestinians there to Hamas in Gaza. “The only thing that can reduce Palestinian hardships is the hand of power,” he tweeted on Tuesday morning. Iran appears to be calling for Palestinian attacks on Israel. The Ayatollah’s tweets, which came after midnight, included claims that compromise by the Palestinians would not reduce “cruelty,” that he alleged was being caused by Israel. He called Israel “evil” and a “wolf-like entity.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani approved a resolution by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution to launch a new award named after slain military commander Qassem Soleimani, who was targeted by a US airstrike last January. The award is granted in the main category of "struggle and resistance" and six sub-fields of "people and society", "culture and art", "politics", "education and research", "media", and "sports". A 19-member body would oversee the award to be held biennially.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran cannot rely on Europe's support for upholding its rights under the 2015 nuclear deal, which were violated by the United States, and will pursue its own independent policies in this regard, an Iranian diplomat said. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi made the statement in reaction to the European Union's refusal to take a stance against the new US threat to prevent the impending expiration of Iran's arms trade ban.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran is currently in a standoff with the United States regarding shipment of fuel to Venezuela, an issue has the potential to ignite tensions between the two countries. US officials have said they will consider taking measures to prevent Iran from doing so. Both Iran and Venezuela are under US sanctions. Spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Abbas Mousavi said today, “Free trade between independent countries is a legal act. What is illegal is robbery in the sea, which the US is the leader of.”
Iran called on Monday for global solidarity against the pandemic, but said that unilateral sanctions are “inhumane” and causing “unnecessary suffering and pain” for its population. “The US must be held to account for its intensifying unilateral sanctions against Iran and other affected nations,” Saeed Namaki, Iran’s health minister, said in an address to the World Health Organization’s annual assembly being held online. Alex Azar, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, addressed the two-day forum but did not respond to Iran’s allegations.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A prominent Iranian reformist lawmaker has been sentenced to 21 months in prison and given a fine after he called on the former head of the judiciary to make his finances public, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Mahmoud Sadeghi, who had appealed a preliminary sentence handed down in April, posted a picture of the court ruling on Twitter on Monday. It said that seven months of the jail term relate to his “insulting the head of the judiciary.”
In a letter to Iran's parliament on Monday the Interior Ministry claimed that it has not been found responsible for the causes and consequences of the November protests against the tripling of the price of gasoline. According to the portal of the Interior Ministry, the letter has been read to the lawmakers in the open session of the Parliament. "Extensive investigations of the matter by relevant supervisory bodies and authorities have been concluded and the Ministry of Interior has not been found responsible for any faults in any of the reports," Seyed Salman Samani, Spokesman of the Interior Ministry, was quoted by the website of the Interior Ministry as saying.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has hit out at U.S. foreign policy, mocking President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and warning that American forces will be "expelled" from Iraq and Syria. Speaking at an annual Ramadan meeting with Iranian university students on Sunday, Khamenei accused the U.S. of warmongering and oppression in the Middle East, according to the state-backed Press TV. The meeting was held via video call as Iran continues its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 120,100 people in Iran and killed at least 7,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The Iranian navy last week announced that 19 sailors had been killed and 15 wounded in a “friendly fire” incident, when its support vessel Konarak was hit by a new anti-ship missile being tested by the Jamaran frigate during drills in the Gulf of Oman. Iranian state TV said the incident took place off Bandar-e-Jask in southern Iran after the Konarak had towed a practice target to its destination but failed to move far enough away.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
When Iran began to reopen late last month, commuters packed subways and buses, young people lined up for takeout hamburgers and pizza, and traffic snarled highways. Shoppers crowded the traditional bazaars of Isfahan and Tehran. Worshipers resumed communal prayer at mosques during Ramadan evenings. Three weeks later, the country has been hit by a new surge of coronavirus cases, according to health officials in some of the eight provinces where the numbers have spiked again. Health experts had predicted this would happen when the government made the call to ease restrictions in late April.
Islamic Republic’s President Hassan Rouhani Monday called for the establishment of a few “main political parties” in the country that could take turns to govern. Iran has dozens of registered political parties and groups but their ability to become nationwide, grassroots influential organizations are curbed by the authoritarian nature of the political system. Rouhani in a meeting with a group of political figures said, “I believe that for the future of the country we should pursue [establishment] of parties. If we want to reinforce the regime and help it to survive, we need two or three main political parties” to alternatively govern the country”.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The "project to oust the Syrian strongman, Bashar al-Assad" is a "big American-Zionist lie", says a former senior Iranian diplomat and a current advisor to the speaker of parliament. In a tweet on Sunday, May 17, Hossein Amirabdollahian insisted that "Bashar al-Assad is the legal President of Syria and the great leader in the combat against takfiri terrorism in the Arab world." The tweet is a response to recent widespread speculations that Tehran and Moscow have agreed on replacing Bashar al-Assad.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraqi President Barham Salih and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani discussed bilateral relations and the importance of ensuring foreign powers do not interfere in the region. Rouhani expressed satisfaction that the political process in Iraq in wake of the formation of a new government, said a statement from the Iranian presidency. "Political stability in Iraq is important for the region, and it will certainly be a precondition for Iraq to regain a prominent role in the region,” he said.
On May 9, shipping traffic at Iran’s bustling Shahid Rajaee port terminal came to an abrupt and inexplicable halt. Computers that regulate the flow of vessels, trucks and goods all crashed at once, creating massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility. After waiting a day, Iranian officials acknowledged that an unknown foreign hacker had briefly knocked the port’s computers offline. Now, more than a week later, a more complete explanation has come to light: The port was the victim of a substantial cyberattack that U.S. and foreign government officials say appears to have originated with Iran’s archenemy, Israel.