Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Eye on Iran: U.S. Urges Iran To Keep Strait Of Hormuz Open

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The United States called on Iran to keep the straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab open, a State Department official said on Tuesday after the United States a day earlier demanded that Iran oil buyers halt their purchases by May 1.  "We call on Iran, and all countries, to respect the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation" in the straits, the official said.

President Donald Trump and his advisers are considering revoking sanctions waivers that have allowed several countries to collaborate with Iran on civil nuclear projects, including those intended to restrict Iran's nuclear production capabilities, two sources familiar with the matter said. Trump administration officials have held several meetings in recent weeks to discuss eliminating some or all of the nuclear sanctions waivers, but a decision has not yet been reached, an administration official and source familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Europe pledged to keep afloat its efforts to aid Iran after the U.S. tightened the screw by targeting all exports of Iranian oil for sanctions. The French government and the European Union both said they will abide by the terms of the Iran nuclear accord with world powers even after the latest U.S. move. France and its European partners intend to continue efforts to ensure that Iran derives economic benefits as long as Tehran complies with its nuclear obligations, the Foreign Ministry in Paris said.


If there's one thing the huge (and growing) field of Democratic presidential aspirants largely agrees on, it's that the U.S. ought to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. This week, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke became the latest to join the chorus. Unfortunately, going down this path would be a big mistake - and a missed opportunity. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal was negotiated by President Barack Obama's administration and agreed to by Iran and six world powers in 2015. 


President Donald Trump has warned other countries for months that they must choose between doing business with Iran and the U.S. Now, the president will show how serious he is about a decision to deny any exceptions from his ban on Iranian oil exports. The move puts the administration in direct conflict with Iran oil customers that are important to the U.S. in different ways, and it risks hampering important initiatives on trade and security, from China to South Korea, India and Turkey.

Iran is willing to negotiate with America only when the United States lifts pressure and apologizes, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to state media. Oil prices hit their highest level since November on Tuesday after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.

The European Union is criticizing the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on countries that buy Iranian oil and warns that the move could damage an international effort to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons. European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic expressed "regret" Tuesday over the U.S. decision and that it "risks further undermining" the Iran nuclear deal.

The 'Instex' mechanism set up by France, Britain and Germany for Iran to skirt U.S. sanctions is making positive progress, said the French foreign ministry on Tuesday, as it responded to the latest moves by the U.S. government to put pressure on Iran. "The work that has been put in place is making positive progress, with a view to an eventual conclusion. Iran must also, for its part, make progress on its equivalent counterparty," said the French foreign ministry in an electronic briefing.

Energy analysts at Raymond James & Associates are warning that U.S. imposition of tougher Iranian oil sanctions is "unambiguously bullish" for the price of oil. The analysts say in a report Tuesday that U.S. ally Saudi Arabia will take its time to ramp up oil production to make up for the lost Iranian oil exports. U.S. President Donald Trump announced sanctions last year, but then gave countries waivers to keep importing from Iran.

President Donald Trump's decision to end all waivers that allowed importers of oil from Iran to avoid economic sanctions will not result in higher oil prices, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday. "I don't see any palpable impact. The world is awash with oil," Kudlow said during an appearance at the National Press Club.

The United States has made a bad mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon, Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in a parliamentary session on Tuesday, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest level since November after Washington announced all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian oil would end next week, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran and further tightening global supply.

Saudi Arabia is ready to boost oil production in response to tighter U.S. sanctions on Iran, but doesn't plan any radical moves. The world's largest crude exporter wants to see a decline in Iranian shipments before raising output significantly, according to people familiar with policy deliberations in Riyadh. The kingdom's caution stems from experience. When Trump first said last year he planned to drive Iranian exports to zero, Saudi Arabia took the threat literally responded to pressure from the White House by boosting production to an all-time high above 11 million barrels a day.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister said on Wednesday he saw no need to raise oil output immediately after the United States ends waivers granted to buyers of Iranian crude, but added that his country will respond to customers' needs if asked for more oil.  Speaking in Riyadh, Khalid al-Falih said he was guided by oil market fundamentals, not prices, and global oil inventories continued to rise.

A South Korean delegation will head to Washington as early as this week for talks with U.S. officials after the United States announced plans to end all Iran sanction waivers, two South Korean government officials said on Tuesday. South Korea, a major buyer of Iranian oil, was among seven countries that won exemptions from U.S. sanctions late last year. It allowed South Korea to buy limited amounts of Iranian oil, mainly condensate - an ultra-light form of crude oil used for petrochemical products.

After months of debate inside his administration, President Trump has finally decided to further tighten sanctions on Iran. Iran hawks have for months been urging the president to end the waivers that granted eight nations to continue importing Iranian oil, the Islamist regime's main source of foreign cash. In doing so, Trump is taking a substantial risk. But it is one worth taking. The fallout from the move could lead to a substantial hike in oil prices this summer.

Bahrain welcomed on Monday the decision of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concerning Iran's oil exports. "This step is crucial in order to further support and strengthen efforts exerted in combating terrorism and eradicating Iran's malign and dangerous activities that aim to undermine security and stability and support terrorist organizations and militias in the region," Bahrain's foreign ministry said.


Two days after the United States announced the elimination of exemptions for buying Iranian oil, announced April 22, senior Iranian officials finally began to react on Wednesday, while Iranians on social media are debating the expected impact on the country. Both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani sounded defiant in the face of the U.S. decision to stop exemptions for allies to import Iranian oil. Khameni said Iran will sell oil as much as it wants, while Rouhani said U.S. "apology" is a precondition to any negotiations.


Google has acted against two Iranian state broadcasters, Press TV and Hispan TV, blocking access "without warning" to their YouTube and Gmail accounts. According to Israeli press reports, this came as a response to the publication of incendiary, false accusations that Israel had been conducting medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners. Google declined to comment on the reason for the blocks, but there has been an intensifying crackdown on Iranian social media in light of the U.S. government tightening restrictions on the country. The article, published by Iran's Spanish-language service Hispan TV and targeting outlets in Latin America, claimed that "Palestinians held in Israeli jails are being used as guinea pigs in new medical trials," citing "reports that the health ministry (of Israel) granted licenses to several international companies to carry out medical tests on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons without their knowledge."

"Iran and Pakistan will form a rapid reaction force to fight terrorism on their shared border," President Hassan Rouhani announced at a presser in Tehran following closed-door talks with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan April 22. "We are glad the Pakistani side has branded as terrorists the militant groups that conduct inhumane activities in this area," Rouhani added.

Organizers of the 32nd Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) have set the stage for the Iranian capital's greatest annual cultural event, despite the ongoing paper crisis that has afflicted domestic publishers, and the devastating recent floods that led to the closure of dozens of libraries across the country. The 10-day TIBF will, nonetheless, kick off April 24 in Tehran's Mosalla prayer ground, and members of the TIBF's policy-setting council have picked the motto "Reading is ability" for the high-profile cultural event.


A United States initiative toward three key figures within Hezbollah's financial networks would be the first in a series of actions against the Lebanese militant group to drain it of resources, analysts predict. The U.S. on Monday offered $10 million for information on three financiers of the Lebanese terror group. "This looks like it will be one move of many targeting the funding streams Hezbollah uses," Phillip Smyth, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told VOA on Tuesday. "While some offers for rewards have been better with some groups over others, this may show further cracks within the group regarding overseas financiers and those linked to them," he added.

Over two consecutive nights, rumors of airstrikes by the US against pro-Syrian regime forces in eastern Syria have led to false reports and denials. The frequency of the reports points to attempts by different actors in the conflict to create tensions between not only Iran and the US, but also between the Syrian regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are backed by Iran and the US, respectively. The reports are laundered via various publications and spread on social media. For instance Al-Masdar News, which is generally supportive of the Syrian regime, claimed on Tuesday night that the US is "plotting to expel [the] Syrian army, IRGC from key border town."

At the start of April, Hebrew media reports quoted unnamed Israeli security officials as saying that the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror faction, whose rocket arsenal is larger than even that of Hamas, was planning a significant attack on Israeli targets. The information appeared to achieve its goal of discouraging the perpetrators, and no attack transpired. But the fact that PIJ was reportedly planning an incident that could have upset Egyptian attempts to restore calm to the Gaza Strip could hint at a wider struggle taking place within Gaza between Egypt and Iran.


Iran will increase naval ties with China in the Northern Indian Ocean, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi told his Chinese counterpart, saying it would accelerate the withdrawal of other countries from the region. "Given the strategic geopolitical situation (of both states), today, we are witnessing a leap in marine civilization in the Pacific Ocean by China and Northern Indian Ocean by Islamic Iran...


Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said that "Iran is spreading chaos in the region through destruction and blood," in a speech at the International Security Conference in Moscow, Russia. "The Iranian regime continues to feed sectarianism and disrespect international laws," the minister said. Adding that it is "spreading chaos in the region through destruction and blood."

Saudi Arabia reiterated on Tuesday its support for the US administration in its efforts to stopping Iran's destabilizing policies and its backing for terrorist groups. The Saudi cabinet chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz stressed the Kingdom's policy to stabilize the global oil market in the larger interests of oil producers and consumers and to ensure the growth and stability of the world economy. 

Yemeni human rights activists decried Houthi militias over their wide-reaching campaign for recruiting women and girls in territories under their control. In a fashion which is foreign to Yemen's Arab heritage, drafted women and minor girls are being trained in armed combat and tasked with specialized missions. The Iran-backed insurgency group has recently celebrated graduating a new all-female brigade, which joined the religiously branded 'Zaynabiyat' force. The new unit is said to be led by Zainab al-Gharbani and holds light arms and electricshock weapons.

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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