The conflict between Iran and the U.S. that has created tensions throughout much of the Middle East is now also being felt in Lebanon, where Washington has slapped sanctions on the Iran-backed Hezbollah and warned they could soon expand to its allies, further deepening the tiny Arab country's economic crisis. The Trump administration has intensified sanctions on the Lebanese militant group and institutions linked to it to unprecedented levels, targeting lawmakers for the first time as well as a local bank that Washington claims has ties to the group.
Iran and the United States have one month to get to the negotiating table, France's foreign minister warned, suggesting that Tehran's plan to increase its nuclear activities in November would spark renewed tension in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron attempted, but failed to broker talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York last week.
In a joint statement on Thursday, October 3 several international human rights organizations have expressed their "serious concern" over recent detentions of the relatives of civil and political activists in Iran. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are among the thirteen organizations that have signed the joint statement.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the remaining signatories can still be saved after the U.S. withdrawal but Iran must return to the full implementation of its commitments and in return be offered some goodwill instead of sanctions, the Slovak candidate to head the United Nation's nuclear agency said on Thursday. "The remaining parties, so-called E3+2 countries including China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, that are still committed to the deal should find a way to help Iran in this difficult situation (to show) that deals should be honored"...
Iran has improved its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA's acting chief said on Friday, as it presses for answers to questions it will not spell out but that diplomats say include how uranium traces were found at an undeclared site. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which polices Iran's nuclear deal with major powers, told Tehran last month that "time is of the essence" in addressing what it describes in its jargon as concerns about the completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations to the agency.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The stock market of Iran, for a long time dogged by US sanctions, has notched up a notable achievement: ranking among the world's best performing over the past 12 months, as domestic investors seek refuge from rampant inflation. A collapse in the rial against the dollar has triggered a huge spike in prices, with the official inflation rate at almost 43 per cent in the year to September. Banks' interest rates have not kept up, which analysts say has pushed Iranians into stocks to protect the value of their savings.
An Iranian oil tanker detained in July over suspicions it was violating European Union sanctions by transporting oil to Syria has been pictured off the coast again, sparking concerns that the ship could be transferring cargo. Satellite images released Thursday showed Iran's Adrian Darya 1, formerly named the Grace 1, pictured the previous day alongside a smaller vessel, the Jasmine. The two ships can be seen tethered together by mooring lines while a crane is deployed on the starboard side of the tanker.
More than 20 ships carrying around one million tonnes of grain are stuck outside Iranian ports as US sanctions create payment problems and hamper the country's efforts to import vital commodities, sources directly involved in the trade said. Trading companies such as Bunge (BG.N) and China's COFCO International have been hit by payment delays and additional costs of up to $15,000 a day as the renewed US restrictions stifle the processing of transactions, trade sources said.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Sahar Khodayari understood the law: Women in Iran are forbidden to enter sports stadiums. But the 29-year-old wanted to watch a soccer match - a benign activity hundreds of thousands of women around the world enjoy. So, in March when her favorite team was playing, Khodayari did what other Iranian women have done in order to watch live sports events: She disguised herself as a man. Donning a blue wig and long overcoat, Khodayari made her way toward Tehran's Azadi Stadium, but she never made it inside.
In a matter of hours women in Tehran bought 3.500 tickets to watch the upcoming soccer match between their national team and Cambodia, after pressures by FIFA, the world governing body of football. For four decades Iran's clerical rulers have not allowed women to enter stadiums and watch men's sports competitions, especially football. But in the last few weeks, FIFA threatened Iran with suspension from international games if it did not allow women to freely enter stadiums.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's President arrived in New York City in September and left, as usual, without meeting the American one. Both Hassan Rouhani and Donald Trump professed an appetite for sitting down and talking over the ever more treacherous rift between their nations. But as Rouhani has pointed out in private, Iran's top elected official "has no authority in foreign policy." That authority-and nearly every other strand of power in the Islamic Republic-resides with the elderly cleric who remained 6,000 miles away, in the country he has not left for decades.
Despite the failure of the great efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron in New York and earlier in Biarritz, on the occasion of the G7 summit, to provide the ground for a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents, Paris is still hoping that time allows such an encounter. France remains convinced, according to its sources, that the plan put forward by Macron, which was "accepted by the United States and Iran is still valid" and that it "constitutes a realistic basis" to return to the negotiating table, whether in the framework of bilateral US-Iranian talks, or within a broader context as demanded by Tehran.
For too long, U.S. senators have hesitated to stand with Saudi Arabia, a long-time American ally and vital energy supplier to our allies in Europe and Asia. But as the Iranian regime shows its power, it's time to pick a side. Much of the hesitancy by senators regarding support of Saudi Arabia centers around their mistrust of the kingdom's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.
The recent attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities by Iran (and its proxies) highlights a growing conflict in the Middle East that has its roots in a failure of deterrence. The Iranian regime has undertaken terrorist attacks and engaged in highly destabilizing actions for more than four decades. The recent attacks bring into stark relief the fact that, over the past decade or so, our allied coalition has been unable to effectively deter or offset Iran's increasingly bellicose activities.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has always given the upper hand in foreign policy to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) rather than the foreign ministry. However, his speech on Wednesday during a meeting with IRGC commanders was another step toward yet another omission of the foreign ministry and its diplomats from the heart of Iran's foreign policy; that is the Middle East policy and the challenge against the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A rare interview conducted earlier this week with Qassem Suleimani, the highly-influential Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, has provided a fascinating insight into how his organisation manages relations between Tehran and its numerous proxies throughout the Middle East. For outsiders, one of the perennial challenges they face is trying to work out who controls the levers of power in the Islamic Republic.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
After more than eight years of war and bloodshed in Syria, the Iranian presence in the nation is at an all-time high, warned the top Syrian opposition figure. "Iranian influence is getting bigger and bigger. They are the ones controlling the State of Syria, the Army of Syria, the security of Syria and are infiltrating the society such as the schools and religious sites," Nasr Al-Hariri, president of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), told Fox News following the U.N. General Assembly last week.
The Russian embassy in Tehran says that a Russian journalist has been detained in the Iranian capital. The embassy on Friday confirmed reports that Yulia Yuzik was in custody in Tehran but said it was still studying the details. Yuzik's former husband Boris Voitsekhovsky said on Facebook on Friday that the journalist had been in Iran for four days and that she called him from detention saying that she faces charges of espionage for Israel.
IRAQ & IRAN
A border crossing between Iran and Iraq, which is due to be used by hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite Muslim worshippers at an annual pilgrimage this month, has been closed because of unrest in Iraq, Iranian state television reported on Thursday. A senior Iranian pilgrimage official told state television that the Khosravi border crossing was closed, but other crossings were open ahead of the pilgrimage in the southern Iraqi city of Kerbala.
Iran's foreign ministry has urged Iranian pilgrims to postpone their visits to Shiite holy sites in Iraq amid the turmoil in the neighboring Arab nation. Thursday's ministry statement appealed on the pilgrims to wait until "peace" returns to Iraqi cities and expressed hope the Iraqi government and nation, as well as political parties and groups, would help calm the disturbances "misused by foreigners."
As Iraqis defied government curfew and continued widespread protests on Thursday, the death toll climbed to more than 30 and Iran's ambassador in Baghdad was summoned to the foreign ministry for provocative remarks he made last week. In a local television interview aired last Thursday, the ambassador Iraj Masjedi said Iran will not hesitate to target American forces in Iraq if these forces threaten his country.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran said on Friday that France's call for it to release a detained French-Iranian scholar was an interference in its internal affairs and would not help resolve the issue, the official news agency IRNA reported. France's Foreign Ministry on Thursday demanded Iran release dual national Fariba Adelkhah, a senior research fellow at Sciences Po university in Paris, who was detained on unspecified charges earlier this year.