Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eye on Iran: U.S. House to Vote on Iran Sanctions Act Renewal as Soon as November

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The Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives plan a vote as soon as mid-November on a 10-year reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act, congressional aides told Reuters on Tuesday, setting up a potential showdown with the White House and Senate. The Iran Sanctions Act, or ISA, which expires on Dec. 31, allows trade, energy, defense and banking industry sanctions over Iran's nuclear program and ballistic missile tests. Its fate is one of the major pieces of unfinished business facing lawmakers when they return to Washington on Nov. 14 for the first time after the Nov. 8 elections. U.S. Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is expected to introduce the 10-year renewal as soon as Congress gets back, aides said. Congressional aides said a "clean" renewal, meaning unchanged from the current legislation, was likely to pass the House. Its fate in the Senate was much less certain, and a White House spokesman would not say whether President Barack Obama would sign it into law... Obama's administration had asked Congress to hold off on renewing the ISA, saying it has enough power to reimpose economic sanctions if Iran violates the nuclear agreement even if it expires. White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to say how Obama would respond to the bill if it passed both houses of Congress and reached his desk. "I won't prejudge at this point whether or not the president would sign that bill," Earnest told reporters traveling with the president in Los Angeles.

The Iranian government in recent weeks has handed down a string of lengthy prison sentences to American citizens born in Iran, a move that experts say could signal the country's interest in a prisoner swap or payoff. A San Diego man received an 18-year sentence on Monday, according to his girlfriend, who spoke over the phone with him after he was convicted of collaboration with a hostile government - the United States - and blasphemy. Reza "Robin" Shahini's conviction, first reported by Vice News, comes one week after two U.S. citizens, Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, each got 10 years in prison on the same charge of collaborating with the U.S. government. The sentences underscore a power struggle within Iran in advance of March elections, with the country's hard-liners angling for leverage to get some kind of deal, said several Iran scholars."They're bargaining people's lives as if they're trading Persian carpets," said Karim Sadjadpour, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Oftentimes, these almost comically harsh sentences are simply meant to increase the value of these prisoners in the event of any quid pro quo with the United States."

Iran on Wednesday urged Asian companies to invest in the country, saying the lifting of nuclear-linked sanctions had opened vast opportunities, but campaigners warned firms they might end up aiding "terrorism". Central bank governor Valiollah Seif told a business summit in Singapore that reforms put in place since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013 helped restore economic stability, while the lifting of sanctions had reintegrated the economy with the rest of the world... Advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran cautioned foreign companies against doing business with Tehran, running a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times Asia edition Wednesday panning the summit. "Any international company doing business in Iran could find itself inadvertently supporting terrorism -- from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen," said Mark D. Wallace, chief executive of UANI. But Seif said the lifting of the nuclear-linked sanctions "has created unprecedented opportunities for investors" in Iran.


Iran's intelligence minister normally does not find himself on the receiving end of criticism by fellow hard-liners asking how he could possibly have overlooked a visit by a gay state legislator from the United States. But that is what happened on Tuesday in Iran's Parliament, where the minister, Mahmoud Alawi, faced tough questioning about a six-day visit this summer by Jim Dabakis, a state senator from Utah and the Democratic Party's state chairman, who is gay. Mr. Alawi's answer: His agents knew the visitor's every move... Mr. Alawi's disclosure was news to Mr. Dabakis, an art dealer in Salt Lake City who has advocated cultural exchanges between the United States and Iran to ease the countries' decades-old estrangement. He also visited Iran in 2010. "I'm just surprised that Iranian intelligence doesn't have anything better to do," Mr. Dabakis said in a telephone interview. Mr. Dabakis said Tuesday that he had planned to travel to Iran again next year, but the uproar caused by his recent visit was giving him second thoughts. "I wouldn't feel comfortable going unless I get a personal invitation from the supreme leader," he said.

Iran's carpet makers are distancing themselves from their government in promoting their handmade work as they seek to regain valuable U.S. sales and protect jobs following the removal of economic sanctions. "Iranian carpets are produced by female and male weavers who are managed by the private sector, so the government does not have a big influence," Hamid Kargar, head of the Iran National Carpet Center, said in an emailed response to questions for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit... "We are trying to show in our advertisements that Iranian carpets are independent from the government, that they are artistic products that carry a message of peace and friendship to the world," Kargar, who runs the business promotion body that sits within Iran's commerce ministry.

Almost a month has passed since the government of Iran sentenced U.S. Legal Permanent Resident Nizar Zakka to 10 years in captivity and fined millions of dollars. Mr. Zakka was unlawfully detained by Iranian officials in September 2015 in Tehran and has since been held hostage by the Iranian regime. In addition to the denial of due process, Mr. Zakka has yet to receive necessary medical attention as his health has rapidly declined and becomes more critical. Mr. Zakka's U.S. attorney, Jason I. Poblete, has released the following statement urging the United States government and other responsible parties to take immediate action to secure his unconditional release on humanitarian grounds.


A new round of talks between Iran and UOP LLC Petroleum industry company of America has kicked off over investment and supply of new technologies. Association of Petrochemical Industry Corporations (APIC) announced that a fresh round of negotiations has begun between Iran's petrochemical officials and three major American and European petrochemical companies with the main axes of talks being construction of new polymer units, knowledge and technology transfer as well as issuance of license for new petchem plans. On the sidelines of K Trade Fair 2016, the world's premier fair for the plastics and rubber industry in Germany, high ranking officials of Iran's petrochemical industry held meetings with authorities of France's Total and Air Liquide as well as America's UOP, formerly known as Universal Oil Products.

India and Iran aim to strike a deal by March to develop an Iranian gas field with estimated in-place reserves of 18.75 trillion cubic feet, the Indian government said in a statement on Wednesday. A consortium headed by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas investment arm of Indian explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp , discovered the Farzad B gas field in the Farsi offshore block in 2008. The consortium, which also includes Oil India and Indian Oil Corp, could not obtain permission to develop the field due to Western sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme, but those sanctions were removed earlier this year. OVL is preparing a master plan for development of the gas field, while also working on a pricing formula, the statement said.

The U.K. removed its sanctions on Bank Saderat. The U.K. Treasury's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation said Monday in a brief notice that the U.K. removed its sanctions on Iran-based Bank Saderat, as well as London-based Bank Saderat PLC. It did so, according to the notice, because a European regulation published in April, following the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, held that sanctions would remain on the two branches until Saturday, Oct. 22. "As that date has now passed, Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Saderat PLC are no longer subject to the restrictive measures set out in the regulation, including the asset freeze," the notice said.


Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they had developed a "suicide drone" capable of delivering explosives to blow up targets at sea and on land. The new drone is primarily for maritime surveillance and "has not been designed to be armed with missiles," the Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Guards, reported. "(But) it can carry heavy payloads of explosives for combat missions to launch suicide attacks. "Flying at a high cruising speed near the surface of the water, the aircraft can collide with the target and destroy it, either a vessel or an onshore command centre."


The Islamic Jihad Islamist movement staged a public show of force in the Gaza Strip on Friday, with its leader praising Iran and criticising Arab states... Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah spoke via a video link, using his speech to accuse some Arab countries of abandoning the Palestinian cause. "If the Arabs turn their backs on Palestine and embrace Israel, they can no longer condemn the resistance for taking support from Iran," Shalah said, without naming any countries. "(Iran) is the only country which commits to the unending support of the Palestinian cause."

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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