US-Iran tensions: All the latest updates

Iran breaches 300kg cap on enriched uranium stockpile, raising fears over future of imperilled 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran - nuclear facility near Arak

Fears of war between the United States and Iran have intensified after a US drone was shot down by Iranian forces.

Washington and Tehran disputed the circumstances of the drone shootdown, with Iran saying the unmanned spy plane was downed after it encroached on Iranian airspace, but the US said the aircraft was hit over international territory. 

The incident marked the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on US assets and came amid heightened tensions, unleashed by US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the JCPOA, an international accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear programme.

It was also the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf since mid-May, including suspected attacks on six tankers, and has prompted international alarm that the standoff could escalate into an open confrontation.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, July 2: 

Russia tells Iran ‘not to give in to emotions’ in nuclear standoff

Russia urged Iran not to give in to emotion and instead abide by its nuclear agreements, a day after Tehran said it had breached limits set in a 2015 deal in response to US sanctions.

“We call on our Iranian colleagues to show sangfroid, not to give in to emotions by any means and observe key provisions of the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol to this agreement,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

He said that Russia would do everything to help preserve the Iran nuclear accord.

“This agreement has special significance for the strengthening of the (nuclear) non-proliferation regime,” Lavrov said, speaking after talks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

But all parties – not just Tehran – have to honour their commitments for the Iran nuclear agreement to be preserved, Lavrov added.

“I would very much want our European colleagues to understand the full measure of their responsibility for preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Lavrov said.

China ‘regrets’ Iran’s decision to exceed uranium limit

China said it regrets Iran’s decision to exceed a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal, but said US “maximum pressure is the root cause” of tensions.

“We call on all parties to view this from a long term and overall perspective, exercise restraint and uphold the JCPOA (nuclear deal) together so that there won’t be further escalation in the tense situation,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

France warns Iran against further breaches of nuclear deal

France warned Iran against carrying out any further measures that would put into question the 2015 nuclear deal, after Iran exceeded the limits of low enriched uranium under the terms of the agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Tuesday that he recalled “his attachment to the full respect of the 2015 nuclear accord and asks Iran to reverse without delay this excess, as well as to avoid all extra measures that would put into question its nuclear commitments”.

The statement added that Macron would take steps in coming days to ensure Iran met its obligations and continued to benefit from the economic advantages of the deal.

‘Seriously?’ Iran asks of White House’s latest

Iran’s foreign minister is expressing his exasperation over a White House statement on his country’s nuclear program.

Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote early on Tuesday on Twitter: “Seriously?”

That was in response to a White House statement late on Monday claiming: “There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”

Iranians unite when bullied – parliamentary speaker

US President Donald Trump should realise that Iranians become more united when bullied, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said in remarks broadcast live on state television.

“Mr Trump should understand that when one uses bullying language against a civilised nation, they become more united,” Larijani said. US threats had united political factions in Iran, he added.

Trump says Iran ‘playing with fire’ after nuclear deal limit breached

US President Donald Trump warned that Iran is “playing with fire” after Tehran said it exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington.

“They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re playing with and I think they’re playing with fire,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Iran.

Monday, July 1:

UK’s FM Hunt says if Iran breaks nuclear deal ‘we are out as well’

If Iran breaks the JCPOA then Britain would withdraw as well, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

Hunt told Sky News that Britain still supported the deal, “We want to preserve that deal because we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons but if Iran breaks that deal then we are out of it as well,” he said.

Iran’s move was its first major step in violation of the deal since the US pulled out of it more than a year ago.

US vows to continue maximum pressure campaign

The US said it would continue its policy of maximum pressure on Tehran until “its leaders alter their course of action” and said Washington and its allies would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

“We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran,” the White House said in a statement. “The regime must end its nuclear ambitions and its malign behavior.”

President Trump has been a frequent critic of Iran’s leaders, accusing them of sowing disorder and unrest in the Middle East.

Germany very concerned by Iran’s breach of JCPOA: Reuters

Germany was very concerned by Iran’s announcement that it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under the JCPOA, a foreign ministry source told Reuters news agency.

“We call on Iran to reverse this step and not to further undermine the nuclear agreement,” the source said, adding Germany would carefully consider next steps together with other participants in the JCPOA.

Technicians of Iran''s Atomic Energy Organisation in a control room supervise resumption of activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan, 420 km (261 miles) [south of Tehran] August 8, 2005
Technicians of Iran”s Atomic Energy Organisation in a control room supervise resumption of activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan, 420 km (261 miles) [south of Tehran] August 8, 2005. Iran resumed uranium conversion on Monday at its facility near Isfahan, a move [EU officials have warned will probably see its nuclear case sent to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions].

Iran denies violating nuclear pact

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran’s accumulation of more enriched uranium than permitted under the JCPOA was not a violation of the pact, since it was exercising its right to respond to the US withdrawal from the agreement last year.

“We have NOT violated the #JCPOA,” Zarif said in a Twitter post, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Para 36 of the accord illustrates why. We triggered & exhausted para 36 after US withdrawal. We gave E3 2 a few weeks while reserving our right. We finally took action after 60 weeks. As soon as E3 abide by their obligations, we’ll reverse,” he added.

Zarif tweeted the message along with the text of paragraph 36 of the JCPOA which provides a mechanism to resolve disputes when parties believe other signatories are not fulfilling their obligations. The E3 refers to Germany, Britain and France, while the E3 2 also includes Russia and China.

EU calls for Iran to comply with accord

The EU urged Iran to abide by the 2015 nuclear agreement, with a spokeswoman for foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini calling on Tehran to “reverse” its stockpiling of more enriched uranium than permitted under the deal  and refrain from further non-compliance.

Europe “remains fully committed to the agreement as long as Iran continues to fully implement its nuclear commitments,” Mogherini’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

UN chief urges Iran to stick to JCPOA

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was concerned by Iran’s breaching of part of its 2015 JCPOA and urged the country to continue implementing all of its nuclear related commitments, a UN spokesman said.

“Such action by the Islamic Republic of Iran would not help preserve the plan, nor secure the tangible economic benefits for the Iranian people. It is essential that this issue … be addressed through the mechanism established by the JCPOA,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Under the JCPOA, there is a dispute resolution process that could, within as little as 65 days, end at the UN Security Council with a so-called snapback of UN sanctions on Iran.

Israel accuses Iran of ‘lying’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s move to break limits on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium was a “significant step toward making a nuclear weapon” and called on European countries to “stand by commitments” to impose sanctions against Tehran for violating the nuclear deal.

Netanyahu said that Israel would “soon unveil more proof that Iran was lying all the time” about its nuclear programme.

The Israeli prime minister has been an outspoken critic of Iran and has long accused Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has refuted those claims.

The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019
Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions [File: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters]

Russia blames US for pushing Iran to break deal

A senior Russian diplomat said that US sanctions had provoked Iran’s move to break the limit set on its uranium stockpiles.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov noted that Iran had warned of its move in advance, adding that Tehran was facing “unprecedented and unthinkable” US sanctions, including an oil trade embargo, which he described as an attempt to “strangle” the country.

He also urged all parties to “avoid escalation,” saying the development “causes regret, but shouldn’t be overdramatised”.

UK foreign minister worried by Iran’s breach of nuclear deal

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply worried” after Iran said it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 agreement with major powers, but said that Britain still backed the deal.

“Deeply worried by Iran’s announcement that it has broken existing nuclear deal obligations. UK remains committed to making deal work and using all diplomatic tools to de-escalate regional tensions,” Hunt said in a tweet.

“I urge Iran to avoid any further steps away from JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and come back into compliance,” he added.

Iran exceeds low-enriched uranium stockpile limit: UN watchdog

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency confirmed Iran has surpassed the stockpile of low-enriched uranium allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Yukiya Amano, the watchdog’s director general, had informed its board of governors that the organisation had verified Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent had exceeded the 300 kilograms allowed.

Iran earlier in the day had announced that it had exceeded the limit, as it threatened it would.

Saturday, June 29:

Iran to soon exceed enriched uranium limit: Report

Iran will soon exceed an enriched uranium limit under its nuclear deal, after remaining signatories to the pact fell short of Tehran’s demands to be shielded from US sanctions, the semi-official Fars news agency cited an “informed source” as saying.

“As the commission meeting in Vienna could not satisfy Iran’s just demands … Iran is determined to cut its commitments to the deal and the 300kg enriched uranium limit will be soon breached,” the unnamed source said, according to Fars.

Ball in Europe’s court on nuclear deal’s future – Iran state TV

The ball is in Europe’s court to shield Iran from US sanctions and prevent it from further scaling back compliance with its nuclear agreement with world powers, Iranian state TV said, with days remaining on Tehran’s ultimatum.

Iran stopped complying on May 8 with some commitments in the nuclear deal after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

Tehran said it would suspend further obligations under the deal after 60 days.

“The ball is in Europe’s court. Are Paris, London and Berlin going to again waste a chance under the influence of (U.S. President Donald) Trump, or use the remaining opportunity to fulfill their promises and act on their commitments under the (nuclear deal),” Iranian state TV said in a commentary.

Friday, June 28:

Iran-Europe trade system operational

The European Union has said a new trade channel that aims to circumvent US sanctions on Iran is operational.

Formally known as INSTEX, the mechanism was set up by Britain, Germany and France, who have said it would first be used for the trade of humanitarian goods, which are not affected by the sanctions.

Diplomats met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which has come under increased strain since the US unilaterally withdrew last year and reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran.

Iran has warned it would scale back its compliance with the deal and breach some of the limits unless the remaining signatories did more to alleviate the negative effects of US sanctions.

Speaking in Vienna, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi urged the European powers to expand INSTEX to cover a wider range of goods.

“For INSTEX to be useful for Iran, Europeans need to buy oil or consider credit lines for this mechanism otherwise INSTEX is not like they or us expect,” he said.

China will continue Iranian oil imports – official

A Chinese official said Beijing would keep importing Iranian oil in defiance of US sanctions on Tehran, in comments made a day before a scheduled meeting between US and Chinese leaders aimed at resolving thorny trade disputes.

“We reject the unilateral imposition of sanctions,” said Fu Cong, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control, on the sidelines of a meeting in Vienna on the implementation of the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran complains to UN over US drone: Iranian media

Iran has formally filed a complaint to the United Nations against the United States over the drone incident, according to Iranian news agency Tasnim.

The complaint alleges that the unmanned US drone violated Iranian airspace and that Tehran has the right to respond similarly if it happens again, Tasnim reported.

“The complaint was filed to the UN Security Council over the aggression against our airspace by the American drone … the complaint states that Tehran reserves the right to respond firmly if the US repeats the violation,” deputy Foreign Minister Gholamhossein Dehghani was quoted as saying.

US will sanction any importers of Iranian oil: Special envoy

Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said Washington will sanction any country that imports Iranian oil.

“We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil… There are right now no oil waivers in place,” Hook told reporters in London when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia, adding that the United States would take a look at reports of Iranian crude going to China.

“We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil,” he added.

Iran says Vienna meeting ‘last chance’ to save nuclear deal

Iran said Friday’s meeting in Vienna between the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal was the “last chance” to save the accord after the US withdrawal last year and warned Tehran would not accept “artificial” solutions to US sanctions.

UAE and Russia show support for Iran on oil tanker attacks

European powers are limited in their ability to shield Iran’s economy from US sanctions, and it is unclear what they can do to provide the large economic windfall Tehran wants.

“I think this meeting can be the last chance for the remaining parties … to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars news agency.

Mousavi said despite supporting Iran’s stance in several statements, the remaining signatories – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – had failed to take any action.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who is in Vienna, said Iran had run out of “strategic patience”.

Nuclear deal officials to meet in Vienna

Senior officials from Iran and the remaining signatories to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have gathered in Vienna as tensions in the Gulf simmer.

The regular quarterly meeting of the accord’s so-called joint commission, which brings together senior officials from Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China and the European Union, is meant to discuss the implementation of the deal.

“We are facing a very new concept – the weaponisation of the dollar to impose their policies on other countries and that should be stopped,” Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said in Vienna.

Iran is insisting it wants to save the deal and has urged Europeans to start buying Iranian oil or give Iran a credit line. The United States withdrew from the accord last year and has imposed new sanctions on Iran to cripple its economy.

Trump says ‘no time pressure’ as Iran to breach uranium limit

Diplomats, citing UN inspectors’ data, said Iran was on course to exceed the nuclear deal’s limits soon by accumulating more enriched uranium than permitted but it had not done so by Thursday, its stated deadline.

The announcement didn’t seem to bother US President Donald Trump.

“We have a lot of time. There’s no rush,” he said on Friday in Japan.

“They can take their time. There’s absolutely no time pressure. I think in the end, hopefully, it’s going to work out. If it does, great – and if it doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about it,” he added.

World leaders express concern over Iran-US conflict

Will the US attack Iran?

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the Gulf region was “standing at a crossroads of war and peace”, calling for calm, restraint and talks to resolve the issue.

“China always stands on the side of peace and opposes war,” state news agency Xinhua paraphrased Xi as saying in Osaka. “All parties must remain calm and exercise restraint, strengthen dialogue and consultations, and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.”

European Council President Donald Tusk, also at the G20, expressed concern about Iran potentially breaching the pact, saying the European Union would continue to monitor Tehran’s compliance.

“We strongly urge Iran to continue the full implementation of all its commitments under the nuclear deal, and we take very seriously the possibility of any breach of its commitment,” he told a news conference.

“Maintaining the nuclear deal is in the regional and international security interest,” Tusk said.

‘We only want to sell our oil,’ Iran official says 

Iran’s main demand in talks aimed at saving its nuclear deal is to be able to sell its oil at the same levels that it did before Washington withdrew from the historic nuclear accord a year ago.

“What is our demand? Our demand is to be able to sell our oil and get the money back. And this is in fact the minimum of our benefit from the deal,” an Iranian official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“We are not asking Europeans to invest in Iran… We only want to sell our oil. Europeans should either buy oil from us or give its money [price] to us,” the official said. 

UN chief Guterres calls for de-escalation with Iran

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for a de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf and the preservation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

He told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan the deal was a factor of stability and “it will be very important to preserve it”.

Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran, targets supreme leader

He said avoiding a confrontation in the Gulf was a major concern for key players attending the G20.

Thursday, June 27:

Iran warns US against ‘illusion’ of short war

Iran’s foreign minister warned Trump he was mistaken to think a war between their countries would not last long.

“‘Short war’ with Iran is an illusion,” Zarif wrote on Twitter, a day after Trump said he did not want a war with Iran but warned that if fighting did break out, it “wouldn’t last very long”.

Zarif added: “Whoever begins war will not be the one ending it.”

Read more here.

US tells NATO it wants to avoid war with Iran

US acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper told NATO allies that the United States did not want to go to war with Iran but said it could not tolerate any further incidents, according to allied diplomats present.

After speaking for several minutes to NATO defence ministers in a closed-door session, Esper was warned by France not to involve the NATO alliance in any military mission in the Gulf.

Together with Germany and other European allies, France made a plea to uphold the Iran nuclear accord.

Iran won’t exceed uranium stockpile limit on Thursday

Iran will not exceed a uranium stockpile limit agreed under a nuclear deal with world powers, contrary to what Tehran said earlier this month, according to a diplomatic source in Vienna.

“They won’t exceed it today,” the source told the AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source suggested there might be a “political reason” for this, given the intensified efforts by European governments in recent days to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.

There was no indication to suggest the agreed limit would be exceeded this weekend either, the source added, underlining that Tehran can suspend its uranium enrichment activities at any time.

Iran said 10 days ago that it would surpass the agreed 300kg (660-pound) reserve of enriched uranium on June 27 because it no longer felt bound by the 2015 deal which the United States unilaterally pulled out of in May 2018.

Vienna is home to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA, which is responsible for monitoring whether Iran is sticking to the terms of the nuclear deal.

European, US diplomats meet in Paris for Iran talks

The US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, is meeting with top French, German and British diplomats in Paris for talks on the Persian Gulf crisis at a time when European powers are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal struck with Tehran.

European countries want to avoid a further escalation in tensions between the US and Iran and are trying to persuade Iran not to leave the nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year.

On Wednesday, Iran’s UN ambassador urged Britain, France and Germany to take “timely” practical steps to preserve the agreement, “which is now in critical condition”.

The three are finalising efforts to put in operation a complicated barter-type system known as INSTEX to keep up trade with Iran and avoid US sanctions, as part of efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.

France’s Macron to ask Trump to drop some Iran sanctions to help talks

French President Emmanuel Macron said he will try to convince US President Donald Trump to suspend some sanctions on Iran to allow for negotiations to de-escalate the crisis in the region.

“I want to convince Trump that it is in his interest to reopen a negotiation process (and) go back on certain sanctions to give negotiations a chance,” Macron told reporters on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto.

The French leader will meet his US counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit this weekend.

Macron said the idea would be to begin a discussion and set up the parameters of talks ranging from Iran’s nuclear activities to its wider role in the region.

“We’d give ourselves a few months,” Macron said.

Call to ‘resist’ US as Iranians mourn Iraq war dead

Iranian authorities called for “resistance” against archfoe the United States as large crowds mourned soldiers who died in the war with Iraq more than three decades ago.

Iran regularly organises funerals for soldiers killed in the 1980-1988 war whose remains are either returned by its neighbour or found in former combat areas, which were mainly in Iran.

Mourners gathered in front of Tehran University around marquees erected on Enghelab (Revolution) Street to shelter the coffins of nearly 150 “loyal companions” under a scorching sun, according to AFP news journalists.

Iranian media reported that the dead included two “volunteers” who went to fight in Syria where Iran provides military support to President Bashar al-Assad.

Of the 148 soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq war, only 35 have been identified, the reports said.

Portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei were seen among the crowd along with white, red and pink gladiolas.

“It is our duty to listen to these messages of greatness, perseverance and resistance that awaken in us the sense of responsibility,” the country’s chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, told the crowd, referring to the “testaments” of soldiers before going into battle.

“We will revitalise ourselves with the blood of the martyrs. It is this blood that has watered the great fruitful tree of the Islamic revolution,” he added.

Iraq will not take sides amid Middle East tension – deputy PM

Iraq will not take sides amid tensions in the Middle East, the Iraqi deputy prime minister said, as a row between the United States and Iran escalated.

“We shall not align ourselves with certain countries or be party in an alliance against others,” Thamer Ghadhban, who is also Iraq’s oil minister, said in London.

Recent events in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf of Oman, “posed a serious threat to peace in the region and the free and uninterrupted passage of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz,” he told the CWC Iraq Petroleum Conference.

Macron says he warned Iran’s Rouhani about breaking nuclear commitments

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Iran not to quit its 2015 nuclear deal or give signals that it intended to do so, and said he would discuss efforts to avoid military escalation with US President Donald Trump.

European countries, which disagreed with the US decision to withdraw from the pact but share US concerns about Iranian behaviour, have been caught in the middle, expressing increasing concern that a mistake on either side could trigger war.

Macron said he had two priorities: keeping Iran inside the nuclear deal and avoiding military escalation.

“Tensions are growing and for me, the first element is that there is no exit from the framework. The second thing, and I will discuss it with President (Trump) tomorrow, is to do everything to avoid a military escalation,” Macron said.

“I had a conversation with President (Hassan) Rouhani a couple of days ago and I indicated that any exit from the accord would be an error and any signals in that direction would be an error,” Macron told reporters.

Iran will be a focus as G-20 leaders meet

British Prime Minister Theresa May says G20 leaders must show solidarity against Iran but focus on the “urgent de-escalation of tensions” with Tehran.

“The international community must stand together against Iran’s deeply destabilising activity,” May said ahead of a G20 summit in Japan.

“Our priority should be the urgent de-escalation of tensions and we need to find a diplomatic solution to the current situation.”                  

Iran warns US of stronger reaction if its borders violated again

Iran warned the United States against violation of its borders, with parliament speaker Ali Larijani threatening a stronger reaction, the Tasnim News Agency said, a week after Tehran shot down a US drone, spiking tension between them.

“The downing of their drone was a good experience for them to avoid any aggression against our borders,” the semi-official agency quoted Larijani as saying.

“Iran’s reaction will be stronger if they repeat their mistake of violating our borders.”

Read more here

Wednesday, June 26:

Preserving Iran nuclear deal ‘more important than ever’

Six European countries said preserving the 2015 nuclear deal has become “more important than ever” amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran. 

In a joint statement, the countries said they “regret” the US’s decision to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran. They also said they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to scale back compliance with the deal. 

“We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under JCPOA [the Iran nuclear agreement] in full and to refrain from escalatory steps,” said the statement from Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium and Estonia.

Trump says he has ‘unlimited time’ to reach deal with Iran

The US president said he was “fine” if there was no new agreement with Iran, adding that he had “unlimited time” to try and reach a deal with Tehran.

“If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine with me,” Trump told a gathering of religious conservatives. “I have unlimited time, as far as I’m concerned.”

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi speaks to the media outside Security Council chambers at the U.N. headquarters in New York
Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s envoy to the UN, speaks to the media outside Security Council chambers [Shannon Stapleton/ Reuters]

Iran alone ‘will not take burdens to preserve nuclear deal’

Iran’s UN envoy described his country’s nuclear deal with world powers as being in “critical condition” and warned “Iran alone cannot, shall not and will not take all of the burdens anymore to preserve” the 2015 agreement.

“As long as illegal sanctions are in place, one cannot be expected to trust the offer for an honest and genuine dialogue,” Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said of talks with the US. 

Macron calls for ‘little gestures’ to defuse US-Iran tensions

French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran and world powers including the US needed to find a way back into talks that restore trust and defuse a dangerous escalation in tensions.

Macron told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK he shared Trump’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons but at times disagreed with his methods.

“I believe the escalation, sanctions on top of sanctions, provocations, the military build-up, is extremely dangerous because it could ignite the region, it could lead to over-reactions,” Macron told Japanese broadcaster NHK on the eve of a G20 summit in Osaka.

Macron said Paris and Washington wanted to negotiate a new, more stringent deal. But first, he added, little gestures were needed to defuse tensions.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a joint news conference at Abe's official residence in Tokyo
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan [Koji Sasahara/Pool via Reuters]

“Now, all parties must find a way into what might be a negotiation that in the short term ensures no one loses face and which allows confidence to be rebuilt,” Macron said. “When confidence is lost, you need little gestures to reduce tensions.” 

No ‘boots on the ground’ if US attacks Iran 

Trump said he doesn’t want war with Iran but if there was one, “it wouldn’t last very long” because the US has military superiority. He also hinted that any conflict would be waged with air strikes, saying there would no US boots on the ground.

Asked whether a war was brewing, Trump told Fox Business Network: “I hope we won’t but we’re in a very strong position if something should happen.” 

“I’m not talking boots on the ground … I’m just saying if something would happen, it wouldn’t last very long.”

Trump added that he was being “nice” to Iran for not ordering strikes against Tehran after it shot down a drone worth more than $100m.

Will the US attack Iran? (25:38)

Iran ‘will not retreat in face of US sanctions and insults’

Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, said Iranians will not budge or retreat following new US sanctions targeting him and his associates. 

A statement on the cleric’s website quoted him as calling the Trump administration “the most sinister” US government. 

Khamenei was also quoted as saying that “the most hated figures of such an administration accuse and insult the Iranian nation. Iranian nation will not budge and will not withdraw because of the insults”.

“The most vicious officials of the [US] government accuse Iran and insult it. The Iranian nation will not give in and retreat in the face of such insults,” Khamenei said. 

Rouhani says US is pursuing ‘incorrect path’

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned the US it was pursuing “an incorrect path” by withdrawing from the nuclear deal and imposing sanctions on Tehran. 

“Today I tell the Americans that the path you have chosen is an incorrect path,” Rouhani said, according to the IRIB news agency. 

European signatories have not done enough to preserve the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and it would be in the benefit of European countries and the US to stick to their promises under the deal, Rouhani said.

Iran to speed up uranium enrichment after deadline

Iran will speed up enrichment of uranium after a deadline given to European countries to prevent this ends on Thursday, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said, according to the IRIB news agency.

“The deadline of the Atomic Energy Organization for passing the production of enriched uranium from the 300kg border will end tomorrow,” the organisation’s spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.

“With the end of this deadline, the speed of enrichment will speed up.”

Rouhani: Iran ‘never seeks war’ with US

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “never seeks war” with the US and was committed to regional peace and stability. 

“Iran has no interest to increase tension in the region and it never seeks war with any country, including the US,” the president said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Rouhani was speaking by phone to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as Tehran and Washington engaged in an escalating war of words following Iran shooting down a US drone last week.

“We have always been committed to regional peace and stability and will make efforts in this respect,” the Iranian president told Macron.

IRGC: US would not ‘dare violate Iranian soil’

The United States would not dare violate Iranian soil, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division said on Wednesday, according to the Mehr News Agency.

“Neither America nor any other country would dare violate Iranian soil,” Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the news agency.

Tensions have spiked between Iran and the US after the Islamic Republic shot down a US drone they claim was flying over their territorial waters last Thursday. Washington says the drone was in international airspace.

Tuesday, June 25:

Zarif accuses Bolton of plotting for war

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif accused US National Security Advisor John Bolton of plotting for war against Iran.

“Wanna know why those with proven record of detesting diplomacy are suddenly interested in talks? Just read @AmbJohnBolton’s 2017 recipe for destroying the #JCPOA,” Zarif wrote in a Twitter post, adding a link to a 2017 article written by Bolton in the National Review.

“Iran never left the negotiation table. #B_Team dragged the US out, while plotting for war,” Zarif added.

Zarif has in the past said that a “B-team” including Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran. 

New Pentagon chief hopes to win NATO allies’ support on Iran

Acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he hoped to recruit support from NATO allies for Washington’s efforts to deter conflict with Iran and “open the door to diplomacy”. 

“Express with us the concern, outrage … with regard to Iran’s activities in the region. That would be a good first step,” Esper said, when asked during his flight to Brussels what he wanted to see from allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“And then secondly, to support any range of activities we may think merit participation to help, again, deter conflict and show that we’re resolute. What we’re trying to do, what we want to do, to close the door to conflict and open the door to diplomacy.”

Mark Esper
US’s Acting Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, arrives for his first day in his new position at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2019 [Saul Loeb/AFP]

Sanctions on Khamenei are ‘a direct attack on Iran’

US sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are an attack against the nation, Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei tweeted.

“Sanctioning #the_supreme_leader, who for the first time issued Fatwa against all forms of #WMD, is a direct attack to a nation. This action will increase the unity of Iranian people,” he wrote in English.

Rabiei said in a separate tweet that if the US issues sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, it would show Washington is not interested in negotiating.

“#Trump claims he wants to negotiate and at the same time he put sanctions on negotiators. Sanctioning @JZarif shows all his claims are superficial and he is afraid of our #logical_diplomacy. Destroying US drone, put chaos on all US narratives about diplomacy,” Rabiei tweeted. 

Iran says ‘no reason to carry out nuclear commitments unilaterally’

Iran has no reason left to carry out commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal without reciprocation from the remaining European signatories, the country’s deputy foreign minister said, according to the Fars news agency.

“With attention to the promises that have not been carried out from the European side, there is no reason left for Iran to carry out its commitments unilaterally,” Abbas Araqchi said, adding: “Iran has kept the window of diplomacy open by reducing its commitments incrementally.”

Trump calls Iran’s response ‘ignorant and insulting’

Trump threatened to attack Iran in retaliation for any attacks by Tehran “on anything American,” after Iran said new US sanctions precluded any diplomacy and called the White House actions “mentally retarded”. 

“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

“In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.” 

Russia accuses US of being ‘reckless’ with new Iran sanctions 

Russia accused Washington of being reckless with new sanctions on Iran, saying Moscow stood in solidarity with Tehran.

“US authorities should think hard about where this reckless course of action can lead,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “It is capable of not only destabilising the Middle East but undermining the entire system of international security.”

By introducing sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, Washington is seeking to “punish those who are not going to submit to American diktat,” Moscow said.

“Russia stands in complete solidarity with the friendly people of Iran and its government,” it added. 

France warns Iran of ‘serious mistake’ in violating nuclear deal

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said Iran would be making a “serious mistake” by violating the 2015 nuclear deal in response to pressure from the US.

“French, German and British diplomacy is completely mobilised to make Iran understand that it would not be in its interest,” Le Drian told parliament amid reports that Iran was preparing to abandon its commitments.

Iran to abandon more nuclear deal commitments on July 7

Iran will “resolutely” abandon more commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers on July 7, Fars News Agency reported, quoting a “note” from a top security official.

Tehran had announced on May 8 that it was suspending two of its 2015 pledges and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help Iran circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil or it would abandon two more commitments.

“As of July 7, Iran will forcefully take the second step of reducing its commitments” to the nuclear deal, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by Fars.

This was so “countries who interpreted Iran’s ‘patience’ with weakness and inaction realise that Iran’s answer to the American drone’s violation of its airspace will be no different than its reaction to devious political efforts to limit Iranian people’s absolute rights,” he added. 

US will keep looking to do more Iran sanctions

The US will continue with its maximum pressure campaign against Iran until Tehran changes its behaviour, and will look for ways to impose even more sanctions, US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told Reuters News Agency.

“We will look to see what more we can do on sanctions,” Wood said as he left the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, the world’s main nuclear negotiating forum, where he had traded sharp accusations with an Iranian diplomat.

Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon, says foreign minister

Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon, Foreign Minister Zarif said, according to the IRIB news agency.

He pointed to the past use of nuclear weapons by the US and to recent comments by US President Donald Trump that he had called off a military strike on Iran because it would have killed 150 people.

“You were really worried about 150 people? How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?” Zarif said.

“It is us who, because of our religious views, will never pursue a nuclear weapon,” he added.

UK foreign minister says cannot envisage joining US-led war with Iran

Britain does not expect the US to request that the UK joins a war with Iran and London would be unlikely to agree to join such a conflict, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

“The US is our closest ally, we talk to them the whole time, we consider any requests that they say carefully, but I cannot envisage any situation where they request or we agree to any moves to go to war,” Hunt told parliament.

“The message we are sending with our partners in the European Union particularly the French and the Germans is that with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme, this is a crucial week.

“It is absolutely essential that they stick to that deal in its entirety for it to preserve and for us to have a nuclear free middle east,” Hunt said.

Putin aide: Downed US drone was in Iranian airspace

Russia has military intelligence that shows that a US drone was in Iranian air space when it was shot down by Iran last week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said.

Speaking at a briefing for journalists in Jerusalem, Patrushev said evidence presented by the US alleging Iran was behind attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman was poor quality and unprofessional.

Iran Economy minister: Tehran prepared to tackle US sanctions

Iran’s government has plans to protect the nation against US economic pressure, Iran’s Economy Minister Farhad Dejpasand was quoted as saying, a day after Washington imposed new sanctions on Tehran.

“We have our plans and options to counter the enemy’s pressure and sanctions,” Iranian local Tasnim News agency quoted Dejpasand as saying.

“But I will not reveal more details about our plans.”

Iran’s President Rouhani: White House “mentally retarded”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that US policy towards Tehran displays Trump administration’s “despair”, calling White House “afflicted by mentally retardation”.

Rouhani, in a speech broadcast live on state television, also said that Tehran is practising “strategic patience” but has no fear.

He stressed that the new sanctions against the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are futile, as he has no assets abroad.

Read more here

Bolton says way open for Iran to enter talks with US

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the way was open for Iran to enter negotiations with Washington on its nuclear programme, even after the United States ramped up sanctions against Tehran.

“The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, its ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide,” Bolton said in Jerusalem.

“All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

Security Council condemns attacks on oil tankers in Middle East

The UN Security Council condemned the attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East as serious threat to international peace and security.

“The council members urge concerned parties and all countries in the region to exercise maximum restraint and take measures and actions to reduce escalation and end tension,” Kuwait’s UN ambassador, Mansour Al-Otaibi, said in a statement following a Security Council meeting.

US sanctions on Khamenei mean ‘end of diplomacy’

Iran said that a US decision to impose sanctions on the country’s supreme leader and other top officials permanently closed the path to diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.

“Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy (Foreign Minister Zarif) is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet.

“Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”

Iran in focus as new Pentagon chief heads to NATO

Acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper will be ready to update European allies on tensions with Iran as he heads to NATO headquarters this week during his inaugural trip as Pentagon chief, a senior US official said.

Esper, whose first full day in the Pentagon was on Monday, led the Army until the surprise resignation of Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary last week. Esper is now the third person in six months to work at the defense secretary’s desk.

Monday, June 24:

Pompeo asks UAE, Saudi to step up on Iran surveillance

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to do more to ensure maritime surveillance with Iran.

Pompeo visited the US allies just as President Donald Trump called for Asian countries in particular to share more of the cost of security in the oil-rich Gulf.

Pompeo, meeting with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, said he was hoping that more than 20 countries including the UAE and Saudi Arabia would work together on building maritime security.

“We’ll need you all to participate, your military folks,” Pompeo said.

“The president is keen on sharing that the United States doesn’t bear the cost of this,” Pompeo said.

Iran’s UN envoy: US doesn’t respect international law 

Washington’s decision to impose more sanctions was another indication that the US “has no respect for international law and order”, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

He also said the atmosphere was not right for dialogue between Iran and the US.

“How can you start a dialogue with somebody whose primary preoccupation is to put more sanctions on Iran?” Takht-Ravanchi added.

The envoy said the US had initiated “economic war” against Iran and “economic terrorism” against its people, after Washington stepped up sanctions against Tehran.

Takht-Ravanchi said the US had brought a “naval armada” into the Iranian region, referring to extra troops and military assets sent by Washington to the region after attacks on two oil tankers.

Zarif: Trump right US military has no business in Gulf

A few hours after Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said the US president was right to say Washington’s military “has no business” in Gulf.

In a Twitter post, Zarif also said politicians close to Trump were thirsty for war rather than diplomacy.

Removal of its forces is fully in line with interests of US and the world. But it’s now clear that the is not concerned with US interests – they despise diplomacy, and thirst for war.”

Zarif has in the past said that a so-called “B-team” including Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could goad the US president into a conflict with Tehran.

In a pair of tweets on Monday, Trump told other countries to protect their own Gulf oil shipments and declared the US has only limited strategic interest in the “dangerous” region.

“Why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” Trump said on Twitter.

“All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey. We don’t even need to be there,” the US president said.

Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran, targets supreme leader (1:10)

Iranians say their ‘bones breaking’ under US sanctions

After US officials imposed new sanctions, Iranians blame their own government alongside Trump.

“The economic war is a reality and people are under extreme pressure,” said Shiva Keshavarz, a 22-year-old accountant who said government leaders “keep telling us to be strong and endure the pressures, but we can already hear the sound of our bones breaking.”

A simple cell phone is about two months’ salary for the average government worker, while a single iPhone costs 10 months’ salary.

“When importing mobile phones into the country is blocked, dealers have to smuggle them in with black market dollar rates and sell them for expensive prices,” said Pouria Hassani, a mobile phone salesman.

Hossein Rostami, a 33-year-old motorbike taxi driver and deliveryman, said the price of brake pads alone had jumped fivefold.

“The cause of our problems is the officials’ incompetence,” he told The Associated Press news agency as fellow motorbike drivers called out for passengers in Tehran. “Our country is full of wealth and riches.”

New US sanctions on Iran will block ‘billions’ in assets: Mnuchin

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington’s new sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other officials would block “literally billions” in Iranian assets.

The sanctions targeted eight top military commanders, as well as Khamenei.

Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, would also be blacklisted “later this week”, Mnuchin said.

Some of the sanctions had been planned in advance, while others were added in retaliation for the downing last week of a US Global Hawk surveillance drone, according to Mnuchin.

Oman denies sending US message to Iran

Oman rejected reports saying it had sent a message from the US to Iran after Iranian forces shot down the US drone.

“The reports that have been circulating in the media on the sultanate delivering an American message to the Iranian government about the incident … on June 20, 2019 are not true,” the Omani foreign ministry said in a Twitter post.

Media reports late last week said Muscat had sent a message to Tehran from Trump, warning Tehran of an impending US attack.

A military strike ordered in retaliation for the downing of the US drone was called off by Trump at the last minute.

Iran denied on Friday that it had received a message from Trump, and the US followed suit with its own rebuttal on Sunday.

New US sanctions based on ‘fabricated excuses’ – Iranian media

Iranian media said the new US sanctions imposed on Iran were based on “fabricated excuses”.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim and Fars news agencies said “America has imposed new sanctions on Iran based on fabricated excuses.”

Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran, targets supreme leader

Trump signed an order targeting Iran’s supreme leader and associates with additional financial sanctions.

Trump said the US does not seek conflict with Iran but will continue to increase pressure on its Middle East adversary to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and supporting armed groups.

Read more here.

US, Britain, UAE, Saudis urge ‘diplomatic solutions’ on Iran

The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly called for “diplomatic solutions” to ease soaring tensions with Iran.

“We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions,” said the statement, which cane as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi and Emirati leaders.

Europeans issue warning to Iran over nuclear deal commitments 

France, Britain and Germany have sent an official diplomatic warning to Iran about the serious consequences Tehran faces if it scales back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, two European diplomats said.

Three diplomats said the European signatories to the deal lodged the diplomatic demarche, the term for a formal note, on June 22, with two saying the communication aimed to warn Iran specifically against scaling back its commitments to the accord.

It was not immediately clear what consequences Iran might face for non-compliance.

US official: US building maritime security coalition for Gulf

The US is building a coalition with its allies to protect Gulf shipping lanes by having “eyes on all shipping”, a senior US State Department official said, following recent attacks on oil tankers that Washington blamed on Iran.

The official told reporters en route to the United Arab Emirates that a coalition of nations would provide both material and financial contributions to the “Sentinel” programme, but did not name the countries.

“It’s about proactive deterrence, because the Iranians just want to go out and do what they want to do and say hey we didn’t do it. We know what they’ve done,” he said, adding that the deterrents would include cameras, binoculars and ships.

Oil falls on demand concerns after gains on Mideast tensions

Oil prices fell on Monday on concerns about the possibility of weakening demand after large gains last week caused tensions between the United States and Iran.

Benchmark Brent crude was down 46 cents, or 0.71 percent, at $64.74 a barrel at 1345 GMT, while US crude was down 18 cents, or 0.31 percent, at $57.25.

Last week, Brent climbed 5% and U.S. crude surged 10 percent after Iran shot down a US drone on Thursday in the Gulf, adding to tensions stoked by attacks on oil tankers in the area in May and June that Washington has blamed on Iran.

Iran denies any role in the tanker attacks.

Iran says new US sanctions will have ‘no impact’

The new economic sanctions that the United States is preparing to impose on Iran will have no “impact”, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said.

“We really do not know what [the new sanctions] are and what they want to target anymore, and also do not consider them to have any impact,” Abbas Mousavi said at a press conference in Tehran.

“Are there really any sanctions left that the United States has not imposed on our country recently or in the past 40 years?”

The US has since imposed a robust slate of punitive sanctions on Tehran designed to choke off Iranian oil sales and cripple its economy.

“America’s claim of readiness for unconditional negotiation is not acceptable with the continuation of threats and sanctions,” Hesamodin Ashna, an advisor to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, said Monday on Twitter.

“We consider war and sanctions to be two sides of the same coin.”

Productive meeting with King Salman: Pompeo 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Monday he had discussed heightened tensions in the region with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman during a meeting in Jeddah.

Pompeo said they also discussed the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz, following attacks on oil tankers in Gulf waters which Washington and Riyadh blame on Iran.

Tehran denies the charges.^tfw

Trump is willing to talk to Iran: Top US adviser

President Donald Trump is ready to talk to Iran about a deal that would lift American sanctions but Tehran would need to curtain its nuclear and missile programme, as well as its support for proxies, a senior US official said.

US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook told reporters that Iran could “come to the table or watch its economy crumble,” but declined to give more details about fresh US sanctions expected later on Monday.

Hook was speaking by telephone from Oman, where he is touring Gulf countries before heading to Paris.

Brian Hook
US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook told reporters that Iran could ‘come to the table or watch its economy crumble.’ [File: AFP] 

Iran will “pay the price” if persists with aggression: Saudi minister

Saudi Arabia‘s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs warned Iran there would be more sanctions if it continued its “aggressive polices”, but said Riyadh wanted to avoid war.

“Today, Iran is under severe economic sanctions,” Adel al-Jubeir told Le Monde newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

“These sanctions will be strengthened. If Iran continues its aggressive policies, it will have to pay the price.”

More US warships arrive in the Middle East 

The US Navy says another American warship has arrived in the Middle East amid heightened tensions with Iran.

Monday’s Navy statement says the USS Boxer assault ship, along with the transport dock USS John P Murtha and the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry arrived in the 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility.

The Navy didn’t elaborate on where the ships were.

The USS Boxer carries the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well as a combat helicopter squadron. It came from the Indian Ocean after leaving San Diego on May 1.

Iran threatens to shoot down more US drones

Iran’s navy chief warned Iranian forces wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down more US surveillance drones from their skies.

The downing of the American drone last week, valued at more than $100m, saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran after President Donald Trump called off an attack in retaliation.

“We confidently say that the crushing response can always be repeated and the enemy knows it,” Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Pompeo meets Saudi king on Iran crisis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia as he sought to coordinate with allies over soaring tensions with Iran.

“You are a dear friend,” the king told Pompeo as he shook hands with the top US diplomat and his aides.

Pompeo is later due to meet the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), before flying for talks in the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah [Reuters]

Russia says new US sanctions on Iran are illegal

New sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran are illegal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov declined to say what measures Russia might adopt to counteract the US sanctions. 

Earlier Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies that Moscow and its partners will take steps to counter new sanctions.

In the comments reported by TASS and RIA, however, Ryabkov did not specify what those steps would be.

He said the imposition of US sanctions would aggravate tensions, and Washington should instead be seeking dialogue with Tehran.

Pompeo seeks to build ‘global coalition’ against Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia for talks with the close ally amid mounting tensions with Iran.

Before leaving the US, Pompeo said he was seeking to build a “global coalition” against Iran.

“We’ll be talking with them [Saudis and Emiratis] about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can build out a global coalition – a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states but in Asia and in Europe that understands this challenge and that is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said. 

US cyberattacks ‘not successful’

US cyberattacks against Iranian targets have not been successful, Iran’s telecoms minister said within days of reports the Pentagon launched a long-planned cyberattack to disable the country’s rocket launch systems.

“They try hard but have not carried out a successful attack,” Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, said on Twitter.

Scaling back of nuclear deal ‘irreversible’

Iran said it would not back down from its decision to scale back some of its commitments under 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, state TV quoted Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying.

“The European signatories of the deal lack the will to save the deal. Our decision to decrease our commitment to the deal is a national decision and it is irreversible as long as our demands are not met,” Araqchi said.

Bolton warns Iran that US ‘prudence’ is not ‘weakness’

Sunday, June 23

Pompeo heads to Saudi Arabia, UAE for Iran crisis talks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks on Iran.

Speaking to reporters before flying out, Pompeo said he’ll be talking to the two US allies “about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned” and how to build a global coalition to “push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror”.

At the same time, Pompeo reiterated that the US was prepared to negotiate with Iran.

“We’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions. They know precisely how to find us,” he said. “And I am confident that at the very moment they’re ready to truly engage with us, we will able to begin this conversation.”

Iran says another ‘spy drone’ violated airspace in May

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said a “spy drone” had encroached his country’s airspace in May, weeks before Iranian forces downed a US drone. 

He tweeted a map saying the US-made MQ9 Reaper drone entered Iran’s airspace on May 26.

US envoy calls on world to ‘urge Iran to de-escalate’

Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, called on “all nations to use their diplomatic effort to urge Iran to de-escalate and meet diplomacy with diplomacy” amid soaring tensions in the Gulf.

“We are not interested in … military conflict against Iran, we have enhanced our forces’ postures in the region for purely defensive purposes,” Hook told journalists in Kuwait City.

Trump denies sending message to Tehran warning of attack

US President Donald Trump told NBC News that he did not send a message to Tehran warning Iran of a US attack, which he later called off.

Iranian sources told Reuters that Trump had warned Tehran via Oman that a US attack was imminent, but had said he was against war and wanted talks.

“I did not send that message,” Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press program, adding, “I’m not looking for war.”

Asked what he thinks Iran wants, he said, “I think they want to negotiate. And I think they want to make a deal. And my deal is nuclear. Look, they’re not going to have a nuclear weapon … I don’t think they like the position they’re in. Their economy is, is absolutely broken.” 

Gulf tensions: Iraq worried about impact on its economy (2:38)

Rouhani slams US’s ‘interventionist military presence’ in Middle East

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has accused the US of fuelling tensions in the Middle East, saying Washington’s “interventionist military presence” was responsible for the region’s problems. 

He also denounced the alleged violation of Iran’s space by an unmanned US spy drone, according to the IRNA news agency.

“We expect international bodies to show proper reaction to the invasion move,” he said during a meeting with the president of IPU, or Inter-Parliamentary Union, Gabriela Cuevas, in Tehran.

Iran may scale back nuclear deal compliance unless Europe moves

Iran may further scale back compliance with its nuclear deal unless European countries shield it from US sanctions through a trade mechanism, the head of Tehran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA.

Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015 in protest at the US’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.

“If Europeans don’t take measures within the 60-day deadline, we will take new steps,” Kamal Kharazi said, referring to a time limit Iranian officials announced in May.

“It would be a positive step if they put resources in [the planned European trade mechanism] INSTEX and … make trade possible.”

Bolton warns Iran not to mistake US ‘prudence’ for ‘weakness’ 

US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Tehran on Sunday of misinterpreting as “weakness” President Donald Trump‘s last-minute cancellation of a retaliatory strike on Iran.

“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,” said Bolton before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“No one has granted them a hunting licence in the Middle East,” he added.

“Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go,” said Bolton, after Trump called off a planned attack on Iran in response to Tehran downing a US drone on Thursday.

UAE calls for de-escalation and dialogue 

Tensions in the Gulf can only be addressed politically and priority should be de-escalation and dialogue, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter on Sunday. 

‘Any conflict in the region could spread’ 

Any conflict in the Gulf region may spread uncontrollably, a senior Iranian military commander was cited as saying on Sunday, by the semi-official news agency Fars.

“If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing,” Major General Gholamali Rashid said, according to Fars. 

“The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region.”

Saudi airlines shift flights away from Gulf of Oman 

Saudi Arabian Airlines altered the path of its international flights away from the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya said on Sunday, citing its own correspondent.

The US aviation regulator barred its carriers from the area until further notice after Iran shot down a high-altitude, unmanned US drone, sparking concerns about a threat to the safety of commercial airlines.

Saturday, June 22

Cyberattacks on Iran 

The US military launched cyberattacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network on Thursday after Tehran downed an American surveillance drone, US officials told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday.

The cyberattacks – a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions – disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials explained.

Read more here

Trump: US to hit Iran with ‘major’ new sanctions on Monday

US President Donald Trump said Washington will impose “major” new sanctions on Iran in two days, just hours after saying he would be the Islamic Republic’s new “best friend” if they were to renounce nuclear weapons.

“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” Trump tweeted, while adding: “I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again – The sooner the better!”

Trump says military action against Iran still ‘on the table’

Trump said he was still considering military action against Iran after it downed an unmanned US military aircraft, saying the use of force is “always on the table until we get this solved”. 

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump also said “we very much appreciate” a decision by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard not to shoot down a US spy plane carrying more than 30 people.

He said the downing of the US drone was “probably intentional”, contradicting what he said on Thursday.

Speaking before heading to the US presidential retreat at Camp David, where he said he would deliberate on Iran, Trump said the US government was imposing new sanctions on Tehran. 

“We are putting additional sanctions on Iran,” he said. “In some cases, we are going slowly, but in other cases we are moving rapidly.”

Iran foreign minister tweets map with detailed coordinates of drone

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted a map with detailed coordinates which he said show a US drone shot down by Iran was within the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters.

The map also showed two yellow squares on the flight path of the drone which, according to the map, indicate Iranian radio warnings sent to the drone.

“There can be no doubt about where the vessel was when it was brought down,” Zarif wrote.

Iranian man executed for allegedly spying for CIA

An Iranian man has been executed by the state for allegedly spying for the CIA, Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB reported.

The man was employed in the space division of Iran’s Defence Ministry. He and his wife were arrested in 2010 for spying for the CIA after authorities alleged that “clear evidence” was discovered in their apartment.

The man was sentenced to death in a military court after years-long investigations, and his wife to 15 years in prison.

Germany’s Merkel calls for a political solution to US-Iran tensions 

The international community should work towards a political solution to the escalating conflict between the US and Iran “with the utmost seriousness,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Dortmund.

“I say that [a political solution] should not just be a hope, but that it should be worked towards with the utmost seriousness,” Merkel said, adding that the conflict would most likely be at the top of the agenda at next week’s G20 summit in Osaka.  

Iran summons UAE envoy over US drone

Iran has summoned the UAE’s top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighbouring Arab nation’s allowing the US to use a base there to launch a drone that Iran says entered its airspace.

The report by the official IRNA news agency said Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory.

Trump nominates Mark Esper as secretary of defense

Trump has nominated Mark Esper to be the US Secretary of Defense, the White House said late on Friday.

Esper will take over as acting defense secretary on Monday following the resignation of Patrick Shanahan, who is stepping down after media reports emerged this week of domestic violence in his family.

Esper, who must be confirmed by the Senate is the third man to lead the Pentagon in six months.

Unlike Shanahan who had no military experience, Esper served in the first Gulf War, worked as an aide on Capitol Hill, and spent seven years as vice president for government relations at defence contractor Raytheon.

There has not been a full defense secretary since the resignation of James Mattis in December last year after splits in the administration over Trump’s sudden decision to remove US troops from Syria.

Senate Armed Services Committee UNITED STATES - MARCH 26: Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee
Mark Esper (left) is the third man to lead the Pentagon in six months [Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call]

UK minister to visit Iran on Sunday for talks

Britain’s Middle East minister Andrew Murrison will visit Iran on Sunday for “frank and constructive” talks, Britain said.

“At this time of increased regional tensions and at a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal, this visit is an opportunity for further open, frank and constructive engagement with the government of Iran,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Murrison will call for urgent de-escalation in the region and raise concerns about “Iran’s regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed.”

Iran says its airspace is fully safe and secure

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said the country’s airspace was safe for airlines to fly through, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

“Iran-controlled airspace over the Persian Gulf and other flight routes are completely safe,” its spokesman, Reza Jafarzadeh, was quoted as saying.

The US Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday issued an emergency order prohibiting US operators from flying in an over-sea area of Tehran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. Some other international airlines are taking related precautions.

‘Obliteration like you’ve never seen before’

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” conducted on Friday morning at the White House, Trump said he had not given final approval to strikes against Iran.

“But they would have been pretty soon. And things would have happened to a point where you wouldn’t turn back or couldn’t turn back,” he said, adding that he did not want war with Iran, but if it came to pass, there would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before”.

Iran says it will respond firmly to any US threat

Iran will respond firmly to any US threat against it, the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson said, after US President Donald Trump warned Iran of “obliteration” if a full-scale conflict would ensue.

“We will not allow any violation against Iran’s borders. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” spokesperson Abbas Mousavi told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday.

Friday, June 21

US regional bases are in range of Iranian missiles, says IRGC 

A commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said US regional bases and its aircraft carrier in the Gulf are within the range of Iranian precision-guided missiles.


“US forces in the region were a threat, but they are now an opportunity [for Iran] … They do not talk about war with Iran, because they know how susceptible they are,” the head of the IRGC’ aerospace division, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said on state television

US poised to tighten sanctions on Iran over “terror financing”

The US is set to increase pressure on Iran for failing to head off funds to “terrorists”, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, threatening new sanctions if Tehran fails to comply. 

In a speech in Florida, Mnuchin called out “Iran’s willful failure to address its systemic money laundering and terrorist financing deficiencies”. 

He said an international task force will set a new deadline for the country to comply or face additional sanctions.

Mnuchin also said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would call for suspended sanctions to be reimposed “if Iran does not make further progress,” and would require “increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran”.

Trump discusses Iran with Saudi crown prince

US President Trump has discussed escalating tensions between the US and Iran with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behaviour,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional enemies.

Debris from what Iran's Revolutionary Guard aerospace division describes as the U.S. drone which was shot down on Thursday is displayed in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 21, 2019. Major airlines from aro
Debris from what Iran’s Revolutionary Guard aerospace division describes as the US drone which was shot down on Thursday [Borna Ghasemi/AP]

Pelosi wasn’t informed of nixed Iran attack plan

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was not given a heads-up about the planned US military action against Iran. Pelosi is second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence.

Calling for de-escalating the conflict, Pelosi said any “hostilities” with Iran “must not be initiated without the approval of Congress”. 

“We are in an extremely dangerous and sensitive situation with Iran,” she said, adding that she was glad Trump called off the planned attacks on Iran. 

Call for diplomacy as US, Iran reach ‘tense tipping point’

The US and Iran are at a “tense tipping point”, where both sides have escalated tensions to the threshold of an open conflict, an analyst said, calling for diplomacy to resolve the crisis. 

“So far we’ve been under the threshold of war. Downing of an unmanned spy drone is also something that is under the threshold of war, and that’s why we have seen restraint.

“We’ve seen restraint on the Iranian side, with the Iranians saying they are unwilling to hit a manned aircraft, which was also flying in that area. And at the same time, we also see Donald Trump exercising restraint,” said Andreas Krieg, lecturer at School of Security Studies at Kings College London. 

“That’s because he’s going into election in 2020 and he knows a war in the Middle East is highly unpopular with his base and across the country. And he himself has said he is not interested in another military escalation or a major combat operation.” 

Krieg added: “Only now Trump realizes that his massive pressure campaign also has such massive consequences that this is no longer something you can control. The only way forward out of this should be a diplomatic approach after all that coercion we’ve seen from both sides.” 

US asks for UN Security Council meeting

The US has asked the UN Security Council to meet on Iran behind closed-doors on Monday, diplomats told Reuters news agency.

“We will brief the council on the latest developments with regard to Iran and present further information from our investigation into the recent tanker incidents,” the US mission to the UN said in a note to council colleagues.

World leaders appeal for calm as US-Iran tensions escalate to ‘brink of war’

Countries across the world appealed for de-escalation, with Russia accusing the US of deliberately stoking tensions with Iran and pushing the situation “to the brink of war”. European leaders urged caution as a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Trump’s decision to pull back from a retaliatory attack. 

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “nerves of steel”. 

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Revolutionary Guard official: Iran chose not to hit second craft

The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division said a manned US spy plane was near the drone it shot down but Iran chose not to target it.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the comment Friday at a news conference attended by The Associated Press in Tehran.

Hajizadeh said: “At the same moment, another spy aircraft called a P8 was flying close to this drone. That aircraft is manned and has around 35 crew members. Well, we could have targeted that plane, it was our right to do so, and yes it was American, but we didn’t do it. We hit the unmanned aircraft.”

Trump confirms calling off attacks against Iran

Trump confirmed in a series of tweets that he called off retaliatory attacks on three Iranian targets following the downing of the US drone, saying the attacks would not have been a proportionate response.

We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump said.

His comments confirmed earlier reports by US media outlets which said Washington had prepared to attack Iranian installations in response to the downing of the US drone, only for Trump to order his military to stand down at the last minute.

Rouhani adviser says Trump should ease sanctions to avoid war

Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said if Trump did not want war with Tehran, he should ease US-imposed sanctions.

“War and sanctions are two sides of the same coin … If you do not want war, you should do something with the sanctions,” Ashena said in a post on Twitter.

Washington reimposed punitive sanctions on Iran last year after Trump pulled the US out of a landmark nuclear deal brokered between the Islamic Republic and several other world powers, sending its economy into freefall. 

‘Diplomacy with diplomacy, war with defence’: Iran rebuffs US criticism

Iran “responds to diplomacy with diplomacy … war with firm defence,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a post on Twitter, in an apparent reaction to earlier remarks made by US special representative on Iran, Brian Hook.

Hook told reporters at a news conference in Saudi Arabia‘s capital, Riyadh, that US diplomacy did not give Iran the right to respond with military force.

He also accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it must meet US diplomacy with diplomacy.

Global airlines rerout flights after Iran downs US drone 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based carrier Emirates Airlines was rerouting flights away from areas of possible conflict in the Gulf amid the heightened US-Iran tensions, a spokeswoman for the company said.

“The re-routings have minimally affected the arrival/departure timings of some flights,” the spokeswoman said, without naming specific countries or provinces that are being avoided.

“We are carefully monitoring the ongoing developments and … will make further operational changes if the need arises,” she added.

The move came after several other airlines – including Dutch carrier KLM, Australian airline Qantas, German airline Lufthansa and UK carrier British Airways – also said they would fly alternative routes to skirt the Gulf region following an earlier warning to pilots issued by the US’s Federal Aviation Administration.

Iran has no right to answer diplomacy ‘with military force’: US

Brian Hook, US special representative on Iran, accused Tehran of being responsible for escalating tensions in the region and said it had no right to respond to diplomacy “with military force”.

“Iran needs to meet diplomacy with diplomacy,” Hook told reporters in Saudi Arabia, where he met with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy defence minister.

“Iran is responsible for escalating tensions in the region. They continue to reject diplomatic overtures to de-escalate tensions,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, bin Salman said in a tweet he had discussed the latest “Iranian attacks” with Hook during the pair’s meeting, adding he had “affirmed the kingdom’s support” for Washington’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran.

Iran says it issued warnings before shooting US drone

Iranian state television broadcast images of what it said was debris from the downed US drone recovered inside its territorial waters.

The broadcast showed a short clip of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general answering journalists’ questions in front of some of the debris that he said had been recouped from Iranian waters.

Iran gave two warnings before downing the US drone over the Gulf of Oman, said Brigadier-General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC’s aerospace arm.

“Unfortunately, when they failed to reply … and the aircraft made no change to its trajectory … we were obliged to shoot it down,” Hajizadeh said.

The purported wreckage of the American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2019
The purported wreckage of the American drone was displayed by the IRGC in Tehran [Tasnim News Agency handout via Reuters]

Trump calls for talks with Iran via Oman: Reuters

Iranian officials told the Reuters news agency that Tehran received a message from Trump through Oman overnight on Thursday that warned a US attack was imminent.

“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues … He gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A second Iranian official said: “We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision… However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.”

Iranian officials later refuted the Reuters story.

Iran summons Swiss envoy 

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who also represents US interests in the Islamic Republic, to protest against what it claims was a “very dangerous provocation” by Washington over the drone incident.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported Iranian officials told Swiss envoy Markus Leitner that Washington would be responsible for the consequences of any military action taken against it.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies