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)Read More
Week of September 28 - October 5th
AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Research Fellow Shiva Darian and Communications Associate Shahab Moghadam. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.
US to end Treaty of Amity with Iran after ICJ ruling
The US will pull out of a decades-old treaty with Iran which was used by Tehran as a basis for a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Iran took the US to court after it re-imposed sanctions on the back of abandoning a nuclear deal in May.
Iran argued that decision violated the terms of the 1955 Treaty of Amity.
But after the ICJ ordered the US to ease sanctions on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo said the treaty would be terminated. (BBC News)
Zarif: Iran can’t ‘start all over again’ with U.S.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said Iran cannot “start all over again” with the United States to renegotiate a new deal after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
“You remember the movie ‘50 First Dates,’ when you start all over again the following day. We can’t. This is impossible. You need to be able to have a relationship that is based on some foundations. And we have a document (the nuclear deal) that is a hundred and fifty pages long,” Zarif told the New Yorker in an exclusive interview published on Tuesday, comparing diplomacy with the U.S. to the 2004 movie about a man who keeps having first dates with a woman who has short-term memory loss and forgets him the next day. (Tehran Times)
StanChart Said to Brace for New Iran Fine of $1.5 Billion
Standard Chartered Plc is bracing for a potential penalty of around $1.5 billion from U.S. authorities for allowing customers to violate Iran sanctions, people familiar with the matter said.
That amount is a preliminary assessment based on some of the communications between the bank and the regulators, the people said. Final discussions to resolve the matter have not yet begun, they said. The allegations relate to breaches dating from at least five years ago. (Bloomberg)
Iran's Zarif: EU support for deal better than expected
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has told the BBC that support from Europe to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal in the face of US pressure has been better than expected.
Mr Zarif was speaking to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in New York after a week in which the EU announced it would set up a special financial mechanism to allow companies to get around the sanctions reinstated by President Donald Trump, who abandoned the nuclear deal earlier this year. (BBC News)
IAEA Says It Won't Take Intelligence at Face Value After Netanyahu's Iran Speech
The U.N. nuclear watchdog's independence is paramount and it does not take intelligence presented to it at face value, it said on Tuesday in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's description of a "secret atomic warehouse" in Iran.
Netanyahu - who vehemently opposes the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that the International Atomic Energy Agency is policing - made the statement in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week. He urged the IAEA to visit the site in Tehran.
A U.S. State Department official seconded that call, but a U.S. intelligence official called Netanyahu's assertions "somewhat misleading", adding that the facility does not contain anything that would enable Iran to accelerate activities banned under the deal. (The New York Times)
Traders bet on oil at $100 as Iran sanctions loom
Oil traders have piled into wagers that U.S. crude oil could surge to $100 a barrel by next year, a milestone that until recently many considered unthinkable due to record U.S. production growth and relatively flat global demand.
But the imminent return of U.S. sanctions on Iran and bottlenecks keeping U.S. oil from getting to market have fueled a rally that has taken benchmark oil prices to four-year highs.
While big producing nations say supply is ample, hedge funds and speculators are increasingly skeptical of that argument, betting the market could rally further as sanctions on Iran’s crude exports return on Nov. 4. (Reuters)
Iran Fires a Ballistic Missile at ISIS in Syria, Avenging an Earlier Attack
Iran fired six medium-range ballistic missiles across Iraq and into Syria early Monday at what it said was an Islamic State base, according to Iranian news agencies, its allies and spokesmen for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The Revolutionary Guards described the strike as retaliation for an attack in Ahvaz, Iran, on Sept. 22 against a military parade by its soldiers in which at least 25 people were killed, including 12 members of the elite unit plus civilian spectators and at least one young child. (The New York Times)
Iran mocks new nuclear claims by Israel's PM
Iran has ridiculed claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it is hiding a warehouse used to store prohibited nuclear technology.
Mr Netanyahu made what he called the revelation at the UN, producing a picture of the alleged secret site.
However, Iran's foreign minister dismissed the claim as an "arts and craft show" designed to conceal Israel's own nuclear programme.
Israel says Iran is seeking atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies. (BBC News)
France points finger at Iran over bomb plot, seizes assets
France said on Tuesday there was no doubt Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind a June plot to attack an exiled opposition group’s rally outside Paris and it seized assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals.
The hardening of relations between Paris and Tehran could have far-reaching consequences for Iran as President Hassan Rouhani’s government looks to European capitals to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran. (Reuters)
Bolton 2.0: Trump's tough guy on Iran picks his battles
By: Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Jonathan Landay
Hanging on a wall in John Bolton’s West Wing office is a memento of his proudest achievement as national security adviser: a framed copy of President Donald Trump’s order to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Right next to it hangs a cartoon mocking the agreement.
Bolton's choice of decor reflects his disdain for the deal secured by President Barack Obama and other world powers in 2015, and his relentless focus on trying to isolate Tehran and cripple its economy by reimposing tight sanctions.
Bolton took over as national security adviser in early April. A month later, Trump abandoned the Iran deal, meeting a promise he had made as a presidential candidate, which other wary West Wing advisers had persuaded him to put off. (Reuters)
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)Read More
Iran dismisses U.S. offer of talks, says Washington broke last deal
Iran hit back at a U.S. offer of negotiations on Thursday, saying Washington had violated the terms of the last big deal they agreed, the 2015 nuclear accord.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of that nuclear accord - which curbed Iran’s atomic activities in return for sanctions relief - in May, saying it did not go far enough.
The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said on Wednesday that Washington now wanted to negotiate a treaty that included Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional behavior. (Reuters)Read More
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'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)
European lawmakers ask Congress to save Iran deal
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 angered by US imposition of cyber sanctions
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)
On Persian New Year, Trump slams Iranian rulers
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)