Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran Struggles To Coax Bank Of England To Open Clearing Accounts

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Iran has asked the Bank of England to set up special clearing accounts for its banks, but has so far been rebuffed in its effort to resolve an impasse that has left it excluded from banking in London more than a year after sanctions were lifted. Tehran has been hoping for swift reintegration into global trade after its deal in 2015 aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions. Its failure to persuade Western banks to accept its business has been one of the main choke points preventing its rehabilitation. Banking sources from both Iran and the West, and Iranian political sources close to the talks, said Tehran has approached the Bank of England to seek clearing accounts directly with the UK central bank.

Key lawmakers in the House and Senate are racing to craft bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation before the nation's largest pro-Israel lobby holds its policy conference starting this weekend, March 26. The annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) offers an ideal environment for congressional action as thousands of eager activists descend on Capitol Hill on March 28. With barely a week to go, the relevant Senate panel remains deadlocked while its House counterpart hopes to shortly strike a deal, according to multiple sources in Congress and pro-Israel groups. The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told Al-Monitor last week he has "confidence" he can hammer something out with Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. "We're still negotiating it, and like everything I do with the chairman I'm hopeful we'll have a meeting of the minds," Engel said. "It won't take forever."

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned late on Monday that if the United States continues reneging on its commitments under the nuclear deal to the extent that Iran sees the keeping of the deal not in conformity with its national interests the Islamic Republic will resume its nuclear activities with "even greater" speed. The July 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, went into effect in January 2016. According to the JCPOA, Iran put limits on its nuclear activities in return for a termination of all nuclear related sanctions. To back up his statement, Zarif told reporters in Isfahan that Iranian experts have succeeded to develop the country's "most advanced" centrifuges which are capable of refining uranium 20 times more than the old generations, ISNA reported.


President Donald Trump is telling a delegation from Iraq that "nobody" can figure out why President Barack Obama signed a nuclear agreement with Iran. In his first meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Trump says Iran is one of the issues his team will discuss with the Iraqi delegation. Trump says they'll also address what he calls the "vacuum" that was created when the Islamic State group claimed Iraq. The president also says "we shouldn't have gone in" to Iraq in the first place.


An informed resource said, most probably, banking issues have caused a delay in delivery of the third Airbus aircraft to Iran Air. As quoted by IRIB from Paris, the informed resource said Iran's third purchased aircraft from Airbus Airbus Aerospace company was not delivered according to the schedule mainly due to banking restrictions rather than technical issues. An A330 aero plane was scheduled to be handed over to Iran Air, the Iranian national flag carrier, prior to beginning of the new Persian calendar year Nowruz though the process has been postponed to following days. "Banking restrictions rather than technical issues have most probably caused the delay in the delivery process," he underlined.


SK Engineering & Construction (E&C) has bagged a 4.1 trillion won ($3.6 billion) contract to build and operate new power plants in Iran. According to an SK E&C official, Sunday, the construction firm purchased a 30 percent stake in UNIT International, Turkey's energy giant. Under the deal, SK E&C is expected to participate in the Turkish firm's ongoing project to build and operate five new gas-fired power plants in Iran. SK E&C will build and operate five new power plants in five locations throughout the country, Iran's largest private energy project ever to produce a combined generation capacity of 5,000 megawatts. "The project is monumental," Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kang Ho-in said.

Iran started pumping oil from the oil layer of South Pars gas field (in the Persian Gulf), on Sunday, Gholam-Reza Manouchehri, the deputy managing director of National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for engineering and development affairs, announced. The official put the initial production from each well of the layer at 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) which will reach 35,000 bpd within 5-7 days, Shana news agency reported. South Pars, a supergiant gas field Iran shares with Qatar in Persian Gulf waters, is estimated to contain over 14 billion barrels of oil in its oil layer.  The field is also estimated to contain a significant amount of natural gas, accounting for about eight percent of the world's reserves, and approximately 18 billion barrels of condensate.


Even if world powers and Iran had not agreed to the recent nuclear deal aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining atomic weapons capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, the Islamic Republic would still imperil Israel's security, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Tuesday morning.  "As long as the current regime exists, with the nuclear agreement or without it, Iran will continue to serve as the main threat to Israel's security," he said in an address at the Meir Dagan Memorial Conference on Security and Strategy at Netanya College. The head of Israel's national intelligence agency asserted that while Iran's aspirations of bolstering its regional power and influence "remain the same, its methods of operation are changing."  Cohen therefore indicated that Israel should seek "opportunities for cooperation and, above all, for peace," with moderate Arab states in the Middle East.  "The defense establishment should focus on enemies in the region, study them, get to know them in depth, compel them when it is needed, and it will be required," he added.


Iran's Quds Force plotted with the aid of a paid Pakistani man to surveil --and possibly assassinate--the head of the French-Israeli chamber of commerce, according to revelations from a Monday court proceeding in Berlin and German media reports.The daily Berliner Zeitung reported that the 31-year-old Pakistani Syed Mustafa spied on the French-Israel business professor David Rouach who teaches at the elite  Ecole SupĂ©rieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP)  and served as head of the French-Israeli chamber of commerce. Quds Force, a US-classified terrorist entity, is part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and paid Mustafa at least 2,052 euros between July 2015 and July 2016. Rouach is expected to testify on Tuesday. The federal prosecutor Michael Greven said at an earlier proceeding that a collection of surveillance activities took place to prepare for possible attacks. Mustafa amassed information on Rouach from July until August 2015.


Thousands of fighters under Iranian command and more than 10 generals have been killed on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq during the ongoing conflicts, a report said. The report by the Israel-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, citing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, put the number of Iranian losses at 2,603. The report claimed that "the number of losses, especially of so many senior officers, is the reason Iran's military footprint in Syria and Iraq has fallen from thousands to hundreds," the Jerusalem Post reported on March 19. Overall, the Meir Amit report says the broader significance is that Teheran "is becoming a much more secondary player in directing the Assad regime, with primary military backup and direction now coming from Russia."


Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained while trying to leave the country with her baby daughter in April 2016. Her sister-in-law, Rebecca Jones, a GP who works in Cwmbran, Torfaen, said the Foreign Office should "publicly condemn" what has happened. The Foreign Office said it had supported the family since the arrest. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe - a charity worker from London - was sentenced to five years in prison in September on charges that have not been disclosed. An appeal was launched but the ruling was upheld in January. Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, ahead of an event in Cardiff to mark the plight of her sister-in-law, Dr Jones said: "It would be nice if someone high up in the government publicly condemned this.

After almost a year of calm, spraying people with burning acid has returned in Iran where a family of four has been attacked on Saturday in Sharada, within Isfahan province, Iran's top tourist destination. Last month, unidentified people also attacked two women in Maashour, within the Ahwaz province, according to Iranian news agencies. Isfahan's Investigative Police Chief Sitar Khasraoui said in press statement that the families were taken to the hospital to treat the burns. The family consists of the father, 53, the mother, 48, the son, 23, and the daughter, 20. Both parents are said to be in critical condition.


During seven years in Iran's Evin prison, six of them isolated in a wing on his own, Mostafa Tajzadeh says he "buried grudges and hatred". Now, Mr Tajzadeh, one of Iran's highest profile reformist politicians, is calling for reconciliation with the regime hardliners who jailed him in what he says is a necessary move to "save" Iran from foreign and domestic threats. His sentiments reflect growing concerns that Iranians' hopes for economic prosperity and political stability are being undermined by a confluence of local and global events. The election of President Donald Trump has raised tensions with the US just as an intense power struggle plays out ahead of crucial elections in May at which Hassan Rouhani, the centrist president, is expected to seek a second term. Mr Trump, who has attacked the 2015 nuclear deal that led to the lifting of sanctions on Iran, has already put Tehran "on notice", raising the prospect of new economic curbs or even military confrontation.


Two months into the Trump presidency, uncertainty and confusion about U.S. foreign policy in general, and its policy in the Middle East in particular, continue to puzzle experts and decision makers around the globe. Regarding Iran, the administration has been sending mixed signals, making it difficult to understand its intended policy. On the one hand, the new administration has continued the tough anti-Iran rhetoric that Trump adopted during his election campaign. On Feb. 1, after Iran tested several ballistic missiles, then-national security adviser Michael Flynn put Iran "on notice" for its "provocative missile test and for its arming and training of the Houthi rebels in Yemen." Two days later, Washington imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile program.

In June 2014, Mosul was seized by the Islamic State (IS), whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi soon afterward announced a caliphate from the city's grand mosque. Now the caliphate is seemingly coming to an end. Iraqi government forces took the eastern part of Mosul from IS on Jan. 24 after three months of fighting. On March 15, a spokesman for Iraq's Counterterrorism Service said 60% of the western part of Mosul is under the control of Iraqi security forces The day before, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said the operation is in its final stage, pledging the defeat of IS. But military victory in Mosul is just the beginning of a more complicated phase for Iraq. Disparate forces have so far come together to pursue the common objective of expelling IS from Iraq. With the imminent achievement of this goal, many underlying and preceding power struggles will likely re-emerge.

When Challenging Iran In Gulf, Don't Ditch Entire Obama Playbook | Owen Daniels For The Hill

Confronting the challenge posed by Iran appears high on the Trump administration's list of Middle East priorities. While pledging to enforce the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the administration has aimed to put Iran "on notice" by imposing sanctions for its January ballistic missile test, weighing a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), adding Iran to its list of travel ban countries, and formulating a plan to drive a "wedge" between Iran and Russia in the Middle East. The need for tougher action against Iran is premised on the Obama administration's avoidance of direct confrontation with Iranian-backed forces, including the brutal Bashar Assad regime in Syria and Shiite militias in Iraq, with whom it has at times tacitly aligned against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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 press@uani.com.

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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