U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to seek to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran if the U.N. Security Council does not approve a resolution that would indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Tehran, which is set to expire in October. Pompeo told a news conference at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday that without extending the arms embargo, “Iran will be able to purchase advanced weapons systems and become an arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world. This is unacceptable.”
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five Iranian ship captains who delivered oil to Venezuela, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed Washington’s backing for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. Speaking at a news conference, Pompeo said the ships delivered about 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline and related components, and warned mariners against doing business with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose ouster Washington seeks.
The United States called Iran the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism” in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism. The report, released by the State Department on Wednesday, notes that Iran has continued to funnel money and resources for terrorist operations across the globe, including to groups such as Hezbollah. The report highlights the U.S. “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign and its impact on Iran’s coordination with foreign terrorist organizations.
UANI IN THE NEWS
On April 24, 1990, Iran’s most renowned human rights activist, Kazem Rajavi was ambushed in Geneva and killed as part of an alleged, highly-coordinated assassination plot involving at least 14 Iranian operatives. It was not the first such killing - and it would not be the last. Over the years, the theocratic regime carried out assassinations of dozens of opposition activists and expatriate intellectuals, solidifying its reputation for blatant human rights violations; not just at home but throughout much of the world. The foreign assassinations were accompanied by truly shocking crackdowns inside the Islamic Republic itself.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The United States is hopeful the entire world will understand the need to extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and said Washington was willing to talk to Tehran when the time was right, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday. “I am hopeful that the whole world will accept the proposition that this arms embargo needs to be extended,” Pompeo told reporters. “I think all but a couple of nations understand that this should not expire and there is going to be a discussion about how it is that we extend it.”
Russia and China will be isolated at the United Nations if they continue down the “road to dystopia” by blocking a U.S. bid to extend a weapons ban on Iran, U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook told Reuters ahead of his formal pitch of the embargo to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. The 13-year-old arms restrictions on Iran are due to expire in October under the terms of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Russia and China have signaled they oppose extending the embargo.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran and Venezuela will not back down from countering American sanctions, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi wrote in a tweet. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday the sanctioning of five Iranian captains who delivered gasoline and its components to Venezuela. “US desperate moves against Iranian individuals - like the one announced by @SecPompeo aka the #SecretaryofHate – just signal the miserable failure of the so-called “max pressure”. Despite US pressure, #Iran & #Venezuela remain steadfast in countering unlawful American sanctions,” Mousavi tweeted.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
The Trump administration is claiming significant victories against global terrorism but says Iran continues to increase its support for extremists and that white supremacist attacks are on the rise. The State Department said Wednesday in its annual report on terrorism that “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” throughout 2019 even as the Islamic State group suffered losses in Iraq and Syria, and the United States imposed sanctions and took other steps against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Three men have been arrested in Iran on suspicion of trying to sell two babies on Instagram. Tehran's police chief, Brig-Gen Hossein Rahimi, said one of the children was 20 days old. The other was two months old. The babies had already been bought for up to $500 (£400), and were being resold for between $2,000 and $2,500. One of those arrested allegedly said he was "getting babies from poor families" and "handing them over to families who could provide a better future".
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Justice for Iran (JFI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called on Iran to stop using so-called "confessions" and airing them on the state-run television against dissidents. Iranian security forces often use intimidation, ill-treatment and torture to force individuals to appear on television and speak against themselves and others, "repent" and ask for the forgiveness of the Supreme Leader, sometimes even for imaginary crimes dictated to them by their interrogators.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
At a Cabinet meeting in Tehran June 24, President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran is open to negotiations “as soon as the White House and Congress return from the wrong path … offer an apology and compensate [for] the loss they inflicted upon Iran.” Rouhani was referring to the US withdrawal from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which US President Donald Trump walked away in May 2018.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen to nearly 10,000 with 133 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, extending a reversal from a steady fall in daily numbers as the country has relaxed its lockdown. There were 2,531 new coronavirus infections reported in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to 212,501, along with 9,996 deaths in all, the ministry said on Wednesday. The daily death toll has regularly topped 100 in the past week for the first time in two months, mirroring a sharp rise in new infections since restrictions on movement began to be lifted in mid-April
In a move unprecedented in Iran's political dynamics, two top military commanders have openly lent support to Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeesi, who is the most talked about candidate to replace Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran's next supreme leader. Mohammad Baqeri, chief of the joint staff of Iranian armed forces wrote in a letter to Raeesi on June 23 that that he was "prepared to cooperate with the Judiciary in any form." This was the first time Baqeri sent such a letter since taking office in 2016.
Iran's Deputy Minister of Health announced June 24 that "forty percent of residents in the provinces of Qom and Gilan have contracted the coronavirus, while the number in Tehran is about fifteen percent. At the same time, the spokeswoman of the health ministry, Sima Sadat Lari, announced that 9,996 have so far died of COVID-19. She also announced the official number of people infected by the deadly virus has reached 212,501. However, Iran’s official COVID-19 figures have been repeatedly questioned by some members of parliament and other officials.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The Arab Parliament has condemned in the strongest terms the repeated attacks by the Houthi militias on Saudi Arabia by launching ballistic missiles and drones, urging the United Nations to pressure the insurgents into stopping their aggressive actions. In a resolution issued at the end of its public session held virtually on Wednesday on the latest developments in Yemen, the parliament held the Iranian regime fully responsible for its flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions and its continued supply of smart weapons, ballistic missiles and drones to the Houthis with the aim of destabilizing the region.
The Microsoft Threat Protection Intelligence Team has identified a chain of attacks on its cloud service in a post published on June 18. According to Microsoft the group identified as HOLMIUM” has been performing espionage and destructive attacks targeting aerospace, defense, chemical, mining, and petrochemical-mining industries. Based on previous research by the Fireye the group has been linked to Iran and the Iranian Cyber Army.