The Evolving Horns of Pakistan and Iran (Daniel 7)

The evolving relationship between Pakistan and Iran

As the countries of the Muslim world are about to have largest gathering of their unique forum of Organization of Islamic Conference in Riyadh this week, Pakistan and Iran have developed a thaw in relations to build the synergies for evolution of their deep-rooted relations. In the wake of ongoing stress and strains between Tehran and Washington, Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran was on his recent urgent spree to different capitals of the regional countries including China, Japan, India and Turkmenistan before his presence in Islamabad to meet at the higher levels of civilian and military commands. Amid the tension in the region and keeping in view Pakistan’s formidable role in the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf where the South Asian nuclear armed Islamic country is finding a tough balance between Riyadh and Tehran. Presence of Iranian Foreign Minister before these important meetings of the regional stakeholders in a tense situation, is meant to convince Pakistan to play a constructive role in pushing or influencing Riyadh to soften its regional stance towards Iran. Lest not forget Pakistan’s relations Saudi Arabia and their both being strong allies of USA. The visit was also important to keep the backdoor diplomatic channels to be utilized to remove the tension and seek assistance from allies.

Earlier Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in Tehran for talks with his counterparts and supreme leaders in Tehran. During this meeting there was several important confidence building measures were achieved between the two important neighbouring countries wherein it was agreed to develop a joint rapid action force to help the surveillance in the borders for security reasons. This step was proposed after the attack on Army personals in Balochistan-bordering Iran. At least a day before Prime Minster’s departure to Tehran, Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that attackers were from Iran-based Baloch Terror organization. The fight against terrorism and extremist remained a centrepiece of Imran Khan’s speech where he stressed the need to curb cross border terrorism, do not permit saboteurs sabotage the regional peace and halt prosperity. Moreover, Quetta-Taftan railway track would be built. This very proposal presents Iranian belief in Pakistani leadership’s urge to maintain regional peace for mutual coexistence.

There is constant existence of paranoia of mistrust between Pakistan and Iran. Sometimes odd events happen whenever some high-level dignitary arrive either to Tehran from Islamabad or from Islamabad to Tehran. The incident in Balochistan happened days before Imran Khan supposed to travel to Tehran. While once President of Iran was about to arrive in Islamabad, Kulbhushan Jadhav was captured from Balochistan and his alleged ring operating from Iran. This growing mistrust has now been slowly demonizing keeping in view the fact that there are now close connections developed between the higher ups in Islamabad and Tehran. Once you begin viewing the other through someone else lenses then there is a growth of the mistrust. With regular contacts and sharing of the intelligence, Pakistan and Iran will continue to deal with the regional and national level issues together. This air of mistrust needs to be removed as perfectly and immediately as possible.

The times are tough, but the hearts of the people of Pakistan and Iran beat to the same rhythm of togetherness and brotherhood

Lately the verbal and diplomatic clashes between Iran and the US became intense after the US intelligence reports suspected Iran planning a possible attack or sabotage US interests in the region. Not to forget the fact, Iran and USA are at loggerheads with each other since USA withdrew from JCPOA and asked Iran to renegotiate or halt its missile development. Iran threatened to partially withdraw from agreement, blocking Strait of Hormuz and to restart uranium enrichment. In response, USA dispatched bomber air crafts in Middle East and Carrier Group Strike Force in Arabian Ocean succeeding 1500 additional military personnel to Middle East. Prior to this in April President of the US designated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as terrorist organization and as a reaction Iran declared US Central Command to be terrorist entity. The continue tension has made huge dent to the international political and regional geopolitical landscape.

In this backdrop, presence of Mr Zarif and holding high level candid in Islamabad on the arrival has built the confidence between the two countries. Iranian Foreign Minister also met PM Imran Khan where Iran-US tensions were discussed in detail because Pakistan has its own version of concerns in accordance with Iran. It is because Pakistan would also suffer in case of Iran-US war with next-door neighbour, which Pakistan cannot afford due to increasing investments in area of proximity with Iran, Balochistan. On the other end, GCC are major Pakistani allies wherein Pakistan would hate taking sides in any escalation. Accordingly, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged parties to minimize escalation. Iran and Pakistan are continuously building their ties and making it possible shape new partnership blocks in the region. Iran cannot shut doors to Pakistan amid heavy Saudi investments in Balochistan and it have to come up with equally potential work out. It is worth mentioning here that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appraised Imran Khan for his role to unite Muslim states and efforts to curb apprehensions while not taking sides.

Moreover, Apart from counter weighting US militarization in the region, Iran appears to be in a process of strategic shift, which led her to reshuffle its position in regional affairs. Mr. Javad Zarif came with a formal proposal for Pakistan to link Gwadar with Chahbahar port to maximize the potential of regional connectivity. “We can connect Chahbahar and Gwadar, and then through that connect Gwadar to our entire railroad system, from Iran to the North Corridor, through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and also through Azerbaijan, Russia, and through Turkey”, He quoted saying. It is an ambitious position taken by Iran after a series of visits by FM Javad Zarif to China and Russia which clearly presents prospective proposition for China and Russia if Gwadar and Chahbahar are to be linked.

In a regional integration perspective, Iran is an observer member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by China, which seeks close proximity and regional integration. On the other hand, linking Chahbahar to Gwadar may present Iranian urge to be part of CPEC and BRI where Pakistan already holds a far more stakes than any other state in the region. In this perspective, Iran would continue to hold a significant position in region and may elevate to dialogue partner ending in full member state in Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is worth mentioning here that on his visit to China, Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif in meeting with Chinese counterpart said, “Iran and China need to think together and work together about preserving a multilateral global order and avoiding a unilateral global order”. It presents Iranian distrust with US dominated imperialist world order, which also has been criticized by China of and on. As far as the concern of Pakistan, it already expects no good from the US though not apparently ready to disengage.

Iran and Pakistan agree to work together to reap the fruit of benefit for our countries and build relationship on solid footing hence not allowing any state to sabotage our mutual interests. It is also important that unless, Afghanistan issue is not resolved, Iran offers an easy passage for Pakistani and Chinese trade up to the North and West. It simultaneously offers to connect Eurasia with South Asia and both with China. What Iran is likely seeking are the oil markets, international patronage against unjustified US sanctions and bridging gaps with GCC states especially Saudi Arabia with the help of Pakistan though not spoken these demands on media. It is time for all regional countries to stand up for their region and patron its resources for their own use and get best out of it.

Pakistan and Iran must cooperate in trade and integrate their economies but apparently it becomes difficult since USA has sanctioned Iran and ready to sanction states who deal with Iran. At this state of economic affairs, tough times are ahead for Pakistan and for Iran as both states are facing daunting challenges. As Pakistan could not implement Iran Pakistan gas pipeline project due to international sections and the pressure is mounting day by day. Both states have stood with each other in the test of times. Although the time is tough, but people of Pakistan and Iran have their hearts tied to each other and beat to the same rhythm and symphony of togetherness and brotherhood, no matter what, and will continue to do so.

The writer is director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies, Islamabad

Iran Uranium Spins Away (Revelation 8:4)

Iran’s Centrifuge Use Flagged by UN Atomic Watchdog in Confidential Report

Report raises questions on Tehran’s adherence to a key provision in 2015 nuclear deal intended to limit the country’s use of advanced centrifuges

AP

The UN atomic watchdog said Friday that Iran continues to stay within the limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, but reported its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing and raised questions for the first time about Iran’s adherence to a key but vague provision intended to limit the country’s use of advanced centrifuges.

In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has stayed within key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, for uranium and heavy water stockpiles.

But while in past reports the IAEA said Iran’sresearch and development on enrichment “has been conducted using centrifuges within the limits defined in the JCPOA,” the Friday report instead changed the wording to say it “has been conducted using centrifuges specified in the JCPOA.”

A centrifuge is a device that enriches uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas. Under the atomic accord, Iran has been limited to operating 5,060 older-model IR-1 centrifuges.

In a footnote, the agency said that “up to 33” more advanced IR-6 centrifuges have been installed and that “technical discussions in relation to the IR-6 centrifuges are ongoing.”

Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to test no more than 30 of the IR-6s once the deal has been in place for eight and a half years. The deal is murky about limits before that point, which will arrive in 2023.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said last month that Iran had begun installing a chain of 20 IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Natanz enrichment facility. Iranian officials say the IR-6 can enrich 10 times faster than an IR-1.

Iran maintains that it is allowed to install the centrifuges, regardless of the agreement’s limit on their use for testing. A senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t officially allowed to comment on the report said the faster centrifuges were not yet being fed with uranium.

The diplomat said the technical discussions on the centrifuges were between the deal’s signatories and Iran, but would not elaborate. “It is being discussed, and we report the facts that we see,” the diplomat said.

“The feed line is under agency seal,” the diplomat said, adding it was up to partner countries in the deal to determine whether the installation was a violation of the accord.

The nuclear deal is meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. It has been complicated by the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the deal last year and Washington’s increased sanctions, which has been taking a toll on the Iranian economy.

That has left the other signatories — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — struggling to come up with enough incentives to keep Iran in the deal.

Earlier this month, Iran announced that if a way couldn’t be found within 60 days to shield it from U.S. sanctions targeting its economy and oil industry, it would ramp up its enrichment of uranium beyond the purity allowed under nuclear deal. And about a week ago, Iran said it had increased its uranium-enrichment production capacity, though only of the lower-enriched uranium permitted by the agreement.

In its first quarterly report since those announcements, however, the Vienna-based IAEA found Iran continued to be in compliance and also said its inspectors had been given unfettered access to Iranian nuclear facilities.

“Timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access facilitates implementation of the additional protocol and enhances confidence,” the report stated, referring to the procedure detailing safeguards and tools for verification.

The senior diplomat said Iran does have the capacity to quadruple uranium enrichment as it recently threatened, but that inspectors would have to wait until the next report to determine whether they had actually set that increase in motion.

“They have the flexibility, they can increase and they can reduce, and they can do a number of things,” the diplomat said. “The capacity is always there, and we do verify this at a technical level, we are fully monitoring that.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, and to sell its heavy water, which is used as a coolant in nuclear reactors, to Oman. That will also make it difficult, if not impossible, for it to stay within stockpile limits if it increases production of both.

The IAEA said Iran’s heavy water stockpile was 125.2 metric tons (138 U.S. tons) as of May 26, up from 124.8 tons in February but below the 130 ton limit. Its stock of low-enriched uranium was 174.1 kilograms (383.8 pounds) as of May 20, up from 163.8 kilograms in February; the limit is 202.8 kilograms.

It added that Iran had not enriched any uranium above the level allowed by the JCPOA.

“All centrifuges and associated infrastructure in storage have remained under continuous agency monitoring,” the IAEA said.

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses.Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future

Split Amongst the Antichrist’s Men

Splits in Sadrist camp expose fault lines | | AW

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s ever-changing political stripes bemuse more than they surprise onlookers.

The 44-year-old populist leader heads one of Iraq’s two largest parliamentary blocs, Al Islah (the Reformers).

Reform, or at least its promise that flickers throughout his slogans and speeches, has allowed al-Sadr to reinvent himself as reform-minded peace-advocate capable of liberating Iraq from Iran’s grasp.

He sets himself apart from other heavyweights by presenting himself as the “opposition” against a “government of the corrupt” that he’s regularly warned to “act before it’s too late.”

Today’s al-Sadr is far different from yesterday’s, having abandoned violence, despite continuing to command a private militia known as the Peace Brigades.

Periodic dismissals of his appointees — a common trend in the 16 years of the movement’s life — has offered al-Sadr quick-fix solutions to arising problems but it is compromising party unity.

The party was recently ravaged by another crisis following a series of dismissals of advisers and businessmen, prompting violent clashes outside Bashir Mall in Najaf.

During the al-Sadr-led protests against corrupt affiliates and high-ranking figures outside an upscale mall, security guards fired on demonstrators, killing four people and injuring 17 others, Najaf’s Hakim Hospital reported. The mall, owned by Jawad al-Gara’awi, the former vice-chairman of Najaf Airport Board, was later set on fire by protesters.

Gara’awi, known locally as Abu Aktham, is a controversial figure in the Sadrist trend. He was widely accused of abuse of power during his appointment as a member of Najaf’s local government. In 2016, Abu Aktham’s brother Bashir, who owns shares in the mall, was threatened by al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades militia to pay $4,000 ransom or they would torch the mall.

Therefore, the dispute that rocked Najaf is not new but is rooted in old financial rivalries, over Najaf airport and more, between senior Sadrist figures.

The latest round of musical chairs has proven internally contentious and reopened old disputes as the big fish get away while the smaller players take the rap.

A senior aide to al-Sadr, Saleh Mohammad al-Iraqi, named four advisers whose roles were spared — Mustafa al-Yaqoubi, Mohamad al-Jayashi, Hassan Ethari and Waleed Karimawi.

Iraqi did not explain the decision behind the choice of those four men but iterated that “there will be no more aides” and quoted al-Sadr as having said that “I have no aides or advisers who enjoy a favoured status.”

Sadrist MP Awad al-Awadi who fought alongside al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades, posted a video in which he called on al-Sadr to reconsider his moves stating that “this is the second time I’m discriminated against and I have no business or commercial interests.”

He argued that “my only association with Essawi is that I sat on a special committee that he led in the past.” “I’ve earned every dinar honestly,” Awadi said.

Al-Sadr’s rift with Kadhim al-Essawi, another aide, who has appeared in videos holding a gun at the mall shootout, has gripped local media reporting that focused on a 1-year ultimatum that al-Sadr presented to Essawi. Essawi’s name received a special mention in Iraqi’s statement.

Al-Sadr ordered Essawi to “relinquish business proceeds and donate them to the family of martyrs” or turn his back on any of his business ventures, reported Sawt al-Iraq.

Essawi is said to have responded with the formation of the Taboun (“the Repentant”) bloc.

Essawi is not alone. Qussay al-Essawi, Ali Hadu, Awad al-Awadi and Imad Abu Mariam, must choose between business interests or the party.

The temptation to explain these clashes with reference to al-Sadr’s anti-Iran stance has been on full display across English-language media.

It should not distract onlookers from internal party divisions and a flawed anti-graft policy in which corruption of some but not others is tolerated. Despite emphasising the need for institutional controls to monitor party finances, al-Sadr appears exempt from such rules.

In a statement, Iraqi issued clear warnings to corrupt individuals arguing that the movement “will stand in their way” and that “bloody violence” will not be tolerated.

He added that a committee formed by al-Sadr will pursue legal action against the corrupt and to monitor the movement of party members “in an authorised centralised-administrative way” the statement read.

This uneven playing field is breeding antagonism but does little to fight Iraq’s well-advanced culture of corruption, as contradictions, which have existed before, reach new heights.

If al-Sadr is unable to heal internal party wounds, his foreign policy approach — lauded in the West — will falter, similar to his attempt to rein in the violence of militiamen he commands.

The banner of reform has offered al-Sadr a convenient armour to hide behind but for how long?

Saudis Team up with Babylon the Great (Daniel 7)

Riyadh seeks firm action against Iran

Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told an emergency Arab summit on Friday that decisive action was needed to stop Iranian “escalations” following attacks on Gulf oil assets, as U.S. officials said a military deployment had deterred Tehran.

The right of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to defend their interests after the attacks on oil pumping stations in the kingdom and tankers off the UAE were supported in a Gulf Arab statement and a separate communiqué issued after the wider summit.

Tehran denies any involvement in the attacks and in a sign of regional tensions. Iraq, which has good ties with neighbouring Iran and Washington, said it objected to the Arab communiqué, which stated that any cooperation with Tehran should be based on “non-interference in other countries”.

“The absence of a firm deterrent stance against Iranian behaviour is what led to the escalation we see today,” King Salman told the two consecutive meetings late on Thursday.

Oil price

The ruler of the world’s top crude exporter said Shia Iran’s development of nuclear and missile capabilities and its threats on world oil supplies posed a risk to regional and global security.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that attacks on four vessels near a major bunkering hub, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, were “efforts by Iranians to raise the price of crude oil around the world”.

Riyadh accused Tehran of ordering the drone strikes. The attacks were claimed by the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has been battling a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen for four years.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that evidence of Iran being behind the tanker attacks would be presented to the UN Security Council as early as next week.

“The Kingdom is keen to preserve the stability and security of the region, to spare it the scourge of war and to realise peace and stability,” King Salman said.

Iraq plea

Iraqi President Barham Salih, asking the gathering to support Iraq’s stability, said that rising tensions with Iran could spark a war if not managed well and voiced hope that Iran’s security would not be targeted.

Mr. Pompeo has warned Iraqi leaders that if they failed to keep in check Iran-backed militias, which now form part of Baghdad’s security apparatus, the U.S. would respond with force.

Tensions have risen between the U.S. and Iran after President Donald Trump a year ago withdrew Washington from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, re-imposed sanctions and boosted its military presence in the Gulf. The final communiqué said regional stability required the establishment of an independent Palestinian state along 1967 borders to include Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said on Thursday that a repositioning of U.S. military assets in the region had deterred Iran, but that the U.S. would respond with military force if its interests are targeted.

Iran Prepares for the Nuclear End Game (Revelation 16)

The Iran File is a weekly intelligence summary that synthesizes events from the past week and forecasts what to expect in the future.

Khamenei Prepares for the JCPOA’s Potential Collapse

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]

Key Takeaway: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed reservations about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iranian nuclear deal, to distance himself from the potential failure of the agreement and to direct blame toward the Rouhani administration.

Khamenei stated on May 22 that he lacked faith in the JCPOA based on its implementation and that he had repeatedly said this to President Hassan Rouhani. Khamenei’s remarks come after the Iranian regime, likely at his command, reneged on some of its JCPOA commitments to pressure Europe to offer Iran economic deliverables. The regime also quadrupled its low-enriched uranium (LEU) production rate, indicating that it may violate the deal’s limitation on LEU stockpiles in the near future. Khamenei may be increasingly inclined to abandon the JCPOA and could decide to do so after July 7, which marks the end of Iran’s 60-day deadline to Europe to provide Iran economic guarantees.


NUCLEAR DEAL DEVELOPMENTS

Supreme Leader Khamenei distances himself from the JCPOA. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei *stated on May 22 that he did not have much faith in the JCPOA based on its implementation. Khamenei noted that he frequently expressed his lack of confidence to President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Khamenei added that as supreme leader, he should not intervene in executive affairs unless it relates to the Islamic Revolution movement.


DOMESTIC POLITICS

President Rouhani seeks expanded executive powers to combat US economic pressure. President Hassan Rouhani *statedon May 20 that he needs greater executive power to combat US economic pressure. Rouhani referenced the creation of the Supreme War Support Council during the Iran-Iraq War, which wielded expanded powers to address the conflict. Rouhani emphasized that Iran is currently in an economic war with the US as justification for granting him additional powers. Hardliners, including Guardian Council Spokesperson Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei and Kayhan Managing Editor *Hossein Shariatmadari, criticized Rouhani in response.

Second Iranian cleric in slightly over a month is murdered. An unidentified assailant stabbed and killed Hojjat ol Eslam Mohammad Khorsand in Kazeroun, Fars Province, on May 29. Khorsand was the Kazeroun Friday prayer leader. Kazeroun previously experienced deadly and massive anti-regime protests in April and May 2018. Khorsand’s killing also comes after an Iranian man in Hamedan, Hamedan Province, shot and killed Hojjat ol Eslam Mostafa Ghassemi on April 27. It is not clear whether the murders are linked.

Larijani reelected as parliament speaker.Parliamentarians reelected Ali Larijani as parliament speaker on May 26. Larijani will serve in this position for the 12th straight year. Larijani received 155 votes, reformist-leaning Omid faction representative Mohammad Reza Aref received 105, and hardliner Seyyed Mohammad Javad Abtahi received nine votes.


REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS & DIPLOMACY

President Rouhani suggests talks with US are possible if Washington lifts sanctions.President Hassan Rouhani suggested that Iran may negotiate with the US if Washington “lift[s] the unjust sanctions and fulfills [its] commitments” to the JCPOA on May 29. Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have stated that Iran will not negotiate with the US.

Foreign Minister Zarif visits Iraq to discuss regional developments amid US-Iran tension. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif led a senior political delegation to Baghdad, Iraq, on May 25 and met with senior Iraqi officials to discuss regional developments. Zarif met separately with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul al Mehdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Ali al Hakim, and Parliament Speaker Mohammad al Halbousi. Al Hakim notedduring a joint press conference that Iraq could serve as a mediator between Iran and the US to “reach a satisfactory solution.” Zarif’s visit follows the US announcement to deploy 1,500 troops and additional defense assets to the Middle East. Zarif’s visit also follows an increase in political and military tensions in the region including a rocket attack on May 19 near the US Embassy in Baghdad.


ECONOMY

Iranian oil exports drop to 400,000 barrels per day. Iran’s oil exports fell to 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in late May 2019. The significant reduction in Iranian oil exports follows the Trump administration’s decisionto not reissue sanctions waivers to buyers of Iranian oil. India and Turkey, two of the eight original waiver recipients, have ceased their importation of Iranian oil in compliance with US sanctions. Iran exported around 1 million bpd in April 2019. Iranian officials reportedly told Europe that Iran must sell 1.5 million bpd to ensure its continued commitment to the JCPOA