Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf nations joined the U.S. in imposing sanctions on a financing network controlled by Iran's military and several men linked to the Tehran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Top U.S. Treasury Department officials said the action is the largest ever by the Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, whose membership also includes the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. The action is viewed by U.S. officials as a strategically important regional collaboration in the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign effort against Iran...
The U.S. Embassy in Tehran remains frozen in 1979 as the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis approaches, a time capsule of revolutionary graffiti, Underwood typewriters and rotary telephones. The diplomatic compound was overrun by students angered when Washington allowed ousted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi into the U.S. for medical treatment. What initially began as a sit-in devolved into 444 days of captivity for 52 Americans seized in the embassy. Today, it remains held by the Basij, a volunteer wing of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, partly as a museum and a space for student groups.
The United States plans to allow Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue work at Iranian nuclear facilities to make it harder for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The Trump administration, which last year pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, will let the work go forward by issuing waivers to sanctions that bar non-U.S. firms from dealing with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said the sources on condition of anonymity.
UANI IN THE NEWS
After the Iran nuclear deal was completed in 2015, the American news media significantly decreased its coverage of all things related to Iran. As a result, some Americans may have jumped to the conclusion that the nuclear deal solved all of our problems with the Islamic republic. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, most pundits in the news media highly underestimate the threat to peace in the Middle East, and American allies such as Israel, from Iran and its proxies.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States and six Gulf countries agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals linked to Iran's support for militant networks including Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday. The blacklisted targets were announced by the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) nations - which also include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the announcement as part of a trip to visit several of these Middle East allies to bolster their support for increasing pressure on Iran.
Malaysia's prime minister told reporters the country was being forced to "make it difficult" for Iranians to live normal lives in the country. Banks in Malaysia are closing the accounts of Iranian individuals and companies, nearly a dozen affected people told Reuters, in a sign that U.S. sanctions are having far-reaching effects on citizens of the Islamic republic. "Our ties are very good with Tehran, but we face some very strong pressures from certain quarters, which you may guess," Mahathir Mohamad said after the Reuters story appeared, without naming where the pressure was coming from.
U.S. humanitarian policy toward Iran is under scrutiny as the European Union calls for more details about a new U.S. trade mechanism aimed at shielding exports of food and medicine to Iranians from U.S. sanctions. Conflicting evidence also has emerged about whether the Trump administration's previous system for facilitating humanitarian trade with Iran has helped or hurt the Iranian people.
The seven-member Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre in Riyadh on Wednesday designated 25 targets affiliated with Iran and Hezbollah in the largest single designation to date. The body, that brings together the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United States, listed targets affiliated with "the Iranian regime's terror-support networks in the region." The entities sanctions on Wednesday support Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran's regional proxy, Hezbollah.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that the country's judiciary has released a labor activist on bail. Fars reports that Esmail Bakhshi, a labor activist and worker in the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill in southern Khuzestan Province, was released Wednesday. He was detained in January after demonstrations took place after several months without payment. He was released on $70,000 bail. Iranian authorities released two other labor activists related to the case Sunday.
Widespread protests against harsher regulations to tighten state control over university students have forced Iran's Deputy President, Laya Joneidi to promise amending the new restrictions. Hundreds of Iranian university students who have protested the decision believe that the new Disciplinary Rules will lead to police-state dominating higher-learning institutions across Iran.
The official institutions and bureaus that register marriage contracts based on ancient Aryan ceremonies and rites have been suspended, and sealed-off in Iran, the head of the Islamic Republic's Union of Marriage and Divorce registration bureaus announced on Wednesday. The suspended bureaus amount to 34, and mainly located in the provinces of Tehran and Alborz, the state-run Young Journalists Club (YJC) cited marriage registration official Ali Mozaffari, as saying.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Russia interfered in the US 2016 election and may try to sway next year's vote as well. But it's not the only country with an eye on US politics. American officials sounding the alarm about foreign efforts to disrupt the 2020 election include multiple countries in that warning. Concerns abound not only about possible hacking of campaigns but also about the spread of disinformation on social media and potential efforts to breach voting databases and even alter votes.
David Schenker, assistant secretary for the US State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told the Congress that 2020's fiscal year budget will focus primarily on countering Iran's influence. He said Iran is a "provocative and malicious player" that threatens US allies and intervenes in the affairs of Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and other regional countries.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the United States and its allies for spreading "insecurity and turmoil" in Iraq and Lebanon, urging anti-government protesters in both countries to seek changes in a lawful way. "Their people also have to know that although they have legitimate demands, those demands can be met only through the framework of legal structures," he said on Wednesday in rare remarks addressing the wave of demonstrations that erupted in Iraq and Lebanon this month.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The cash-strapped government of the Islamic Republic is reportedly planning to levy taxes on bank deposit interest income, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-linked news agency, Fars reported. Fars published a document on Wednesday, October 30 that shows Iran's State Tax Organization and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance have decided to amend the tax law to levy taxes on bank deposits interest.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomes the US and Gulf states' announcement of new sanctions against companies and individuals linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and the Hezbollah terror group. "I welcome the decision of the US and the Persian Gulf states to impose additional sanctions on Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard," Katz says on Twitter "This is the right way to fight Iran's aggression," he adds.
President Trump's departing Middle East envoy says he is saddened to be leaving the job before publication of a much-delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan but believes that the two sides are closer than ever after years of Iranian aggression in the region. Jason Greenblatt steps down as special representative for international negotiations at the end of the week. After 2 1/2 working alongside Jared Kushner in the role, he told the Washington Examiner that an Israeli-Palestinian deal would be Iran's "worst nightmare."
Scenes of jubilation in the streets of Beirut, triggered by the Oct. 29 resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, were not welcome news to Iran's political elites, who have closely and anxiously followed the last two weeks of popular protests in the Lebanese capital. Sparked by public discontent with corruption and stratification, the upheaval concerned Iran, which has been battling to oust Saudi Arabia from the Lebanese political scene.
IRAQ & IRAN
Violence continues in Iraq as forces loyal to Iranian-backed militias fire on peaceful protesters. Details are sketchy, but security forces killed more than a dozen protesters in Karbala and, according to some reports, far more. Such violence was likely not an accident, but rather revenge for protesters having last week publicly criticized Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani.
Iran's supreme leader on Wednesday accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of stoking unrest in Lebanon and Iraq, saying Tehran understood the situation in those countries because it had had to suppress similar foreign interference at home. "The U.S. and Western intelligence services, with the financial backing of reactionary countries in the region, are spreading turmoil," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by his official website as telling graduating army cadets.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Threats by Iran to obliterate Israel have been played down by Germany, prompting the Trump administration's highest-profile ambassador to criticize Chancellor Angela Merkel government's attitude towards Tehran. "Threatening the destruction of Israel is something that should not be dismissed, especially when the threats come from Iranian regime officials who regularly use terrorism as a weapon of intimidation. When someone shows you who they are, believe them," Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, told Fox News Tuesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration and a semi-government company are organizing trade affairs in the Islamic Republic of Iran that are circumventing US sanctions and may expose the German event business to American economic penalties due to terrorism. The European organization Stop The Bomb said in a Tuesday statement that businesses "involved in those fairs were in the past also companies that are affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] and the Iranian military.