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Iranian Affairs

Khafee

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Iran to lift uranium enrichment to 5%, above level in 2015 deal: official
July 6, 2019 / Updated 3 minutes ago
Parisa Hafezi
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FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran on Sunday will announce an increase in uranium enrichment to 5%, a concentration above the limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal, an Iranian official told Reuters, in a move signalling a deepening challenge to escalating U.S. sanctions pressure.

The declaration comes at a time of sharply increased U.S.-Iranian confrontation, a year after Washington quit the pact and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the accord in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear work.

“The main announcement tomorrow will be the increase of the level of enrichment to 5% percent from 3.67% that we agreed under the deal,” the official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier that senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi will announce more cuts in its commitments to the pact on Sunday. Other officials will join Araqchi in making the announcement at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. (0600 GMT) in Tehran, the Fars news agency reported.

The deal is aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from roughly 2-3 months. Iran says its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes, such as power generation, and not to make bombs.

Under its deal with six world powers, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67 percent fissile material, well below the 20 percent it was reaching before the deal and the roughly 90 percent suitable for a nuclear weapon.

Sunday’s planned announcement is a setback for Britain, France and Germany, co-signatories of the deal who have pressed for months to persuade Iran to remain committed to the accord.

Iran has said that the Europeans have done “too little, too late” to salvage the pact by protecting Iran’s economic interests from U.S. sanctions.

“ECONOMIC WAR”
Washington tightened those curbs from May, ordering all countries and companies to halt all imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system. It has also dispatched extra troops to the region to counter what it describes as Iranian threats.

In reaction to the toughened U.S. sanctions, Iran said in May that it would scale back its commitments to the deal after a 60-day deadline to European signatories of the pact to protect Iran’s economic interests from U.S. sanctions.

However, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said last week that all the measures taken by Iran were “reversible” if other parties to the deal fulfilled their promises.

Leaving room for diplomacy, Rouhani in a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron: “Lifting all sanctions can be the beginning of a move between Iran and six major powers.”

“The U.S. sanctions are a full-scale economic war against Iran that could create more crisis in the region and in the world,” he told Macron, according to state TV.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iranian officials were unanimous in raising the level of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% set in accord, in remarks posted on Khamenei’s officials website.

“For example, we need uranium enriched to 5% for use in the Bushehr (power plant) and this is a completely peaceful purpose,” Velayati said, hinting that this might be the first step Iran might take in raising the enrichment level.

Iran’s main demand - in talks with the European parties to the deal and as a precondition to any talks with the United States - is to be allowed to sell its oil at the levels before Washington pulled out of the deal and restored sanctions.

Iranian crude exports were around 300,000 barrels per day or less in late June, industry sources said, a fraction of the more than 2.5 million bpd Iran shipped in April 2018, the month before Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean


 

Khafee

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France, Iran agree to seek conditions to resume nuclear talks by July 15: Macron
06 July 2019 / Updated 2 minutes ago

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the UNESCO'S headquarter during the Education and development G7 ministers Summit, in Paris, France July 5, 2019. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday he and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had agreed to seek conditions for a resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear question by July 15.

“The President of the Republic has agreed with his Iranian counterpart to explore by July 15 conditions to resume dialogue between the parties,” Macron’s office said in a statement.

The statement added Macron will keep on talking with Iranian authorities and other involved parties to “engage in a de-escalation of tensions related to Iranian nuclear issue.”

Reporting by Inti Landauro, Editing by William Maclean

 

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UK-flagged tanker reported 'safe and well' after stop in Gulf
July 6, 2019 / Updated 4 minutes ago

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DUBAI (Reuters) - The UK-flagged supertanker Pacific Voyager that halted in the Gulf on Saturday is “safe and well,” a British official told Reuters, after Iran dismissed reports its Revolutionary Guards had seized the vessel.

A Revolutionary Guards commander on Friday had threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture by Royal Marines of Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar.

The Pacific Voyager stopped in the Gulf en route to Saudi Arabia from Singapore, before resuming its course, Refinitiv Eikon mapping showed.

It stopped as part of a routine procedure to adjust its arrival time at its next port, an official at UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) told Reuters. UKMTO, which coordinates shipping in the Gulf, had been in contact with the tanker, the official said.

On Saturday an Iranian cleric said Britain should be “scared” about Tehran’s possible retaliation for the seizure of the Grace 1, the Fars semi-official news agency reported.

“I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,” said Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the Assembly of Experts clerical body.

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed ways to maintain pressure on Iran during a phone call on Friday, the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement, which did not mention the tanker incident, said: “They discussed cooperation ... to advance shared national security interests, including efforts to enforce sanctions on Syria, to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, and to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

Washington’s envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is headed to hold talks with European officials in Brussels and Berlin this week, the State Department said on Saturday, after Trump’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom where they agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks.

Tensions are high in the Gulf following last month’s attacks on vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route, and Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone. Washington and Saudi Arabia have directly blamed Iran for the attacks on tankers, something Tehran denies. [nL8N23L2Y5]

The attacks have raised fears of a broader confrontation in the region where the United States has boosted its military presence over perceived Iranian threats.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall, Eric Knecht and Parisa Hafezi; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Bedminster, N.J.; Editing by Jason Neely and Leslie Adler


 

Khafee

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Iranian Scientists Accused of Violating US Sanctions
7 July, 2019
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Prosecutors in Atlanta have accused Masoud Soleimani, who was coming to the US for visiting scientist position, of violating US sanctions. Photograph: Ric Feld/AP

Washington- Asharq Al-Awsat

An Iranian scientist who was coming to the US for a prestigious visiting scientist position was arrested on arrival.

Prosecutors in Atlanta have accused professor Masoud Soleimani and two of his former students of conspiring and attempting to export biological materials from the U.S. to Iran without authorization in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Defense attorneys for the three argue no authorization was needed because the recombinant proteins are medical materials.

The proteins were seized from one of the scientists at the Atlanta airport as she traveled to Iran in September 2016. Prosecutors got an indictment in June 2018, and Soleimani was arrested in October.

The two former students - Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri - live in the US and are free on bond. Soleimani remains in custody.

 

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US Threatens Iran with more 'Isolation' as EU Urges it to Halt Higher Enrichment
7 July, 2019

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FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019. REUTERS

Asharq Al-Awsat

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on Sunday with more "isolation and sanctions" as the European Union strongly urged Tehran to stop actions that would undermine a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was in touch with other parties to the deal and may set up a joint commission to look into the issue.

"Iran's latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions. Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran's nuclear program. Iran's regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world," Pompeo tweeted.

"We are extremely concerned at Iran's announcement that it has started uranium enrichment above the limit of 3.67 percent," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said earlier in a statement.

"We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments ... We are in contact with the other JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants regarding the next steps under the terms of the JCPoA, including a Joint Commission," she said.

Iran announced on Sunday it will shortly boost its uranium enrichment above a cap set by the nuclear deal.

In a live news conference, senior Iranian officials threatened further violations, saying Tehran would keep reducing its commitments every 60 days, unless European signatories of protect it from US sanctions imposed by US President Trump.

"We are fully prepared to enrich uranium at any level and with any amount," said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

"In a few hours the technical process will come to an end and the enrichment beyond 3.67 percent will begin," he added, referring to the limit set in the 2015 agreement.

In a sign of heightening tensions, France, Germany and Britain -- all parties to the deal -- expressed concerns over the step taken by Tehran.

Experts fear a miscalculation in the crisis could explode into open conflict, as Trump already has nearly bombed Iran over Tehran shooting down a US military surveillance drone.

 

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Outrage as Houthis Revealed to Have Collected Donations for Lebanon’s Hezbollah
07 July 2019

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Yemen's Houthi militias collect donations to Lebanon's Hezbollah party. (AFP)

Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat

A radio station run by the Iran-backed Houthi militias announced that it had managed to garner millions of riyals in donations to the Lebanese Hezbollah party.

The Iran-backed party has seen its income diminish due to American sanctions on Tehran.

Sam FM announced that it collected 73 million riyals (around $132,000) from Houthi members and followers over a ten-day campaign for Hezbollah, which is blacklisted by various countries.

The news sparked outrage among residents of Houthi-held Sanaa. Many expressed their disgust to Asharq Al-Awsat over how the militias are keener on Hezbollah’s interests than on the people and on easing their suffering.

Sanaa-based Yemeni activist Saeed al-Kholani told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are not surprised that the militias would support their allies in the region, but we question how such a donation campaign could be organized at a time when the majority of Yemenis in regions under their control are starving.”

He also noted that the Yemenis are starving in regions where Houthi rulers boast massive wealth from looting state resources and imposing additional taxes on merchants.

“Sam FM was better off collecting donations to the thousands of families that lost their sources of income or employees of the government, whose salaries have been halted by the Houthis for the third straight year,” he remarked.

Relief worker Samir Yehya told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The amount the militias managed to collect may be small, but it reveals the extent to which they are disconnected from the problems of Yemeni society and just how keen they are on serving Iran’s sectarian and regional agenda.”

One Sanaa resident expressed his shock at the Houthi donation campaign, saying: “If only they would allow us to collect donations for the poor.”

“If only they would cease meddling in charitable work and harming humanitarian agencies that are keen on providing relief to the Yemenis,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “They do not care for the suffering of the people because they are nothing more than a sectarian gang. They can never rise up to the responsibility.”

A local official in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis’ “bewildering” behavior stems from their hatred towards the Yemenis and their fear that Hezbollah’s diminishing income would negatively impact them.

Partisan sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the donation campaign “was merely symbolic and instead sought to underline the ties that bind Iran’s proxies in the region.”

He noted that senior Houthi officials still receive their monthly salaries, which are provided by Hezbollah.

Sources said that the Yemeni people were more entitled than any other party to obtain humanitarian relief. Hezbollah needs nothing given its massive sources of income, whether from Iran, its major investments or its money-laundering and drug trade.

American reports had previously revealed that Hezbollah derives its income from Iran’s supreme leader, charitable (zakat) donations from its supporters and various institutions and financial networks. The reports estimated that Hezbollah has an annual budget of some $700 million, eight percent of which is provided by Iran, meaning the American sanctions on Iranian oil will negatively affect this support.

Yemeni observers believe that the Houthis sought from their donation campaign to prove their loyalty to Hezbollah and garner its support to keep dozens of its experts in Yemen where they provide combat training to Houthi members.

 

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Iran faces international condemnation over uranium enrichment breach
Updated 16 sec ago
AFP
July 07, 2019

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, second left, during the ‘nuclear technology day’ in Tehran on April 9, 2019. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)


  • Germany and UK warn Iran to reverse actions that threaten the deal
  • President Hassan Rouhani’s order to exceed the threshold would be implemented “in a few hours
TEHAN: Iran faced international condemnation Sunday after announcing it would breach the uranium enrichment cap set by an endangered nuclear deal within hours as it seeks to press other parties into keeping their side of the bargain.

Tehran also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the landmark 2015 agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Tehran could further scale back its commitments, but “all such steps are reversible” if European countries deliver on their part.

The move to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent comes despite opposition from the European Union and the United States, which has quit the deal.

President Hassan Rouhani’s order to exceed the threshold would be implemented “in a few hours” after the last technical details were sorted, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said live on state television.

Germany said it strongly urged Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments.

"We are in contact with the other JCPoA participants regarding the next steps," a German foreign office spokesman said.

The UK foreign ministry issued a similar statement, adding that "Iran must immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's actions would only leave it facing further sanctions and isolation.
Extremely concerned at Iran's announcement that it has started uranium enrichment above the limit agreed to in the #JCPoA. We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments under the JCPoA. pic.twitter.com/Vt1DSVZo2Z
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) July 7, 2019
Donald Trump repeated his warning that Iran would never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

Rouhani initially flagged Tehran’s intentions on May 8, exactly a year on from US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoning the multilateral deal.

He has said the move is in response to a failure by remaining parties to keep their promise to help Iran work around biting sanctions reimposed by the US in the second half of last year.

The arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words with Washington blaming Iran for a series of attacks on tanker ships and Tehran shooting down an

American surveillance drone, raising fears of a conflict that both sides have said they want to avoid.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Sunday singled out Iran’s declining oil sales and the effect of financial sanctions as the main issues that needed to be solved, or Tehran would further step back from its nuclear commitments.

“We hope we can reach a solution otherwise after 60 days we will take the third step as well,” he said, adding that Tehran would give further details at an “opportune moment.”
Iran’s latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and sanctions. Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 7, 2019
Iran has previously threatened to also resume building as of July 7 a heavy water reactor — capable of one day producing plutonium — in Arak in central Iran, a project that had been mothballed under the agreement.

However since Iran delivered its ultimatum on the Arak reactor “good technical progress” had been made with parties to the deal on modernizing the reactor, convincing Iran to postpone its decision, Araghchi said.

The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia — and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Washington began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fueling a deep recession.
It is not yet clear how far Iran will boost enrichment.

But a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.

Kamalvandi said Sunday that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was fully ready to enrich uranium “at any amount and at any level” if ordered to do so.

The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.

Iran says that it is not violating the deal, citing terms of the agreement allowing one side to temporarily abandon some of commitments if it deems the other side is not respecting its part of the accord.

The diplomatic chiefs of Britain, France, Germany and the EU said earlier in the week that they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to breach some of its commitments.

Trump, meanwhile, has warned Iran that it is “playing with fire.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday’s announcement a “very dangerous step” and called on France, Britain and Germany to impose “harsh sanctions” on Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Rouhani of his “strong concern” over the risk of weakening the nuclear agreement during a telephone call Saturday, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

However, Macron pledged to “explore by July 15 the conditions for a resumption of dialogue between all parties,” the statement said.

Iran says it exercised “strategic patience” for a year after the US withdrawal, waiting for the other signatories to make good on promised economic benefits.

But on May 8, Tehran announced it would no longer respect two key limits — a 1.3-ton maximum for heavy water reserves and a cap of 300 kilogrammes on its low-
enriched uranium stockpile.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has scheduled a special meeting on Iran’s nuclear program for July 10.

 

Persian Gulf

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IMF Forecasts Return to GDP Growth in Iran after 2019:

IMF predicts 6% contraction in GDP in 2019, but return to growth of 0.2% in 2020, 0.9% in 2021 and then 1%+ to 2024 (with inflation falling from a peak of 37% in 2019 to 25% in 2024).



Djavad-Salehi (respected independent economist) suggests that these figures are too pessimistic and that Iran's economy is "adjusting to a new lower equilibrium" and should grow by 1-2% in 2020. The currency has also stabilised at around 13,000 T to the dollar, strengthening from the level of a few months ago (14,000 T).

 

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Iran Surpasses 3.67% Uranium Enrichment Limit Set by 2015 Nuclear Deal
08.07.2019

View attachment 9219
©AP Photo / Vahid Salemi, File

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Iran on Monday started enriching uranium beyond the limit of 3.67 percent, outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said.

"Today we surpassed 3.67 percent [enrichment limit]", Kamalvandi said, as quoted by the IRNA news agency. "We do not need 20 percent [enriched] fuel now, but we will produce it if we want to. There are no obstacles and problems".

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation also noted that the country could bring uranium enrichment up to 20 percent as the third step in reducing its obligations under the nuclear deal. According to him, the issue has already been discussed during sessions of the Supreme National Security Council.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi previously blamed Europe for failing to fulfil its commitments to the JCPOA, adding, however, that "the doors of diplomacy are still open".

At the same time, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani explained that Tehran's decision to reduce some of its commitments under the nuclear deal was an attempt to save, not to undermine the JCPOA.

On 8 May, Iran announced that it was partially discontinuing some of its obligations under the agreement. The decision came exactly one year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Tehran also urged the other nuclear deal signatories - Russia, China, the European Union, France, Germany, and Great Britain - to protect Iran from the US restrictions, stating that otherwise, Iran may reduce its commitments under the JCPOA.

 

Persian Gulf

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Good point from Zarif. The same people that say the JPCOA is the worst deal ever are now crying for Iran to comply with it again! :rolleyes:
 

Persian Gulf

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Seizure of the tanker was clearly an illegal political act by the Brits to placate the hardline neo-con US administration, the Spanish/French/Germans would not have acted in such a way.

Regardless, I think they will release the tanker within the next week or so to avoid any Iranian retaliation.
 

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So what is happening now? Iran has breached the nuclear deal which gives the rest of the world the green light to further escalate sanctions against Iran.
 

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