The United States on Thursday sanctioned a network of Iranian petrochemical producers and front companies in China and the United Arab Emirates. The move comes as the Iran nuclear deal -- formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- is on the verge of collapse. "The United States is pursuing the path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Absent a deal, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to limit exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a press release.
Israeli and American intelligence officials have been watching each day as Iran digs a vast tunnel network just south of the Natanz nuclear production site, in what they believe is Tehran’s biggest effort yet to construct new nuclear facilities so deep in the mountains that they can withstand bunker-busting bombs and cyberattacks. Though the construction is evident on satellite photographs and has been monitored by groups that track the proliferation of new nuclear facilities, Biden administration officials have never talked about it in public and Israel’s defense minister has mentioned it just once, in a single sentence in a speech last month.
Israel secretly coordinates with the U.S. on many of the airstrikes it carries out in Syria as the allies face a battlefield crowded with militant groups, Iranian-backed militias and foreign militaries, according to current and former U.S. officials. American officials have said little about Israel’s bombing missions, which have been aimed at interrupting Tehran’s flow of advanced weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah and diminishing Iran’s military forces and proxies in Syria.
UANI IN THE NEWS
In a June 16, 2022 interview with i24NEWS, UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky said, "Iran is undertaking its own form of a maximum pressure strategy. These tests - which involve satellite launch vehicles, which use technology that are related to the development of its ballistic missile program - are a signal that it keeps refining and improving its capabilities and building its leverage and its programs, irrespective of what is happening (or not happening I should say) in the Vienna talks. And I think the United States needs to do the same on its part."
…After satellite images appeared to show that Iran is preparing for a ballistic missile launch, an Iranian defense official was quoted as confirming the speculation, saying the regime is planning two tests. “Iran risks overplaying its hand with the testing of ballistic missiles, but the non-response from the international community whenever these tests occur… encourages Iranian leadership to continue to test international red lines,” Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, told i24NEWS.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The United Arab Emirates hopes Iran will work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide reassurances to the international community and the region about Iran's nuclear programme, the UAE's IAEA envoy Hamad Al Kaabi told reporters on Friday.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran’s Central Bank is allowing licensed exchange offices to resume buying and selling foreign currency, days after traders protested over the worsening economic situation and the country’s currency dropped to its lowest value ever, state-run media reported Thursday. Since 2018, when Iran announced a ban on all trading by individuals at private exchanges, these bureaus could only work with government-approved importers or exporters. On Sunday, dozens of shop owners took to the streets in central Tehran after many shut their businesses in protest against the worsening economy and following a recent hike in business taxes.
Local media in Iran say public institutions such as hospital, prisons, and child-care centers are facing possible food shortages due to skyrocketing prices. The Tehran-based Etemad newspaper reported on June 15 that the impending "problem" could hit in "the coming weeks" and that "food supplies will be disrupted not only in hospitals but also in other government facilities such as barracks, prisons, nursing homes, and even student dormitories."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Teachers in cities across Iran have again taken to the streets to protest the continued detention of four of their colleagues, as well as the dire economic situation in the country. Video and photos on social media on June 16 showed teachers gathering in the cities of Zanjan, Shahrekord, Ardabil, Malayer, Marivan, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Tehran, Andimeshk, Saqez, Bukan, Hamedan, Khorramabad, Kashmar, Bandar Abbas, Bijar, Sari, and Karaj. A strong security presence could also be seen, with some gatherings prevented. The situation in some cities resembled conditions seen under martial law, according to some witnesses.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iranian authorities have arrested a person accused of having a link to two French citizens being held on espionage charges, state television reported Thursday. The report said the suspect was a Marxist who visited the two alleged French spies before the May 1 International Workers’ Day, as part of a plot to “create unrest among workers.” It did not disclose the suspect’s gender, but said the person was arrested by intelligence services while trying to leave the country through the province of West Azerbaijan. The TV also said the accused was tasked with rallying workers and teachers for street protests.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel praised Argentina on Thursday for holding a Venezuelan plane that included Iranian crew, saying the flight shows Tehran is trying to expand its influence in South America. Washington also made clear it is keeping close tabs on the investigation into the Boeing 747, which was loaded with automotive parts and raised questions because its 19 crewmembers is an unusually large number for a cargo plane. In a statement, the Israeli Embassy commended the “fast action” by Argentine authorities who “identified in real time the potential threat” posed by the aircraft, which has been grounded at Argentina’s main airport outside Buenos Aires since June 8.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran said on Thursday it has received $1.6 billion from Iraq to settle part of the debts it has sought from its neighbor since 2020 for the supply of gas. “After months of negotiations, $1.6 billion in arrears... for gas exports to Iraq have been received,” Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said, quoted by Shana news agency. Baghdad had been scheduled to pay that amount to Tehran before the start of June. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app. The debt dates back to 2020, but payment was stalled amid sanctions against Iran by the United States.