An expiring United Nations weapons embargo on Iran must remain in place to prevent it from “becoming the arms dealer of choice for rogue regimes and terrorist organizations around the world,” the U.S. special representative to Iran said Sunday. Brian Hook told The Associated Press that the world should ignore Iran's threats to retaliate if the arms embargo set to expire in October is extended, calling it a “mafia tactic.”
At least nine pro-Iranian militia members were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting military positions in Syria’s al-Bukamal on Saturday night, just hours after the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani had reportedly been at the site. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said nine members of pro-Iranian militias, including four Syrian nationals, were killed in the airstrikes “targeting positions of regime forces and Iranian militias in the village of Al-Abbas in the countryside of Al-Bukamal city, east of Deir ez-Zor.”
An Iranian news agency on Saturday reported a visit by the chief of the elite Quds Force to eastern Syria, a rare public announcement of a trip to the battlefield by the successor of a commander killed by the United States in January. Esmail Ghaani is the replacement for Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, who directed its allied militia in conflicts across the Middle East before he was killed by a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.
UANI IN THE NEWS
When I served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, I made it clear that the American people expect the institution to uphold its founding ideals, and to hold irresponsible regimes accountable for their actions. That was badly needed in the cases of Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela, among others. The same is true with the rest of the multilateral system. Our country helped establish that system after the Second World War, and we remain by far the world’s largest funder of it today. We need to examine closely whether we are getting a decent return on our investment.
Iran’s new speaker of parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, has endeavored for years to ascend to the top ranks of the regime. As a former senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as well as a longtime mayor of Tehran, Ghalibaf has repeatedly attempted to leverage this revolutionary and technocratic pedigree to achieve political success in Iran’s elected state. His ascension to the speakership represents the culmination of those efforts. But beyond his personal ambition, Ghalibaf has the potential to become a consequential speaker.
… It found that Iranian arms seized upon two dhows bound for Yemen “may have been transferred in a manner inconsistent” with resolution 2231, raising concerns over Iran’s commitment as a diplomatic partner at a time when the UN Security Council is discussing whether to extend the arms embargo on Iran past its October expiry date. “[The report] will add to the US case for extension of the arms embargo, which is set to expire on October 18, 2020. In fact, there is evidence Tehran is expanding its weapons shipments, with Iranian anti-tank guided missiles being found in Libya,” said Jason Brodsky, the Policy Director of United Against Nuclear Iran.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that his country is experiencing its toughest year because of U.S. sanctions coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated economic problems that worsened after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions. On Monday, Iran’s rial currency fell to its lowest ever level against the U.S. dollar. “It’s been the most difficult year due to the enemy’s economic pressure and the pandemic,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
Iran’s Central Bank has injected hundreds of millions of dollars to stabilise the currency market, bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said on Saturday, after the Iranian currency fell to historic lows this week. “Over the past few days, hundreds of millions of dollars entered the market through (Central Bank-linked) brokers and thwarted many of the plans of those trying to destabilise the foreign exchange market,” Hemmati said in an Instagram posting.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Iran would become the “arms dealer of choice” for terrorists if a U.N. weapons embargo is allowed to expire, a senior U.S. official says. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, spoke to the Associated Press during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. The U.N. imposed its current arms embargo on Iran in 2010, and it is set to expire in October. Hook said the world should ignore Iranian threats of retaliation if the embargo is extended.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Last week in the Kurdish-Iranian city of Kermanshah, an 18-year-old pregnant woman was forced to consume aluminum phosphide by her father and brothers in what human rights activists have deemed a brutal "honor" killing. Somayeh Fathi was allegedly poisoned for "having a relationship with another man and dishonoring her family," the U.K.-based Iran International reported. To date, according to local reports, nobody has been held accountable for the poisoning of taking the life of the young woman and her unborn child.
The Head of the Justice Department of Isfahan Province on Friday said eight individuals have been sentenced for "corruption on earth", a charge carrying the death sentence according to Iran's Islamic Penal Code. Mohammad-Reza Habibi who was speaking at a Friday prayer sermon did not mention any details about these cases or which protests the defendants had participated in but said: "We will be decisive against mercenaries and rioters if crimes are committed like what happened in 2009, 2017 and last November [when protests broke out across the country]" and added that eight trials have finished and those involved have been sentenced for corruption on earth".
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran’s government has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump over the killing of its top commander Qasem Soleimani in January, the country’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Monday. Tehran is also reportedly asking Interpol for help, according to Fars. Ali Alghasi-Mehr, the attorney general of Tehran, named Trump and 35 others Iran has accused of involvement in Soleimani’s death as facing “murder and terrorism charges,” and was quoted as saying he had asked Interpol to issue “red notices” for them — the highest level notice Interpol can issue on an individual to pursue their arrest.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said this week that he would negotiate with the United States if the Trump administration apologizes and compensates Iran for losses from US policies of maximum pressure. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the prospects of the United States apologizing to or compensating Iran are “not remotely serious,” adding, “We’re happy to engage in conversations with them when the time is right, but the conditions that suggest somehow we give a bunch of money to the Iranians so they can foment terror.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iraqi forces raided an Iranian-backed militia suspected of carrying out a spate of rocket attacks against American forces, making good on the new prime minister’s promise to crack down on armed groups that have strained relations with the United States. The raid overnight Thursday on a brigade headquarters of the militia, Khataib Hezbollah, was intended to “to send a message that there is no red line and no one is above the law and everyone must be subject to it,” Gen. Yahya Rasool, the military spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, said Friday.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran launched a campaign on Saturday to motivate a reluctant public to use face masks as the country faces a sharp increase in infections and deaths from the coronavirus. Iran was one of the worst hit countries early in the pandemic, and since restrictions to stem its spread were gradually lifted from mid-April, cases have increased again, with the death toll topping 100 a day in the past nine days for the first time in two months. Some 2,456 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 220,180, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television.
An explosion that rattled Iran’s capital came from an area in its eastern mountains that analysts believe hides an underground tunnel system and missile production sites, satellite photographs showed Saturday. What exploded in the incident early Friday that sent a massive fireball into the sky near Tehran remains unclear, as does the cause of the blast.
Last week, Gholamreza Mansouri, a fugitive Iranian judge who was set to be extradited to Tehran, plunged to his death at a hotel in Bucharest. The death has been ruled a probable suicide by Romanian investigators, but it’s clear this case demands serious scrutiny, given the Islamic Republic’s long history of attempting and sometimes pulling off extraterritorial killings. The implications could be wide-reaching. Mansouri fled Iran sometime last year, taking with him hundreds of thousands of euros, which he allegedly received in bribes.
In the minds of many Iranians, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Iran’s new speaker of parliament, is identified less with his political and military credentials than with corruption. A 58-year-old trained pilot from Iran’s northeastern province of Khorasan, Qalibaf has an arguably unrivaled track record of illicit public self-dealing. His tenures as mayor of Tehran, national police chief, and head of the national anti-trafficking headquarters were marked by some of the most high-profile corruption and embezzlement cases in the nation’s post-revolutionary history.
CHINA & IRAN
China doesn’t want to destroy global institutions so much as remake them in its image. The current fight over the Iran arms embargo at the United Nations shows what a Beijing-dominated world order would look like. It’s something for American allies frustrated with President Trump’s leadership to keep in mind. This week the U.S. sent the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution to extend indefinitely an arms embargo on Iran. The Security Council has had restrictions on the country since 2007, but the 2015 nuclear deal allows for their gradual removal beginning in October.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Saudi Arabia forced three Iranian boats to retreat from its waters on Thursday after firing warning shots, a spokesman for Saudi boarder guards said on Saturday. The spokesman, quoted by Saudi news agency SPA, said the Iranian vessels refused to stop after they entered Saudi waters despite repeated warnings, which forced the Saudi authorities to fire the warning shots.
IRAQ & IRAN
As Iraq and the US discuss the future of bilateral ties over the course of their recently started talks, Iran will attempt to influence the outcome. On June 11, US and Iraqi officials began a series of talks as part of a “strategic dialogue” on military, trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Baghdad probably will prioritize its worsening economic emergency while Washington will likely focus on the prospect of reducing US troops in the region.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran said the process of decoding the flight recorders of a Ukrainian Boeing Co. aircraft that crashed near Tehran earlier this year will start in France on July 20. “An Iranian aviation team will transfer the black boxes to France and data extraction will begin on July 20, if nothing happens out of the ordinary,” Mohsen Baharvand, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, was quoted as saying by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.