Thursday, July 6, 2017

Eye on Iran: Eye on Iran: Ships Exporting Iranian Oil Go Dark, Raising Sanctions Red Flags

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Ships chartered by two oil traders responsible for a significant share of Iran's fuel exports last year failed to transmit their location and the origin of their cargo-red flags for governments seeking evidence of evasion of sanctions on Tehran. The ships' radio-signal tracking systems were often not in use and occasionally indicated the ships had sailed from countries other than Iran, a Wall Street Journal investigation found. The U.S. government is analyzing movements of ships in the Persian Gulf for any attempts to circumvent bans on funding Iran's weapons programs or clearing payments for Iranian oil through the U.S. financial system, a U.S. official said. U.S. officials said they weren't familiar with the particular shipments identified by the Journal.

Iran made progress this week in preserving its new-found place in the global economy. French energy giant Total SA and German carmaker Volkswagen AG announced agreements to plow money into the Islamic Republic, the first to be finalized since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, threatening to abandon the 2015 deal that rolled back a decade of sanctions on Iran. The investments end months of speculation that America's shifting foreign policy would scare Western companies away from taking bets on the Middle East's fastest-growing economy. They also highlight the widening rift between Trump and European allies, who back President Hassan Rouhani even as the White House reviews the nuclear accord that he helped engineer. Iran made progress this week in preserving its new-found place in the global economy.

Russia, Turkey and Iran failed in talks on Wednesday to finalize an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria after Ankara raised objections, diplomats said. Russia and Iran, which back President Bashar al-Assad's government, and Turkey, which supports some of the rebels, aim to reach a consensus on the zones by the end of August, when their delegations are set to meet again in the Kazakh capital. The failure is a setback for Moscow, the main architect of the plan, as it seeks to take the lead in global efforts to settle the Syrian civil war. "During these consultations, the Turkish side said it needed more time in order ... to make an appropriate decision," said senior Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev. Bashar al-Ja'afari, the lead negotiator from the Damascus government, was more direct. "The Turkish delegation objected to the adoption of any documents related to the implementation of mechanisms of the agreement on the de-escalation zones," he said.


The second meeting of an Iran-EU working group on nuclear research and development ended in Tehran on Wednesday, in which the two sides reviewed joint research projects. Ali Akbar Rezaei, director general of International Affairs Department of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, who headed the Iranian delegation at the talks, said the four-day discussions were a follow-up to the first meeting held last December in EU's capital Brussels, ISNA reported. The official said the two groups of experts have reviewed over 30 research proposals and the EU delegation has visited and evaluated six Iranian research centers. "We are trying to benefit from the latest achievements of the global nuclear industry and move the nuclear program to the cutting edge of science," he said. Rezaei said nuclear cooperation between Iran and the EU conveys a "positive message" to the world, adding that "scientific exchanges in the field of research and development ... indicate the will of Iran and Europe for widespread and long-term collaboration."


U.S. forces have been instructed to take all measures needed to protect American interests in Syria, including military measures, as part of an effort that comes after top officials in the Trump administration assessed that Iran is deliberately probing American weaknesses and reactions on the Syrian battlefield, according to senior Trump administration officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, have already initiated multiple encounters with the United States by violating agreements worked out between Washington and Moscow aimed at preventing the various factions targeting ISIS inside Syria from coming into conflict. This is part of a campaign that analysts inside and outside the White House believe is aimed at testing the Trump administration's resolve, sources said.


Two years after it agreed to reduce its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, Iran has signed its first energy deal. France's Total SA and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) agreed to a $5 billion deal to develop Phase 11 of Iran's South Pars offshore gas field, one of the largest in the world. Iran's first energy deal since the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on the country is a major breakthrough in the development of the massive South Pars gas field. Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh hailed the deal, attributing it to both the nuclear deal and the presidential election that gave President Hassan Rouhani a second term. Zanganeh also said July 3 that Iran would not be opposed to signing energy deals with the United States; however, it is the Americans themselves who do not want to. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, spokesperson for the Rouhani administration, also credited the nuclear deal and the election with the signing of the contract, noting that the deal was struck despite "America's attempts to create an anti-Iran environment."


IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said Wednesday the military was working quietly against a factory for precision-guided missiles Iran is building for Hezbollah in Lebanon. "It's at the top of our list of priorities, but at the moment we're talking about a very limited capability," Eisenkot told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "We're working against it using quiet measures to avoid a deterioration of the situation." Such deterioration, Eisenkot said, is not expected, noting that while he "didn't identify an intention by our enemies to attack, the IDF is improving its preparedness for any scenario."

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder and member of Palestinian resistance group Hamas, said his movement's relations with Iran are "as close and strong as ever". Zahar noted that Iran was part of Islamic ummah and had never asked anything in return for its help to the Palestinian nation, ISNA reported on Wednesday. Pointing to the recently-updated Hamas policy document, he said even though the new document accepts the idea of a "transitional" Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, this "does not mean it recognizes Israel". In its new document, Hamas dropped its longstanding call for Israel's destruction, but said it backed "armed struggle" against it.


Iran's supreme leader is continuing his public criticism of newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, this time accusing him of not doing enough to aid the judiciary in protecting the "dignity of the Islamic system." "The judiciary should be a pioneer in establishing public rights within the society ... and confront anyone who violates laws," said Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on July 3, 2017 during a speech outside his residence in Tehran to judicial officials. The ayatollah appeared to be responding to Rouhani's comments a day earlier about "problems" with the way the judiciary issues summons.  "We must have a reason if we summon someone," said Rouhani at a national conference of judicial officials in Tehran on July 2. "We can't summon someone and then find a reason. We need sufficient reason first. This is what our Constitution demands."


Following the re-election of Hassan Rouhani in the May 19 presidential elections, talk of establishing of a "shadow government" has been floating around Iranian political circles. Some Principlists have proposed the idea, although not everyone in their camp has welcomed it. Despite the fanfare in some quarters of the Principlist camp, the idea of a "shadow government" being set up in Iran appears unlikely to materialize. In a statement released on May 20, Saeed Jalili, a conservative politician who unsuccessfully ran in the 2013 presidential elections, unveiled the idea, which is perhaps most prominent in the British political system. In his statement, Jalili called for the formation of "a shadow government in an effort to help the sitting government and make up for its shortcomings and inefficiencies." However, the timing of his proposal - which coincided with the announcement of the election results - led to its not receiving much media attention.


In recent congressional testimony, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sensibly stressed that the United States should "work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government." The commentariat was aghast, and the Islamic republic registered a formal protest note. Both parties seemed surprised that the United States has long assisted those seeking democratic change. During the Cold War, secretaries of state routinely assured those trapped behind the Iron Curtain that America supported their aspirations. Given that Iran is ruled by an aging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the United States should be prepared for a transition of power there that may yet precipitate the collapse of the entire system.

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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