◢ A troupe acts out a scene from Islam's first century at a crowded tent in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, while in another part of town youths sporting tattoos and wearing torn jeans watch a procession. The two settings reflect the increasingly contrasting ways that people in the Iranian capital are marking Ashura—one of the holiest days in Shiite Islam which this year fell on Thursday.
◢ China's state-controlled Sinopec is pressing ahead with a USD 1.06bn upgrade project at Iran's 400,000 b/d Abadan refinery, despite the imminent return of US sanctions on Iran's energy sector. Its commitment will come as some relief for Tehran ahead of the 4 November re-imposition of US sanctions on its energy sector.
◢ Car giant Volkswagen declined Thursday to confirm a claim by American ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell that it would stop doing business in Iran. Grenell—known for stirring up controversy in his host country with public sallies on business and politics—told Bloomberg News VW would wind up most business with Iran after weeks of talks with President Donald Trump's administration.
◢ US leaders remain ready to negotiate with their Iranian counterparts but Tehran is still refusing President Donald Trump's overture to do so, a senior US official said Wednesday. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "have all made clear that we are ready to negotiate and to have those discussions," Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.
◢ President Emmanuel Macron will separately meet his US and Iranian counterparts, Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani, during the UN General Assembly in New York next week, the French presidency said Wednesday. Macron will meet Trump on Monday afternoon before having dinner with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. On Tuesday, the French President will address the assembly and hold talks with Rouhani, an Elysee Palace official said.
◢ The Iranian film for next year's Oscars has stirred controversy at home both over the choice of a downbeat movie and for taking part in the Hollywood spectacle at a time of tense Tehran-Washington ties. The Farabi Cinema Foundation tasked with selecting Iran's contestant for the best foreign-language film category has announced its choice of "No Date, No Signature", which won best director and best actor at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.
◢ Oil cartel OPEC has "not much credit" left as some members are turning it into "a tool for the US", a senior Iranian official said in comments published Saturday. "Saudi Arabia and the UAE are turning OPEC into a tool for the US and consequently the organization has not much credit left," Iran's OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili told the Shana newswire, affiliated to Iran's Oil Ministry.
◢ Companies from dozens of countries are showing their wares at the Damascus International Fair this week, but those from two in particular are getting special treatment—Russia and Iran. Firms from the top two wartime allies of Syria's government are set up in an entirely separate building, hinting at the preferred status they hope to enjoy as the country tries to transition into reconstruction.
◢ President Donald Trump lashed out at former secretary of state John Kerry for his meetings with Iran's foreign minister after the Obama-appointee had left office. "John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump said on Twitter late Thursday.
◢ Germany, France and Britain are mulling setting up a new financial institution to allow EU trade with Iran to continue despite American sanctions renewed by US President Donald Trump, German media reported Friday. The three countries could set up a "Special Purpose Vehicle" (SPV)—a firm resembling a clearing house that would cut Tehran out of the financial loop while still allowing trade, news weekly Der Spiegel and business daily Handelsblatt reported.
◢ Global oil output hit a record of 100 million barrels per day in August, but the market may tighten and prices rise as exports from Iran and Venezuela decline, the International Energy Agency said Thursday. "We are entering a very crucial period for the oil market," the IEA said in its latest monthly report. "Things are tightening up."
◢ Iran faces a potentially crushing loss of oil exports when US sanctions return in November, but the impact could be blunted by its experience of working around embargoes. When Iran faced its toughest international sanctions between 2012 and 2015, analysts say it found a number of creative solutions, from repainting and renaming ships to switching off their tracking devices.
◢ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accused European leaders of "appeasing" Iran instead of confronting its militant activity. Netanyahu's remarks, made in a cabinet meeting, feed into his ongoing efforts to sway world leaders to join the United States in upping pressure on Israel's arch foe through sanctions.
◢ Iran's efforts to counter worsening dust storms have been hampered by conflict in the region, the deputy head of the environment department said on Saturday. "We signed agreements with the Iraqi and Syrian governments in 2010 and 2011 to help them counter the source of dust storms," Masoud Tajrishi told a news conference in Tehran.
◢ Iran's President Hassan Rouhani evoked memories of the devastating Iran-Iraq war on Saturday to call for unity in the face of economic hardships and US pressure. "Today, the government is on the front-lines. This is an economic, psychological and propoganda war," Rouhani said on state television. "We had sweet days and we had hard days during the sacred defense," he said, using the official name for the war with Iraq which claimed up to two million lives between 1980 and 1988.
◢ Iran's supreme leader on Thursday warned against the spread of pessimism in the country, as people face mounting economic woes after the imposition of US sanctions. Addressing the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of high-ranking clerics tasked with choosing the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for people's problems not to be overstated.
◢ President Donald Trump left the door open Wednesday to meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly—even as the United States ramps up the pressure on a regime it accuses of destabilizing the Middle East. "It's possible, anything is possible," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked about the possibility of a face-to-face with Rouhani during the gathering later this month.
◢ Iran will begin uranium enrichment beyond previous levels if the remaining parties fail to uphold the 2015 nuclear deal, its Atomic Energy Organisation told local media on Wednesday. "We will not return to previous levels if our counterparts leave the JCPOA (nuclear deal), but will instead reach even more advanced levels," the organization's spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, quoted by state broadcaster IRIB.
◢ US President Donald Trump plans to lead a meeting of heads of state of the United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran in late September, his envoy Nikki Haley announced Tuesday. With the United States now holding the presidency of the Security Council, Haley said the aim is to further pressure on Tehran over its alleged violations of council resolutions.
◢ Iran is to move its main oil export terminal from the Persian Gulf to the Oman Sea, President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday, sparing its tankers from using the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Rouhani said exports were already being shifted from the Kharg Island terminal, deep in the Persian Gulf, to Bandar-e-Jask in the Oman Sea and would be completed by the end of his term in 2021.
◢ Iran is sticking to the terms of its nuclear deal with world powers, a UN atomic watchdog report showed Thursday, despite ongoing uncertainty over its future. The report from the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that Iran was still complying with the key parameters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed in 2015 by Iran and the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
◢ Iran "cannot avoid" talks on thorny issues like its ballistic missile program and role in Middle East conflicts, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Thursday, as European powers work to rescue the beleaguered nuclear deal with Tehran. France, Germany and Britain are leading European efforts to save the landmark 2015 deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, which was thrown into crisis in May when US President Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions.
◢ Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that his government should be ready to "set aside" the 2015 nuclear deal if it is no longer in the country's national interests. "The JCPOA (nuclear deal) is not the objective, it is only a means," he said in a meeting with the cabinet, according to his website.
◢ The United States told UN judges Tuesday they had no jurisdiction to rule on Tehran's demand for them to order the suspension of debilitating nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. US State Department lawyer Jennifer Newstead told the court in The Hague that the 1955 treaty under which Iran has challenged the sanctions "cannot... provide a basis for this court's jurisdiction."
◢ Iran's parliament voted its dissatisfaction with President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday after grilling him over the deteriorating economy. It was the first time Rouhani had been summoned by parliament in his five years in power, and MPs demanded answers on unemployment, rising prices and the sharp depreciation of the rial, which has lost more than half of its value since April.
◢ Iran on Monday demanded the UN's top court suspend US nuclear-linked sanctions against Tehran, accusing Washington of plotting its "economic strangulation.” The Islamic Republic launched a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over US President Donald Trump's decision to reimpose the sanctions that had been lifted in a 2015 accord.
◢ Iran's parliament impeached Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian on Sunday in the latest blow to embattled President Hassan Rouhani as he struggles to face down a mounting economic crisis. Karbasian is the second cabinet minister to be sacked this month, following the impeachment of Labour Minister Ali Rabiei on August 8. Critics say the government squandered the opportunities presented by the 2015 nuclear deal and have failed to tackle high rates of inflation and joblessness.
◢ A European Union aid plan for Iran sends "the wrong message at the wrong time" to the government in Tehran, the US State Department said Friday. The USD 20.7 million EU assistance package "perpetuates the regime's ability to neglect the needs of its people and stifles meaningful policy changes," read a statement Friday signed by US special representative for Iran Brian Hook.
◢ Iran's legal challenge against renewed sanctions by the United States goes before the UN's International Court of Justice on Monday. The case has two elements, said Eric De Brabandere, professor of international dispute settlement at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Firstly, "Iran genuinely considers the re-imposition of sanctions a violation of international law." Secondly, "Iran has the support of many European states on the question of sanctions, politically speaking.”
◢ Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet on Tuesday, with President Hassan Rouhani insisting that Tehran's military strength was only designed to deter enemies and create "lasting peace.” Images on state television showed Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new "Kowsar" fourth-generation fighter at the National Defence Industry exhibition in Tehran. State media said it had "advanced avionics" and multi-purpose radar, and that it was "100-percent indigenously made" for the first time.
◢ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump's national security adviser met in Jerusalem Monday and called on European nations to do more to pressure Iran. John Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for three days of talks expected to focus mainly on Iran and its presence in Syria. Netanyahu strongly urged Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal between Israel's main enemy Iran and world powers, and the US president did so in May, resulting in the reimposition of sanctions.