Iran accuses U.S. of imposing more sanctions to "deflect" attention from Khashoggi killing
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the U.S. Treasury of announcing new sanctions on Iran to “deflect” attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday targeted Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency with sanctions against eight individuals who were designated global terrorists, including two linked to Iran’s Quds Force, the branch of the elite Revolutionary Guards that oversees operations outside of the Islamic Republic’s borders.
“To deflect from headlines on Saudi brutality in Istanbul and across Yemen, US Treasury — while in Saudi Arabia, no less —sanctions Iran for ‘supporting’ anti-Iran Taliban. Conveniently omitting that US is negotiating with the very same Taliban now & its clients have long backed it,” Zarif wrote on Twitter. (Reuters)
Latest U.S. sanctions show disregard for human rights of all Iranians: foreign minister
The United States’ latest economic sanctions against Iran display a disregard for the human rights of all Iranians, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday sanctioned two Iranian banks and a handful of companies it says are linked to Iran’s Basij militia.
“Latest US sanctions violate 2 ICJ orders: to not impede humanitarian trade & to not aggravate the dispute. Utter disregard for rule of law & human rights of an entire people. US outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a Twitter post. (Reuters)
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory today to help financial institutions better detect and report potentially illicit transactions related to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The advisory is also intended to help foreign financial institutions better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system. The advisory provides information on the threats the Iranian regime poses to the U.S. financial system as well as to institutions that have correspondent banking relationships with U.S. financial institutions, describes deceptive financial strategies that the Iranian regime uses to evade sanctions, and provides red flag indicators related to specific malign activities and typologies. (US Treasury Department)
A US intelligence assessment conducted in recent days has concluded that Iranian-backed militias and proxy forces could be planning a strike against US military forces or interests in the Middle East, according to three defense officials.
Officials emphasize their concern centers around the threat from those militias located in Syria and several other locations in the Middle East. They all describe the potential threat as ongoing and worrisome. However, they would not describe the specific intelligence that continues to be gathered.
These militias have increased access to ballistic missile and other advanced weapons inventories as Iran continues to move weaponry into Syria. (CNN)
Iran insists US stop opposing Israeli nuke disarmament
Iran has announced a list of 15 demands for improving relations with the United States, including a US return to the 2015 nuclear accord, in response to a similar list of demands made by Washington last month. In an article in a state-owned newspaper Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the US to stop providing arms to the “invaders of Yemen,” referring to Saudi Arabia, and to drop its opposition to the nuclear disarmament of Israel. (Times of Israel)
World Cup: Nike boots barred for Iran footballers amid US sanctions
Sportswear giant Nike says it has withdrawn its supply of boots to Iranian footballers ahead of the World Cup because of new US sanctions. The decision has frustrated Iranian players and head coach Carlos Queiroz, who asked Fifa to "help" his players. Last month, President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. (BBC)
Iran: Not everyone will take orders from Washington
The US Secretary of State says "every country" will have to help squeeze Iran financially. Ambassador Baeidinejad says Pompeo is wrong to think that countries will "take the orders from Washington." (CNN)
Iran's Evin prison, Ansar-e Hezbollah face new US sanctions
Iran's notorious Evin prison and the paramilitary group Ansar-e Hezbollah have been hit with new US sanctions, for allegedly committing "serious human rights abuses" against its political dissidents and critics of the government. In an announcement late on Wednesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said the two entities, as well as six individuals and a communications technology agency, played a role in the "brutal crackdown" of demonstrators following the recent deadly protests in the country. (Al Jazeera)
Iran's leader: US pullout from nuclear deal leaves Trump 'lost in history'
Iran’s supreme leader has said that American objections over the 2015 nuclear deal were a pretext for regime change, vowing that the US was bound to fail like “the famous cat in the Tom and Jerry” cartoon. Speaking two days after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, threatened Iran with “the strongest sanctions in history”, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Iran could restart the nuclear activities it halted under the agreement if Europe failed to safeguard the agreement after the US pulled out. (The Guardian)
As Trump leaves Iran deal, families of Americans jailed in Iran urge talks
A day after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, several families of American prisoners held in the Islamic Republic urged the White House to start humanitarian talks with Tehran to win their release. The families made the appeal as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was returning home on Wednesday with three Americans freed from imprisonment by North Korea, with whom Washington is hoping to pursue denuclearization talks. Already tense relations between Washington and Tehran hit a new low with Trump extracting the United States from the 2015 international nuclear accord, making it unlikely either country would be in a mood to engage in any talks soon. (Reuters)
Iran to negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about remaining in nuclear deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that his government remains committed to a nuclear deal with world powers, despite a decision by the United States to withdraw from the accord, but is also ready to step up its uranium enrichment. Rouhani, who spoke following President Donald Trump's speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal, said he has directed Iranian diplomats to negotiate with the deal's remaining signatories, including European countries, Russia and China. (Chicago Tribune)
Israel Says Secret Files Detail Iran’s Nuclear Subterfuge
Revealing a huge archive of stolen Iranian nuclear plans, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accused Iran on Monday of lying for years about its efforts to build a nuclear weapon. Days before President Trump was to decide whether to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Mr. Netanyahu presented records from a secret warehouse in Tehran, making the case that Iranian leaders had deceived the international nuclear agency when they insisted their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. Israeli spies seized the documents in an overnight raid in January, a senior Israeli official said. (New York Times)
Mattis says Iran nuclear deal includes 'robust' verification
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday emphasized the value of certain aspects of the Iran nuclear agreement, even as President Donald Trump considers pulling out of the 2015 deal, which he has attacked repeatedly and this week called "insane." Without explicitly giving his opinion about whether the United States should stick with the agreement, Mattis said that after reading the full text of the deal three times, he was struck by provisions that allow for international verification of Iran's compliance. He said that since becoming defense secretary in January 2017, he also has read what he called a classified protocol in the agreement. "I will say it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat," he said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in" with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to check on compliance. (Star Tribune)
Hundreds of lawmakers in Germany, France and the UK wrote an open letter to the US Congress asking it to back the Iran nuclear deal, despite US President Donald Trump's threat to terminate the agreement next month. "Abandoning the deal would diminish the value of any promises or threats made by our countries. It would also diminish our capability to keep Iran nuclear-free after the expiration of the special provisions of the JCPOA," the letter reads. "If we maintain our alliance now, we will be in the position to keep Iran's nuclear aspirations in check in the long run." The letter continues: "But let us be clear: if the deal breaks down, it will well-nigh be impossible to assemble another grand coalition built around sanctions against Iran. We must preserve what took us a decade to achieve and has proven to be effective." (CNN)
Renewed sanctions need not mean U.S. exit from Iran deal: Mnuchin
A decision by U.S. President Donald Trump not to renew sanctions relief for Iran on May 12 would not necessarily mean the United States had withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear what Mnuchin meant by his comment but it appeared to signal the Trump administration believes the agreement will not necessarily collapse if Trump chooses not to extend U.S. sanctions relief to Iran. The crux of the 2015 agreement between Iran and six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - was that Iran would restrict its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy. (Reuters)
Iranian man granted visa to donate bone marrow to brother in US
After almost two months, the US State Department approved a visa for an Iranian man to come to the United States in order to have bone marrow transplant surgery to help his brother, who has cancer. Naturalized US citizen Maziar Hashemi, 60, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer, in September. According to his doctors, the only treatment that can cure his cancer is a bone marrow transplant. His brother, Kamiar Hashemi, is a 100% bone marrow match to Maziar, but he lives in Iran. Iran is one of eight countries subject to restrictions on their citizens entering the United States as part of a Trump administration policy implemented in December. Under this policy, people from Iran -- both immigrants and visitors -- are prevented from entering the United States unless they are students or scholars or have an exchange visitor visa. Iranians can still apply for visas, but many have been denied since the ban took effect, although waivers can be granted. (CNN)
Iran has railed against US sanctions imposed on 10 citizens and a tech firm accused of cyber attacks on at least 320 universities worldwide, along with US firms and government agencies. Tehran called the sanctions a gimmick that was provocative, illegal and unjustified. The Mabna Institute is accused of stealing 31 terabytes of "valuable intellectual property and data". Nine of the 10 individuals have been indicted separately for related crimes. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said the new US sanctions were an act of provocation, and that the move would not prevent Iran's technological progress. (BBC News)
President Donald Trump had a message to Iranians celebrating Persian New Year, known as Nowruz: Your country's government is corrupt. He began the statement wishing "a beautiful and blessed Nowruz" to people across the globe, but went on to slam Iran's government and military leaders. The holiday, which this year falls on Tuesday, marks the arrival of spring. It's celebrated by millions across the globe. "The history of Nowruz is rooted in Iran, where for millennia a proud nation has overcome great challenges by the strength of its culture and the resilience of its people," Trump said in a statement released Monday. "Today, the Iranian people face another challenge: rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people." (CNN)
Pompeo expected to reinforce Trump's hardline instincts on Iran and North Korea
CIA Director Mike Pompeo's expected move to lead the State Department is likely to lead to harder-line policies toward Iran and North Korea, though his ability to shape policy under President Donald Trump remains to be seen. Pompeo has advocated for military strikes against Iran while lobbying hard against the nuclear deal with Tehran. He's also been a force behind the administration's drive to squeeze North Korea. In the short term, the announcement that Pompeo would take on the leadership of the oldest US Cabinet agency is creating uncertainty and instability, observers said, as the Trump Administration pushes out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (CNN)
US Top Court Turns Away Dispute Involving Iran’s Bank Melli
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up Iranian government-owned Bank Melli's appeal of a lower court ruling that allowed victims of militant attacks allegedly backed by Iran to seek millions of dollars in compensation from the bank. The justices left in place the lower court's ruling that allowed some plaintiffs, trying to satisfy part of nearly $1 billion in court judgments against Iran, to go after roughly $17.6 million that Visa Inc and Franklin Resources Inc owed to Bank Melli related to credit card use in Iran. This marked the second time in two weeks the justices have acted in a case in which Iran has refused to pay judgments won in American courts by U.S. plaintiffs who have accused Tehran of complicity in various militant attacks. (Yahoo News)
The Trump administration has denied asylum to more than 100 Iranian Christians and other refugees who face possible persecution in their home country, despite White House promises to relieve the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East. The group of refugees, mostly Christians along with other non-Muslims, have been stranded in Vienna for more than a year, waiting for final approval to resettle in the United States. Now they face possible deportation back to Iran, where rights advocates say they face potential retaliation or imprisonment by the regime in Tehran for seeking asylum in the United States. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has vowed action to alleviate the suffering of Christians in the region and the administration has condemned Tehran’s treatment of religious minorities. But critics say the decision on the Iranian Christians shows the administration had failed to live up to its own rhetoric. (Foreign Policy)
Supreme Court Forbids Seizure of Ancient Persian Artifacts
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Americans injured in a 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem cannot seize ancient Persian artifacts from a Chicago museum to satisfy a $71.5 million court judgment against Iran, which they had accused of complicity in the attack. The justices, in an 8-0 ruling, upheld a lower court’s decision in favor of Iran that had prevented the plaintiffs from collecting on the judgment, which Tehran has not paid, by obtaining antiquities held at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. The important Persian cultural artifacts, on loan from Iran to the museum since the 1930s, include clay tablets boasting some of the oldest writing in the world. (Reuters)
Why These Animals Were Accused of Being International Spies
Deep within uranium mines, lizards were lurking around, attracting atomic waves and delivering intel on the Iranian government. Or at least that's the narrative Iranian military advisor Hassan Firuzabadi told media outlets earlier this week. Firuzabadi's comments came after being asked about a group of environmentalists under arrest since late January. According to the Times of Israel, a local Iranian news agency quoted Firuzabadi as saying that, in the environmentalists' possession, they found lizards and chameleons. Allegedly these were deployed to find where Iran was mining and developing uranium. (National Geographic)
Tillerson: US, European allies working on Iran nuclear deal
Working groups have begun meeting to discuss possible ways to address what the Trump administration sees as serious flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday. Speaking to reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Tillerson said that the U.S. had already reached an agreement with Germany, France and the United Kingdom — the three European countries involved in the Iran deal — to identify problem areas within the agreement. The working groups, he said, are looking at the scope of what to address in the Iran deal, as well as how to engage Tehran on possible fixes to those issues. (The Hill)
Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military
The Iranian military has halted the routine harassment by its armed “fast boats” of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military said, a turnabout that officials welcomed but were at a loss to explain. The boats for at least two years would dart toward the U.S. vessels as they passed through the Persian Gulf, risking miscalculation, but haven't done so for five months, U.S. military officials said. (Wall Street Journal)