European countries set up trade channel with Iran to bypass US sanctions
Germany, France and Britain have joined forces to establish their own trade channel to Iran and circumvent United States sanctions, according to a joint statement made by the so-called E3 on Thursday.
The three signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been working for months to establish a measure allowing payments between Europe and Iran to continue, in the wake of the US withdrawal from the agreement in May.
Now the European countries have officially established that channel, in a move likely to displease Washington. (CNN)
Germany bans Iranian airline from its airspace after U.S. pressure
Germany has revoked the license of an Iranian airline because it has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after heavy U.S. pressure on Berlin to act.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
The German ban on the airline takes immediate effect, a foreign ministry spokesman said. (Reuters)
Iranian Leader Vows To Launch Satellites, Defying U.S. Warnings
Iran soon will put two satellites into orbit using domestically made rockets, President Hassan Rohani has said, despite U.S. concerns that the launches could help further develop the country's ballistic missiles.
"Soon, in the coming weeks, we will send two satellites into space using our domestically-made rockets," Rohani said on January 10 during a commemoration for the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian state television reported. (RFE/RL)
U.S. warns Iran not to launch satellites into space
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Thursday to scuttle its plans to launch satellites into space that the United States said could be used to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Pompeo stopped short of saying how the United States might react if Iran goes ahead with its announced intention to test three Space Launch Vehicles (SLVs), but his warning suggested that the move could lead to new sanctions. (Washington Post)
US Aircraft Carrier Enters Persian Gulf After Long Absence
A U.S. aircraft carrier sailed into the Persian Gulf on Friday, becoming the first since America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May and breaking the longest carrier absence in the volatile region since at least the September 11 terror attacks.
The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis comes as Iranian officials have returned to repeatedly threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels shadowed the Stennis and its strike group, at one point launching rockets away from it and flying a drone nearby. (VOA)
Global Traders Halt New Iran Food Deals as US Sanctions Bite
Cargill, Bunge and other global traders have halted food supply deals with Iran because new U.S. sanctions have paralyzed banking systems required to secure payments, industry and Iranian government sources say.
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed this year after U.S. President Donald Trump said in May he was walking away from a 2015 international deal over Iran's nuclear program.
But the U.S. measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred many foreign banks from all Iranian business, including humanitarian deals. Many smaller banks that had dealt with Iran under a previous round of sanctions have also stopped dealings this time. (VOA)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to prohibit Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests, warning member nations that a failure to hold Tehran accountable could yield dramatic consequences.
But while allies echoed some of Pompeo's concerns, the divide between the US and nations remaining in the Iran nuclear deal was abundantly clear yet again.
Pompeo again claimed that Tehran has increased its ballistic missile activity since the Iran nuclear deal took effect in 2016 and defended the Trump administration's decision earlier this year to withdraw from the agreement. (CNN)
U.S. issues fewer student visas to Iranians despite exemption
With offers from four American universities, Mani Rezaei Rad gave up his well-paid job with a Siemens affiliate company in Tehran last year and proposed to his girlfriend so they could be together while he studied in the United States.
Getting a U.S. student visa normally takes a few months, but 16 months later, he was still waiting. The uncertainty and lack of work took its toll on the relationship and the couple split.
“I was sliding into depression. I felt hollow and useless,” said Rezaei Rad, who had won places to study for a post-graduate degree in electrical engineering. Eventually he gave up his American dream and got a place at a European university instead. (Reuters)
Iran: US must lift sanctions on food, medicine as per ICJ ruling
Iran says the US must lift its cruel sanctions on exports of humanitarian goods, including food and medicine, to Iran based on an October ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The ruling requires Washington to allow supply of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural goods and airplane parts, which directly deal with human lives, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, said Thursday.
“With the bullying policies it pursues across the world, the US wants to ignore all international bodies, and does not pay any heed to them,” Qassemi told state broadcaster IRIB. (PressTV)
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)