Wednesday, July 31, 2019

U.S. To Renew Sanctions Waivers For Five Iran Nuclear Programs

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The United States is set to announce this week it will renew sanctions waivers for five Iran nuclear programs that allow Russia, China and European countries to continue civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.  President Donald Trump, in an Oval Office meeting last week, sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who argued for renewing the waivers over objections by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the Post said.

The U.S. has officially asked Germany to help secure the strategic Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran in the midst of heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region. The U.S. embassy in Berlin on Tuesday asked "Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Straits of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression." The embassy said Germany agrees the waterway should be protected, and it posed the question "protected by whom?"

Iranian oil exports have dropped in July to as low as 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to sanctions and rising tension with the United States and Britain, according to an industry source and tanker data, deepening global supply losses.


As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, U.S. presidential candidates from the Democratic Party are staking out positions on the 2015 deal whereby Iran limited its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions-relief. U.S. president Donald Trump, who is running for reelection in 2020 against a large slate of Democrats, in 2018 withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, a signature accomplishment of former U.S. president Barack Obama.


Oil extended its longest rally in three weeks as lingering Iran tensions stoke concerns over the stability of Middle East energy flows, while U.S. crude stockpiles continue to tighten. Futures rose as much as 0.8% in New York after gaining 3.9% in the past four sessions. Iran has reached a deal with Russia to hold a joint military drill in the Indian Ocean by March 2020, semi-official Fars News reported, citing the commander of the Iranian navy. 

The Trump administration is poised to renew waivers that allow Iran to receive international assistance for civilian nuclear projects, after a heated internal debate over whether to dismantle a key element of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to three sources familiar with the matter. In what would be a setback for Iran hawks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials appeared to prevail in the policy argument against national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the sources told NBC News.

Two vessels carrying Iranian LPG or liquid gas involved in Iran-China deliveries were detained in Singapore on July 22 and 24, a ship-tracking source has told Radio Farda. The ships belong to Kunlun Shipping, a private Hong Kong company with a fleet of LPG vessels carrying Iranian-sourced cargoes. The detention of the vessels is related to U.S. sanctions banning export of Iranian oil and gas and a direct result of a court order. 


Recent statements by Mostafa Pourmohammadi, advisor to Iran's head of the judiciary, defending the mass extrajudicial executions of 1988 is a stark reminder of the sense of impunity that senior officials linked to the killings enjoy, Amnesty International (AI) said Tuesday, July 30. A former minister of justice, Pourmohammadi was a member of a mid-ranking clergy quartet who ordered the execution of thousands of prisoners who were serving their sentences in 1988.


Iran has dismissed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's offer to visit and address the Iranian people as a "hypocritical gesture." "You don't need to come to Iran," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, in remarks directed at Pompeo. He suggested Pompeo instead grant visas for Iranian reporters to travel to the U.S. and interview him, accusing him of having rejected their requests.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for tensions between Iran and the United States to be scaled down on July 30 after speaking with Iranian President Hassan Rohani. Meeting at the French presidential summer retreat, Macron said he wanted "to ensure that all parties agree to a break and open negotiations." He "recalled the need to initiate a de-escalation of tensions."

Since the 1979 revolution, a key part of Iran's regional strategy has been the funding of militias, rebels and political organizations in its neighboring countries. Iran has significant ties to Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist political party and militant group in Lebanon that is considered a terrorist group by the United States and several other nations. Tehran has leveraged Hezbollah to intervene in Syria on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, another Iranian ally. 

"Just remember, the Iranians never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!" It has all the hallmarks of the perfect Donald Trump tweet. First, it is factually incorrect: Iran is a civilization going back thousands of years, and has more military victories in its history than the American president has had hot breakfasts. Second, it is more than a little racist, winking at the Orientalist stereotype of Iranians as cunning negotiators, forever trying to cheat Westerners looking for a bargain on a Shirazi carpet.

The plot of the latest escalation in the Gulf involving the United States, the United Kingdom and Iran seems increasingly repetitive like a badly written political thriller. On May 12, shortly after the secondary US sanctions kicked in, forcing many countries to reconsider their dealings with Iran, four commercial vessels were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. A month later, two tankers were hit by explosions in the Gulf of Oman. The US and the UK accused Iran of perpetrating the attacks, Iran denied.


Iran's cabinet has approved a plan to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday, citing government spokesman Ali Rabiei. The redenomination of the currency has been discussed for years as the rial's value has plummeted. Rabiei did not specify whether the plan requires parliamentary support or when it would take effect.

Iran's defence minister said on Wednesday it was "normal" for the country to test missiles as part of its defence research, Iranian media reported, after Washington said Tehran had test-fired a medium-range missile last week. Brigadier General Amir Hatami stopped short of explicitly confirming the test. A U.S. defence official said last week Iran had launched what appeared to be a medium-range ballistic missile that travelled some 1,000 km (620 miles), and added that the test by Washington's arch-foe in the Middle East posed no threat to shipping or U.S. personnel in the region.

Russia and Iran are deepening their military ties in a joint challenge to perceived US hegemony in the Middle East. The Russian Defense Ministry and the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to expand military ties between the two countries on Monday during Iranian Navy Commander Hossein Khanzadi's three-day visit to St. Petersburg.

Iran and Russia are planning a joint military drill in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the Commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, told state news agency IRNA. According to Khanzadi, the Iranian armed forces had signed a contract for the drills with the Russian Ministry of Defense, but did not say when the drills will be carried out. In any case, the news clearly points towards a continued warming of bilateral relations amid increasing U.S. pressure on both countries, particularly Iran.

The IAF used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to hit two Iraqi bases that were used by Iranian forces and proxies and for storing ballistic missiles, the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday. The first attack happened on July 19 at a base in Amerli in the Saladin province north of Baghdad. Iraqi and Iranian sources blamed Israel at the time, and Asharq Al-Awsat reported that "diplomatic sources" confirmed the attack, specifying that it was carried out by an Israeli F-35.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini last week touted Iran's support for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. He said the way to counter the so-called "deal of the century" peace plan of the Trump administration would be to give Palestinians a "feeling of progress," offering that "not many years ago, the Palestinians were fighting with stones, but today ... they are equipped with precision rockets, and this means a feeling of progress."


Following the steep decline of Iranian oil exports after the U.S. ended all waivers for Iran's oil buyers, Iran is calling on China and other 'friendly countries', as it put it, to buy more crude oil from the Islamic Republic. "Even though we are aware that friendly countries such as China are facing some restrictions, we expect them to be more active in buying Iranian oil," Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Jahangiri was meeting with Song Tao, Head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, in Tehran this week.


United Arab Emirates officials traveled to Iran to discuss maritime security in the Persian Gulf with their counterparts, amid efforts to address threats to commercial ships passing through the important oil supply route that have heightened regional tensions. The two country's coast guards discussed maritime border cooperation and the flow of shipping traffic, including illegal movements, according to Iranian state-run media.


The unified European approach to resolving tensions in the Persian Gulf showed signs of strain, with senior German officials warning that the U.K. may be drifting closer to an American-led operation that had previously been rebuffed by governments in Paris and London. While Germany stands by its resistance to use military forces to protect shipping in the region, Boris Johnson's rise to become British prime minister last week could put the European Union's stance in jeopardy.

The commander of a British warship accompanying UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions with Iran said Wednesday that Tehran appeared to be testing the Royal Navy's resolve. William King, commander of HMS Montrose, said during 27 days patrolling the flashpoint entrance to the Gulf he had had 85 "interactions with Iranian forces", which had often led to "an exchange of warnings" over radio.

There is "growing concern" for the crew of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf, its owners say. The 23 crew members are confined to the vessel, which is moored off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management said. The vessel seizure came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the UK. Tehran said Stena Impero was "violating international maritime rules" at the time but the UK called the incident an example of "state piracy".

The UK's new government is at risk of squandering an opportunity to "recalibrate" tense relations with Iran amid the standoff over seized oil tankers, according to analysts. Experts fear Boris Johnson, the new prime minster, will fall in behind US President Donald Trump's hostile US stance towards Tehran, despite an opportunity for Britain to forge an influential position as a broker following its withdrawal from the European Union.

Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom has signaled little progress toward a negotiated settlement to a standoff over captured oil tankers. "Impossible to advance a quid pro quo or barter exchange of detained UK and Iranian ships," Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted July 29. Baeidinejad reaffirmed Tehran's official line that the UK detention of the Iranian vessel Grace 1 off Gibraltar was "illegal" while Iran's capture of the Stena Impero was a response to violations of "some key safety/security regulations" by the British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic maritime pathway for 20% of global oil.

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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