Category Archives: Iran

(CNBC) Trump warns Iran not to fight the US: ‘That will be the official end of Iran’

(CNBC)

  • Trump’s threat, posted on Twitter, comes amid rising international tensions in the Middle East as the U.S. has dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in recent weeks.
  • The New York Times has reported that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran.
  • But his national security advisor John Bolton has reportedly pushed within the administration for an aggressive military posture against Iran.
GP: President Trump Departs White House For Louisiana South lawn

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday told Iran to never threaten the United States, warning the Islamic Republic that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end of Iran.“

Trump’s threat, posted on Twitter, comes amid rising international tensions in the Middle East as the U.S. has dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in recent weeks. The Pentagon says the military moves are in response to “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations.”

When asked on Thursday if the United States is going to war with Iran, Trump said “hope not.” The New York Times has reported that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran.

But his national security advisor John Bolton has reportedly pushed within the administration for an aggressive military posture against Iran. According to The New York Times, Shanahan presented an updated military plan that included sending as many as 120,000 ground troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces or accelerates nuclear work.

The revisions to the military plan were ordered by hard-liners led by Bolton, accordingto the Times.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said there are growing threats from Iran in the region, but he has had trouble convincing America’s European allies. British Maj. General Chris Ghika, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State, publicly disagreed with the U.S. assessment.

“There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika told Pentagon reporters last week.

The Pentagon later issued a statement saying Ghika’s comments “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”

Pompeo told CNBC that the White House does not want war and would welcome the opportunity to negotiate with Iran.

“We’re not going to miscalculate: Our aim is not war, our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership,” Pompeo said. “The forces that we’re putting in place, the forces that we’ve had in the region before — you know, we often have carriers in the Persian Gulf — but the president wanted to make sure that, in the event something took place, we were prepared to respond to it in an appropriate way.”

(NYT) Iran Will Stop Complying With Some Parts of Nuclear Deal

(NYT) President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditCreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Iran’s president declared on Wednesday that the country would stop complying with two of its commitments under the Iranian nuclear deal, pushing the growing confrontation between Washington and Tehran into new and potentially dangerous territory.

The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani came exactly a year after President Trump withdrew entirely from the 2015 agreement, which limited Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years.

But Mr. Rouhani did not follow Mr. Trump’s path and renounce the entire agreement. Instead, he notified European nations that he was taking some carefully calibrated steps, and that he would give Europe 60 days to choose between following Mr. Trump or saving the deal by engaging in oil trade with Iran in violation of American unilateral sanctions.

“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy,” he said in a nationally broadcast speech. “But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.”

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Starting on Wednesday, he said, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors — including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal.

Mr. Rouhani then threatened a potentially more severe step. If the Europeans do not find a way to help Iran “reap our benefits,” especially in petroleum exports and banking transactions, in 60 days Iran will end the limits on the enrichment of uranium, he said. Currently, it is enriching small amounts, and only to a level of 3.67 percent, which is suitable for nuclear power plants — but not for nuclear weapons.You have 2 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times

Without economic progress, he said, “we will not consider any limit” on enrichment, suggesting that it could rise to levels closer to something that could be used in weapons. Iran has never been known to produce weapons-grade material.

China, a signatory to the accord, urged restraint on all sides but put the blame for the confrontation squarely on Washington, which it said had escalated tensions. At a press briefing, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, praised Iran for adhering to the nuclear agreement that Mr. Trump has abandoned, and reiterated his country’s endorsement of the agreement and opposition to United States sanctions against Iran.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at a meeting in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, complained about the “unacceptable situation” created by the “irresponsible behavior of the United States,” but did not respond directly to Mr. Rouhani’s comments.

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If Iran begins carrying out Mr. Rohani’s threats in early July, it could put the country on the pathway to a bomb, essentially resuming activity that the 2015 nuclear accord pushed off to 2030. That would almost certainly revive debate in the United States over possible military action, or a resumption of covert action, like the cyber attack on Iran’s centrifuges a decade ago that the United States and Israel secretly conducted together.

None of the actions that Mr. Rouhani warned of would get Iran to a nuclear weapon anytime soon. But they would resume a slow, steady march that the 2015 agreement temporarily stopped.

Mr. Rouhani’s announcement marked another sharp blow to an agreement that President Barack Obama hoped would end 40 years of hostility between the two countries, and which he bet could open a new era of cooperation. While Iran scrupulously followed the deal, that cooperation never happened: Iran continued to test missiles — which were not covered in the arrangement — and to fund terror groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Mr. Trump threatened to kill what he called the “worst deal in history,” and over the objections of several of his advisers he withdrew from it exactly a year ago. He complained that it was too narrow, and that the 15-year limit on Iran producing nuclear fuel simply kicked the problems down the road. Advocates of the arrangement said those provisions bought vital time, delaying a program that otherwise might have resulted in an Iranian bomb in just a year.

It is not clear how Washington will respond to Mr. Rouhani’s speech. While the United States abandoned its side of the nuclear deal, it has long demanded that Iran fulfill its commitments to international inspections and moratoriums on nuclear work. The national security adviser, John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the deal, has often said that Iran never intended to give up its nuclear ambitions — and he may cite Mr. Rouhani’s speech as further evidence.

Mr. Rouhani invited all participants in the deal to rejoin negotiations. But he said the 2015 agreement must be the basis for such talks, a position the Trump administration has rejected.

While Iran’s decision Wednesday did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord, it left it on life support.

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Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said in an interview during a recent visit to New York that the country’s leadership was under growing pressure to respond to Mr. Trump’s effort to strangle Iran’s revenue. He called the continuing effort to starve Iran of the ability to engage in trade — which was enshrined in United Nations resolutions endorsing the 2015 agreement — a “war crime” against the Iranian people.

In an effort to contrast their behavior with Mr. Trump’s, Iran’s leaders have for now rejected calls that they, too, terminate the agreement. Instead, for the past year Tehran has remained fully in compliance, according to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But domestically, the failure to gain sanctions relief has put huge pressure on Mr. Rouhani to strike back at the United States.

The decision came just days after the Trump administration said it was moving bombers and a carrier group into the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran, after intercepting intelligence that attacks on the United States forces or their allies might be in the offing. Mr. Pompeo took an unannounced trip to Iraq on Tuesday and told reporters he had discussed with Iraqi officials the “threat stream we had seen” from Tehran.

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq, and there was complete agreement,” he said.

But European officials say they remain mystified why Mr. Trump did not take on the Iranians for their support of terrorist groups while remaining within the deal. The result, they say, could well be a resumed nuclear crisis, as the Iranians seek to raise the pressure.

(Axios) Israel passed White House intelligence on possible Iran plot

(Axios)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

Behind the scenes: Information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf were raised two weeks ago in talks held at the White House between an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and a U.S. team led by Bolton, the Israeli officials told me.

  • The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage, but the officials said it was clear the threat was against a U.S. target in the Gulf or U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The bottom line: An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”

— Israeli official

(AdelaideNow) Iran appointed for UN Women’s Rights Committee

(AdelaideNow) Iran has been appointed a seat on the UN Women’s Rights Committee in the same week an Iranian women’s rights lawyer was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Sky News host James Morrow says it’s a ‘disgrace’ that Australians don’t fire up against dictatorships like Iran who abuse women using patriarchy and religion. Broadcaster Jane Marwick says the silence around these issues is ‘absolutely deafening’ and believes the United Nations should be fighting for the freedom of women.

(105fm) EUROPA CONFRONTA TERRORISMO IRANIANO – Paulo Casaca

(105fm)

A 8 de Janeiro, a União Europeia colocou na sua principal lista de entidades e organizações terroristas os dois principais líderes das acções externas dos Guardas Revolucionários Iranianos, bem como a direcção de segurança interna dos serviços secretos do mesmo país.

A República Islâmica tornou-se assim o único país do mundo com dirigentes e departamentos armados estatais reconhecidos como terroristas pela União Europeia. Tudo isto se sucede a uma vaga de expulsões – e num caso mesmo de prisão – de diplomatas iranianos envolvidos em acções terroristas no solo europeu e à prisão de vários operacionais iranianos detidos na fase final da preparação de um ataque bombista em Paris, a 30 de Junho.

A França, entretanto, bloqueou as contas e encerrou associações francesas anti-Israel comandadas pelos guardas revolucionários iranianos; a Alemanha bloqueou os voos de uma das companhias aéreas iranianas envolvidas em acções logísticas armadas no Médio Oriente, enquanto a Polónia está a promover uma cimeira internacional sobre o Médio Oriente que o lóbi iraniano ocidental tem repetidamente atacado como sendo anti-iraniana.

Em quarenta anos o regime iraniano nada mudou na lógica da Jihad mundial que tem inscrita na sua Constituição e que tem aplicado com zelo dentro e além-fronteiras, com uma brutal repressão interna, expansão externa e terror em todas as direcções.

O que parece estar a mudar são no entanto os dirigentes dos principais países europeus, que parecem finalmente entender que a complacência com o terrorismo iraniano põe em causa a segurança não só do Médio Oriente como da Europa ela mesma.

A viragem da política europeia continua no entanto a enfrentar grande resistência dos partidários do apaziguamento e do poderoso lóbi iraniano que insistem em subvenções e dádivas ao regime de Teerão enfraquecendo a postura europeia.

A Europa precisa de ser clara nos seus princípios e capaz de agir com determinação perante a ameaça do Jihadismo orgânico de Teerão.

Bruxelas, 2019-01-23

(EuroNews) Germany bans Iranian airline, Mahan Air, from its airports

(EuroNews)

Germany bans Iranian airline, Mahan Air, from its airports

Germany has banned Iranian airline, Mahan Air from operating in the country’s airports.

Following heavy US pressure on Berlin to act, the foreign ministry announced the measure, saying Iran has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones.

The move was necessary to protect Germany’s “foreign and security policy interests”, said foreign ministry spokesman Christofer Burger.

Officials at the Federal Aviation Office (LBA) sent Tehran-based Mahan Air a notification “ordering the immediate suspension of its authorisation to operate passenger flights from and to Germany” from Monday, a transport ministry spokeswoman added.

Mahan, Iran’s second-largest carrier after Iran Air, flies four services a week between Tehran and the German cities of Düsseldorf and Munich.

It was blacklisted by the US in 2011, as Washington said the carrier was providing technical and material support to an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force.

Mahan Air in Tehran said it could not comment immediately on the ban.

The measure does not signal plans for the reimposition of broader sanctions against Iran, said a German government source.

Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

European countries have been under sustained U.S. pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty it had reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert denied that the decision to ban Mahan air was the result of US pressure.

“The German decision is based on considerations of our security needs,” he said.

“It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe,” he added.

Along with Iran, the other signatories to the non-proliferation deal – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – are still trying to keep it alive.

(EUobserver) Iran blamed for four terror plots in EU

(EUobserver)

  • EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in 2016 (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

By ANDREW RETTMAN BRUSSELS, TODAY, 09:28

Iran ordered four terrorist attacks in Europe in recent times, the EU has said, while imposing new sanctions.

Its agents plotted to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France and to assassinate an opposition member in Denmark last year.

  • Iran counter-accused the EU of sheltering anti-Iranian “terrorists” (Photo: Recovering Sick Soul)

They also murdered two opposition members in the Netherlands in 2015 and 2017, the Dutch foreign ministry revealed on Tuesday (8 January).

Member states’ officials in Brussels the same day added the names of two Iranian nationals and of Iran’s main spy agency to the EU’s counter-terrorism register.

The move froze the assets and banned entry to the EU of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat suspected of plotting the French attack, and Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, a senior intelligence official.

It also froze the assets of the directorate for internal security of the Iranian ministry for intelligence and security.

The sanctions were the first imposed by the EU since world powers and Iran agreed a nuclear arms control treaty three years ago.

The EU lifted financial, oil and gas, and transport sector sanctions in line with the nuclear accord.

It maintained an arms embargo and a ban on missile technology, however.

It also maintained a travel ban and asset freezes of 82 Iranians and one entity on grounds of human rights abuse.

The Dutch government had “strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of [the] two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin” in 2015 and 2017 Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said in a letter to the Dutch parliament justifying Tuesday’s move.

“Hostile acts of this kind flagrantly violate the sovereignty of the Netherlands and are unacceptable,” he said.

“Iran is expected to cooperate fully in removing the present concerns and, where necessary, aiding in criminal investigations. If such cooperation is not forthcoming, further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” Blok added.

The new sanctions were a “strong signal from the EU” that it “would not accept” assassination plots on its territory, Denmark’s foreign minister Anders Samuelsen said.

“EU stands united – such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences,” Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen added.

The EU move was welcomed by the US.

“Important day for European foreign policy!,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Twitter the same day.

“Iran and Hezbollah have terrorised Europe since 1979,” he added, referring to an Iranian-backed militant group in Lebanon.

He also posted a map showing 14 alleged Iranian attacks in EU countries, as well as Albania and Turkey, in the past 39 years.

Pompeo’s reaction came amid an EU-US rift on Iran after US leader Donald Trump walked out of the Iran nuclear arms control deal last year and threatened sanctions against EU firms who did business there.

The EU is currently trying to create special payment channels to shield EU companies from Trump’s wrath while keeping Iran on board with the nuclear pact.

Pompeo had previously said he was “disturbed and … deeply disappointed” by the EU.

But his good cheer on Tuesday was matched by a hostile reaction from Iran.

“Europeans, including Denmark, Holland, and France, harbour MEK – who killed 12,000 Iranians and abetted Saddam’s crimes against Iraqi Kurds – as well as other terrorists staging murder of innocent Iranians from Europe,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian opposition group with branches in EU states. Saddam Hussein was the former leader of Iraq.

“Accusing Iran won’t absolve Europe of responsibility for harbouring terrorists,” Zarif, who had earlier complained about slow progress on EU nuclear sanctions relief, added.

(Independent) Swift payment system bows to Iran sanctions

(Independent)

Rial talk: European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the EU was opposed to US sanctions against Iran. Photo: Bloomberg1
Rial talk: European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the EU was opposed to US sanctions against Iran. Photo: Bloomberg

THE European Union is opposed to the United States’ decision to reimpose oil and financial sanctions against Iran, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said yesterday.

“The European Union does not approve of it,” Moscovici told Franceinfo radio, hours after further US sanctions on Iran came into force.

Washington decided to reinstate punitive measures that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, and added 300 new designations in Iran’s oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors.

The Belgium-based Swift financial messaging service said it is suspending some unspecified Iranian banks’ access to its messaging system in the interest of the stability and integrity of the global financial system.

Swift is used to send data, including money transfers, between banks.

In a brief statement, Swift made no mention of US sanctions coming back into effect on some Iranian financial institutions on Monday as part of US President Donald Trump’s effort to force Iran to curtail its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

The Swift statement said suspending the Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system was a “regrettable” step, but was “taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system”.

Having abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump is trying to cripple Iran’s oil-dependent economy and force Tehran to quash not only its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program but its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

Swift is caught between two contrary regulatory demands.

The US government has told Swift that it is expected to comply with US sanctions and it could face sanctions itself if it fails to do so. On the other hand, Swift is barred from doing so under the European Union’s so-called blocking statute, which could subject it to European penalties for complying with US law.

(Reuters) Rouhani says Iran to sell oil, defy U.S. sanctions: TV

(Reuters) Iran will sell its oil and break sanctions reimposed by the United States on its vital energy and banking sectors, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday.

“America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales … but we will continue to sell our oil … to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television.

The United States said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil when it re-imposes sanctions on Monday aimed at forcing Tehran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among eight countries expected to be given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised.

The restoration of sanctions is part of a wider effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

“Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy … the main target of sanctions is our people,” Rouhani said.

In May, Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and Washington reimposed first round of sanctions on Iran in August.

The deal had seen most international financial and economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under U.N. surveillance.

“ECONOMIC WAR”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the penalties set to return on Monday “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

However, Iran’s clerical rulers have dismissed concerns about the impact of sanctions on the country’s economy.

“This is an economic war against Iran but … America should learn that it can not use the language of force against Iran … We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Rouhani said.

To keep the deal alive, the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal are trying to maintain trade with Tehran despite scepticism this is possible despite U.S. sanctions to choke off Iranian oil sales.

Khashoggi probe will exonerate leader: Alwaleed

Diplomats told Reuters last month that the new EU mechanism to facilitate payments for Iranian oil exports should be legally in place by Nov. 4 but not operational until early next year.

They cautioned, however, that no country had volunteered to host the entity, which was delaying the process.

“We are in regular contact with other signatories of the nuclear deal … setting up (a) mechanism to continue trade with the European Union will take time,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on in Tehran.

He also said the reimposed U.S. sanctions were part of a psychological war launched by Washington against Tehran, adding that “America’s economic pressure on Iran is futile.”

(AP) US restores Iran sanctions lifted under Obama nuclear deal

(AP) 

Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani

COMBO – This combination of two pictures shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, on July 22, 2018, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Feb. 6, 2018. The Trump administration is announcing the reimposition of all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. The Trump administration is announcing the reimposition of all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday restored U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, but carved out exemptions for eight countries that can still import oil from the Islamic Republic without penalty.

The sanctions take effect Monday and cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors. They are the second batch the administration has re-imposed since Trump withdrew from the landmark accord in May.

The 2015 deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s biggest diplomatic achievements, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which many believed it was using to develop atomic weapons. Trump repeatedly denounced the agreement as the “worst ever” negotiated by the United States and said it gave Iran too much in return for too little.

But proponents as well as the other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the U.S., fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

Friday’s announcement comes just days before congressional midterm elections in the U.S., allowing Trump to highlight his decision to withdraw from the deal — a move that was popular among Republicans.

Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted what looks like a movie poster image of himself that takes creative inspiration from the TV series “Game of Thrones” with the tagline “Sanctions are Coming, November 5.”

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump, shows a movie-style poster to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. (Donald J. Trump Twitter account via AP)

In a statement issued Friday night, Trump said, “Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted that include an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Pompeo said eight nations will receive temporary waivers allowing them to continue to import Iranian petroleum products as they move to end such imports entirely. He said those countries, which other officials said would include U.S. allies such as Turkey, Italy, India, Japan and South Korea, had made efforts to eliminate their imports but could not complete the task by Monday.

The waivers will be valid for six months, during which time the importing country can buy Iranian oil but must deposit Iran’s revenue in an escrow account. Iran can spend the money but only on a narrow range of humanitarian items.

Pompeo defended the oil waivers and noted that since May, when the U.S. began to press countries to stop buying Iranian oil, Iran’s exports had dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day.

He said the Iranian economy is already reeling from the earlier sanctions, with the currency losing half its value since April and the prices of fruit, poultry, eggs and milk skyrocketing.

Some Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere said Friday’s move should have gone even further. They were hoping for Iran to be disconnected from the main international financial messaging network known as SWIFT.

With limited exceptions, the re-imposed U.S. sanctions will hit Iran as well as countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country,” Pompeo told reporters in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said 700 more Iranian companies and people would be added to the sanctions rolls. Those, he said, would include more than 300 that had not been included under previous sanctions.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, welcomed Friday’s announcement.

“Thank you, Mr. President, for restoring sanctions against an Iranian regime that vows and works to destroy the Jewish state,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in a tweet.

Mnuchin defended the decision to allow some Iranian banks to remain connected to SWIFT, saying that the Belgium-based firm had been warned that it will face penalties if sanctioned institutions are permitted to use it. And, he said that U.S. regulators would be watching closely Iranian transactions that use SWIFT to ensure any that run afoul of U.S. sanctions would be punished.

(ZH) Iran Sends Record Amount Of Oil To China

(ZH) Tankers carrying some 22 million barrels of Iranian crude are on their way to the Chinese port of Dalian, Reuters reports citing ship-tracking data, and noting this is a record-high amount of crude from Iran to be received by Chinese clients amid falling imports to other large clients, such as Japan and South Korea. The usual rate of Iranian crude oil cargoes going into China has been between 1 million and 3 million barrels monthly.

“As our leaders have said it will be impossible to stop Iran from selling its oil. We have various ways of selling our oil and when the tankers reach Dalian, we will decide whether to sell it to other buyers or to China,” the Reuters source said.

Both countries earlier this month said they had completely suspended their purchases of Iranian crude ahead of the U.S. sanctions, which will enter into effect on November 5.

Dalian is a major oil hub in China and, Reuters notes, Iran has used storage facilities at the port to keep crude during the last round of sanctions in 2014 that was later sold to buyers in South Korea and India.

Reuters’ data confirms earlier reports from TankerTrackers.com, which repeatedly warned that Iran’s oil exports have not fallen by as much as official shipping data suggests: NIOC tankers began switching off their transponders to conceal their routes earlier this year.

The Financial Times’ David Sheppard cited the satellite imaging data from the independent tracker service in a recent story: according to it, Iran’s oil exports have not fallen by half since April’s 2.5 million bpd as most media report. In fact, he says, the data suggests they’d fallen by a modest amount and as of mid-October totaled over 2.2 million bpd.

China has never made a secret of its plans to continue buying Iranian crude despite attempts by Washington officials to persuade Chinese refiners to at least reduce their intake. At one point earlier this year, Beijing was said to have agreed not to increase the amount of Iranian crude it buys, but since then the trade row between China and the United States has deepened, casting a shadow over the likelihood of China sticking to its word.

(Haaterz) EU, China, Russia Seek to Bypass U.S. Sanctions on Iran With New Payment Channels

(Haaterz) After a meeting between the countries, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia announced their commitment to assisting Iran’s exports and continuing trade despite U.S. sanctions

President Hassan Rohani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, August 6, 2018.
Iranian Presidency Office/AP

The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal on Monday agreed to keep working to maintain trade with Tehran despite skepticism this is possible as U.S. sanctions to choke off Iranian oil sales resume in November.

U.S. President Donald Trump decided in May to abandon the pact and to restore economic sanctions on Iran, including those that seek to force the OPEC member’s major oil customers to stop buying Iranian crude. 

In a statement after a meeting of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran, the group said they were determined to develop payment mechanisms to continue trade with Iran despite skepticism by many diplomats that this will be possible.

“Mindful of the urgency and the need for tangible results, the participants welcomed practical proposals to maintain and develop payment channels notably the initiative to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports, including oil,” the group said in a joint statement issued after the statement.

Several European diplomats said the SPV idea was to create a barter system, similar to one used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to exchange Iranian oil for European goods without money changing hands.

The idea is to circumvent U.S. sanctions due to be restored in November under which Washington can cut off from the U.S. financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the decision to set up such a vehicle had already been taken and that technical experts would meet again to flesh out the details.

“In practical terms this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she said.

Many diplomats and analysts, however, are skeptical such a vehicle could ultimately thwart U.S. sanctions given that the United States could amend its sanctions laws to prohibit such barter transactions.

“The key is to keep all possibilities open so that we can signal to the Iranians that the door isn’t closing,” said a senior French diplomat.
The European Union, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from U.S. sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran’s oil sales, diplomats said.

Highlighting how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned a plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French firms trading with Iran.

The crux of the 2015 nuclear deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The impending return of U.S. sanctions has contributed to a slide in Iran’s currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the U.S. dollar this month.

(EUobserver) Iranian ‘plots’ in France and Denmark threaten EU solidarity

(EUobserver) France has accused Iran of plotting a bomb attack against an anti-Iranian group in Paris, the NCRI. Danish police, last Friday, also sealed bridges and ferries on suspicion Iranian intelligence was planning a strike against another anti-Iranian group, the ASMLA, in Denmark, which Iran blames for a recent terrorist attack in Tehran. The news threatens EU-Iranian solidarity against a US plan to scrap the Iran nuclear arms treaty.

(France24) US reimposes tough economic sanctions on Iran

(France24The United States re-imposed a wave of tough, unilateral sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, bringing back into effect harsh penalties that had been lifted under a historic, multi-party nuclear agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned in May.

The first of two rounds of US sanctions kicked in at 12:01 am (0431 GMT), targeting Iran‘s access to US banknotes and key industries, including cars and carpets.

Iranians are already seeing the effects of the sanctions, with Iran’s rial currency losing around half its value since Trump announced the US would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accord.

Trump‘s contempt for the nuclear deal dates back to his time as presidential candidate and on May 8, he made good on a pledge to pull America out of the international agreement.

He blasted the agreement yet again Monday, calling it a “horrible, one-sided deal (that) failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb.”

The unilateral withdrawal came despite other parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the EU — pleading with Trump not to abandon the pact aimed at blocking Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and highlights the US leader’s go-it-alone style and his distaste for multilateral agreements.

In an executive order Monday, Trump said the sanctions seek to pile financial pressure on Tehran to force a “comprehensive and lasting solution” to Iranian threats, including its development of missiles and regional “malign” activities.

The European Union’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc, as well as Britain, France and Germany, deeply regretted Washington’s move.

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” she said in a statement.

Many large European firms are leaving Iran for fear of US penalties, and Trump warned of “severe consequences” against firms and individuals that continued to do business with Iran.

The impact of the return of sanctions has ramped up tensions inside Iran, which has seen days of protests and strikes in multiple towns and cities over water shortages, high prices and wider anger at the political system.

Severe reporting restrictions have made it impossible to verify the swirl of claims coming through social media.

‘Remove the knife’

Trump said he was open to reaching a more comprehensive deal with Iran “that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism.”

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was unimpressed by the offer.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife, and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,” the Iranian leader said in an interview on state television.

“They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said. “Negotiations with sanctions doesn’t make sense.”

John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, noted that the US sees the sanctions “as a tool to pressure Iran to come back to the negotiating table to rehash the nuclear deal on terms more to Trump’s liking. That is not going to happen.”

The second phase of US sanctions, which takes effect November 5 and will block Iran’s oil sales, is due to cause more damage, though several countries including China, India and Turkey have indicated they are not willing to entirely cut their Iranian energy purchases.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters the global reaction to Trump’s move showed that the US was diplomatically “isolated,” but acknowledged the sanctions “may cause some disruption.”

Rouhani’s government has taken emergency measures to stem the collapse of the rial ahead of the return of sanctions.

(Haaretz) Mossad Assassinated Syrian Weapons Chief, NYT Reports

(Haaretz) Middle Eastern spy agency claims Dr. Aziz Asber was working closely with Iran’s Quds Force chief on long range missiles capable of reaching Israeli cities

City of Masyaf in northwestern Syria, 2016
Pavel Golovkin / AP

Israel is responsible for the car bombing assassination of a Syrian rocket scientist on Sunday, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The account in the report, given by an official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the highly classified nature of the operation, claims the car bombing near the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf that killed Dr. Aziz Asber was executed by Israeli Mossad agents.

Dr. Asber ran the northern bureau for research and science in Masyaf, where he was believed to be developing an underground weapons manufacturing facility with the help of the Iranians.

Photo of Asbar distributed on social media

>> How the Mossad broke into an Iranian facility and stole half a ton of nuclear files

The official, who said his agency was notified of the operation, alleged that this was the fourth time in the last three years Israel has covertly killed a weapons engineer on foreign soil.

Despite the attack being claimed by a Syrian rebel group, the Abu Amara Brigades, pro-Assad and Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets were quick to point the finger at Israel as responsible for the assassination.

According to the official, the Mossad had been keeping tabs on Asber for some time and believed him to be working closely with Iran’s Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani on future plans to manufacture precision-guided missiles in Syria by modifying Syrian SM6000 Tishereen rockets.

Israel had targeted Asber as key player of the Syrian missile program long before the civil war had begun, according to a representative of the Syrian-Iranian alliance who spoke on terms of anonymity, as he was not allowed to talk to Western journalists. He was close with both Syrian and Iranian top brass, and coordinated with Iranian and Hezbollah forces working in Syria, said the intelligence official.

In recent months, in his role as chief of a classified weapons development program known as Sector 4, Asber was focused on modifying the Syrian artillery array’s range and accuracy – which the official posits made his termination more imperative for Israel, as it works to limit and suppress Iran and Hezbollah’s presence and involvement in Syria.

Several strikes on Masyaf, the city where the Scientific Studies and Research Center is located, have been attributed to Israel in recent years. The last one was on July 22. The factory Asber was said to be building with Iranian aid is set to replace the one allegedly destroyed by Israel last September.

The Israeli government has not officially commented on the report, or the allegations. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking to Israel’s News Company, dismissed the claims and said “Every time, they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”

P.O. (FinancialTribune) EU Walks Tightrope on Dealing With US Anti-Iran Sanctions

P.O.

In my opinion the EU has a close to zero percentage points chance of protecting its Companies,in view of the long arm of the US, or maintaining normal bussiness with Iran.

In spite of its ideas of grandeur, the EU faces an humiliating duck down on this issue.

Only a fool would think (unless given a waiver) an European Company would take the risk of doing business with Iran.

But unfortunately the European Union is full of fools.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(FinancialTribuneIf it wants to keep the nuclear deal alive, the EU will need to reduce the impact of US sanctions on its trade with Iran.

As an initial step, European governments are offering legal advice to companies and seeking exemptions from US sanctions in the hope that they can continue to do business with Iran, although they are highly unlikely to obtain them.

The EU could also attempt to revive its blocking statute. Introduced in 1996, following the adoption of new US sanctions on Cuba, the statute prohibits EU-based companies from complying with certain US extraterritorial sanctions.

European countries could also set up credit lines for businesses to make it easier to make payments in Iran, without going through the international payments system, as Italy has done. However, these steps will not be enough to mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

The EU’s blocking statute did not stop European companies following US law: Firms were more fearful of US sanctions than of the statute. Likewise, if businesses have to choose between the US and the Iranian market, only companies that do limited business in the US are likely to choose Iran, reads an article published on the website of the London-based think tank Center for European Reform. Excepts follow:

In theory, the EU could take more ambitious steps to curtail the impact of US sanctions. For example, the EU could offer trade liberalization to Iran. The EU could also agree to indemnify European businesses for the costs of US sanctions and offer euro-denominated loans to Iran through the European Investment Bank.

Finally, the EU could also threaten to retaliate against US sanctions imposed on European companies by sanctioning US companies in Europe. However, all of these steps would lead to a sharp rupture in transatlantic relations and it seems doubtful the EU will have the appetite to implement them.

If US President Donald Trump thinks that the EU is sabotaging US policy and helping Iran, he is highly likely to immediately impose the so-far delayed steel and aluminum tariffs, and to hit European firms with sanctions.

Mindful of the risks inherent in starting a trade war with the US, the EU will probably not be able to provide Tehran with extensive support. The risk is that the JCPOA will unravel over time, as business dries up and the Iranian economy suffers.

The EU can take steps to preserve the deal while keeping confrontation with the US below the critical threshold of tit-for-tat sanctions. It will also have to continue the diplomatic efforts of the past few months, trying to iron out the contentious elements of JCPOA with Iran and the US.

(CNBC) Oil buyers must cut all Iranian crude imports by November, State Dept says

(CNBC)

  • Companies that buy Iranian crude oil must completely cut those exports by the start of November, a senior State Department official told CNBC.
  • That indicates the Trump administration will not allow countries to gradually phase out Iranian crude exports over many months, as the Obama White House allowed.
  • Oil prices spiked following the announcement, which comes at a time when oil markets are finely balanced and crude futures have recently hit 3½-year highs.

Oil buyers have to cut Iranian crude imports by November, a U.S. State official says  

Companies that buy Iranian crude oil must completely cut those exports by the start of November or else they will face powerful U.S. sanctions, a senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.

The State Department has conveyed that message to European diplomats in recent talks, the official said. The Trump administration has not yet held talks with China, India or Turkey about their purchases of Iranian crude, but it intends to pressure them to entirely cut their imports under threat of sanctions, the official added.

Oil prices spiked following the announcement, which indicates that President Donald Trump will not follow the Obama administration model of allowing countries to gradually phase out Iranian crude exports over many months. The hardline approach comes at a time when oil markets are finely balanced and crude prices have recently hit 3½-year highs.

Iran, OPEC’s third biggest oil producer, exports more than 2 million barrels a day. OPEC and other oil producers including Russia agreed last week to ease production caps that have been in place for 18 months in order to prevent prices from spiking as Venezuela’s output continues to sink and the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s exports loom.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May to pursue a maximum pressure campaign. At the time, his administration gave foreign companies either 90 or 180 days to wind down their business with Iranian counterparts, depending on the type of commercial activity.

A crucial question was whether the Trump administration would follow the model President Barack Obama put in place. His administration asked buyers to cut their imports of Iranian crude by 20 percent every 180 days when it ramped up its pressure campaign against Iran.

Oil hits 1-month high on Iran sanctions

Oil hits 1-month high on Iran sanctions  

If Trump followed the same model, that could have pushed the impact into the first half of 2019, according to RBC Capital Markets. But the State Department confirmed on Tuesday that Iranian crude buyers should be reducing purchases now, with the goal of zeroing out their purchases by Nov. 4, the 180-day mark from Trump’s nuclear deal pullout and the renewal of U.S. sanctions.

“That is why we’ve offered this window since May 8, as sort of a drawdown period,” the senior State Department official said.

The United States was able to quickly cut Iran’s shipments under Obama, largely because it had the support of its European allies. European countries imposed their own sanctions on Iranian crude exports, which wiped out the Continent’s purchases in about six months.

In contrast, Britain, France, Germany and the wider European Union have voiced strong opposition to Trump’s pullout and put in place measures designed to protect their companies from so-called secondary sanctions. Those secondary sanctions punish companies that engaged in sanctioned business with Iranian entities, threatening to lock them out of the massive U.S. market and isolate them from the international financial system.

The State Department official said diplomats have been in Europe garnering support for the U.S. position among the EU3, isolating streams of Iranian funding and highlighting “the totality of Iran’s malign behavior across the region.”

“On the diplomatic front, we have had secondary sanctions in place in Iran since 1996,” the official said. “These are discussions we are extremely used to having. We have a lot of diplomatic muscle memory” for urging partners to cut Iranian oil purchases.

To be sure, the United States has had secondary sanctions on the book for more than 20 years, but Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush chose not to enforce them for fear of sparking a diplomatic crisis and trade war with Europe.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal lifted sanctions on Iran in exchanged for its leaders in Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear program and allowing inspectors into its atomic facilities. The Trump administration left the deal after failing to reach an agreement with European partners over expanding the conditions to include limiting Iran’s ballistic missile program, addressing its role in Middle East conflicts and extending key parts of the accord that begin to expire in 2025.

The administration does not expect to grant any waivers to companies that purchase Iranian oil or invest in its energy industry, the official said.

(BBG) Iran Plans to Create a Secondary Forex Market

(BBG) Iran plans to establish a secondary market for foreign exchange to help get around a dollar shortage that has hurt trade and is likely to worsen as U.S. sanctions resume.

The secondary market will allow exporters of non-oil commodities to sell their foreign currency earnings to importers of consumer products, the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Central Bank Governor Valiollah Seif as saying.

The introduction of a secondary foreign exchange market is the latest in a series of steps Iran has taken to reduce the impact of renewed sanctions on its economy.

Even before Donald Trump announced in May that the U.S. would be leaving the nuclear accord, Iran’s central bank imposed tight restrictions on foreign currency transactions in an effort to shut down a flourishing black market and halt a slump in the value of the rial against the dollar.

The Islamic Republic has also sought to wean its economy off the dollar by doing more trade in the euro and other currencies, though traders and analysts say that will not be enough to mitigate the impact of sanctions on its economy.

(BBG) Iran Can Block OPEC Agreement, Yet Saudi Arabia Can Bypass Veto

(BBG) Bloomberg’s Annemarie Hordern reports on OPEC’s upcoming meeting.

Even with Iran threatening to block an increase in OPEC’s oil production, Saudi Arabia still has options.

Tehran says it has Iraqi and Venezuelan support to veto any proposal for more output, a position taken by both Saudi Arabia and Russia. “If the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Russia want to increase production, this requires unanimity,” Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, Iran’s OPEC representative, said on Sunday, before the group meets in Vienna on Friday.

The statute of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries does indeed give any member the right to block any deal, under Article 11 C:

“Each Full Member Country shall have one vote. All decisions of

the Conference, other than on procedural matters, shall require

the unanimous agreement of all Full Members.”

Yet Saudi Arabia can still bypass a veto. First, it can block any formal OPEC-wide communique. Then, it can gather a coalition of supporters within the group and publish its own statement, which could outline a new production policy.

That’s exactly what happened 18 years ago, when Iran rejected a Saudi-backed plan to boost output. Back then, eight countries joined the Saudis, resulting in an OPEC-9 communique that excluded Iran and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia may not choose that option this time. Unless it has backing from beyond its core supporters within OPEC, traditionally Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, it risks appearing isolated.

That leaves the option of no communique at all. That happened in 2011 when then-Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi walked out, saying the group had “one of the worst meetings we have ever had”. Within hours, the Saudis set their own policy unilaterally.

Another option for the Saudis is to accept defeat on a formal production increase, but start cheating on output quotas. While that would also be in line with OPEC tradition, it would be a first for Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih, who has stuck scrupulously to the agreements.

Iran acknowledged that both Saudi Arabia and Russia, which is part of the wider OPEC+ agreement, can bypass a veto, but warned that any such move would lead to the disintegration of the 2016 deal that has helped oil prices to more than double.

“If the two want to act alone, that’s a breach of the cooperation agreement,” Kazempour Ardebili said. “The market is well-supplied, and OPEC should abide by its decision up to the end of the year.”