Thursday, October 27, 2016

Eye on Iran: Iran Accuses Europe of Not Fully Supporting Nuclear Deal

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A senior Iranian official has accused European governments of not being fully committed to implementation of a nuclear deal with Iran, blaming them for stymieing investment into the Islamic republic. Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan, deputy transport minister, told the Financial Times that European financing agencies were failing to support businesses keen to invest in the oil-rich country. Export credit agencies were demanding premiums on insurance that made banks insist on putting "unacceptable" terms in contracts related to political risk, he said. "Iran will not accept any clauses in trade agreements which insert political risks alongside commercial risks," said Mr Kashan, who is involved in Iran's negotiations over multibillion-dollar deals with Boeing and Airbus. "This is where European countries are failing to be committed to the nuclear agreement. One of the main reasons the signing of contracts in various sectors has been delayed is this issue."

Republican lawmakers say the Obama administration's controversial "ransom" paid to Iran earlier this year is fueling a new wave of harsh sentences being handed down in the country to Iranian-Americans. "President Obama's cash ransom payment to Iran makes Americans more vulnerable and encourages unjustified prison sentences and blatant kidnapping like this," Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio told on Wednesday. "Senior Justice Department officials warned the White House that Iran would view the pallets of cash as ransom, but the president didn't listen, and now Iran is taking more hostages and demanding more money." Rubio made the comment after Robin Shahini, who had been living in San Diego, was reportedly sentenced Monday to 18 years for "collaboration with a hostile government." A week earlier, Iran announced 10-year prison sentences each for Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi.

According to an announcement by Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), a high ranking trade delegation headed by Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave Tehran for Eastern Europe on November 7. Aiming for development of economic relations and the realization of post-JCPOA economic goals, the delegation will visit Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic during November 7 to 11.


The purity of the heavy water at Iran's Arak nuclear reactor (aka IR-40) has improved from 75.99 percent to 95.99 percent, said Presidential Office Director Mohammad Nahavandian. Noting that Iran has already exported heavy water to the United States and Russia, the official said plans are made to sell more the product to other countries, the president's official website reported October 24. "This means an undisputable victory for Iran in attending the global economy in nuclear energy," he stressed.

Iran's intelligence minister said Tuesday that a British-Iranian member of its nuclear negotiating team had been cleared of spying allegations, state media reported. Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, part of the team that secured a nuclear accord with world powers last year, was arrested in August and described by a judiciary spokesman as an "infiltrating spy." But in a written note to parliament, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said the case had been dropped, the official IRNA news agency reported. "According to the views of the intelligence ministry's experts, Mr Dorri Esfahani was not engaged in spying," the note said, according to deputy speaker Masoud Pezeshkian.


Secretary of Iran's SNSC Ali Shamkhani said the Iranian nation will not change its anti-Zionist and anti-American attitudes over marginal issues... Shamkhani referred to guided plots to distract attention from cruelty of the Zionist Regime to terrorism in Islamic countries reiterating "people of Iran would never alter their anti-Zionist and anti-American positioning with minute matters."

A U.S. permanent resident who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year says Tehran is demanding a ransom in exchange for his release. That demand is likely to rekindle complaints by Republicans that the Obama administration has given an incentive to Iran to take and hold hostages in return for ransom payments, by timing out a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January in order to ensure the release of four hostages... Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen and permanent resident of the United States, said through his attorney Tuesday that Iranian officials in April told him it would take as much as $2 billion to ensure his release from captivity. In September, Iranian officials lowered that amount to $4 million, and told him that he was spared the death penalty but would remain in prison for 10 years until the payments is made.

"I'm a U.S. citizen," Shahini said. "Let's put pressure on the Iranian government so that it will not happen to another citizen. Maybe I am Iranian, but I am also American." He said that once Iranian media outlets announce his sentencing, he will start a hunger strike. "I won't stop unless I am free or die," he said. Shahini has converted to Christianity, according to family members, which could add to his troubles with the Islamic Republic. His sister, Fatemeh Shahini, a former nurse who lives in San Diego, said the news of her brother's sentencing was "a nightmare."


Iran has held talks with South Korea as it seeks a return to the international bond market, according to Dr.Shapour Mohammadi, chairman of Iran's Securities and Exchange Organization (SEO). Mohammadi said Tehran is keen to return to regional and international capital markets in the near future, with South Korea likely to be the first market in which it will offer bonds, according to a report by the Security and Exchange News Agency. Any issue is likely to be in the form of Islamic bonds (sukuk). A South Korean delegation is currently in Iran to discuss financial links between the two countries. Jeong Eun-bo, vice chairman of South Korea's Financial Services Commission, has told Mohammadi that his country will support Iran in the development of its capital markets, according to the Yonhap News Agency... Any issue of bonds will almost certainly have to be accompanied by a credit rating from one of the major agencies. The SEO says that credit ratings agencies are due to be licensed "soon", but there is no clear timetable for when that might happen. Any sovereign issue would also pave the way for corporate issues.

Iran's crude oil exports are set to decline 5 percent in November to a four-month low, a source with knowledge of its preliminary tanker schedule said, as low seasonal demand in Europe takes the edge off its post-sanctions export bonanza. Iran's oil exports typically hit a low around October or November each year, reflecting peak refinery maintenance seasons in Europe and in Asia. Next month, however, shipments to Asia look to be steady to higher as China's purchases rebound from an October dip to its lowest Iran imports for the year so far. Overall, OPEC's third-largest producer has been regaining market share at a faster pace than analysts had projected since sanctions were lifted in January, with its exports of crude and condensate hitting a five-year high of 2.60 million barrels per day (bpd) or more in September... Compared with a year ago, Tehran's November crude exports are set to rise 156 percent, according to the source

Iran says it will soon sign six agreements with international energy giants over the development of its oil sector projects. Gholam-Reza Manouchehri, the deputy for engineering and development affairs of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), neither specified the companies nor the projects. Nevertheless, he did indicate that the projects are large scale. Manouchehri further emphasized that the companies that win oil sector deals in Iran will have to team up with locals. "The foreign companies will play a central role in the development of major fields," Manouchehri. "Still, they will have to use the help of Iranian companies for their projects". The official also added that Iranian companies can be only the project leader for the development of small fields and can to the same effect use the help of foreign enterprises. Elsewhere in his remarks, Manouchehri said that Iran has so far signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with 10 companies over the development of certain oil sector projects.  However, he did not name the companies and the projects for which they have signed the MoUs.

Iran has signed initial agreements with Germany's Hermes insurance firm and Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV) to provide cover for transactions with Europe, IRNA news agency says. The Export Guarantee Fund of Iran (EGFI) signed the agreements in Lisbon on the sidelines of the annual meeting of Bern Union, an association of private and state export credit insurers from around the world, it reported Wednesday. Under the agreement, the Iranian and European sides will cooperate on "exchange of economic, trade and banking information, reinsurance coverage, coinsurance, and training." IRNA quoted EGFI Managing Director Kamal Seyyed-Ali as saying that European export credit insurers were increasingly interested in financing projects after the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

South Africa's MTN Group has started the process of repatriating profits valued at over $1 billion from its 49% share in MTN-Irancell, Iran's second-largest mobile network operator. The situation of MTN-Irancell being part of the wider group of companies in the Islamic Republic, which earned large sums from its main pay-as-you-go subscribers has been vexing the company for long. Now, the telecommunications group expects to complete the transfer process within the next six months after the lifting of sanctions in its largest market in the Middle East... "We are pleased to report that we have commenced the repatriation of cash from MTN[-Irancell],"  executive chairperson, Phuthuma Nhleko, said on Monday... Neither MTN nor its local subsidiary Irancell named the bank facilitating the transfer.

It seems that the long discussed issue with Iran's so-called "Fourth Operator" is coming to a conclusion in finding a foreign investor. Iranian Net the company that got the monopoly to establish Iran's national fiber optic network which would've also enabled high-speed cable internet throughout the country had officially risen the white flag... According to Tasnim news, head of investment relations of MTN announced that MTN has a total of $1 billion revenue from Irancell and the loan that MTN gave Irancell. According to official sources, MTN plans to acquire 49% of the project as it also posses the same amount of share in Iran's second largest mobile operator Irancell.

Iran offers Russia's energy company Rosneft to participate in oil extraction and refining projects in the country, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told Sputnik Tuesday. "Rosneft is cooperating directly with the Petroleum Ministry and the headquarters [for Executing the Order of the Imam (Setad)]... The headquarters has various projects, and Rosneft may invest and participate in them," Sanaei said, specifying that these projects include both oil extraction and its processing.

Paris Ambassador to Tehran François Sénémaud announced that the French-based satellite provider, Eutelsat, plans to win [a] contract with Iran to build a satellite for the country. "The Eutelsat company seeks cooperation with the Iranian Space Agency and is preparing a draft of its proposals to participate in the tender for build a satellite," Sénémaud said in a meeting with Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi in Tehran on Saturday. He said that Eutelsat and the French telecommunications operator, Orange, are also in talks with the Iranian firms to increase mutual cooperation.

Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA) plans to dispatch a trade delegation headed by TCCIMA Chairman Masoud Khansari to Germany and Austria on November 20, the official website of TCCIMA announced. The visit will follow invitations made by the chambers of commerce of Austrian states of Kärnten and Steiermark and also the economy and industry office of Germany's Bavaria state in Iran. The Iranian delegates active in the fields of industrial equipment and machinery, vehicle and related parts, renewable energies, environmental technology and medical equipment, will visit their German and Austrian counterparts during their six-day visit.

A high-ranking trade delegation from Austria's Vorarlberg Commerce Chamber is to make a trip to Tehran in early November, the portal of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mine, and Agriculture (TCCIMA) reported on Monday. The delegation comprised of Austrian businessmen and industrialists active in various fields such as house construction, textile, petrochemicals, machineries, services, and etc., will meet their Iranian counterparts in TCCIMA building on November 7 to negotiate future cooperation.


The European Parliament in its full session in Strasbourg Tuesday adopted a resolution on a new EU strategy towards Iran following the nuclear agreement by 456 votes to 174. The resolution says that the EU should reset its relations with Iran through comprehensive, cooperative, critical and constructive dialogue. It advocates expanding trade with Iran, and calls for active EU diplomacy to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh. "My report stands for peace, an active diplomatic role for Europe, and a belief that by identifying common interest where it exists, that it is possible to build on it," said EP rapporteur of the report, Richard Howitt from the UK. The resolution notes that "the Iran nuclear deal was a notable achievement for multilateral diplomacy, and for European diplomacy in particular". It also warns that any backsliding by Iran on the nuclear dela "can lead to the reintroduction of sanctions". The EP supports the expansion of the EU's trading relations with Iran, which currently stand at about USD 8 billion, and believe it should aim towards making the EU Iran's main trading partner.


The European Parliament passed a last-minute amendment to a report on Iran, condemning the Islamic Republic for Holocaust denial and anti-Israel hate speech. With 590 in favor, 67 against and 36 abstentions, lawmakers at a plenary in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed the amendment, put forward by Dutch Liberal parliamentarian Marietje Schaake, that the house "Strongly condemns the Iranian regime's repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the regime's policy of denying the Holocaust." Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the AJC's EU office, said that "by clearly denouncing Tehran's antisemitic policies and threats against Israel, the European Parliament has corrected, with a wide majority, one of the report's most glaring shortcomings. We salute Parliament's principled stand on this critical issue. Unfortunately, another crucial amendment calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners and an end to systematic torture and other improvements to the text were rejected."

Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Monday that the fabricated Zionist regime is the rootcause of terrorism in the Middle East region orchestrated by western powers. Rafsanjani made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Austrian parliament vice-speaker Karlheinz Kopf. Rafsanjani said that nine million Palestinian displaced by the occupying Zionist regime have unclear fate and that the countries which brought Zionists to the Middle East region to get rid of their hardliners and backed the Zionists crimes and atrocities against Palestinian people should take a decisive measures to stop the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians.


The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) held a commemoration ceremony in Tehran on Friday for members of the Fatehin ("Conquerors") Special Unit of the Basij paramilitary killed in combat in Syria. IRGC chief commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari praised the Fatehin battalion, reaffirming ongoing plans to establish these units beyond Tehran province and across the country. Jafari told the media that he had given a report to the supreme leader about the expansion of the Fatehin... The Fatehin unit of Qom province held its first drill in September. The drill's motto was "the path to Jerusalem goes through Karbala," first proclaimed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, during the Iran-Iraq war... Mehdi Hadavandi, the commander of the Fatehin Basij Tehran unit as well as the unit's Syria operations, said the IRGC has set up "special courses" for "resistance forces," which include Iranian as well as proxies, for combat in Iraq and Syria... "Today we are witnessing the formation of the army of the Master of Time [12th Shiite Imam Mahdi who will herald the apocalypse] in Syria," proclaimed Hadavandi earlier this month at a ceremony for Ashura religious mourning ceremony in Tehran.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will travel to Moscow on Friday for three-way talks with his Syrian and Russian counterparts on the situation in Syria, his ministry said. Zarif will also hold a one-to-one meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said late Wednesday.


A veteran Christian leader is set to fill Lebanon's long-vacant presidency in a deal that underlines the ascendancy of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement and the diminished role of Saudi Arabia in the country. It appears all but certain that Michel Aoun will become president next week under an unlikely proposal tabled by Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri, whose Saudi-backed coalition opposed Hezbollah for years. Parliament will likely elect Aoun on Oct. 31. This will end one element of a paralyzing political crisis: the 29-month-long presidential vacuum. But it is also creating new tensions that may disrupt the formation of a new government expected to be led by Hariri under a deal with Aoun.


The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release writer and human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, following her arrest today, Amnesty International urged. Despite the fact that no official summons has been issued, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee's home was raided this morning by officials, who violently broke through her front door before taking her to Evin Prison in Tehran. It appears that she has been taken to the women's ward to begin serving her six-year sentence. She has been convicted of charges including "insulting Islamic sanctities," for writing an unpublished story about the horrific practice of stoning in Iran. Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee's husband, Arash Sadeghi, a human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, has since started a hunger strike in protest at her imprisonment.

Iran has been shaken by scandalous allegations against a top Qur'an reciter, who is accused of sexually abusing underage trainees, in the first case of its kind to cast a spotlight on the taboo topic. The allegations are unprecedented in the Islamic republic, where such figures are generally trusted by the public and claims of this nature are usually kept in the dark, with few victims known to have ever dared to come forward. In the past week, at least three male complainants have given separate interviews accusing Saeed Toosi, a prominent qari (someone who recites Muslims' holy book with a melodious sound), of sexual misconduct including rape while they were between the ages of 12 and 13... Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the judiciary chief, firmly defended his institution on Monday and, in comments seen as a warning to the victims, said those who who cooperated with "hostile media" - a reference to the banned TV networks - should be punished "so we know who is [loyal] to the revolution and who is not".


After missiles fired from the coast of Yemen (unsuccessfully) targeted a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12, U.S. officials unequivocally blamed the Shiite Houthi rebels that control Yemen's capital. U.S. forces responded to the attacks on the USS Mason by striking Houthi-held radar sites. U.S. officials have been more cautious, however, when it comes to describing Iran's role in the attacks against U.S. vessels and a another ship operated by the United Arab Emirates. It is natural that suspicion would fall on Iran: Tehran provides arms to the Houthis, and along with Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy militia, has reportedly provided the rebels with training and other assistance. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has said it's likely that Iran supplied the missiles that were fired at the USS Mason. U.S. military officials have equivocated, saying that the missiles could have been supplied by Iran but might also have been older models that the Houthis seized from the Yemeni government arsenal. Why the reticence? These attacks could have killed hundreds of U.S. sailors and servicemembers. Publicly blaming Iran is a serious matter. Such a decision would involve three steps.

The next president has an opportunity in the Middle East to reassure wavering allies, to tell them: "We're back and we're going to lead again." That sounds like something you might hear this month in an alternate reality, from the Rubio-Cheney campaign. After all, President Barack Obama would argue that he is already leading in the Middle East. But that is a quote from Michael Morell, a former deputy and acting director of the CIA and an adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign. He said this on Tuesday at the Center for American Progress, a think tank founded by the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, and headed today by the policy director of the 2008 Clinton campaign, Neera Tanden. Morell, who is likely to be tapped for a senior post in a Clinton administration, outlined a more robust role for the U.S. to counter Iran in the Middle East. For example, Morell said the U.S. should consider a new set of sanctions against Iran to punish its "malign behavior in the region." The Obama administration, on the other hand, has opposed efforts from Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal that lifted many of them... Morell's approach matches the one laid out in June by Jake Sullivan, Clinton's top national security adviser. He told the Truman Security Project: "We need to be raising the costs to Iran for its destabilizing behavior and we need to be raising the confidence of our Sunni partners."

Ever since the international deal over scaling back Iran's use of nuclear technology, there's been a lot of talk of a "thaw" in relations between Tehran and the West. In August, the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond spoke of a "new phase" in the relationship during a two-day trip to Iran. It was a historic visit and one which would have been almost unimaginable a few months earlier. Hammond was there to formally re-open Britain's embassy building in Tehran, five years after it was so unceremoniously sacked by a Union Jack-burning mob in 2011. Within days a new ambassador was installed in the embassy and perhaps most symbolically of all, British Airways resumed scheduled Heathrow-Tehran flights. All in all, a real diplomatic sea change then? Well only up to a point. Because when it comes to the issue of UK-Iranian dual nationals jailed in Iran, we seem to be stuck in the dark, pre-nuclear deal days. Having been the subject of high-profile media campaigns by their relatives in Britain, the names of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi are now fairly well known... Boris Johnson and his Foreign Office colleagues must do a lot more to secure proper justice for these British nationals. After all, what could be more symbolic of the entire Anglo-Iranian relationship than the situation of dual-nationals? If Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Foroughi are an embodiment of this relationship, then it's actually in a pretty parlous state.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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