Friday, July 28, 2017

Eye on Iran: U.S. Says Iran Rocket Test Breaches U.N. Resolution

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Iran successfully tested a rocket that can deliver satellites into orbit, state television reported on Thursday, an action the United States said breaches a U.N. Security Council resolution because of its potential use in ballistic missile development... The rocket launch violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday.  That resolution, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology. It stops short of explicitly barring such activity.

President Trump, frustrated that his national security aides have not given him any options on how the United States can leave the Iran nuclear deal, has instructed them to find a rationale for declaring that the country is violating the terms of the accord. American officials have already told allies they should be prepared to join in reopening negotiations with Iran or expect that the United States may abandon the agreement, as it did the Paris climate accord. And according to several foreign officials, the United States has begun raising with international inspectors in Vienna the possibility of demanding access to military sites in Iran where there is reasonable suspicion of nuclear research or development. If the Iranians balk, as seems likely, their refusal could enable Washington to declare Tehran in violation of the two-year-old deal. Mr. Trump has enormous latitude to abandon the accord.

Singapore-based technology company CSE Global Ltd has agreed to pay more than $12 million to settle 104 apparent violations of Iran sanctions by its subsidiary, the U.S. Department of Treasury said on Thursday. The subsidiary, CSE TransTel Pte Ltd, "caused at least six separate financial institutions to engage in the unauthorized exportation or re-exportation of financial services from the United States to Iran," in 2012 and 2013, U.S. Treasury said in a statement on its website.


Iran successfully launched a missile into space on Thursday, state media reported, two days after the United States House of Representatives approved a bill that would impose additional sanctions against the country, and Russia and North Korea.

Iran's launch on Thursday of a rocket it says can deliver a satellite into space was a provocative action that violates a U.N. Security Council resolution as well as the spirit of the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. State Department said. "We consider that to be continued ballistic missile development," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing. "We believe that what happened overnight and in the morning is a violation of the spirit of the JCPOA," she added, referring to the Iran nuclear deal.


Iran responded angrily Thursday to reports that the Trump administration would push for inspections of military facilities to ensure Tehran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal. "Iran will not succumb to further pressure," Hamid Reza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst who is close to Iran's leadership, told The Times. Taraghi did not say whether Iran would refuse inspectors access to military facilities but insisted the Islamic Republic was complying with the agreement, which required Iran to shelve its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions... Associated Press reported Thursday that Trump was pushing for inspections of "suspicious Iranian military sites," either to prove that Iran was violating the deal or force it to refuse, which could cause the agreement to collapse.

National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster has removed Derek Harvey, the top Middle East advisor on the National Security Council (NSC), from his post Thursday, according to a source with knowledge of the personnel move. The White House confirmed the decision, but the reason behind it was not immediately clear. The two men had a long relationship that dated back to their Army service in Iraq and their shared mentor of retired Gen. David Petraeus, but they had been known to have butted heads during their short time together in the Donald Trump administration... Harvey was also known for being a hawk on Iran and had been pushing proposals to expand the U.S. military mission in Syria to go after Iranian proxy forces more aggressively. Defense Secretary James Mattis had pushed back on these proposals.


In Iran, concerns are growing that banks may be facing the same fate as credit and financial institutions (CFIs), many of which are believed to be on the verge of collapse. CFIs, many of them unlicensed, have caused major disruption in the Iranian financial system in the past decade. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is under rising pressure from the parliament to immediately regulate these nonbank credit institutions, as an increasing number of depositors protest delays in settlement of dues by a number of troubled CFIs. The situation has become so dire that the Supreme National Security Council has been dragged in. Now, there are fears that banks could be next. To avoid this scenario, pundits are suggesting that the CBI be granted more autonomy by the parliament so that it will take more serious disciplinary measures against all financial institutions when necessary. As he prepares to begin his second term, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is faced with the prospect of a major banking crisis.

The $4.8-billion-dollar deal between Iran and France's Total, the huge multinational oil and gas company, has become very controversial. Considering the unilateral U.S. sanctions and increasing measures against Iran, why has Total risked signing such a deal? There are a variety of possibilities. Total will be developing phase 11 of Iran's mammoth South Pars gas field, the largest in the world, along with a state Chinese firm and an Iranian subsidiary. The project is set to render 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day, equivalent to 400,000 barrels of oil. Iran's domestic market will receive the supply in 2021. The first stage is set to cost $2 billion, with an end price of up to $5 billion and production forecasted to start within 40 months. As we speak, however, Washington continues to impose sanctions on Tehran and the Trump administration's comprehensive Iran policy has yet to be defined. Therefore, why did Total accept such a risk?


Hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have impersonated a young female photographer on social media for more than a year, luring men working in industries strategically important to Tehran's regional adversaries, according to research published Thursday. The so-called Mia Ash persona has been active on sites including LinkedIn, Facebook Inc, WhatsApp and Blogger since at least April of last year, researchers at Dell SecureWorks said. The campaign showed Iran engaged in a social engineering plot to ensnare its targets with a "honey pot", a classic espionage trap often involving seduction, more commonly used by criminal hackers. Dell SecureWorks observed Mia Ash sending specific malware, concealed as a "photography survey" with an attachment, to a victim that matched malware sent by Iranian hacking group Cobalt Gypsy during an unsuccessful "spearphishing" email attempt to the same victim's employer in January.


Lebanese national and U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka thanked the U.S. Congress after the approval of House Resolution 317 - calling for the "unconditional release" of American nationals held for "political purposes" by Iran. "Mr. Zakka wants to thank members of the American Congress, and through them the American people, for standing by his side and supporting his case," a statement from his lawyer, Antoine Abou Dib, read. "Never has it happened in history where a government invites a person, sends them a visa and then arrests him, especially in a country like Iran, known worldwide to be hospitable," the statement added. Resolution 317 was passed by the Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday. Zakka's son, 19-year-old Omar, spoke prior to the vote, pushing for his father's release.

Iranian Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani has responded to the Trump administration's recent demand that Iran free imprisoned US citizens by demanding that the US free Iranians held in US prisons. The judicial official's comments did not address the fact that US citizens who have been and are currently imprisoned in Iran have been sentenced in secret trials on vague national security charges with scant or non-existence evidence in cases marked by the denial of due process. "Not America, not any country has the right to interfere" in the Islamic Republic of Iran's affairs," said Larijani in a meeting with senior judicial officials on July 24, 2017, adding that, "Iranian prisoners should be freed immediately" from US prisons. Larijani was responding to a White House statement issued on July 21 warning that "President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned."

President Hassan Rouhani is expected to introduce nominees for his second-term cabinet in the coming weeks, and the question on many minds is whether a woman will be appointed minister. During the election campaign, Rouhani passionately defended women's participation in the public sphere, saying his administration "does not accept gender discrimination and injustice." The women and family chapter of his draft comprehensive plan for his next administration included several steps, such as "increasing women's participation in high-level management positions." But the president is said to be having "reservations" about appointing a female minister, according to Fatemeh Saeedi, a female parliamentarian from Tehran who met with the president about cabinet appointments Now, alarmed by the prospect of women being shut out of a senior cabinet position, women's rights defenders are pushing back.


After reports that opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi became ill and needed medical care, four Iranian parliamentarians requested to visit the former parliament speaker who has been under house arrest since 2011. According to Tehran parliament member Ahmad Mazani, a member of the Reformist Central Council of Hope, the parliament members felt that visiting Karroubi would be "in the interests of the country." Karroubi, along with Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, were put under house arrest for challenging the outcome of the 2009 presidential election. Mousavi was prime minister during the 1980s. Their call for street protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election brought about the country's biggest internal crisis since the post-revolutionary era. Mazani said, "A lot of time has passed since the environment of 2009, and we have to create an environment ... that continues the path of win-win of 2013 [President Hassan Rouhani's election]."


One almost has to admire Iran's chutzpah. On Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, 419-3, which would impose sanctions on Iran's ballistic-missile program, its foreign ministry called the legislation "illegal and insulting." On Thursday Iran made a scheduled launch of a huge missile, which it says will put 550-pound satellites into orbit. The only people who should feel surprised or insulted by this are Barack Obama and John Kerry, who midwifed the 2015 nuclear-weapons agreement with the untrustworthy Iranians. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert rightly called the missile launch a violation of the spirit of that agreement. That is as far as she can take it because Iran's ballistic-missile program wasn't formally in the nuclear agreement, despite Mr. Kerry's statements of concern during negotiations. In the end he wanted a deal more than limits on those missiles. We assume Iran's missile engineers are at least as competent as those in North Korea, which is approaching the ability to deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

During a week in which all signs point to Republicans enshrining President Obama's top domestic achievement into law, it's now looking like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has tricked President Trump into keeping the main pillar of Obama's foreign policy legacy in place indefinitely: the disastrous Iran deal. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that as part of Trump's move to certify Iran's compliance with the deal, the administration is pushing to "test" the deal with more inspections. On the surface, this may seem like a move to step up enforcement and lay the groundwork to unwind the deal - theoretically consistent with Trump's vow to "get tough" on Iran. But in practice, it looks like a stalling tactic designed by Tillerson and Obama holdovers in the State Department to handcuff Trump, with endless bureaucratic delays, from ever being able to pull out of the deal. Last week, Iran deal supporters in the administration, led by Tillerson, talked Trump into sticking with the deal and certifying Iran compliance for the second time of his presidency, even as he told the Wall Street Journal, "If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago."

President Trump seems determined to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, with no reason apart from the fact that he wants to. His hostility to the deal-based largely on a misunderstanding of its contents-doesn't mean that he can cancel America's obligations by himself. But he can trigger a process in which Congress-much of which is equally hostile to the deal-votes to withdraw. 

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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