CIA Director Sent Warning To Iran Over Threatened U.S. Interests In Iraq
The CIA director said on Saturday he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the US would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on US interests in Iraq. Mike Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran and was this week reported to be under consideration to become secretary of state, said he sent the letter to Gen Qassem Soleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general did not read it. “I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might, in fact, threaten US interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. “He refused to open the letter – didn’t break my heart, to be honest with you. (The Guardian)
Turkish Gold Trader Implicates Erdogan In Iran Money Laundering
A Turkish-Iranian gold trader on Thursday told jurors in a New York federal court that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan authorized a transaction in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Reza Zarrab is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive accused of helping to launder money for Iran. At the time of the alleged conspiracy, Erdogan was Turkey's prime minister. Zarrab said he had learned from Zafer Caglayan, who was Turkey's economy minister, that Erdogan and then-treasury minister Ali Babacan had authorized two Turkish banks, Ziraat Bank and VakifBank, to move funds for Iran. (U.S. News)
Criticism Of U.S. Sanctions Returns In Iran After Earthquake
With Iranian-Americans abroad unable to send money directly to Iran to aid those affected by this week’s powerful earthquake that killed over 530 people, criticism of U.S. sanctions on Iran flared up anew on Thursday. The 2015 nuclear deal Tehran struck with world powers lifted some sanctions but others, dating back as far as the days after the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover, still stand, including those that prohibit about 1 million Iranian-Americans from directly sending cash to Iran. The state-run IRNA news agency, as well as other media, published articles criticizing the rules. “Despite all the difficulties, Iranians living in the U.S. are doing their best to devise innovative solutions to send their humanitarian supplies to the quake-hit areas in western Iran,” IRNA’s report said. (The Washington Post)
Saudi Arabia has lashed out at Iran over the firing of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh by Houthi rebels in Yemen, citing evidence that Tehran was behind the attack and labeling it a potential "act of war". A statement issued on Monday via the state news agency SPA denounced the "flagrant military aggression by the Iranian-controlled Houthi militias" and said that an examination of the debris "confirmed the role of Iran's regime in manufacturing [this and a previous missile] and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the Kingdom, its people, and vital interests". The statement accused Iran of violating the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, which prohibits states from supplying weapons to Yemeni armed groups. "Iran's role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitutes a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally," the SPA statement noted. (Al Jazeera)
Iranians dug through rubble in a frantic search for survivors on Monday, after a powerful earthquake struck near the Iraqi border, killing more than 450 people and injuring thousands of others in the world’s deadliest earthquake so far this year.
The quake, recorded at 9:18 p.m. on Sunday, was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. The epicenter was near Ezgeleh, Iran, about 135 miles northeast of Baghdad, and had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3, according to the United States Geological Survey. Seismologists in the country said it was the biggest quake to hit the western part of Iran.
Supreme Leader Khamenei Says U.S. Is Iran's 'Number One Enemy'
The United States is Iran’s “number one enemy” and Tehran will never succumb to Washington’s pressure over a multinational nuclear deal, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump broke ranks with other major powers last month by refusing to formally certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Under that deal, most sanctions on Iran were lifted in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear work. “The American president’s foolish remarks against our people show the depth of America’s hostility towards the entire Iranian nation,” Iran’s top authority Khamenei told a group of students. (Reuters)
Tillerson Tells Iranian Militias In Iraq To 'Go Home'
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday urged Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to “go home,” and warned European companies doing business with the Revolutionary Guard in Iran that they could face “great risk” from sanctions. Shiite militias mostly composed of Iraqi citizens but backed by Iran were instrumental in helping the Iraqi army drive the Islamic State from Mosul and other strongholds in Iraq. There have been reports of Iranian advisers among them. Tillerson said they have no business being on the battlefield now that the Islamic State has been routed. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, using two common acronyms for the Islamic State. “Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home, and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors.” (The Washington Post)
U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Escalates Confrontation With Iran
The Trump administration escalated a bitter confrontation with Iran on Wednesday, demanding that the United Nations Security Council punish the Iranian government for what the American ambassador called its "outlaw behavior" across the middle east. "The United States will not turn a blind eye to these violations," the United Nations ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, told a Security Council meeting that had been meant to focus on developments in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Ms. Haley used her speaking time instead to deliver a critique of Iran. Her remarks were among the most strident denunciations Ms. Haley has made of Iran since she became President Trump's ambassador in January. (The New York Times)
Trump Won't Certify Iran Nuclear Deal, But He Also Won't Unravel It
President Trump will make good on Friday on a long-running threat to disavow the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. But he stop short, for now, of unraveling the accord or even rewriting it, as the deal's defenders had once feared. In a speech on Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump will declare his intention not to certify Iran's compliance with the agreement. Doing so essentially kicks to congress a decision about whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which would blow up the agreement. But the Trump administration made it clear that it wants to leave the 2015 accord intact, at least for now. Instead, it is asking congress to establish "trigger points,' which could prompt the United States to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it crosses thresholds set by congress. (The New York Times)
Family Splits Drive Suit Over 'Most Cruel' Trump Travel Ban
A pair of Iranian romances are at the center of the first lawsuit targeting President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries, Venezuela and North Korea. A complaint filed late Monday in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, pits the Trump administration against a nonprofit group, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, and six unnamed U.S. citizens of Iranian descent, including two women who are seeking visas for the Iranian men they love. Trump’s Sept. 24 proclamation will indefinitely limit most travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, all of which were part of the original ban. It will also restrict travel to the U.S. from Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. (Bloomberg)
U.S. Sees No 'Indication' Iran Launched A Ballistic Missile, Despite Trump Tweet
US intelligence radars and sensors "picked up no indication" of an Iranian ballistic missile launch in the days surrounding a reported test, according to a Trump administration official familiar with the latest US assessment. Iranian reports that the nation tested a new ballistic missile so far does not appear to be true, the official said, adding: "As far as we can see, it did not happen." State-run broadcaster Press TV reported the launch on Saturday, according to footage broadcast on Iranian state television."Iran has released footage of the successful test-launch of its new ballistic missile, Khorramshahr, a few hours after it was unveiled during a military parade in the capital city of Tehran," Press TV said. (CNN)
Iran's president said it would be a "great pity" if "rogue newcomers" destroy the international nuclear deal that lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program. "It will be a great pity if this agreement were destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics," he added in a clear reference to US President Donald Trump, who addressed the General Assembly the day before and offered scathing criticism of both Iran and the 2015 international agreement. "I declare to you the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement, but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party," Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations Wednesday. (CNN)
Iran Nuclear Deal Critics Push Plan For ‘Global Economic Embargo’
Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal are pushing a proposal that calls for President Donald Trump to declare that Tehran has failed to comply with the agreement and to threaten an unprecedented economic embargo designed to rattle the regime. The document, which has been circulating on Capitol Hill and in the White House, says the president should declare to Congress next month that the deal is no longer in the national security interest of the United States. Then the president would make clear his readiness to hit Iran with a “de-facto global economic embargo” if it failed to meet certain conditions over a 90-day period, including opening military sites to international inspectors. “This would be a 21st century financial version of [John F.] Kennedy’s Cuba quarantine,” according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Foreign Policy. The embargo would involve reimposing sanctions lifted under the deal, as well as additional measures including restrictions on oil exports. (Foreign Policy)
How The Travel Ban Left A Family Of Iranian Refugees Stranded In Turkey
Seid Moradi never wanted to leave Iran. But under threats to his life because of his non-Muslim faith, he saw no choice. Savings in hand, he fled his hometown near the Iraqi border with his family, boarding a bus for the more than 20-hour ride across the country’s northwestern border with hopes of starting anew. And for a while, that dream didn’t seem out of reach. In the central Turkish city of Kayseri, the family — father, wife, sister-in-law and three kids — worked delivering groceries and sewing clothes to cobble together rent while undergoing interviews to become refugees. But three years later, hope is slipping away. When news arrived this year that the U.S. government would resettle them in Seattle, they moved out of their apartment in June, and sold all but what would fit into seven roller bags days before their scheduled flight. (The Los Angeles Times)
Iran Upholds Convictions of Iranian-American Father and Son
An Iranian appeals court has upheld the convictions of a prominent Iranian-American father and son accused of collaborating with the United States, their lawyer said Monday, posing a new source of tension in the increasing hostility between the countries. Iran’s incarceration of the defendants, Baquer Namazi and his son, Siamak, who were convicted last year and sentenced to 10-year terms, has been repeatedly cited by President Trump in his denunciations of the Iranian authorities. News that their appeal had been rejected came amid numerous signs of the downward spiral in the relations between Iran and the United States. The most notable is the Trump administration’s assertions that Iran is violating the 2015 nuclear agreement reached under President Barack Obama. The administration also has infuriated Iran by imposing new sanctions on the country in recent weeks. (NYTimes)
Former deputy CIA director says Trump process is 'very disconcerting' on Iran nuke deal
Tensions between the United States and Iran have been red hot in recent weeks -- and they might be about to get even hotter. Amid warning shots fired by US ships against Iranian ones, as well as very close calls when Iranian drones have buzzed the US military, President Trump will be called upon to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. His administration has declared Iran in compliance, as required by law, twice during his tenure so far. But Trump has said he expects the US to declare Iran non-compliant when the next review is due in September. (CNN)
Iranian drone forces US jet to take evasive action
An Iranian drone came within 100 feet of a US Navy F/A-18 attempting to land on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, according to two US defense officials with knowledge of the incident. The officials said the drone forced the US aircraft to take evasive action. The "QOM-1" drone came within 100 feet below the aircraft and 200 feet to the side of the aircraft. The F/A-18 was in a landing pattern several thousand feet off the deck of the ship waiting to land. The F/A-18 maneuvered repeatedly to avoid the drone officials said and it did not appear to be armed.The officials said the drone encounter was considered "unsafe and unprofessional." The US used an emergency radio frequency in the immediate area to warn those operating the drone to back away. It did eventually move off. (CNN)
Now U.S. Has Company In Raising Pressure On Iran Over Missile
Joined by three Western allies, the United States on Wednesday escalated pressure on Iran over its space launch last week, saying the act disregarded a United Nations Security Council resolution on the use of missiles and was “threatening and provocative. In a letter to the Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States and envoys from Britain, France, and Germany said the Iranian missile that carried a satellite into orbit was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.” Under the Security Council resolution, 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Iran is called upon “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” (The New York Times)
Senate Passes Sanction Bill Targeting Russia, Iran, and North Korea
The Senate has passed a sweeping sanctions package targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, 97-2. The U.S. House passed the sanctions package Tuesday in a 419-3 vote, sending the legislation to the Senate. The White House has not definitively said that President Trump will sign the bill, but the the measure won a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. The measure -- a reprimand for Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle, among other things -- requires congressional approval before the president can ease or lift sanctions. The White House had criticized attempts to limit the president's sanctions powers, but the legislation's solid bipartisan support may be forcing the president's hand. (CBS)
Iranian President Says Country Will "Stand Up" To U.S. Sanctions
Iran's president said Wednesday that it will stand up to the United States and reciprocate for any new sanctions that Washington imposes on the Islamic republic. Hassan Rouhani's remarks came a day after the Trump administration announced new, non-nuclear sanctions while at the same time warning Tehran that it would face consequences for breaching "the spirit" of the nuclear deal with world powers. The new sanctions, perceived as the latest attempt to clamp down on Iran's military financing, target 18 Iranian individuals and groups, ranging from an Iran-based company accused of aiding the country's drone program to a Turkey-based provider of naval equipment and a China-based network that helped secure electronics for Tehran. (CBS)
Iranian cancer researcher denied U.S. entry accused of having militia ties
An Iranian cancer researcher who was denied entry to the United States previously headed a student branch of a volunteer paramilitary militia, according to footage aired on Iranian state television on Thursday. The TV also showed Mohsen Dehnavi arriving back in Tehran alongside his wife and children. In comments to the channel at the airport, he defended his travel to the United States as solely intended for science and research. "The topic of our research was health and saving ill people fighting cancer from this dangerous disease, but they didn't allow us entry, despite, as I mentioned, all the efforts made by the American academic community," he said. (CBS)
Hundreds of cartoonists from around the world have taken part in a competition in Iran attacking Donald Trump. The winning image, by Hadi Asadi from Iran, shows the US president wearing a jacket of dollar bills and with burning yellow hair. Organizers of the Trumpism exhibition in Tehran have held similar contests in the past on themes including the Islamic State group and the Holocaust. This year's logo is based on the Nazi emblem, with a T instead of a swastika. It encouraged many comparisons between the US president and Nazism. (BBC)
Samuel Goldwyn Films is releasing its first Iranian film, The Persian Connection this week on July 14th. This stylish neon-noir thriller is set in the opium underworld of "Tehrangeles" and features a protagonist who was a child soldier during the Iran-Iraq War. The film premiered at TriBeCa 2106 to rave reviews. Reza Sixo Safai produced the film and plays the lead role; he spoke with us about it below.
Q: The protagonist in this film was a child soldier in the Iran-Iraq war. How much does that experience define the character? Was it common for children to fight in the war? Also - Does the fact that the protagonist experienced the Iran-Iraq war bring something to the story in a way that perhaps another war wouldn’t?
Safai: That experience is everything, defines everything. Now as human beings we all do our best to live, no matter what tragedy strikes us, we still do our best to go on living. But that pain is always there somewhere underneath, waiting for the right moment when it can come rushing out.
Iran Accuses U.S. of 'Brazen' Plan to Change its Government
Iran is accusing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of "a brazen interventionist plan" to change the current government that violates international law and the U.N. Charter. Iran's U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Tuesday that Tillerson's comments are also "a flagrant violation" of the 1981 Algiers Accords in which the United States pledged "not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs." Tillerson said in a June 14 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the 2018 State Department budget that U.S. policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons "and work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government." (CNBC)
The Trump Administration is Working to Free American Hostages in Iran
The Trump administration has quietly ramped up its involvement in trying to free two Iranian Americans being held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, including one who is in very poor health. The effort is now not only a focus of the administration’s approach to Iran, but also part of an overall increase of attention to the plight of Americans held unjustly abroad. Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American businessman, was arrested in Tehran in October 2015 and charged with espionage and collusion with an enemy country — the United States. (The Washington Post)
Senate Passes Sweeping Sanctions Bill Targeting Iran, Russia
A frequently polarized Senate found common ground Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russia, putting Congress on a possible collision course with President Donald Trump. The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after U.S. intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions in order to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups. (ABC News)
Iran FM Zarif Slams 'Repugnant' Trump Statement on Tehran Attacks Iran's foreign minister has denounced as "repugnant" a White House statement on Wednesday's terror attack in Tehran that said Iran was a "terror sponsor" President Trump had said he was praying for the victims, but added that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote". But Javad Zarif said Iran "rejected such claims of friendship" and claimed the attackers from so-called Islamic State had been "backed by US clients". (BBC)
Rouhani Vows to Shed Iran Sanctions as Trump Piles on More
A day after winning re-election last month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed a campaign pledge: that he’ll find a way to free his country from sanctions that hobble its economy. That’s a vow President Donald Trump and U.S. lawmakers are making harder than ever to keep.Trump used his first overseas trip last week to portray Shiite-led Iran as the embodiment of evil, the common enemy that could bring America’s Sunni-led Gulf allies together with Israel to achieve Middle East peace. In Washington, Republicans in Congress are also doubling down, pressing for legislation to add more sanctions, not lift those that remain after the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. (Bloomberg Politics)
Iran, one of the few countries involved in the Syria conflict not to have been affected by relentless terrorist attacks, woke up to a new reality on Wednesday, when armed men and perhaps one woman simultaneously staged attacks on the Parliament and on the landmark mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
At least two people were killed and 35 others wounded in the assaults, according to the state-sponsored Iranian Students’ News Agency. While the Islamic State immediately issued a claim of responsibility, suspicions in Tehran were also directed at Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional nemesis, newly emboldened by a supportive visit from President Trump last month.
Saudi Arabia recently raised the volume of criticism against Iran, and the country led a regional effort on Monday to isolate Qatar, the one Persian Gulf country that maintains relations with Tehran.
Senate Panel Backs Bill to Authorize New Sanctions on Iran
A Senate panel overwhelmingly backed bipartisan legislation that would authorize President Donald Trump to put new sanctions on Iran while keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in place. The Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-3 on Thursday despite concerns from former Secretary of State John Kerry and several Democrats that the measure could nonetheless lead to the unraveling of the nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration. Kerry cautioned lawmakers to “tread carefully” in pushing ahead with new sanctions against Iran in the wake of President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election last week to another four-year term. Rouhani is a political moderate who scored a resounding victory over a hard-line opponent. (PBS)