**NOTE: UANI’s Eye on Iran will be suspended on Friday, July 3 and Monday, July 6 in observance of Independence Day. It will resume Tuesday, July 7.**
The U.S. will press the United Nations Security Council to vote on extending an arms embargo on Iran as soon as mid-July and is willing to reimpose wide-ranging UN sanctions if that effort fails, Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said. Craft said she hopes that European allies, which have expressed concern about U.S. strategy toward Iran if the extension is rejected, would support the U.S. move for a vote on extending the embargo that’s set to expire in October. She conceded that Russia, backed by China, will put up a strong fight and may exercise a veto.
U.S. federal prosecutors filed suit late Wednesday to seize four tankers-worth of gasoline Iran is sailing to Venezuela, the latest salvo in the administration’s effort to stifle flows of goods and money helping to keep two of its top foes in power. By filing a civil-forfeiture complaint, U.S. prosecutors aim to not only prevent delivery of the Iranian fuel to Venezuela, which began the journey last month, but also deprive Tehran of the revenues from the cargo and deter future shipments.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the Trump administration’s aim is not to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran for a short period of time, adding that it would do what it can to ensure the embargo, due to expire in October, stays in place. “The United States has the unambiguous right, without the consent of any other nation, to ensure that this arms embargo stays in place,” Pompeo told reporters.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility but there were no casualties and the site is operating as usual, Iranian officials said on Thursday. The Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), covering 100,000 square meters and built eight meters underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported that “an incident” had ocurred at the facility.
Three mysterious incidents, linked by explosions, at least two of them at secretive nuclear and weapons facilities have rocked Iran in the past week. All three have been reported by Iranian media with various excuses about how they are less serious than they appear, are being investigated and that there is no major story to tell. On June 25 a massive explosion, seen many miles away in Tehran, burned a hillside near a missile complex at Khojir. On June 30 a medical center suffered a fire in Tehran, killing more than a dozen people.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
On day seventeen of the new round of strikes at Haft Tappeh agro-industrial complex on Wednesday, workers took to the streets in Shush and chanted slogans about poverty and hunger and against President Hassan Rouhani. Videos posted on social media show a large group of masked workers protesting and chanting "Unity, unity", "Death to Rouhani", "Workers will die but not be humiliated". The protesting workers are organized by Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers' Syndicate, one of the few large workers' unions established in 1974.
France and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as well as Iran's Peace Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, have condemned the death sentence of Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist and activist, accused of allegedly fueling protests in 2017 in Iran. The death sentence passed on Zam by the notorious judge Abolqasem Salavati was announced by the Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili on Tuesday.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A new episode of war of words is being waged between Tehran and Washington over the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A US-proposed resolution formally discussed at the UN Security Council on Tuesday is now at the center of the soaring tensions. The proposal aims to bring the council members on board to indefinitely extend a contentious arms embargo on Iran, which will be effectively expired under the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231 in October.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
As coronavirus infections soar in Iran, there is talk of a lockdown in Mashhad, the country's second city and a major destination for pilgrims this week. Only hours after Iranian news agencies on Wednesday quoted two officials in Mashhad as saying that the holy city will be locked down for a week due to the worsening pandemic, another official who had also been quoted, denied the news. The discrepancy in the statements made by the officials and denial of stricter measures may have been a result of pressure from the religious establishment in the Mashhad.
Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam and member of the influential Assembly of Experts (A.E.), Ahmad Khatami, has stepped in to defend the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader's economic record. Khatami known as a hardliner and a close ally of Ali Khamenei insisted that the Supreme Leader has no responsibility in Iran's economic affairs, adding that the executive branch of power manages the country's economy.
Iran has arrested two Swedish nationals in crackdown on an international drugs trafficking network, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday, adding that a large amount of synthetic narcotics have been seized by the police. “As part of Iran’s fight against drugs trafficking, the members of an international narcotics trafficking network have been arrested and two Swedish nationals are among them,” Tasnim said without giving further information.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his counterparts from Turkey and Iran on Wednesday that there was a need for peaceful dialogue between the opposing forces in Syria’s civil war. Putin also told Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani in a televised video conference that hot spots of terrorism still remain in Syria’s Idlib and other regions. “An inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue should be actively promoted within the framework of the constitutional committee in Geneva. I propose to support this process, to help the participants to meet and start a direct dialogue,” Putin said.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A new UN report has confirmed Iran’s role in the attack on Saudi Aramco facilities last September. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented the report to the Security Council in a video conference on Tuesday. The report comes with the Iran arms embargo set to expire on Oct. 18, 2020 Guterres told the council that the report highlights the Iranian regime’s aggressive approach in destabilizing the region through military and financial support of armed militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
IRAQ & IRAN
Defying state power, a group of 14 pro-Iran militiamen clothed in khaki military fatigues trampled over doctored portraits of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The images, which have been widely circulated on Iraqi media since Monday, showed over a dozen young men holding small Iraqi flags in one hand and burning Kadhimi’s crossed-out posters, along with Israeli and U.S. flags, in the other. The men were members of Kataib Hezbollah (KH), who were released Monday shortly after their arrest in a rare anti-terrorism raid ordered by Kadhimi last week.
Iran's influence in Iraq through proxy groups appears to be facing serious challenges as the new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi is trying to control pro-Iranian Shiite militia groups, while some shift their loyalty from Iran to Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Until a few months ago, Iranian military officials including former and current Qods Force commanders Qassem Soleimani and Esmail Qaani used to fly to Iraq whenever they wanted and nothing could stop them as they landed in Baghdad's Green Zone to take part in security meetings with Iraqi officials.
An Iranian general would not rule out that a massive explosion east of Tehran last week was caused by “hacking,” amidst speculation that the incident was an act of sabotage. Iranian authorities had attempted to downplay the blast—which tore through a missile factory east of Tehran—as a gas tank explosion at a different industrial park. But one official refused to rule out an act of cyber-sabotage.