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Khafee

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Iran poised for faster centrifuges as nuclear deal collapses
By AMIR VAHDAT and JON GAMBRELL
27 minutes ago
05 September 2019

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In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Rouhani reiterated a threat that Tehran would take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord on Friday and accelerate its nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution, calling it Iran's third, "most important step" away from the deal. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran was poised Thursday to begin work on advanced centrifuges that will enrich uranium faster as the 2015 nuclear deal unravels further and a last-minute French proposal offering a $15-billion line of credit to compensate Iran for not being able to sell its crude oil abroad because of U.S. sanctions looked increasingly unlikely.

Meanwhile, Iran released seven crew members from a detained British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in a goodwill gesture and the mariners flew out of Iran, the ship’s owner said.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported late Thursday that Iran will halt its commitments on research and development as its most recent step to move away from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The report didn’t elaborate and said further details would be announced later.

IRNA said the Foreign Ministry announced the move from a detail in a letter from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Iran has yet to say officially what exact steps it will take as a deadline it gave Europeans to salvage the deal is to expire on Friday. However, centrifuges that speed uranium enrichment would further shorten the time Tehran would need to have enough material available to build a nuclear weapon — if it chose to do so.

Under the deal, which has steadily unraveled after President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the accord last year, experts thought Iran would need about a year to reach that point.

Iran’s atomic energy agency was to make an announcement on Saturday detailing its next step, which President Hassan Rouhani described as highly significant, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency and other Iranian media. The details would be unveiled at a press conference in Tehran, the reports said.

The U.S. has continued its effort to choke off Iran’s crude oil sales abroad, a crucial source of government revenue. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who continues a whirlwind global diplomatic tour, insists his country will do everything it can to keep those sales going, though he described U.S. sanctions in an angry tweet Thursday as the equivalent of a “jail warden.”

“We will sell our oil, one way or the other,” Zarif told Russian broadcaster RT in a recently aired interview. “The United States will not be able to prevent that.”

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been growing since Trump’s pullout from the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran agree to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump subsequently re-imposed old sanctions on Iran and created new ones, going as far as targeting Iranian officials like Zarif and Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Meanwhile, mysterious oil tanker attacks struck near the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks, attacks that the U.S. blames on Iran. Tehran denies it was involved.

Iran also shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone and seized oil tankers as America deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, advanced fighter jets and more troops to the region.

The U.S. has sought to seize an Iranian oil tanker, the Adrian Darya-1, now thought by analysts to be off the Syrian coast despite a pledge by Tehran that its cargo wasn’t bound there.

In his speech late Wednesday, Rouhani said Tehran would soon begin work on research and development of “all kinds” of centrifuges that enrich uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas.

Iran has begun breaking limits of the deal, such as just creeping beyond its 3.67%-enrichment limit and its stockpile rules. Using advanced centrifuges speeds up enrichment and Iranian officials already have raised the idea of enriching to 20% — a small technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and denies it seeks an atomic bomb. However, Western nations have pointed to previous Iranian research into a weapons program that U.N. experts say largely ended in 2003.

France in recent days had pushed the idea of offering Iran a $15 billion credit to sell its oil, though details remain unclear and it appeared the deal wouldn’t come through before Iran’s deadline Friday.

That appears to show Iran trying to resort to its own maximum pressure campaign through the nuclear program to get what it wants, said Henry Rome, an analyst for the Eurasia Group.

“Iran’s plan appears to be provocative but reversible,” Rome said. “Tehran is building leverage, not a bomb.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime hawk on Iran, called on the world to increase its pressure on Tehran before flying to London for meetings with British officials on Thursday.

While Trump maintains he’s open for North Korea-style talks with Iran, his administration has continually upped its pressure on the Islamic Republic. On Wednesday, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on an oil shipping network it alleged had ties to the Guard and offered up to $15 million for anyone with information that disrupts the Guard’s operations.

“There will be more sanctions coming,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, told reporters at the State Department. “We can’t make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure.”

Hook also directly emailed or texted captains of Iranian oil tankers, trying to scare them into not delivering their cargo, according to the Financial Times.

Zarif reacted angrily to the report.
“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail_deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” the diplomat wrote on Twitter.

Also Thursday, seven of the 23 sailors aboard the Stena Impero flew out of Iran after being released, Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell said in a statement.
The crew members “are now travelling to a safe location where they will be reunited with their families,” Hanell said. “They will receive medical checks and a debriefing before being repatriated to their home countries at the earliest opportunity.”

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials, nor any acknowledgement in state-run media.

Iran seized the tanker on July, saying it violated Iranian laws, after authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar seized the Adrian Darya said to be to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on oil sales to the government in Damascus. The Iranian vessel, now called the Adrian Darya-1 was released in August.

The remaining 16 crew members are to stay onboard the Stena Impero.
___
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

 

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@Khafee who would you blame for this situation, the last US govt (Obama) who made the deal or current Trump administration.
 

Khafee

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@Khafee who would you blame for this situation, the last US govt (Obama) who made the deal or current Trump administration.
The people who have been chasing their own tail, and their nation's as well, since 1979.

IF you do not respect yourself, no one else will.
 

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Britain will support U.S. in Iran talks if deal can be made: UK defense minister
September 6, 2019
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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will always help the United States along a path to talks with Iran if a deal can be made, British defense minister Ben Wallace said on Friday, although he cautioned that Iran should be judged by its actions rather than words.

“Actions speak louder than words, so I think we’ll take them (Iran) at their actions rather than their words,” Wallace said at a news conference in London with his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper, who earlier said Iran was “inching” towards a place where talks could be held.

“But if there is a deal to be made, we will of course always help the United States along that path, because I think peace and stability in that region is the most important thing,” Wallace added.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, writing by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

 

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Britain will support U.S. in Iran talks if deal can be made: UK defense minister
September 6, 2019
View attachment 9695
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will always help the United States along a path to talks with Iran if a deal can be made, British defense minister Ben Wallace said on Friday, although he cautioned that Iran should be judged by its actions rather than words.

“Actions speak louder than words, so I think we’ll take them (Iran) at their actions rather than their words,” Wallace said at a news conference in London with his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper, who earlier said Iran was “inching” towards a place where talks could be held.

“But if there is a deal to be made, we will of course always help the United States along that path, because I think peace and stability in that region is the most important thing,” Wallace added.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, writing by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

I dont see a deal in the near future, specially if Trump gets another term as president which seems likely.
 

Khafee

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I dont see a deal in the near future, specially if Trump gets another term as president which seems likely.
US Treasury Designates Vast Iranian Petroleum Shipping Network That Supports IRGC-QF and Terror Proxies
September 4, 2019

Network of vessels and facilitators has moved hundreds of millions of dollars to Assad regime, Hizballah, and illicit actors

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against a large shipping network that is directed by and financially supports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its terrorist proxy Hizballah. Over the past year, the IRGC-QF has moved oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more through this network for the benefit of the brutal Assad regime, Hizballah, and other illicit actors. Senior IRGC-QF official and former Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Qasemi oversees this sprawling network, which features dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators. This complex network of intermediaries enables the IRGC-QF to obfuscate its involvement in selling Iranian oil. The IRGC-QF also relies heavily on Hizballah officials and front companies to broker associated contracts. OFAC also is issuing a new shipping advisory to the maritime community warning of these types of schemes and the sanctions risks associated with blocked persons.

“Iran continues to take provocative actions to destabilize the region and the world. Treasury’s action against this sprawling petroleum network makes it explicitly clear that those purchasing Iranian oil are directly supporting Iran’s militant and terrorist arm, the IRGC-Qods Force,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Our actions over the last two weeks should serve as a strong warning to anyone considering facilitating the Qods Force’s oil sales that there will be swift consequences.”

“The Iranian regime is leveraging a terrorist organization as its chief conduit for obfuscating and selling hundreds of millions of dollars of illicit oil to fuel its nefarious agenda. Iran’s exportation of oil directly funds acts of terrorism by Iranian proxies and atrocities by the Assad regime against innocent people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “This vast oil-for-terror shipping network demonstrates how economically reliant Tehran is on the IRGC-QF and Hizballah as financial lifelines. The international community must vehemently reject Iranian oil and related products in the same way that it rejects the violent acts of terrorism these networks fund.”

In spring 2019 alone, this IRGC-QF-led network employed more than a dozen vessels to transport nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil, predominantly to the Syrian regime. These shipments, taken collectively, sold for more than half a billion dollars. The same network also sold nearly 4 million barrels of condensate and hundreds of thousands of barrels in gas oil, bringing in another quarter billion dollars.

Iranian officials increasingly seek to deceive potential customers into buying Iranian oil. The network, run by IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi, attempted on multiple occasions to pass off Iranian cargo as Iraqi-origin.

Today, OFAC is announcing the designation of some 16 entities and 10 individuals pursuant to E.O. 13224, and is also identifying 11 vessels as property in which blocked persons have an interest. The IRGC and Hizballah, both identified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. Department of State under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, are also designated pursuant to E.O. 13224.

OFAC SHIPPING ADVISORY
Today OFAC also issued a new advisory to the maritime community to warn of the risks involved with participating in illicit schemes such as the IRGC-QF’s oil-for-terror shipping network. This advisory is in addition to the Maritime Petroleum Shipping Community issued by OFAC on March 25, 2019, which warns of sanctions risks related to oil shipments to Syria, including those from Iran.

IRGC-QF NETWORK OVERSIGHT
The IRGC-QF’s highest-ranking officials have long overseen exports of Iranian oil, often masking its origins and sending it to the Syrian regime or IRGC-QF proxies across the region.

IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani (Soleimani) supervises fellow IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi, who has continued taking advantage of his domestic and international connections in the energy industry since his tenure as Iran’s Minister of Petroleum from 2011 to 2013.

IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi, who is also the head of the Iranian-Syrian Economic Relations Development Committee, manages a group of individuals, shipping and oil companies, and vessels to sell Iranian crude, condensates, and gas oil. Qasemi relies on trusted IRGC-QF officials and associates to run the network, including his son, Morteza Qasemi. Morteza Qasemi has helped finalize the network’s oil contracts.

Ali Qasir, a Lebanese national and IRGC-QF associate, also serves as a lynchpin for this IRGC-QF-orchestrated network. His responsibilities for the network’s financial affairs include negotiating sales prices for the goods and settling vessel-related payments. Additionally, Ali Qasir assigns vessels to conduct shipments for the network based on the IRGC-QF’s guidance.

Rostam Qasemi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF and IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani. Rostam Qasemi previously was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on February 10, 2010; in his role as an IRGC general at the time, he served as the commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the engineering arm of the IRGC whose projects fund the IRGC’s operations. Morteza Qasemi and Ali Qasir are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for acting for or on behalf of Rostam Qasemi.

VESSELS AND SHIPPING MANAGERS
The IRGC-QF leverages trusted persons who operate or manage tankers to export Iranian oil and condensate, and has acquired several vessels of its own. For example, Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) official Shamsollah Asadi helped Rostam Qasemi obtain tankers for the network’s use. Shamsollah Asadi collaborated with Ali Qasir to cover expenses and facilitate an Iranian oil shipment by the ADRIAN DARYA 1 for the benefit of the IRGC-QF. He also helped arrange payments in support of vessel management transfers, ultimately benefiting the same IRGC-QF -run shipping network.

Accordingly, Shamsollah Asadi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Ali Qasir. The LEF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13572 and E.O. 13553 in June 2011 for human rights abuses in Syria and Iran, respectively.

MEHDI GROUP
India-based Mehdi Group and its director, Ali Zaheer Mehdi, have managed vessels and found additional ones to move Iranian oil. Mehdi Group bears responsibility for crewing and managing at least seven of the vessels used by the network.

Mehdi Group officials, including Ali Zaheer Mehdi, have spread responsibility for managing the vessels across at least ten subsidiaries and shell companies.

India-based Mehdi Group subsidiaries Bushra Ship Management Private Limited and Khadija Ship Management Private Limited (Khadija), under director Ali Ghadeer Mehdi, handle the day-to-day operations of the network’s vessels. These vessels include the BONITA QUEEN, the DEVREZ, and the TOUR 2, which are being identified today as blocked property in which Khadija has an interest.

Other Mehdi Group officials work to ensure the vessels remain available for the network’s use. Anuj Bhardwaj arranges vessel inspections and registrations. Zafar Anis Ishteyaq Hussain tracks and processes millions of dollars in expenses incurred by the vessels.

A third Mehdi Group subsidiary, Vaniya Ship Management Private Limited, helped Mehdi Group set up three shell companies in the Marshall Islands. Under Ali Ghadeer Mehdi’s management, the shell companies purchased three crude oil tankers: the SARAK, the SOBAR, and the SOLAN. The SOBAR and the SOLAN previously appeared in an OFAC advisory to the maritime petroleum shipping community, which warned of the sanctions risks associated with shipments of petroleum to the Government of Syria. Both vessels, as well as the SARAK, are identified today as blocked property in which Mehdi Group has an interest. Notably, the SARAK falsified the Iranian origin of its cargo to port authorities.

Additionally, Mehdi Group has two branch offices: Singapore-based Mehdi Offshore and Ship Management Pte. Ltd. (Mehdi Offshore) and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Penta Ocean Ship Management & Operation LLC (Penta Ocean). Mehdi Offshore ostensibly provides various support services, while Penta Ocean and UAE-based Mehdi Group subsidiary Fourteen Star Shipping Management manages billing and payments. Mehdi Group also is able to draw on expertise in oil-related logistics, including refining and storage, through its UAE-based subsidiary Five Energy Oil Trading.

Mehdi Group found a partner outside of the company to supplement its efforts to assist the IRGC-QF. Lebanon-based Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL assists in, sponsors, or provides financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mehdi Group subsidiary Vaniya Ship Management by operating the tanker JASMINE for the network. The JASMINE also is being identified today pursuant to E.O. 13224 as blocked property in which Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL has an interest.

Ali Zaheer Mehdi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi. Anuj Bhardwaj is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of Mehdi Group. Ali Ghadeer Mehdi and Zafar Anis Ishteyaq Hussain are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of Mehdi Group subsidiaries Khadija Ship Management and Fourteen Star Shipping Management, respectively.
Bushra Ship Management Private Limited, Khadija Ship Management Private Limited, Mehdi Offshore and Ship Management Pte. Ltd., Penta Ocean Ship Management & Operation LLC, Fourteen Star Shipping Management, and Five Energy Oil Trading are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for being owned or controlled by Mehdi Group. Vaniya Ship Management Private Limited is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, Mehdi Group.

On August 30, 2019, Mehdi Group was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Rostam Qasemi. The ADRIAN DARYA 1, formerly known as the GRACE 1, was identified as blocked property in which Mehdi Group has an interest pursuant to E.O. 13224 on August 30, 2019. Akhilesh Kumar was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mehdi Group on the same day.

CONNECTIONS WITH THE IRANIAN ENERGY, SHIPPING, AND INSURANCE SECTORS
The crude oil and condensate sold by this IRGC-QF network originates with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), and ultimately is delivered to Syria. The IRGC-QF relies on persons embedded within the shipping industry to keep this oil moving by ensuring that vessel insurance and registration are in order, among other things.

National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) vessels have been used in the IRGC-QF-run operation. These vessels include the DESTINY, the HAPPINESS I, and the SINOPA, which were identified on November 5, 2018, as blocked property in which NITC has an interest. The DEVREZ and the DELICE also were identified on that day as blocked property in which the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) has an interest.

Safiran Payam Darya Shipping Company (SAPID) official Mohammadreza Ali Akbari (Akbari) serves as an interlocutor between the IRGC-QF and vessel managers, and is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for acting for or on behalf of IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi accordingly. Akbari also helped the IRGC-QF skirt sanctions in previous years.

The provision of services, including protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance, and future dealings in blocked property can expose parties to sanctions. Iran’s Kish P&I Club has provided discounted P&I coverage for multiple vessels in the IRGC-QF-run network. Given its the provision of these services, Kish P&I Club is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mehdi Group.

NIOC and SAPID were identified pursuant to E.O. 13599 on November 5, 2018 as part of the broad re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. State-owned SYTROL was designated pursuant to E.O. 13574 on August 10, 2012.

TIES TO HIZBALLAH AND ASSOCIATED FRONT COMPANIES
The IRGC-QF also uses several front companies to mask its role in selling the crude oil, condensate, and gas oil. The companies are overseen by Hizballah officials Muhammad Qasir and Muhammad Qasim al-Bazzal (al-Bazzal), both of whom were designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in 2018 in connection with another oil-for-terror scheme.

Hokoul S.A.L. Offshore (Hokoul) and Talaqi Group are front companies run by Hizballah official al-Bazzal. Al-Bazzal has sought to continue operating his network since being designated by OFAC by purporting to transfer ownership of his companies, including Nagham al Hayat and Tawafuk. In early 2019, al-Bazzal sought to remove his name as an owner and shareholder from all company documents, presumably in order to evade U.S. sanctions.

Lebanon-based Hokoul supplies SYTROL with Iranian crude under IRGC-QF auspices. Al-Bazzal and other Hizballah officials have control over the contractual and financial obligations of Hokoul, while Ali Qasir represents Hokoul in negotiating its supply of Iranian crude to Syria. NITC vessels including the DELICE, the DESTINY, the HAPPINESS I, and the SINOPA transport such petroleum and petroleum products, and are identified pursuant to E.O. 13224 today as property in which Hokoul has an interest. Ali Qasir also is the managing director of Talaqi Group, which finances oil shipments for the IRGC-QF.

Since late 2018, al-Bazzal has leveraged his companies, including Talaqi Group, to finance and coordinate various IRGC-QF-linked oil shipments. In his role as chairman of the board of directors at Talaqi Group, al-Bazzal is responsible for the company’s finances, procedures, administration, and contracts.

Al-Bazzal and his wife are co-founders of Talaqi Group. Al-Bazzal oversaw Talaqi Group’s partnership with ALUMIX for shipments of aluminum to Iran, while his wife, as ALUMIX’s general manager, supplies Talaqi Group with payment information. ALUMIX was known as “Dogmoch” until late 2018.

Two additional companies fall under al-Bazzal’s purview. He owns Syria-based Nagham Al Hayat and serves on its board of directors, managing the company’s assets, personnel, legal, and financial issues. Al-Bazzal is a founder and owner of Tawafuk, where he is involved in day-to-day activities as general manager.

Hokoul S.A.L. Offshore, Talaqi Group, Nagham Al Hayat, Tawafuk, and ALUMIX are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for being owned or controlled by Muhammad Qasim al-Bazzal.

EXPORTS DIVERSIFICATION
In addition to Iranian petroleum and petroleum goods, the same IRGC-QF-led network is diversifying its exports, adding iron and metal to its repertoire.

Mahmud Ashtari is the managing director of Hamrahan Pishro Tejarat Trading Company (Hamrahan Pishro Tejarat), which charters tankers and transports cargo to international destinations, such as Syria and China. Ali Qasir worked with Mahmud Ashtari, Hamrahan Pishro Tejarat, and Hizballah-linked Talaqi Group to facilitate the sale of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of steel debar.

Mahmud Ashtari has received hundreds of thousands of dollars for vessel expenses and contracts, often related to iron or metal shipments from Iran. He also ensures ports can accommodate the vessels and advances their discharged goods toward their final destination.

Mahmud Ashtari is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 today for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Ali Qasir.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS
As of November 5, 2018, the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran is sanctionable pursuant to E.O. 13846. Knowingly providing insurance or re-insurance for the transport of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products also is sanctionable. The U.S. Treasury Department urges international companies to ensure they are conducting the necessary due diligence to avoid engaging in sanctionable activity with entities that support the Iranian regime’s malign activity. The U.S. government is systematically enforcing sanctions and denying Tehran the revenue flows it needs to support destructive and destabilizing activities around the world.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the entities designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant financial transaction or provides significant financial services for entities designated in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or any Iranian person on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

 

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Exclusive: IAEA found uranium traces at Iran 'atomic warehouse' - diplomats
September 8, 2019
Updated 6 minutes ago

VIENNA (Reuters) - Samples taken by the U.N. nuclear watchdog at what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain, two diplomats who follow the agency’s inspections work closely say.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats, stoking tensions between Washington and Tehran. U.S. sanctions have slashed Iranian oil sales and Iran has responded by breaching its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

In a speech a year ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed the deal, called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.

Reuters first reported in April that the IAEA, which is policing the nuclear deal, had inspected the site - a step it had said it takes “only when necessary” - and environmental samples taken there were sent off for analysis.

Israeli and U.S. media have since reported that the samples turned up traces of radioactive material or matter - the same vague language used by Netanyahu.

Those traces were, however, of uranium, the diplomats said - the same element Iran is enriching and one of only two fissile elements with which one can make the core of a nuclear bomb. One diplomat said the uranium was not highly enriched, meaning it was not purified to a level anywhere close to that needed for weapons.

“There are lots of possible explanations,” that diplomat said. But since Iran has not yet given any to the IAEA it is hard to verify the particles’ origin, and it is also not clear whether the traces are remnants of material or activities that predate the landmark 2015 deal or more recent, diplomats say.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment. Iranian officials were not available to comment.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, said on Twitter that the IAEA had verified Israel version. “The (Iranian) regime must be held to account and not given a free pass,” he tweeted.

NETANYAHU: “I’M NOT RELENTING”

In a live video chat on Facebook, ahead of an election next week, Netanyahu was asked about the Reuters report.

“I know the issue is being handled by the IAEA. I do not intend to discuss this today. It’s very possible that I will have something to say about it tomorrow,” Netanyahu said.

“But it is certainly an important issue - let me tell you, it’s the most important issue as far as our future is concerned. And I am not relenting for a moment.”

The 2015 nuclear deal, which Netanyahu opposed, imposed tight restrictions on Iran's atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief, and was based on drawing a line under Iran's past activities. Both the IAEA and U.S. intelligence services here believe Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it ended more than a decade before the deal.

Iran says its nuclear ambitions have always been peaceful.

Hawks such as Netanyahu, who has repeatedly accused Iran of seeking Israel’s destruction, point to Tehran’s past to argue that it can never be trusted. The Islamic Republic’s previous secrecy might explain why uranium traces were found at a location that was never declared to the IAEA.

The IAEA takes environmental samples because they can pick up telltale particles even long after material has been removed from a site. Uranium traces could indicate, for example, the former presence of equipment or material somehow connected to those particles.

Cornel Feruta, the IAEA’s acting director-general, met Iranian officials on Sunday. An IAEA statement said afterwards: “Feruta stressed that these interactions (on its nuclear commitments) require full and timely cooperation by Iran.”

The United States, pulled out of the nuclear deal last year by President Donald Trump, is trying to force Iran to negotiate a more sweeping agreement, covering Tehran’s ballistic missiles and regional behavior, than the current accord.

Iran says it will not negotiate until it is granted relief from U.S. sanctions, which France is trying to broker. In the meantime, Iran is breaching the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities step-by-step in response to what it calls U.S. “economic warfare”.

A quarterly IAEA report issued a week ago did not mention the sample results because inspection-related matters are highly confidential. But it did say Iran’s cooperation could be better.

“Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran...require full and timely cooperation by Iran. The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran,” the report said.

U.S. RAISING PRESSURE
It is far from the first time Iran has dragged its feet in its interactions with the IAEA over the agency’s non-proliferation mandate. The IAEA has made similar calls in previous reports, in relation to promptly granting access for inspections.

The IAEA has likened its work to nuclear accounting, patiently combing through countries’ statements on their nuclear activities and materials, checking them and when necessary seeking further explanations before reaching a conclusion, which can take a long time.

The process of seeking an explanation from Iran has lasted two months, the IAEA’s safeguards division chief told member states in a briefing on Thursday, diplomats present said. But he described what it was seeking an answer to far more generally as questions about Iran’s declaration of nuclear material and activities, since the details are confidential.

“It is not something that is so unique to Iran. The agency has these cases in many other situations,” a senior diplomat said when asked about the current standoff with Iran. “Depending on the engagement it can take two months, six months.”

That does not mean all member states will be happy to wait.

“IAEA Acting Director General going to Iran just as IAEA informs its Board that #Iran may be concealing nuclear material and/or activities,” U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Twitter on Saturday. “We join with other @iaeaorg Board member states eager to get a full report as soon as possible.”

The IAEA’s policy-making, 35-nation Board of Governors holds a week-long quarterly meeting starting on Monday.

Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Cawthorne

 

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Iranian tanker reaches destination, oil sold: ministry tells TV
September 8, 2019
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What appears to be the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 off the coast of Tartus, Syria, is pictured in this September 6, 2019 satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies. Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday said an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a dispute between Tehran and Western powers had reached its destination and sold its oil, state television reported.

“The tanker has gone to its destination, the oil has been sold,” spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the television station without disclosing whether the crude oil had been delivered.

The tanker Adrian Darya 1, which went dark off Syria last week, has been photographed by satellite off the Syrian port of Tartus.

 

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Iran to allow 5,000 Chinese soldiers in country to guard $280bn investment from Beijing: report



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Web Desk

Monday Sep 09, 2019


Photo: Petroleum Economist

Nearly 5,000 Chinese security personnel deployed on the ground in Iran are expected to guard $280 billion worth of new investment from Beijing in the oil, gas and petrochemical sector of Iran, claims a report published by the United-Kingdom based publication Petroleum Economist.
The strategic partnership between the two countries comes as they become increasingly wary of the United States. China is currently involved in an escalating trade war with the US, while Iran has clashed with the US government over a controversial nuclear deal.
According to the details of the agreement, which was finalised when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif paid a visit to his Chinese counterpart Wang Li at the end of August, China will also invest an additional $120 billion in the transport sector of Iran as part of the deal.
The agreement is reminiscent of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor deal, in which China invested billions of dollars into the Pakistani energy, transport, and other sectors to boost the fledgling economy of the country under the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Petroleum Economist claims that China will invest the money into Iran initially over two five-year periods, and Chinese firms will get the right of first refusal over new energy projects in Iran under the strategic agreement. The wider deal between Tehran and Beijing is built over a staggered 25 year period.
China intends to utilise the low cost labour available in Iran to build factories, designed and overseen by large Chinese manufacturing companies, with identical specifications and operations to those in China, according to the Iranian source who spoke to the UK-based publication about the matter.
In order to ensure the security of the projects undertaken by the Chinese, Iran will allow nearly 5,000 Chinese soldiers on the ground in the country to guard the investments. China will also increase import of oil from Iran in light of the new partnership, the report underlines.
 

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Trump says he could meet with Iranian President Rouhani
September 9, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and that he had no problem with such an encounter.

“It could happen. It could happen. No problem with me,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Trump has stepped up sanctions against Iran since he withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six world powers, saying the agreement left open a path for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and did not address what the United States calls Iran’s malign activities in the region.

Rouhani has said Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, would not talk to the United States until Washington lifted the sanctions it has reimposed on Tehran after pulling out of the nuclear deal.

“Iran should straighten out because frankly they are in a very bad position right now,” Trump said.

Last week Trump said a meeting with Rouhani was possible at the U.N. General Assembly in New York later in September.

“Sure, anything’s possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem,” Trump told White House reporters on Wednesday, referring to inflation in Iran. “We could solve it in 24 hours.”

Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, said last week more sanctions against Iran were coming and the United States was committed to its campaign of “maximum pressure.”

Rouhani told an open session of the Iranian parliament on Thursday: “No decision has ever been taken to hold talks with the U.S. and there has been a lot of offers for talks but our answer will always be negative.”

“If America lifts all the sanctions then, like before, it can join multilateral talks between Tehran and parties to the 2015 deal,” Rouhani added.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Sandra Maler

 

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Netanyahu: Iran had secret nuclear weapons development site in Abadeh
September 9, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran had been developing nuclear weapons at a secret site near the city of Abadeh, but that Tehran destroyed the facility after learning it had been exposed.

It was the first time Netanyahu had identified the site, which, he said, was discovered in a trove of Iranian documents Israel previously obtained and disclosed last year.

“In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, showing an aerial picture of several small buildings, including their coordinates, that he said were taken at the Abadeh facility late in June 2019.

“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did,” he said, showing a picture from a month later in which the buildings no longer appeared. “They destroyed the site. They just wiped it out.”

Netanyahu’s comments followed a Reuters report revealing that the International Atomic Energy Agency found traces of uranium at a different site in Iran that the Israeli leader had first pointed to during a speech last year at the United Nations.

Iran had yet to explain the traces of uranium at that site, though it denies ever having sought a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu, who strongly opposed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, made the remarks in a televised speech about a week before a general election in Israel in which he is in a tight race to win another term.

“I call on the international community to wake up, to realize that Iran is systematically lying,” Netanyahu said.

“The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb, and its aggression in the region, is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch,; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Jonathan Oatis

 

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U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo says Trump could meet with no preconditions with Iran's Rouhani at U.N.
September 10, 2019

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations meeting, with “no preconditions.”

Pompeo made the comments at a press briefing to unveil new sanctions on groups including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Lisa Lambert, Editing by Franklin Paul

 

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U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo says Trump could meet with no preconditions with Iran's Rouhani at U.N.
September 10, 2019

View attachment 9821

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations meeting, with “no preconditions.”

Pompeo made the comments at a press briefing to unveil new sanctions on groups including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Lisa Lambert, Editing by Franklin Paul



I still believe... that there is US-Persian muk muka... there is deepstate level linkage between the two... remember that the Shah was preffered by the Yanks... and Persia was biggest supporter of Israel during Shah's time...

With the Chinese setting up shop in Persia and the US going back to its colours... we might find all ourselves under the bus yet again...

The question that arrises: Is Pak and GCC being played yet again?
 

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