**NOTE: UANI’s Eye on Iran will be suspended on Monday, September 28 in observance of Yom Kippur. It will resume Tuesday, September 29.**
The United States on Thursday blacklisted several Iranian officials and entities over alleged gross violations of human rights, including slapping sanctions on a judge it said was involved in the case of an Iranian wrestler sentenced to death. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement said the United States imposed sanctions on Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati, Judge Mohammad Soltani, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, and Adel Abad, Orumiyeh, and Vakilabad Prisons.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps opened a new naval base along one of the world’s busiest oil transit routes on the Persian Gulf as frictions with the U.S. and its allies in the region loom over security in the waterway. The Shaheed Rahbari base near the port of Sirik, on the eastern side of the Strait of Hormuz, took six years to build and will give Iran “full control” of various vessels that use the channel, the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, a report on Press TV’s website said, citing an opening ceremony attended by IRGC commander Major General Hossein Salami.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is trying to entice Russia to become closer to Iran through bilateral relations, Iranian media reported Thursday. He arrived in Moscow to discuss relations with Russia. His goal is to pave the way for Iran to circumvent the US embargo and sanctions. Iran seeks to harness Russia and also China to confront “US lawlessness,” Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported. Zarif praised the “important role of Russia and China in supporting the UN Security Council and countering US illegal actions in the Security Council,” the report quoted him as saying.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Tankers carrying Iranian gasoline that was confiscated by the U.S. government and became embroiled in a court ownership battle have struggled to discharge in the United States, shifting course over the last week. The U.S. Department of Justice last month seized over 1 million barrels of Iranian fuel onboard four privately-owned tankers bound for Venezuela, part of Washington’s efforts to disrupt trade between the two sanctioned nations. The fuel has been at sea ever since, aboard two separate vessels that took the fuel in July and have zig-zagged at sea as they search for a terminal to discharge.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran opened this week a new naval base in a coastal town along the world’s most important oil chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz, a theater of frequent incidents and frictions between Iran and the United States. The IRGC, including its Al Quds Force, were designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. last year. The new naval base at Sirik, a coastal Iranian town east of the Strait of Hormuz, was officially launched on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by IRGC Chief Commander Major General Hossein Salami, Iran’s PressTV reported on Thursday.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The international community must do everything in its power to stop Iranian authorities from amputating the fingers of four men convicted of robbery following forced “confessions” and grossly unfair trials, said Amnesty International today. According to information obtained by the organization, the sentences against the four men, Hadi Rostami (33), Mehdi Sharfian (37), Mehdi Shahivand (42) and Kasra Karami (40), have been upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court and referred to the Centre for the Implementation of Sentences. The sentences may be carried out at any moment.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
In an interview with Sputnik, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country is open to more prisoner exchanges. Zarif said Iran is prepared to exchange prisoners that are either held in the United States or are being held in other countries due to US pressure for dual-national prisoners being held in Iran. He said Iran currently does not have any sole US nationals. Zarif was quick to add that Iran is not interested in direct talks with the United States on this issue and would continue the negotiations on prisoner exchanges via the Swiss.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
German officials imposed a ban on the sale of model aircraft engines to Iran after a shipment ended up in drones used by the Houthis in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia. The move prompted a shift in Iranian procurement to advanced engine technology that is smuggled in drones bought from Chinese makers and shipped from Xiamen to Mombasa, From there the units are smuggled to Salalah in Oman and on to Houthi strongholds, intelligence reports say. It emerged that a small maker of engines for miniature versions of well-known aircraft was approached by Germany’s domestic intelligence service, which had been monitoring sales of units later found on the battlefield.
While Hamas had for years been keen on hiding how it was receiving its weapons and combat equipment from outside the Palestinian territories, it decided to unveil, for the first time ever, some of these security and military secrets. The program “What is Hidden is Greater” broadcast by the Qatari Al Jazeera channel on Sept. 13 presented exclusive footage showing members of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, collecting Iranian Fajr missiles and Kornet Anti-Tank shells.
The deputy Chief-Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Commodore Ali Fadavi, has threatened the arrival of United States forces in the Persian Gulf. Referring to the presence of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf on September 18, Fadavi told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen news network on Wednesday, "They should come to the Persian Gulf because they will be within our reach." Al-Mayadeen aired Fadavi's comments following the US' decision to activate the "trigger mechanism," which reactivates international sanctions against Iran.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s death toll from the novel coronavirus rose by 175 to 25,015 on Thursday, the highest in the Middle East, with the total number of identified cases spiking to 436,319 in the country, according to health ministry. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 3,521 new cases were identified in the last 24 hours in Iran. Iran’s health officials have voiced alarm over a surge in infections, urging the nation to respect health protocols to control the spread of the disease.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russia on Thursday dismissed the threat of US sanctions and attempts to isolate Iran, saying it intended to trade with Tehran once a UN arms embargo expires next month. The embargo on conventional arms shipments to Iran is set to expire on October 18 after the United States failed to win support for a new UN resolution. The administration of US President Donald Trump says it has decided to unilaterally reinstate virtually all of the UN sanctions on Iran lifted under a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.
Iran and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund are discussing the joint production of a vaccine against COVID-19, Russian news agencies cited the Iranian ambassador to Moscow as saying on Friday. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has said it is in talks with a number of countries about the possibility of producing the Russian ‘Sputnik-V’ vaccine abroad, and has signed a deal to manufacture 300 million doses in India. “We are holding talks, I spoke with the head of RDIF Kirill Dmitriev, our officials have held several rounds of consultations and we announced that we will co-operate,” Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali was quoted as saying.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Iran has slammed Saudi Arabia’s “delirious talk” as it hit back at a damning speech by the kingdom’s ruler during an annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations. During a video statement on Wednesday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz called on the 193-member UN General Assembly for a comprehensive solution to Riyadh’s archenemy and to stop it from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. In his address, the 84-year-old Saudi monarch alleged that Iran has exploited its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to “intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks and use terrorism” which has “produced nothing but chaos, extremism, and sectarianism”.