Iran says it will sell weapons to countries that ‘won’t misuse them’ and will employ them strictly for defence purpose.
Tehran has hit back at a US threat of sanctions on anyone looking to make deals with Iran after the arms embargo on its military expired, saying Washington’s threats show the futility of US action and rhetoric on sanctions.
After a long-standing conventional arms embargo on Iran ended on Sunday despite Washington’s opposition, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of consequences for any individuals or entities that conduct arms deals with Iran.
“Pompeo’s remarks are the most important sign that not even he believes unilateral US sanctions have been successful, and no [UN sanctions] have been reinstated,” spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.
“Iran continues to believe it can operate within the framework of international agreements. What they fear is Iran’s return to the massive market of technology and arms exports,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Iran produces 90 percent of its defence needs locally and will mostly look to export arms rather than import them.
In an interview with state television on Sunday night, Iran’s defence minister Amir Hatami said Iran would only sell weapons to countries that it is sure “won’t misuse them” and will employ them strictly for defence purposes.
“Unlike the Americans, we wouldn’t do just about everything for money,” he said, pointing out that the US sells billions of dollars of arms to Arab nations in the Middle East that fuel wars.
Iran’s foreign ministry said “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place” in the country’s defence doctrine.
The US tried to stop the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran twice at the UN Security Council.
In August, it introduced a resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo while in September it claimed it unilaterally reinstated UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo.
On both occasions, the UNSC rejected the moves, saying they have no legal basis.
The 13-year ban came to an end as part of Resolution 2231 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an accord signed in 2015 that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and has since blacklisted the entire Iranian financial sector.
The expiry of the embargo means Iran will face no challenges by the UNSC in trying to buy or sell conventional weapons, which include tanks, missiles and fighter jets among others.
A European ban on arms deals with Iran, separate from the UN arms embargo, will remain in place until 2023.
“For the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security,” Pompeo, who had led efforts to block the lifting of the embargo at the UN, said in a statement on Sunday.
“Any nation that sells weapons to Iran is impoverishing the Iranian people by enabling the regime’s diversion of funds away from the people and toward the regime’s military aims.”
In trying to stop the lifting of the arms embargo, Pompeo had warned that Russia, China and others could rush to sell advanced weapons to Tehran.
On Sunday, Israel Defence Minister Benny Gantz also vowed to take “whatever measures necessary” to prevent Iran from purchasing weapons.
The embargo on the sale of conventional arms to Iran was due to begin expiring progressively from October 18 under terms of the UN resolution that confirmed the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said that arms sales to Iran would breach UN resolutions and result in sanctions, after Tehran said the longstanding UN embargo on arms trade with the Islamic republic had expired.
“The United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“Every nation that seeks peace and stability in the Middle East and supports the fight against terrorism should refrain from any arms transactions with Iran.”
Tehran, which could now purchase weapons from Russia, China and elsewhere, has hailed the expiration as a diplomatic victory over its archenemy the United States, which had tried to maintain an indefinite freeze on arms sales.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018 and has unilaterally begun reimposing sanctions on Iran.
Pompeo said that “for the past 10 years, countries have refrained from selling weapons to Iran under various UN measures. Any country that now challenges this prohibition will be very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security.”
A 13-year conventional arms embargo on Iran has ended, but the implications for Iran and the region remain uncertain.
Despite opposition from the United States, a long-standing conventional arms embargo imposed on Iran has expired in line with the terms of a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.
The 13-year ban imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) came to an end on Sunday as part of Resolution 2231 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an accord signed in 2015 that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
In a statement carried by state media, the Iranian foreign ministry said “as of today, all restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran … are all automatically terminated.”
The end of the embargo means Iran will legally be able to buy and sell conventional arms, including missiles, helicopters and tanks, and the Iranian foreign ministry said the country can now “procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions, and solely based on its defensive needs”.
However, Iran was self-reliant in its defense, the statement said, adding that “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place” in the country’s defense doctrine.
The US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018, imposing waves of harsh economic sanctions on Iran. US President Donald Trump’s administration has also employed every means in its power to unravel the nuclear deal and stop the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran.
The latest came in early October when 18 Iranian banks were blacklisted, including those that process humanitarian trade transactions – effectively severing Iran’s financial sector from the global economy.
The US administration has been fervently supported in its efforts by Israel and a number of Arab countries that oppose Iran’s expanding regional influence.
In August, the US tabled a UNSC resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, but it was rejected.
From the 14 UNSC member states, the so-called E3 of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and eight others abstained while Russia and China opposed the extension. Only the Dominican Republic supported the resolution.
After announcing the triggering of a process to “snap back” sanctions on Iran and waiting for a month, the US in September announced it has unilaterally reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of Resolution 2231.
If implemented, the move would automatically extend the arms embargo as well.
But an overwhelming majority of UNSC member states once more rejected the bid, saying no process to reinstate sanctions was started because the move had no legal basis.
The US threatened “consequences” for countries that do not adhere to its assertion but has yet to take action.
In trying to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran, the US claims the lifting of the embargo will open a floodgate of arms deals that would quickly serve to further destabilise the region.
EU embargoes on conventional arms exports and missile technology are still in place and will remain in force until 2023.
The foreign ministers of the E3 in July issued a joint statement that said while the three countries remain committed to fully implementing Resolution 2231, they believe the lifting of the arms embargo “would have major implications for regional security and stability”.
Russia and China In practice, it might take some time for Iran to be able to utilise the freedom from the embargo.
For one, relentless US sanctions have significantly restricted Iran’s ability to buy advanced systems, whose purchase and maintenance could cost billions of dollars.
Furthermore, China and Russia, or any other country pondering arms sales to Iran, would act based on their foreign policy interests, which would have to consider the balance of power and future economic interests in the Gulf and the wider region.
Iran and China have been considering a major 25-year strategic partnership deal, the details of which have yet to be published.
According to Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, the deal has already caused international scrutiny, so China, which wants to demonstrate the image of a “responsible power”, will tread carefully.
“More importantly, if [Joe] Biden is elected the new US president – which seems increasingly likely – Beijing would want to reboot the US-China relationship with a new US administration,” he told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.
In this vein, Zhao said it would be unlikely for Beijing to jeopardise the opportunity to mend ties with a Biden administration by making huge arms deals with Tehran.
As for Russia, a 2019 US Defense Intelligence Agency report speculated Iran would buy Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 trainers, T-90 tanks, Bastion mobile coastal defence missile systems, and the S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems.
Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami travelled to Russia in late August to visit the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2020 and hold talks with senior Russian officials. The trip boosted speculations Iran is interested in Russian arms.
However, Nicole Grajewski, a research fellow with the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, says there is no indication Russia and Iran have finalised a list of potential arms for negotiations.
“It is not totally unfounded to suggest that Russia and Iran may wait until the US presidential elections,” she told Al Jazeera. “Both sides have reasons not to antagonise Biden if he is elected: Iran with the JCPOA and Russia with New START.”
New START is an arms reduction treaty and the last existing nuclear arms control pact between Russia and the US that expires in February. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called for a one-year extension of the pact.
Moreover, Grajewski pointed out that while the Trump administration has been inconsistent in implementing provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), Russia will take US sanctions into account – especially since Moscow would like to sell weapons to states that could become subject to secondary US sanctions.
But she believes financing to be the biggest impediment to a potential major Iran-Russia arms deal.
“Russia won’t be as willing as China to sell Iran weapons on barter like it did in the 1990s,” Grajewski said. “Plus, Russia doesn’t want to damage its relations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel by providing Iran with high-tech or advanced weapons.”
But the researcher believes Iran and Russia may enjoy a boost in military cooperation and contacts that have increased in the past few years due to shared interests in Syria and a general improvement in bilateral relations.
“There will likely be additional military exchanges and drills in addition to an increase in efforts that promote the interoperability between the Russian and Iranian armed forces at the tactical level,” she said.
Iran’s perspective Following the implementation of the nuclear deal in 2016, Russia completed delivery of the S-300 air defence missile system to Iran, which was successfully tested by Iran in early 2017.
This finally concluded an $800m deal signed between the two states in 2007 that was left unfulfilled by Russia after multilateral sanctions pressure on Iran grew.
But by that time, a lot had changed inside Iran.
As Iranian defence expert Hossein Dalirian explains, after years of multilateral and unilateral sanctions, Iran concluded it has to rely on the expertise of its own engineers and experts to boost defence capabilities.
“With this perspective, extensive efforts were launched inside Iran to develop a diverse range of advanced arms and systems that are now produced locally, which are on par with those of developed nations, even as attested by military experts of Iran’s enemies,” he told Al Jazeera.
Among others, these include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the Bavar-373 surface-to-air missile defence system, which was officially rolled out in August 2019, and which Iran says is on par with the state-of-the-art Russian S-400 system.
However, Dalirian said, it has not been possible, or economically feasible, for Iran to produce a number of armaments, including fifth-generation fighter jets.
“Even though Iranian experts have recently achieved technological know-how to produce fighter jet parts, and built Kowsar, which is on par with fourth-generation fighter jets, it seems that purchasing fighter jets might be pursued by Iran at the same time as locally developing modern fighter jets,” he said.
Dalirian says many countries have shown interest in Iranian armaments, but have been unable to buy them due to sanctions.
“Now it remains to be seen what Iran’s enemies, specifically the US, have planned for potential buyers of Iranian arms in political terms,” he said.
Washington isolated as global allies and adversaries say its unilateral move targeting Tehran has no legal standing.
The United States has broken with all other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and unilaterally declared the re-imposition of all UN sanctions against Iran – a claim rejected by Iran and the international community, including Washington’s close allies, as having no legal basis.
In a statement on Sunday following the expiration of a deadline set by the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened “consequences” for any UN member state that does not comply with the punitive measures, which were lifted under a landmark nuclear deal that was signed between six world powers and Iran in 2015 but was abandoned by the US more than two years ago.
In addition to adhering to a conventional arms embargo that is due to expire next month, Pompeo said member states must comply with restrictions such as the ban on Iran engaging in nuclear enrichment and reprocessing-related activities; the prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development; and sanctions on transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies.
“If UN Member States fail to fulfil their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity,” Pompeo said.
His statement came a month after the US officially triggered the process aimed at restoring all UN sanctions on Iran, claiming significant Iranian violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the 2015 deal that was endorsed by the Security Council.
Despite the US in May 2018 pulling out of the deal and reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, Washington argues it is still technically a “participant” and could trigger the so-called “snapback”. This was a mechanism devised by the US negotiating team before the signing of the JCPOA that stipulated that if Iran breached its commitments, all international sanctions could snap back into place.
However, the international community, including the four other permanent Security Council members, insist the US no longer has the legal ability to force through any changes since it announced its exit from what Trump has branded “the worst deal ever” with a presidential memorandum titled Ceasing US Participation in the JCPOA.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the nation directly in a live televised cabinet meeting on Sunday. He congratulated world powers since US pressure to reinstate UN sanctions “has reached its definitive point of failure”.
Today, he said, “will be a memorable day in the history of our country’s diplomacy”.
Rouhani added should the US try to “bully” others into adhering to its declaration of reinstating UN sanctions, Iran will have a “decisive response” to match.
Pointing out how the US tried to garner the support of other nuclear deal signatories following its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Rouhani said the United States expected Iran to act irrationally, giving it an excuse to form an international coalition against the Islamic Republic.
“Today we can say the ‘maximum pressure’ of US against the Iranian nation, politically and legally, has turned to ‘maximum isolation’ for the US.”
The president also addressed the five remaining signatories of the nuclear deal, reiterating the promise that if they fully adhere to their commitments under the accord, Iran will also fully implement its commitments.
Exactly one year after the US abandoned the nuclear deal, Iran started gradually scaling down its commitments, including those concerning its stockpile of enriched uranium. Iran still continues to grant access to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In a letter to the Security Council, the European signatories to the deal – Britain, France and Germany, or E3 – stressed UN sanctions relief for Iran would continue, adding any decision or action to reimpose them “would be incapable of legal effect”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also told the council he would not take any action on the US declaration because “there would appear to be uncertainty whether or not any process … was indeed initiated”.
On Sunday morning, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters the US is experiencing some of its “most bitter” times as it has chosen to stand “on the wrong side of history”.
“The message of Tehran for Washington is clear: Return to the international community. Return to your commitments. Stop this rogue and unruly behaviour. The international community will accept you,” Khatibzadeh said.
Transatlanticrift According to Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), there are clear reasons why the European powers, as well as Russia and China, oppose the US demand.
“First, it would pave the way for further arbitrary interpretation of international treaties by Washington, that may one day come back to haunt the Europeans themselves,” Azizi said
“Second, Iran’s reaction to sanctions return would be to leave the JCPOA or even NPT,” he added, referring to the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that pursues nuclear disarmament.
As to why the US would engage in such a move based on shaky legal arguments, Azizi says its goal is political.
“It wants to keep Iran under the international spotlight, continuing to introduce the Islamic Republic as a threat to international peace and security,” he said, adding that the US also wants to make Europeans more cautious in dealing with Iran.
According to Azizi, the snapback showdown is the latest and most evident sign of a rift in transatlantic relations.
“Especially if Trump gets re-elected as the US president, this will work as fuel for further disagreements between the EU and the US,” he said, pointing out that Russia and China could use the opportunity to expand their influence in Iran and the wider region.
Arms embargo The US attempt to trigger the snapback mechanism came on the heels of another demand it made at the Security Council that left it isolated.
In mid-August, the council resoundingly rejected a US bid to extend a global arms embargo on Iran that expires on October 18 under the JCPOA.
Washington only managed to secure the support of the Dominican Republic for its proposed resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “Yes” votes required for adoption. Eleven members abstained while China and Russia opposed the resolution.
Last week, Pompeo reiterated during a briefing with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that the US will move to reinstate UN sanctions to make the arms embargo permanent.
The US will “do its share as part of its responsibilities to enable peace, this time in the Middle East”, he said.
Zarif fired off a tweet on Thursday, saying “nothing new happens on 9/20”. He also alluded to two recent opinion pieces by John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who had pointed out that the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution clauses are “complex and potentially lengthy” to avoid UNSC confrontations.
Citing unnamed sources, Reuters news agency reported on Friday that Trump is planning to issue an executive order in the coming days to impose secondary sanctions on anyone who would buy or sell arms to Iran, depriving them of access to the US market.
Rising tensions The culmination of the snapback showdown comes shortly after a fresh round of threatening rhetoric being exchanged between longtime foes, the US and Iran.
On September 13, US-based media outlet Politico published a report, citing unnamed officials, that the Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against Lana Marks, the US ambassador to South Africa.
The plot, the report claimed, would be executed in retaliation for Washington’s assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in early January.
In a tweet, Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, said the US will retaliate with “1,000 times greater” force against any Iranian attack on its interests.
In response, Iran cautioned the US against making “a new strategic mistake” by believing false reports and warned of a “decisive response”.
On Saturday, the head of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a stern warning directly addressing Trump, saying the killing of Soleimani will be avenged but Marks is not a proportionate target.
“We will target those who were directly or indirectly involved in the martyrdom of this great man,” Major-General Hossein Salami said.
On Friday, South Africa’s State Security Agency said in a statement there is insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation of a plot to assassinate Marks.
Afkari was accused of stabbing and killing a man in the southern city of Shiraz in 2018.
Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed after being convicted of stabbing to death a security guard, according to state media.
Afkari was executed “this morning after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim”, Kazem Mousavi, head of the justice department in southern Fars province, was quoted as saying.
Authorities accused Afkari, 27, of stabbing the water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz. Iran broadcast the wrestler’s televised confession last week.
But Afkari said he was tortured into making a false confession, according to his family and activists. His lawyer said there was no proof of his guilt. Iran’s judiciary, however, denied the torture claims.
Afkari and his brothers were employed as construction workers in Shiraz, 680km (420 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.
Iran may ban ‘luxury product’ imports The provincial court in Shiraz also sentenced Afkari’s brothers Vahid Afkari and Habib Afkari to 54 and 27 years in prison, respectively, over the killing.
Afkari’s attorney accused authorities of denying his client a family visit before the execution, as required by law.
“Were you in so much hurry to execute the sentence that you also deprived Navid of a last meeting?” Hassan Younesi said on Twitter.
There was no immediate reaction by Iranian officials to the attorney’s accusation.
‘Very different’ stories Reporting from Tehran, NRM said there are two different narratives about the murder.
“Outside Iran we’re hearing that Navid Afkari was arrested due to these protests that took place in 2018 and alleged killing of a security officer. Inside Iran, it’s very different. The judiciary released a statement a while ago – they said Navid Afkari was arrested after the murder of a 52-year-old water worker accompanying the Shiraz water company, and that murder took place on 23 July 2018.
“Navid Afkari was arrested by police a few days after, after they identified him using CCTV footage. As far as the judiciary is concerned, his arrest and conviction have nothing to do with the protests that took place,” said Baig.
Afkari was shown performing a stabbing gesture during a police reconstruction of the killing while saying, “I hit twice, once and then again.” Human rights groups frequently accuse Iran’s state media of airing coerced confessions. Iran denies the accusation.
The International Olympic Committee said the execution of Afkari was “very sad news”, adding in a statement that IOC President Thomas Bach had written this week to Iranian leaders asking for mercy for him, while respecting Iran’s sovereignty.
Afkari’s sentencing had triggered a social media campaign that portrayed him and his brothers as victims targeted for participating in the 2018 protests. On Tuesday, a global union representing 85,000 athletes had called for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari.
United States President Donald Trump also expressed his own concerns.
“To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Thank you!”
Iran responded to Trump’s tweet by running an 11-minute state TV broadcast on Afkari, which included the weeping parents of Turkman.
The broadcast included visuals of Afkari on a motorbike, saying he stabbed Turkman in the back, without explaining why he allegedly carried out the assault.
The state TV segment also showed blurred police documents and described the killing as a “personal dispute”, without elaborating.
It said Afkari’s mobile phone had been in the area and it showed surveillance footage of him walking down a street, talking on his phone.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency dismissed Trump’s tweet in a feature story, saying that American sanctions have hurt Iranian hospitals amid the pandemic.
“Trump is worried about the life of a murderer while he puts many Iranian patients’ lives in danger by imposing severe sanctions,” the agency said.
Baig noted state TV has carried an interview with the parents of Hassan Turkman, and in it they said their son was murdered and they had the right to retribution.
They added, “the foreign media had not even bothered speaking to them when their son was killed, and that he left behind three children. So there are two very different narratives,” said Baig.
IAEA says Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium stands at more than 10 times the limit set in 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of limitations set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but has begun providing access to sites where the country was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency said on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than 10 times the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
As of August 25, Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 1,571.6kg (3,464.8 pounds) reported on May 20.
Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia.
Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8kg (447 pounds).
The IAEA also reported that Iran has been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It said Iran’s stockpile of heavy water had decreased.
The deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
But in 2018, President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal, saying it needed to be renegotiated.
Since then, Iran has slowly scaled back against the restrictions in an attempt to pressure the remaining nations to increase incentives to offset new, economy-crippling US sanctions.
Those countries maintain that even though Iran has been violating many of the pact’s restrictions, it is important to keep the deal alive because the country has continued providing the IAEA with critical access to inspect its nuclear facilities.
The agency had been at a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s, however, which Iran had argued inspectors had no right to visit because they dated to before the deal.
Last week, Iran announced it would allow the IAEA access to the two sites, following a visit to Tehran by the organisation’s Director General Rafael Grossi.
The IAEA said Iran had granted its inspectors access to one of the two sites.
“Iran provided agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples,” a separate IAEA report seen by the AFP news agency said on Friday.
“The samples will be analysed by laboratories that are part of the agency’s network,” it added.
The report said an inspection at the second site will take place “later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran”.
The US said the companies helped facilitate Iran’s export of petroleum and petrochemicals in violation of its sanctions.
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on 11 foreign companies, accusing them of helping to facilitate Iran’s export of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemicals in violation of American sanctions.
The Treasury said it slapped sanctions on six companies based in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and China that it said enable the shipment and sale of Iranian petrochemicals and support Triliance Petrochemical Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-based company blacklisted by the US.
The State Department also imposed sanctions on five companies for engaging in transactions related to Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical industry, as well as on three executive officers of the blacklisted companies.
“Our actions today reaffirm the United States’ commitment to denying the Iranian regime the financial resources it needs to fuel terrorism and other destabilizing activities,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.
The move freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
The action targets Iran’s Zagros Petrochemical Co, which the Treasury said agreed to sell Triliance hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Iranian petrochemicals this year.
Triliance, a Hong Kong-based broker, was hit with sanctions in January over accusations it ordered the transfer of the equivalent of millions of dollars to the National Iranian Oil Co as payment for Iranian petrochemicals, crude oil, and petroleum products.
The Treasury also blacklisted UAE-based Petrotech FZE and Trio Energy DMCC, Hong Kong-based Jingho Technology Co Ltd and Dynapex Energy Ltd, as well as China-based Dinrin Ltd, accusing them of being front companies for Triliance and Zagros.
“The Iranian regime uses revenue from petrochemical sales to continue its financing of terrorism and destabilizing foreign agenda,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have spiked since Republican President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, and began reimposing sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
Iranian forces committed serious human rights violations against the demonstrators, says new report by rights group.
Rights group Amnesty International has accused Iran of using torture to extract confessions, saying hundreds of people have been jailed since a sweeping crackdown against protests last year.
Demonstrations erupted across Iran in November 2019 after a significant petrol price rise, but they were put down by the Iranian security forces with mass arrests amid a near-total internet blackout.
Amnesty said it had gathered dozens of testimonies from the 7,000 people it estimated were arrested, which included children as young as 10. Additionally, video recordings, court documents and statements by the authorities were also evaluated.
The accounts reveal “a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment”, the London-based human rights group said on Tuesday.
Those arrested were tortured into “confessions” of involvement in the protests, membership of opposition groups or contact with foreign governments and media, it added.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director, said the “crimes and violations” were accompanied by a wave of “forced televised confessions in state propaganda videos”.
The rights group also said it recorded the names of more than 500 people “subjected to unfair criminal proceedings”.
Prison sentences ranged from one month to 10 years, the report added.
Torture techniques included waterboarding, beating, electric shocks, pepper-spraying genitals, sexual violence, mock executions and pulling out finger and toe nails, Amnesty reported.
“It felt like my entire body was being pierced with millions of needles,” one man allegedly tortured with electricity told Amnesty.
Another man said he was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole – a method reportedly called “chicken kebab” by his interrogators – the report read.
In May, Iran’s interior minister suggested that up to 230 people were killed during the November protests, when petrol pumps were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted.
A group of independent United Nations rights experts said in December that more than 400 people could have been killed in the crackdown, based on unconfirmed reports.
Iran accused “thugs” backed by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia for the unrest, which it described as the work of a “very dangerous conspiracy”.
The country’s economy has been choked by crippling sanctions reimposed by the US in 2018, three years after Washington unilaterally pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers.
Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia are attempting to save the 2015 accord with Iran following the US withdrawal.
The signatories to the faltering Iran nuclear deal are meeting in Vienna as the United States urges the reimposition of international sanctions on Tehran and the extension of the conventional arms embargo against it.
Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are struggling to save the 2015 landmark accord with Iran, which has been progressively stepping up its nuclear activities since last year.
Tehran insists it is entitled to do so under the deal – which swapped sanctions relief for Iran’s agreement to scale back its nuclear programme – following the US withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions on Iran.
In a boost to Tuesday’s talks, the Iranian atomic energy last week agreed for inspectors of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to visit two sites suspected of having hosted undeclared activity in the early 2000s.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi had travelled to Iran on his first trip since taking up the top post last year and after months of calling for access.
“Iran is voluntarily providing the IAEA with access to the two locations specified by the IAEA,” Grossi and the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, said in a joint statement last week.
“Both sides recognise the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the IAEA continue to be essential in the fulfilment of its verification activities,” the statement read.
The IAEA stepped up pressure on Iran in June when its Board of Governors passed a resolution calling it to let inspectors into the sites and cooperate with the agency.
Results from any site visits are, however, expected to take three months, according to a diplomat familiar with the matter, so “it risks being a problem then with the Iranians” if anything undeclared and nuclear-related is found.
US ‘isolated’ Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to International Organisations in Vienna, on Monday posted on Twitter that “nuclear deal participants have a lot of topics to discuss”.
The meeting will be chaired by EU senior official Helga-Maria Schmid with deputy foreign ministers or political directors from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia attending.
Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said last week’s agreement on access kept “Iran generally in line with the rest of the world, against an isolated United States”.
The UN last week blocked the US bid to reimpose international sanctions on Iran, while Washington also failed to rally enough support to extend an arms embargo set to start to lapse from October.
But Fitzpatrick pointed out that “Iran’s nuclear activities remain of deep concern to those states that are dedicated to non-proliferation”.
Iran reportedly recently transferred advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium from a pilot facility into a new hall at its main Natanz nuclear fuel plant, which was hit by sabotage in July.
An IAEA assessment published in June said Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was almost eight times the limit fixed in the accord.
The level of enrichment is still far below what would be needed for a nuclear weapon, but EU parties to the deal have urged Iran’s full compliance.
The IAEA, which regularly updates its members on Iran’s nuclear activities, is expected to issue a fresh report ahead of a meeting of member states to discuss the dossier later this month.
Supreme Leader says UAE allowed ‘Zionist regime to enter region and forgot Palestine’ by normalising Israel ties.
The United Arab Emirates has betrayed the Islamic world and the Palestinians by reaching a deal towards normalising ties with Israel, Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech.
“Of course, the UAE’s betrayal will not last long, but this stigma will always be remembered. They allowed the Zionist regime to enter the region and forgot Palestine,” Khamenei said on Tuesday.
“The Emiratis will be disgraced forever… I hope they wake up and compensate for what they did.”
Iranian authorities have harshly criticised the United States-brokered deal between the UAE and Tehran’s longtime foe Israel, with some officials warning that the UAE and Israel fostering closer ties risks conflagration in the Middle East.
Israel and the UAE expect economic benefits from the deal, the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, which was forged largely through shared distrust of regional foe, Iran.
Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with the Arab countries.
Emirati officials have attempted to spin this agreement as being struck in return for Israel suspending its plan to annex large parts of the illegally occupied West Bank, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said annexation was only temporarily off the table.
Economic ties On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott of Israel, with officials from the two countries saying they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology as part of the deal.
On Monday, the first direct flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al landed in Abu Dhabi, carrying US and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The UAE is the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Unlike the two other countries, the Gulf state does not share a border with Israel.
In recent years, the UAE has held quiet talks with Israel and allowed Israelis with second passports into the country for trade and talks.
The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries to engage with Israel. Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan as countries who may follow suit.
But in a statement earlier this month, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that his government had no mandate to normalise ties with Israel at this time.
Crisis looms as UNSC overwhelmingly rejects US resolution to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran.
The United Nations Security Council has resoundingly rejected a bid by the United States to extend a global arms embargo on Iran.
In the Security Council vote on Friday, Washington got support only from the Dominican Republic for its resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.
Palestinians slam ‘traitor’ UAE for normalising Eleven members on the 15-member body, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, abstained.
Russia and China strongly opposed extending the 13-year ban, which was due to expire on October 18 under a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers.
Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, announced the defeat of the resolution ahead of a very brief virtual council meeting to reveal the vote.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” he said in a statement.
Israel and the six Arab Gulf nations who supported the extension “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires”, Pompeo said, “but the Security Council chose to ignore them”.
Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement that the result “once again shows that unilateralism receives no support and bullying will fail”.
Washington could now follow through on a threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback, even though US President Donald Trump had unilaterally abandoned the accord in 2018. On Thursday, the US had circulated to council members a six-page memo outlining why Washington remains a participant in the nuclear accord and still has the right to use the snapback provision.
In a statement after the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said Washington has “every right to initiate” the snapback mechanism, and added: “In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo.”
‘Diplomatic catastrophe’ Reporting from New York, NRM learnt the US’s defeat on Friday was not a surprise.
“But it’s a surprise that the US bid failed so miserably,” she said.
“Any party to the nuclear accord could trigger the ‘snapback’ provision if Iran is seen to be in violation of the accord. But Russia and China say the US’s withdrawal from the deal two years ago means it has forfeited its right to do that. Other members of the council would seem to agree,” she said.
“The Europeans have expressed some misgivings about conventional weapons going into Iran. But at the end of the day, they say their concern about a nuclear weapon is paramount.”
Under the deal, Iran agreed to limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief and other benefits. Following the US withdrawal and imposition of unilateral sanctions, Tehran has already scaled back compliance with parts of the accord. Diplomats have said triggering the “snapback” provision would put the fragile agreement further at risk because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities.
Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi warned Washington against trying to trigger a return of sanctions.
“Imposition of any sanctions or restrictions on Iran by the Security Council will be met severely by Iran and our options are not limited. And the United States and any entity which may assist it or acquiesce in its illegal behavior will bear the full responsibility,” he said in a statement.
Jarret Blanc, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) the US’s failed bid amounted to a “diplomatic catastrophe”.
“It demonstrates that President Donald Trump and his team are not only bad at the strategy of approaching Iran, they are bad at the day to day tactics of diplomacy. It is unconscionable that the US couldn’t round up more than one vote for a resolution like this.”
But some analysts said they suspect that Washington put forward a hardline draft purposefully, knowing that council members would not be able to accept it.
“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this [resolution] is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)
While voting on the US draft resolution was under way, Russia said its President Vladimir Putin called for a meeting of leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany and Iran to avoid escalation over US attempts to extend the Iranian arms embargo.
In statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said “the question is urgent”, adding that the goal of the videoconference would be “to outline steps to avoid confrontation and exacerbation of the situation in the UN Security Council”.
“If the leaders are fundamentally ready for a conversation, we propose to promptly coordinate the agenda,” Putin said. “The alternative is to further build up tension, to increase the risk of conflict. This development must be avoided.”
Asked if he would take part, Trump told reporters: “I hear there’s something, but I haven’t been told of it yet.”
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office confirmed France’s “availability in principle” to Putin’s proposal. “We have in the past deployed initiatives in the same spirit,” it said.
Jarret Blanc, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the US’s failed bid a “diplomatic catastrophe”.
“It demonstrates that President Donald Trump and his team are not only bad at the strategy of approaching Iran, they are bad at the day to day tactics of diplomacy. It is unconscionable that it couldn’t round up more than one vote for a resolution like this.”
Iran said on Sunday it has sanctioned an ex-aide to a former US national security adviser who is a senior member of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Richard Goldberg, who served as an aide to John Bolton, was sanctioned over “being actively involved in economic terrorism against the interests of Iran’s government and citizens,” state news agency IRNA reported, citing a statement from the foreign ministry.
The sanctions were predicated on a 2017 law “confronting America’s human rights violations and adventurist and terrorist acts in the region”.
But the nature of the sanctions was not specified.
Iran had blacklisted the FDD and its chief executive Mark Dubowitz last year, likewise for “economic terrorism”.
The FDD describes itself as a Washington-based “non-partisan research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security.”
It strongly opposed the 2015 deal that saw world powers lift sanctions against Iran in return for placing limits on its nuclear programme.
Tensions between arch-foes Iran and the US have escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear accord and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic republic in 2018.
Goldberg said on Twitter it was “a badge of honor” to be sanctioned by Iran for “coordinating” Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic republic.
Trump sacked Bolton from his post as national security adviser in September last year.
Iran said Saturday it has arrested the head of a US-based “terrorist group” accused of being behind a deadly 2008 bombing in the southern city of Shiraz and of other, abortive attacks.
The group’s “Jamshid Sharmahd, who was leading armed and sabotage operations inside Iran, is now in the powerful hands” of Iran’s security forces, state television said in a report citing a statement from the intelligence ministry.
The statement did not elaborate on where or when the leader of the opposition royalist group known as the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, or Tondar (Farsi for Thunder), was arrested.
According to the statement, he had orchestrated the April 12, 2008 bombing in a packed mosque in Shiraz that killed 14 people and wounded 215.
Iran hanged three men convicted of the bombing in 2009, saying they had ties to the monarchist group.
It said they had been taking orders from an Iranian US-backed “CIA agent” to try to assassinate a high-ranking official in Iran.
They were 21-year old Mohsen Eslamian and Ali Asghar Pashtar, 20 — both university students — as well as Rouzbeh Yahyazadeh, 32.
The three were found guilty of being “mohareb” (enemies of God) and “corruption on the earth” by a revolutionary court in Tehran.
Iran hanged two other convicted members of the group in 2010, who had “confessed to obtaining explosives and planning to assassinate officials”.
The statement issued on Saturday said that Tondar had plotted several other “big operations” which failed.
It said that Tondar had planned to blow up a dam in Shiraz, use “cyanide bombs” at a Tehran book fair, and plant an explosive device at the mausoleum of the Islamic republic’s founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
It was not clear how Iran arrested the US-based Sharmahd.
Iran’s intelligence ministry announced the arrest of a former opposition figure in similarly mysterious circumstances in October last year.
Ruhollah Zam, described as a “counter-revolutionary” by Iranian authorities, was sentenced to death last month over “corruption on earth”.
Zam, who reportedly lived in exile in Paris, ran a channel on the Telegram messaging application called Amadnews and was accused of sparking unrest during anti-government protests last year.
US Navy condemns Iran’s ‘irresponsible, reckless behaviour’ in war games staged during heightened tensions.
Irab paramilitary Revolutionary Guard fired a missile from a helicopter targeting a replica US aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported on Tuesday, an exercise aimed at threatening the US amid tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The exercises – dubbed “Prophet Muhammad 14th” – were held near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for a fifth of global oil output.
Footage of the war games broadcast on state television showed the Guard’s air and naval forces readying for an attack off the country’s southwestern coast.
Speedboats skimmed across the water in formation before ground forces fired cannons and a missile was launched from a helicopter, leaving a trail of smoke before appearing to smash into the side of the fake warship.
The Iranian maritime manoeuvre was staged at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
The US Navy condemned the “irresponsible and reckless behaviour by Iran”, calling it an attempt “to intimidate and coerce”.
The US Navy 5th Fleet, which is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, also criticised Iran’s use of the replica aircraft carrier.
“We are aware of the Iranian exercise involving attacking a mock-up of a vessel similar to a motionless aircraft carrier,” its spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement emailed to Media news agency (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Tuesday.
“The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed both Iran and the US for months, there have been increasing signs of a confrontation as the US has argued for extend a years-long UN weapons embargo on Tehran that is due to expire in October.
The war games came only days after Tehran accused US fighter jets of harassing an Iranian commercial airliner over Syria.
At least four passengers on board the Mahan Air plane were injured in Thursday’s incident after the pilot took emergency action to avoid the warplanes, Iranian authorities said.
Tensions have escalated between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The two countries have come to the brink of direct confrontation twice since June 2019, when the Guard shot down a US drone in the Gulf.
Their animosity deepened after Iran’s most prominent general, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January.
One of the most recent confrontations was in mid-April, when the US accused the Guard of using speedboats to harass its warships in the Gulf.