The United States said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on Lebanon and Kuwait-based financial conduits that fund the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah as well as financial facilitators and front companies that support the group and Iran. Among individuals designated and sanctioned, the U.S. Treasury said the measures apply to businessman Morteza Minaye Hashemi, who lives in China and who had funneled money to Iran's Quds Force. Two Chinese nationals had helped Hashemi establish bank accounts and served as straw owners for his companies, which were based in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to a Treasury news release.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no plans to meet with his new Iranian counterpart next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Friday. Indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna on reviving a 2015 deal, aimed at curbing Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon, stopped in June. Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes only. Iran's hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August and his Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian is due to travel to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
Iran’s top leader has appointed a pilot of Russian fighter jets to command the nation’s air force, state television reported Sunday. It said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s choice is Air Force Brig. Gen. Hamid Vahedi. Vahedi, 56, trained on a simulator for a Sukhoi-24, a Russian fighter jet, from 2000 to 2001. He worked as the acting commander of the air force since 2018. As commander, Vahedi succeeds F-14 Tomcat pilot Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh. The change is part of routine replacement of army commanders. The country’s air force has both Russian and American-made made jet fighters in service.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The similarities between the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran are striking and worth assessing before the U.S. aids either in any way or makes agreements with either that will affect our national security. Both the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban are radical Islamist terrorist regimes that hold the people of their two great countries as hostages. Both are built around an extreme interpretation of Islam that makes them hostile, and often violent, toward all non-Muslims, as well as toward Muslims who do not share their religious or political views. Both regimes suppress the universally respected human rights and individual political freedoms of their citizens. Both are anti-women, anti-gay and anti-American.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said he wants to speed up the conversion of the country's Arak heavy water reactor into a research facility. Under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Tehran agreed to modify the Arak reactor so that it could not produce military-grade plutonium. "This project must be reconfigured and returned to operation as soon as possible," Iranian media on Saturday quoted Mohammad Eslami as saying during a visit to the site this week. No time frame was specified. The nuclear deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for tight controls on its nuclear program, monitored by the UN.
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) Chief Mohammad Eslami arrived in Vienna on Sunday to participate in the IAEA’s General Conference, including crucial meetings with IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi. The IAEA Board of Governors is expected to issue a statement regarding Iran and the nuclear standoff in the near future, and the upcoming Eslami-Grossi meeting, following the IAEA chief’s emergency visit to Iran on September 12, is viewed as laying the groundwork.
Back when Americans in June were so confident that another round of Vienna talks to revive Iran’s nuclear deal were imminent, the New York Times reported that a top American negotiator left his clothes in storage at a hotel in Vienna. The negotiations have now stalled between two sides, and his clothes have remained in Vienna after more than eighty days. The former president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, was frozen out of the process by Iran’s regime to resume the nuclear talks to revive the accord in the last days of his presidency.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iranian fuel and petrochemical exports have boomed in recent years despite stringent U.S. sanctions, leaving Iran well placed to expand sales swiftly in Asia and Europe if Washington lifts its curbs, trading sources and officials said. The United States imposed sanctions on Iran's oil and gas industry in 2018 to choke off the Islamic Republic's main source of revenues in a dispute with Tehran over its nuclear work. The steps crippled crude exports but not sales of fuel and petrochemicals, which are more difficult to trace. Crude can be identified as Iranian by its grade and other features, while big oil tankers are more easily tracked via satellite.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will meet her Iranian counterpart on Monday to demand the immediate release of U.K. nationals detained in Iran including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Days into her new role, Truss will speak to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, her office said in an emailed statement. The foreign secretary will also say that Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers is blocking progress toward a reset of relations that is in both countries’ interests.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
“[Hossein] Amir-Abdollahian is another Qassem Suleimani in the field of diplomacy.” That’s how one Iranian lawmaker recently described Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s nominee for foreign minister. Like Suleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force who was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020, Amir-Abdollahian is well known for his support of the Iran-backed “Axis of Resistance” in the Middle East—the array of political and military groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq, Yemen’s Houthis, and others that Iran supports across the region.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon's sovereignty, according to comments published by his office. "The violation of Lebanon's sovereignty makes me sad," Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter. He added: "But I'm not concerned that sanctions can be imposed" on Lebanon "because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government." The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
Iran’s top nuclear scientist woke up an hour before dawn, as he did most days, to study Islamic philosophy before his day began. That afternoon, he and his wife would leave their vacation home on the Caspian Sea and drive to their country house in Absard, a bucolic town east of Tehran, where they planned to spend the weekend. Iran’s intelligence service had warned him of a possible assassination plot, but the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had brushed it off. Convinced that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was leading Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb, Israel had wanted to kill him for at least 14 years. But there had been so many threats and plots that he no longer paid them much attention.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian athletes that they must continue to refrain from playing competitive sports against Israelis, even if they are disciplined by international bodies for it. "Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal," Khamenei told a reception for Iran's medalists from the Tokyo Games on September 18. “The genocidal, illegal Zionist regime attempts to gain some legitimacy by appearing in international athletic competitions.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran on Saturday hailed its acceptance into a China and Russia-led bloc, an eastward turn it sees as opening access to major world markets and a counter to crippling Western sanctions. Conservative and reformist newspapers showed rare unity in welcoming the outcome of a conference in Dushanbe on Friday at which members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation endorsed Iran's future membership in the bloc. "It is a strategic and diplomatic success," said ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi following his return home on Saturday.