Monday, June 5, 2017

Eye on Iran: CIA Creates New Mission Center to Turn Up the Heat on Iran

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The Central Intelligence Agency has established an organization focused exclusively on gathering and analyzing intelligence about Iran, reflecting the Trump administration's decision to make that country a higher priority target for American spies, according to U.S. officials. The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear the range of the agency's capabilities, including covert action. In that respect it is similar to a new Korea Mission Center that the CIA announced last month to address North Korea's efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles. The CIA didn't publicly announce the new Iran organization. The agency declined to comment.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world. Iran -- long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move -- immediately blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh. Gulf Arab states and Egypt have already long resented Qatar's support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which they regard as a dangerous political enemy. The coordinated move, with Yemen and Libya's eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC. Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Iran has stayed within limits on its nuclear activities imposed by a 2015 deal with world powers but is close to once again breaching a ceiling on its stock of one chemical, a quarterly report by the U.N. atomic watchdog showed on Friday. The report was the second since the January inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called the pact between six powers and Iran "the worst deal ever negotiated" and branded Tehran an enemy in contrast with his predecessor Barack Obama. Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium as of May 27 was 79.8 kg (175.5 pounds), well below a 202.8-kg (446-pound) limit, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a 3.67 percent cap, the International Atomic Energy said in a confidential report sent to IAEA member states and seen by Reuters.


Iran is believed to be developing advanced nuclear-related capabilities that could significantly reduce the time it needs to build a deliverable nuclear weapon, according to statements by Iranian officials that have fueled speculation among White House officials and nuclear experts that the landmark accord has heightened rather than reduced the Islamic Regime's nuclear threat. The head of Iran's nuclear program recently announced the Islamic Republic could mass produce advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of more quickly enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. Work of this nature appears to violate key clauses of the nuclear agreement that prohibits Iran from engaging in such activity for the next decade or so.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out on Sunday against U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's leaders for their new regional alliance against Tehran, saying it would bear no fruit. Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups during his visit to Saudi Arabia in late May, two days after the Iranian election in which pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani won a second term. During Trump's visit to Riyadh, the U.S. sealed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional arch-rival. Khamenei called the visit a display of brazenness. "The U.S. president stands alongside the leaders of a tribal and backward system and does the sword dance, but criticizes an Iranian election with 40 million votes," the supreme leader said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

I ran on Sunday joined the international chorus of criticism against President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, saying it would further isolate the United States. "The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris accord indicates the government's lack of responsibility regarding the global community and it will increasingly isolate them," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, according to the IRNA news agency. Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories to the agreement. "Non-compliance with commitments in the Paris accord by a government which is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases and is one of the most polluting countries, is unacceptable," said Ghasemi.


Turkcell's $4.2 billion lawsuit against South Africa's MTN over a disputed Iran license will go ahead in a South African court after years of delay, the Turkish mobile operator said on Thursday. Turkcell alleges that the South African mobile company used bribery and wrongful influence to win a lucrative Iran license originally awarded to Turkcell. MTN has rejected the allegations and on Thursday reiterated its stance that the lawsuit had "no legal merit". Istanbul-based Turkcell first brought the suit against MTN in the United States in 2012. A year later it withdrew the U.S. suit and filed in South Africa, where the case has been stuck in procedural wrangling since. Turkey's top mobile operator is no stranger to protracted lawsuits and is itself the subject of a decade-long struggle between three of its shareholders.

India's National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO) has put all its overseas projects on hold, including one in Iran, in order to focus on expanding domestic capacity, its chairman said on Monday. NALCO last year signed an agreement with Iran's mining development body to explore the possibility of building an aluminium smelter. "Iran's proposal is attractive as long as gas prices are attractive, but not much of an indication in that area has come," Chairman Tapan Kumar Chand told Reuters. Late last year, the Indian government asked NALCO to re-think its global expansion plans, including Iran, citing the need to be self-sufficient in aluminium production. NALCO had also looked at setting up a 500,000-tonnes-per-year smelter and an associated power plant in the Middle East.


Oiltanking GmbH is pleased to announce the expansion of its investment in the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran by acquiring an additional stake of the indirect ownership in Exir Chemical Terminal PJSCo. Through this transaction Oiltanking will increase its indirect stake from 35 percent to a majority share of 70 percent. Exir Chemical Terminal, which was commissioned in January 2010, is a joint venture established between Oiltanking Odfjell GmbH and private Iranian investors. The facility is strategically situated in the Petrochemical Special Economic Zone (PETZONE) of Bandar Imam Khomeini. It is connected by pipelines to jetties of the PETZONE at the Persian Gulf and consists of 18 tanks and a capacity of 22,000 cbm.


China supports Iran's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) security bloc, jointly led by China and Russia, and the subject will be discussed at the group's summit this week, a senior diplomat said on Monday. The SCO refused to initiate Iran's accession last year despite a request from Russia which backs Tehran's bid. Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Li Huilai said Iran is an observer at the SCO and has for a long time "proactively participated" in its activities and has made positive contributions to the SCO's development, according to "China highly appraises this. China welcomes and supports Iran's wish to become a formal member of the SCO," he told reporters, ahead of the summit in Kazakh capital Astana which President Xi Jinping will attend. "I think that at this meeting all sides will continue to conscientiously study the issue of Iran becoming a member on the basis of the SCO's relevant rules and consensus through consultations."


Attacks by the Islamic State group in Europe and elsewhere show that Western policies in the Middle East have backfired, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday. "Today, Daesh (IS) is being pushed out from its birthplace in Iraq and Syria and is moving to other countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and even the Philippines and European countries," Khamenei said in a televised speech. "This is a fire that (Western powers) themselves ignited and now has backfired on them," he told a gathering of senior officials in Tehran at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989. Khamenei used the speech to push back against some of the reformist rhetoric used by President Hassan Rouhani during his successful bid for re-election last month.


Bruce Riedel explains that the "Saudi-orchestrated bloc of Sunni Muslim states celebrated at US President Donald Trump's visit to Riyadh is splintering less than two weeks after the summit. There is growing unease with the summit's intense animosity toward Iran and increasing concerns that the Saudis are inflaming the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites. Trump's domestic troubles are also raising doubts over whether Washington is reliable." There is well established bad blood in the region because of Iran's actions throughout the Middle East. But linking Iran, even implicitly, to the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, in addition to being mistaken, may ultimately serve only to fuel "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror," as Trump accused Iran of doing.


Mostafa Meisami has given up on the farming life, trading his old job raising cattle for a better-paying gig ferrying commuters through the notoriously traffic-clogged streets of the Iranian capital Tehran. The 38-year-old father-to-be plies his trade in a brand-new, locally assembled Chinese hatchback, scrolling for fares using an app on his Samsung smartphone. Yes, even in Iran, there's an app for that - and quite a few other things too. The Islamic Republic remains in many ways cut off economically from the rest of the world. Big-name Western brands shun the market for fear of violating sanctions that remain in place even after the country's landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.


As President Donald Trump's recent Middle East tour demonstrated, the one thing uniting the United States, Israel, and much of the Arab world is opposition to Iran's regional activities. Whereas the Obama administration seemed to acknowledge that coercion alone was unlikely to change Iran's behavior, and thus favored a carrot-and-stick approach, the Trump administration appears inclined to seek ways of tightening the screws on Iran. The basic logic of that approach is clear. The goal is to pressure Iran with increased regional isolation and the threat of sanctions and, more assertively, confront Iranian-backed groups in Syria and Yemen, thus compelling the Islamic Republic to draw back or abandon its regional footprint. There's just one small problem: Iran is unlikely to back down.

Donald Trump's recent sojourn in the Middle East leaves the United States where it was before the president departed: His administration remains committed to containing Iran while philosophically adopting a pre-9/11 approach to combating Sunni Islamic militancy. Sunni Arab leaders have reason to be content. However much Candidate Trump wanted to avoid wars and costly alliances, President Trump clearly isn't going to abandon the southern Middle East to Iranian aggression. His Riyadh "Islam speech," which was more about the Islamic Republic than anything else, signaled that Trump wasn't particularly moved by the reelection of the foreign-investment-loving Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

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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