Jeans and Chadors as Iran Capital Marks Ashura

◢ 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.

Sinopec Persists With Iran Refinery Upgrade

◢ 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.

Volkswagen Won't Confirm Claim it Will Quit Iran

◢ 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 Still Ready to Talk to Iran: Official

◢ 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.

Macron to Meet Trump, Iran's Rouhani at UN in New York: French Presidency

◢ 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.

Iran Film for Oscars Stirs Debate on Home Front

◢ 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.

Iran Says OPEC Has 'Not Much Credit' Left

◢ 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.

Eyeing Reconstruction, Russia, Iran Take Centre Stage at Syria Expo

◢ 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.

Trump Lashes Ex-Secretary of State Kerry for Iran Meetings

◢ 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.

EU Nations Mull Clearing House to Avoid Iran Sanctions: Reports

◢ 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.

'Crucial Period' for Oil as Iran Exports Shrink: IEA

◢ 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's Options to Face Down US Oil Sanctions

◢ 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.

Netanyahu Accuses Europe of 'Appeasing' Iran

◢ 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 Factor Seen in Tajikistan’s Stranded Trucks

◢ For the last two weeks, around 50 trucks traveling to or from Tajikistan have lain stranded on the northern and southern borders of Turkmenistan in a standoff that defies immediate explanation. Senior transportation officials in Dushanbe have told Eurasianet on condition of anonymity that one working suspicion is that the blockade may have been instigated by Iran, which shares a long border with Turkmenistan.

Iran Environment Head Seeks Answers on Detained Activists

◢ Iran's vice-president in charge of environmental affairs has called for an explanation on the fate of more than a dozen activists arrested this year, state news agency IRNA reported Sunday. “We are not asking for their release or for their execution, we just want their fate to be clarified. This is part of their citizenship rights," Isa Kalantari, who heads Iran's environment department, told IRNA. 

Conflict Hinders Iran Efforts to Counter Dust Storms

◢ 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. 

Rouhani Evokes Iran-Iraq War in Call to Defy US Pressure

◢ 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 Supreme Leader Warns Against Spread of Pessimism

◢ 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.

Trump Leaves Door Open to Meeting Iran's Rouhani at UN

◢ 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 Says to Go Beyond Previous Enrichment If Deal Fails

◢ 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.