Macron to Host Iran Top Diplomat for Nuclear Talks Friday

◢ President Emmanuel Macron will on Friday hold talks on Iran's contested nuclear program with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the French presidency said, in a rare encounter between a Western head of state and a senior Iranian official. Macron will meet Zarif just one day before France chairs a three-day summit of leaders of Group of Seven (G7) countries, including President Donald Trump, in the southern resort of Biarritz.

US Urges UN to Extend Iran Arms Embargo, Travel Ban

◢ The US urged the United Nations Tuesday to extend an arms embargo on Tehran that is due to expire next year as part of the embattled Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council that the clock was ticking on a resolution restricting weapons sales to Iran that is due to end in October 2020.

Iran Denies Giving Gibraltar Assurances for Release of Tanker

◢ Iranian officials on Friday denied that any assurances were given to Gibraltar to release an Iranian tanker now sailing on into the Mediterranean, calling it a "victory" for Tehran. "Iran has given no assurances over the Grace 1 not going to Syria to secure its release," the state broadcaster's youth website quoted foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying Friday.

Gibraltar Court Agrees to Release Detained Oil Tanker

◢ A Gibraltar court agreed to release the supertanker Grace 1, which had been held since last month on suspicion of hauling Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S. was seeking to seize the vessel, though it didn’t put in a legal request to do so, according to the judge in the case.

U.S. Seeks Further Detention of Seized Tanker, Gibraltar Says

◢ The United States applied on Thursday for Gibraltar to keep in detention an Iranian oil tanker at the center of a stand-off between Tehran and London, the public prosecutor said. Chief Justice Anthony Dudley made clear that were it not for the US move, "the ship would have sailed" from the overseas British territory.

Iran Says It Expects Tanker Held by U.K. to Be Released Soon

◢ Iran expects an oil tanker seized by the U.K. in the Strait of Gibraltar in July will be released soon, the semi-official Fars News agency reported Tuesday. “Official and unofficial documents have been exchanged to resolve the matter and we hope the problem will be dealt with in the very near future,” said Jalil Eslami, deputy for maritime affairs at Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.

Bolton to Press Britain's Johnson on Iran

◢ US National Security Advisor John Bolton was Monday to sound out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on global disputes that include an escalating Gulf standoff with Iran. The hawkish White House aide is the most senior US official to meet Johnson since he succeeded Theresa May as UK government leader last month.

France Says 'Needs No Permission' for Iran Dialogue After Trump Swipe

◢ France said Friday that it "needs no permission" to work towards easing tensions between Iran and the US, after President Donald Trump accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of meddling in the dispute. In a tweet Thursday, Trump claimed that Iranian officials want "desperately to talk to the US, but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France."

German Tapped to Head INSTEX Withdraws After Israel Controversy

◢ A German senior diplomat who had been designated to run INSTEX, a mechanism to allow trade with Iran despite US sanctions, will not assume the post, it emerged Friday, following controversial comments he made on Israel. German's foreign office told AFP that Bernd Erbel, 71, had informed it "that he is not available for personal reasons.”

Iran Offered Lesson by Argentine Bid to Head Nuclear Agency

◢ Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi says inspectors monitoring Iran’s nuclear deal could benefit from more openness and suggested his country’s nuclear program holds a lesson for Iranian leaders. As a top candidate to head the International Atomic Energy Agency, Grossi faces the prospect of walking the tightrope between keeping tabs on Iran and other crises while steering the nominally technical agency through geopolitics.

Trump Criticizes French President for Sending Iran 'Mixed Signals'

◢ President Donald Trump on Thursday (Aug 8) accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of getting in the way of US policy and sending "mixed signals" to Iran. "Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the US, but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France," Trump tweeted.

Pompeo Talks Maritime Security, Iran With Saudi Crown Prince

◢ U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed maritime security, Iran and Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call on Wednesday. "The secretary discussed heightened tensions in the region and the need for stronger maritime security in order to promote freedom of navigation," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Iran Sanctions Breach Suspicion Prompts Bank to Seize Ships

◢ Reports alleging that fuel tankers appeared to breach U.S. sanctions against Iran were cited in court filings by a bank as it sought to seize the ships, accusing the owners of loan default. The accusations, which led to the the temporary arrest of the vessels in Singapore late last month, come as the U.S. seeks to isolate the regime in Tehran by cutting off oil sales, a major source of revenue.

Iran 'Favors' Talks Despite Trump Snub

◢ President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favors talks with the US if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic republic, despite his top diplomat turning down a meeting with US President Donald Trump. Rouhani said "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace" and "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" as he defended a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

UK Joins US in Persian Gulf Mission After Iran Taunts

◢ Britain said Monday it will join forces with the United States to protect merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran, after Tehran taunted Washington that its allies were too "ashamed" to join the mission. Britain's decision to form the joint maritime taskforce with the United States marks a departure in policy under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Iran Seizes Small Oil Tanker Suspected of Smuggling Fuel

◢ Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, compounding concerns about the safety of shipping in a region crucial to oil exports. The vessel—the third foreign ship seized by the guards in the Gulf since July 14—is suspected of smuggling a large volume of fuel, the Guards said on their Sepah News portal.