Monday, March 27, 2017

Eye on Iran: U.S. Sanctions 30 Firms, Individuals For Aiding Iran

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The United States has imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile program or for violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria, the State Department said on Friday. Eleven companies or individuals from China, North Korea or the United Arab Emirates were sanctioned for technology transfers that could boost Tehran's ballistic missile program, the State Department said in a statement. Nineteen entities or individuals were sanctioned for other violations under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act, it said. They are believed to have transferred or acquired sensitive technology that could contribute to development of weapons of mass destruction.

Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 US. companies for alleged human rights violations and cooperating with Israel, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, in a tit-for-tat reaction to a move by Washington. The agency quoted Iran's foreign ministry as saying the companies had "flagrantly violated human rights" and cooperated with Israel in its "terrorism" against the Palestinians and the expansion of Jewish settlements. It was not immediately clear if any of the companies, which included defense technology firm Raytheon, had any dealings with Iran or whether they would be affected in any way by Tehran's action, which IRNA said would include seizure of their assets and a ban on contacts with them. The sanctioned companies also included ITT Corporation, United Technologies and specialty vehicles maker Oshkosh Corp.

As U.S. influence wanes across the Middle East, Iran and Russia have joined forces to expand their power in the region, strengthening political and diplomatic ties and stepping up joint military operations in Syria. In a sign of the closer relations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is slated to travel Monday to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is expected to be Rouhani's last major trip before he faces reelection in May. Together, the two countries have fought Syrian rebels, sidelined the United States from regional diplomacy and embraced each other as bulwarks against the West. In a meeting Tuesday, Putin and Rouhani are scheduled officially to discuss projects in areas such as energy, infrastructure and technology. Unofficially, however, the talks are likely to be dominated by their tacit alliance in the Middle East. "The visit shows the importance that Russia has in Iranian foreign policy. For Russia, Iran is one of their most important political allies," said Mohsen Milani, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida.


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the Trump administration "has put Iran on notice," and will not tolerate Iranian efforts to "destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel's security" His comments Sunday night in Washington came at the opening of the three-day annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Pence said U.S. commitment to Israel is "non-negotiable," and that President Donald Trump is committed to finding a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He also said the president is seriously considering moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such a move could seriously impair peace efforts, with Palestinians viewing East Jerusalem as the capital of their state under a two-state solution.

The family of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran a decade ago on an unauthorized CIA assignment has filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic, accusing it of using "cold, cynical and false denials" to torture his loved ones. The lawsuit by Robert Levinson's family in U.S. federal court comes years after the last hostage photos and video of the 69-year-old investigator surfaced in emails they say were sent by Iran so the country "would not be held responsible for his ultimate fate." The lawsuit also describes in detail offers by Iran to "arrange" for his release in exchange for a series of concessions, including the return of a Revolutionary Guard general who defected to the West. "Iran has, for many years, established a pattern of seizing and holding hostages in order to extract concessions from the hostage's home country," the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington reads. "That Robert Levinson's seizure is a part of that pattern is reflected in Iran's multiple attempts to use Robert Levinson's imprisonment to extort concessions from the United States."

Iran denied on Saturday U.S. accusations that its fast-attack boats were "harassing" warships at the mouth of the Gulf, and said Washington would be responsible for any clashes in the key oil shipping route. U.S. Navy commanders earlier accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by "harassing" warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash. They spoke after the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted what one of the commanding officers described as two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait on Tuesday on a journey from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf.


In a statement on Sunday, the CBI announced that it would use all means at its disposal to protest and appeal the decision by the Luxembourg court, adding that legal efforts would continue until the rights of the Iranian nation are restored. "The recent decision by the court in Luxembourg does not mean the recognition and enforcement of the US court verdict and the aforementioned seizure [of assets] only is a preliminary measure, which can be countered through various means," it said. "There are numerous means available under Luxembourg laws to counter it, such as protesting and appealing the verdict at higher courts, and the Central Bank [of Iran], with the cooperation of the Iranian Presidency's Center for International Legal Affairs, will make the utmost use of the above means," the statement added.


After years shunning Iran, Western businesses are bursting through the country's doors. France's Peugeot and Renault SA are building cars. The U.K.'s Vodafone Group PLC is teaming up with an Iranian firm to build up network infrastructure. Major oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC have signed provisional agreements to develop energy resources. And infrastructure giants, including Germany's Siemens AG, have entered into agreements for large projects. After Iran's nuclear accord with world powers lifted a range of sanctions, many foreign investors began to push into the promising market of 80 million people, setting off skirmishes among European and Asian companies eager to gain a step on more cautious American rivals. Peugeot Middle East chief Jean-Christophe Quemard says his company's early entry has left American competitors in the dust "This is our opportunity to accelerate," he said in February.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran welcomed Russian investment in its gas and oil fields, signaling major developments in energy cooperation between the two countries. "There is a huge potential for Russian investment in Iran's energy sector," Rouhani told reporters at Mehrabad airport in Tehran before departing for Moscow. "Some oil and gas fields have been suggested to Russian companies... We will see a big development in energy cooperations," he said in a news conference broadcast live on state television.

Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that the third of the 100 planes it purchased from Airbus following a landmark nuclear with world powers has joined its commercial fleet. The now Iran Air A330 jet landed in Tehran Saturday after a flight from Toulouse, France, home to the headquarters of the European consortium. It has 32 business and 206 economy class seats. Iran Air received its first and the second planes from Airbus in January and March. Iran's flag carrier sealed a deal with Airbus in December for 100 planes. It separately reached an agreement to buy 80 planes from Boeing. Most of Iran's 250 commercial planes were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 2016, only about two thirds of them were operational because spare part shortages.


Turkey seeks to justify its expansionist and interventionist policies in the region by accusing other countries, Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday, reacting to recent remarks by the Turkish president. Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Iran on Saturday of adopting and pursuing "racist and discriminatory" policies in Iraq, what Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed as "unacceptable and unjustifiable." "By accusing others and repeating fictitious claims, they [Turkish officials] are trying to justify their meddlesome and expansionist policies toward their neighbors," Qassemi said. Elsewhere, he dismissed comments made by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak. The Turkish official claimed that some three million refugees, mostly Afghans, were trying to go to Turkey from Iran, expressing concern that Iran was "ignoring their demand for migration." Qassemi said, "Iran has been hosting millions of refugees from its neighboring countries for more than 30 years."

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah made the remarks to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony at Bangladeshi Embassy in Kuwait City on Sunday, the official Kuwait News Agency reported. A ministerial meeting of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a body of regional Arab states, would address the issue of potential dialog with Iran on Thursday, he added. He also said his country had informed leaders of other Persian Gulf states of the content of a recent message relayed to the emirate by the Islamic Republic. The official message by President Hassan Rouhani was submitted by Iranian Ambassador Alireza Enayati to Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah on March 13. The top Kuwaiti diplomat visited Tehran in late January, bearing a message from the GCC. The message reportedly described a "basis of dialog" between the organization's Arab states and the Islamic Republic.


Bahrain said on Sunday it had broken an Iranian-linked "terrorist cell" suspected of involvement in a bomb attack on a police bus in February and plotting to assassinate senior officials, state news agency BNA reported. The agency quoted an Interior Ministry statement as saying that the 14-member cell was working under direct supervision from two exiled Bahrainis living in Iran, one of them recently designated by the United States as a "global terrorist". Tensions have been rising in the kingdom since last year after authorities stepped up a crackdown on dissent, banning the main opposition group al-Wefaq, arresting a leading activist and critic of the government and revoking the citizenship of the spiritual leader of the country's majority Shi'ites.


Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, has condemned as "selective and spiteful" the U.N. Human Rights Council's resolution to renew the mandate of the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, saying it was a politically-motivated move by a few countries abusing U.N. mechanisms, according to state TV. Ghasemi said Friday that the U.N. Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the special rapporteur on Iran for the seventh consecutive year despite the lack of endorsement by the majority of member states, and through reliance on the vote of a "certain political bloc" and its few allies in the region. The spokesman said such a "confrontational policy and destructive and failed approach" pursued through the "exertion of pressure on other countries" would regrettably undermine the U.N.'s credibility.


Ibrahim cannot remember the last time he could afford to feed his family chicken - the cheapest meat available in Iran. The 38-year-old builder, who relies on casual work, says that finances have been so tough that he could not afford to buy his children clothes for the Persian new year. The festival, which began last week, is normally a time for feasting and celebration. "My income this year has been just enough to stop me begging in the streets," says Ibrahim, who lives in a poor neighbourhood in the east of the capital Tehran. "My bank account has had zero money for most of this year, unlike before when I could save small amounts." It is nearly two years since the Islamic Republic agreed with western powers a plan to curb its nuclear programme, raising widespread expectations that the country's economic suffering would ease. But more than a year after some sanctions were lifted, many say they have yet to see their situation improve. With Iran set to go to the polls in May, this adds to pressure on centrist president Hassan Rouhani, already facing opposition from hardliners.

Iran's state TV says a significantly higher number of Iranians are seeking to run in the municipal elections next month. Monday's report says 287,000 hopefuls - or 14 percent more than four years ago - submitted their candidacies, hoping to be approved to contest the vote for the nearly 110,000 members for city councils across Iran. The candidates had a week to register and those approved will be announced by a parliament-led committee early next month. Municipal councils, set up in the 1990s, choose city mayors and decide on the spending of their constituencies' budgets. The May 19 vote is to be held at the same time as the country's presidential election. Under the law, Iran's current President Hassan Rouhani is eligible to run for another term in office.


In June 2016, the Department of Justice and the Eastern District of New York announced the guilty plea of a US. citizen of Turkish descent, Erdal Kuyumcu, 44, of Woodside, New York, on a charge of conspiring to sell to Iran specialized metallic powder composed of cobalt and nickel and applicable in nuclear and missile programs. Kuyumcu was arrested in March 2016. From January 2013 until February 2015, Kuyumcu, who was CEO of the U.S. company Global Metallurgy, acted as an intermediary for an unidentified Iranian procurement agent and an unidentified Turkish representative who owned an unidentified company based in Turkey to procure metallic powder and deceive U.S. suppliers about its end destination Kuyumcu helped arrange for some 1,000 pounds of the commodity to be shipped to Turkey where it was sent onward to Iran.1 The Department of Justice characterized the metallic powder as having uses to "coat gas turbine components, including turbine blades, and can be used in aerospace, missile production and nuclear applications."2 The exports were in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). A U.S. Department of Commerce post-shipment check uncovered the scheme when an agent visited the Turkish company, met with the Turkish representative, and viewed documents indicating the goods had been exported to Iran.

What the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington said earlier this week in a panel discussion on the Iranian nuclear deal should attract the administration's appropriate attention. Yousef al-Otaiba stated in a Carnegie conference in Washington, D.C. that the UAE is not pleased with its nuclear compact. Iran got a better nuclear deal than us, he said, and "it continues to keep its uranium enrichment program, while we made a commitment to forgo uranium enrichment," suggesting that others in the Middle East might want the same uranium enrichment capability Iran has. The UAE will soon be the first Arab state with a civilian nuclear program. The country's first of four reactors is scheduled to be operational in a few months, barring any delays.

Iran has been continuing its series of blatant measures in defiance of norms accepted as standard by the international community, all as the Trump administration continues to weigh on blacklisting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Iran has gone as far as pledging to launch "roaring missiles" in response to threats. To this day, several ballistic missile launches - capable of delivering nuclear payloads - have been Tehran's report card. Reports also show Iran increasing its support of the Houthis in Yemen by providing "Kamikazi" drones, water and airborne, to threaten shipping lines in Bab el-Mandeb and most certainly Saudi Navy ships, as weapons analysts confirmed forces aligned with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh are also using these weapons to target missile-defense systems used by Saudi-led coalition units.

'Harkat al Nujaba' or the 'Movement of the Nobles' is not temerarious enough to contend the Arabic language printed by the Iranians on placards carried by masked members to declare the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade. The Golan name is misspelled missing the introducatory 'al' that precedes Golan as it should be written in the Arabic language. Nonetheless - exactly like 'nobles; - they "toed the line" and raised the banner. They also released propaganda videos showing members of the movement carrying banners that read: "Israel will be destroyed". The militia's official spokesperson, Hashim al Mussawi, said in a press conference on March 8 in Tehran that the new unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region occupied by Israel since 1967, a verdict he left entirely to Damascus to take, saying: "Should the Syrian government make the request, we are ready to participate in the liberation of occupied Golan with our allies. Unquestionably, the unit in concert with the regime, is likely to participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition on the part of the Golan still controlled by Syria prior any "full liberation" of the Golan.

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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