◢ The U.S. sanctioned Iran’s central bank and sovereign wealth fund on Friday, a move aimed as retaliation for last weekend’s attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities. “These are the highest sanctions ever imposed,” President Donald Trump told reporters during a meeting.
◢ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday said he preferred a “peaceful resolution” to a crisis sparked by attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, as Iran warned against “all-out war.” Pompeo has blamed Iran for the weekend assault on two facilities which wiped out half of Saudi oil production, dismissing its denials and condemning the “act of war.”
◢ President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll appoint Robert O’Brien as his White House national security advisor, elevating the State Department’s top hostage envoy from relative obscurity to one of the most important jobs in U.S. government. O’Brien had the backing of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
◢ President Hassan Rouhani said Iran is not looking for a war in the Persian Gulf following weekend strikes on Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil installation, as the Islamic Republic sent a cable to Washington formally denying any role. Addressing a cabinet meeting, Rouhani said the assault was carried out by Yemeni Houthi rebels retaliating against Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in their country.
◢ Earlier this year, President Donald Trump warned that “it’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.” Something big has happened with an attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, and yet it isn’t obvious how the U.S. can effectively retaliate against a country that is already under maximum economic sanctions.
◢ Donald Trump risks a political backlash if he retaliates against Iran over a weekend strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities after campaigning on promises to withdraw the U.S. from foreign wars. Speaking later to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said: “It’s certainly looking that way at this moment,” and “we pretty much already know” who did it.
◢ China on Monday urged the United States and Iran to "exercise restraint" after a drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, which Washington has blamed on Tehran. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also said it was not responsible to accuse others "in the absence of a conclusive investigation or verdict.”
◢ Iran has not made any plans for President Hassan Rouhani to meet his US counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly, a spokesman said Monday. "We have neither planned for this meeting, nor do I think such a thing would happen in New York," the foreign ministry's Abbas Mousavi said in remarks aired on state television.
◢ Two Iranian companies signed a $440 million agreement Saturday to develop a gas field in the sensitive Persian Gulf, with the oil ministry saying it showed arch-foe the United States could not stop the country with sanctions.
◢ Iran on Sunday dismissed US accusations it was behind drone attacks on Saudi oil installations, suggesting Washington was seeking a pretext to retaliate against the Islamic Republic. "Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement.
◢ U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo blamed Iran for a series of brazen attacks on a massive Saudi Aramco oil facility, saying there was no evidence the drones originated in Yemen as Tehran-backed rebels there claimed. Iran denied responsibility for the raids Saturday, which forced Saudi Arabia to slash its daily oil output in half.
◢ French President Macron tapped Emmanuel Bonne, an Arabic and Farsi speaker. to drive his foreign policy agenda in May, replacing Philippe Etienne, a European affairs specialist. The appointment symbolizes a change in foreign policy priorities for the French president after spending the first two years of his term trying to revamp the European Union.
◢ President Donald Trump discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month, prompting then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to argue forcefully against such a step, according to three people familiar with the matter.
◢ Donald Trump has made no secret he’s willing to sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a move that would break more than four decades of U.S. policy. With John Bolton’s ouster as national security adviser, the odds of that meeting just got better. But Iranian leaders, at least publicly, have spurned the suggestion of a Trump-Rouhani encounter, which would be strongly opposed by more conservative factions in Iran.
◢ President Donald Trump ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton because he “disagreed strongly” with many of his positions, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by several setbacks in U.S. foreign policy. “I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Trump tweeted. “I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
◢ The United States on Tuesday joined Israel in alleging "possible undeclared nuclear activities" by Iran, further straining European-led attempts to salvage a multinational deal. Iran denounced the accusations leveled on Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that the clerical regime operated a previously undisclosed site aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
◢ Sahar Khodayari loved watching soccer, and ended up paying for it with her life. In Iran, entering sports arenas is a jailable offense for women. Rather than face the prospect of months in prison for having dared to assert such a small right, Khodayari set herself on fire.
◢ The acting head of the UN nuclear watchdog on Monday called on Iran to "respond promptly" to the agency's questions regarding Tehran's nuclear program. He said that in his meetings he "stressed the need for Iran to respond promptly to Agency questions related to the completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations", adding "Time is of the essence."
◢ Iran on Sunday hinted that it could release "within days" a UK-flagged oil tanker it had seized in July in sensitive Gulf waters amid rising hostilities with Britain's ally the United States. Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state television the "necessary steps" to set the Swedish-owned ship free were "underway.”
◢ A senior U.S. Treasury official is in the United Arab Emirates to meet with the chiefs of the country’s banks and shipping companies as the Trump administration seeks to further tighten sanctions against the Iranian regime. Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will be meeting the chief executive officers of seven U.A.E. banks on Sunday and Monday.
◢ The acting head of the UN atomic watchdog, Cornel Feruta, arrived in Tehran on Sunday for high-level talks with Iranian officials, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported. The International Atomic Energy Agency official's visit comes a day after Iran announced its latest step in reducing its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal.
◢ Iran said Saturday it has fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles, in the latest scaling back of commitments under a crumbling 2015 nuclear deal. The country's Atomic Energy Organization said, however, that it would honor commitments to give UN inspectors access to monitor its nuclear sites.
◢ Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday ordered all limits on nuclear research and development to be lifted, the country's third step in scaling down its commitments to a 2015 deal with world powers. His announcement came shortly after the US hit the Islamic Republic with further sanctions, the latest in a series of punitive measures including an embargo on Iranian oil exports.
◢ The U.S. placed new sanctions on Iran, and a top American official signaled more measures are coming while deflecting questions about French diplomatic efforts meant to help Tehran restart oil sales. Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said Wednesday that the U.S. will “continue to drive up the costs” for Tehran’s efforts to develop ballistic missiles and take other actions.
◢ A senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirmed Wednesday. The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department point-man on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered "good news" of millions in US cash.
◢ The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Iran's space program, saying that a recent explosion on a launch pad was a sign of missile work. "The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
◢ Iran’s top envoy Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks in Moscow with counterpart Sergei Lavrov as the threat of another erosion of Iran’s compliance with the accord looms. His deputy Abbas Araghchi went to Paris with a team of economists and central bank officials to discuss a French proposal to help restore Iran’s oil exports, the backbone of its economy.
◢ President Hassan Rouhani spoke with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Saturday, warning him Iran would take the next step in reducing its nuclear commitments unless Europe lives up to its own undertakings. "If Europe cannot operationalize its commitments, Iran will take its third step to reduce its JCPOA commitments," Rouhani told Macron in a phone call, quoted by the government website.
◢ International inspectors reported that Iran continued to exceed nuclear limits imposed under its landmark deal with world powers, a breach that has complicated European efforts to salvage the accord abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump.
◢ Britain, France and Germany will hold talks Friday on how to preserve the beleaguered Iran nuclear deal and protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. Ahead of the meeting, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said they would aim to "build on the momentum of the positive G7 talks on Iran.”
◢ EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini gave a cautious welcome to the idea of negotiations, after Trump said Monday he was ready to meet Iran's President Hassan Rouhani within weeks. "We are always in favor of talks, the more people talk, the more people understand each other better, on the basis of clarity and on the basis of respect," Mogherini said as she arrived for the Helsinki meeting.