The UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) announced in its most recent report that Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity has reached 17.6 kg and its full stockpile of enriched uranium has passed 2,967 kg which is 14 times the limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The IAEA report also states that the explanations offered by the Islamic Republic regarding the traces of uranium in a previously undecalred nuclear facility are not technically credible.
The report states that Iran has also installed two chains of IR-6 centrifuges in Fardo facility in violation of the JCPOA.
Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent purity, and a maintain a maximum stockpile of 202.8 kg of enriched uranium. Iran’s current stockpile is 14 times that amount.
Iran began reducing compliance with its commitments to the nuclear deal in 2019 by initially enriching uranium to 5 percent and later 20 percent. The leader of the Islamic Republic Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran might decide to enrich uranium up to 60 percent.
Iran insists that the United States illegally imposed sanctions when it withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions, or JCPOA, in 2018 and in response it is reducing its own commitments ander the aagreement.
Teachers, Gas And Petrochemical Workers Protest In Iran
School teachers across Iran held protests on Saturday demanding an improvement in their work conditions, as workers in natural gas and petrochemical sectors protested for their wages in southern Iran.
Teachers held rallies in Esfahan, Fars, Alborz, Ilam, Khuzestan and several other provinces, chanting slogans about government inaction to address their demands. They have been holding periodic protests in the past several months.
One of their demands is for parliament to pass a law setting a ranking system for teachers, which would affect salaries. Education, expertise and other qualifications should be considered in the job ranking scheme.
Teachers earn meager salaries, and many are unable to afford a basic living amid a 50-percent inflation rate in the country. Recently, some teachers have committed suicide highlighting the hardship they feel.
Also on Saturday, contract workers in Iran’s natural gas industry in the southern gas fields of Asalouyeh held protests to demand the implementation of promises made by their employers. They returned to work form a long strike, based on employer promises to pay better salaries and improve work conditions.
There was also a separate protest by workers in the petrochemical industry in Mahshahr, in southern Iran.
Foreign Social Media Apps Remain Highly Popular In Iran Despite Blocking
People in Iran send 15 billion messages every day through Telegram, the most popular social media app in the country and 45 million people are registered as members, the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) said on Saturday.
Telegram, like Facebook and You Tube, is blocked by the authorities and people have to use VPNs and other circumvention tools to get access to the app. Almost every Iranian uses a circumvention method to gain unrestricted access to the Internet, although the connection speed is usually slow.
Since the use of the internet became popular in the 2000s in Iran, the government began blocking thousands of websites both for political and religious reasons. There is a huge bureaucracy to control access and create barriers to access.
SCI also said 55 million people or 65 percent of Iran’s 85 million people use social media apps.
Among social media apps, Whatsapp and Instagram are also very popular with 88.5 and 68 percent of users respectively having accounts on these two platforms.
The government has spent tens of millions of dollars to create domestic messaging apps to help reduce the use of foreign platforms it cannot control, but people weary of government eavesdropping have refused to migrate to its apps.
Amnesty Demands Immediate Release Of Dissident Iranian Rapper
Amnesty International on Friday demanded the immediate release of Iranian dissident, underground rap singer Toomaj Salehi who was arrested by security agents earlier this week after a harshly critical song was released on social media.
“Iran’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release #TomajSalehi, a dissident rap artist detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty tweeted.
In his latest song, ‘Rat Hole’ or ‘Mouse Hole’, Salehi harshly criticized the regime and those who directly or indirectly support its repression. "You are a murderer if you cover up murder. To cover up murder you must walk on blood. The system is not complete without your apologies [for it]," the lyrics of the song say.
There is no news about the rapper’s whereabouts or the charges he faces.
His arrest led to a heated debate among Iranian activists and social media users, when some individuals such as the New York Times' Iranian journalist Farnaz Fassihi tweeted that his song is a threat against some people. Many activists saw her tweet as condoning the arrest.
Fassihi came under fire by other Twitterati who have repeatedly assailed her as a "regime apologist". Toomaj’s defenders insist that an artist cannot be arrested for what he depicts in his art and he has not threatened any particular individual.
Prime Minister Says Iran's Fuel Shipments Violate Lebanon's Sovereignty
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon's sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
"The violation of Lebanon's sovereignty makes me sad," Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: "But I'm not concerned that sanctions can be imposed" on Lebanon "because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government." Earlier, the governemt had said it received no request for permission to import the fuel.
Israeli media reported in the past two days that Lebanon's southern neighbor and arch-enemy of both Iran and Hezbollah is not inclined to stop shipments to Syria.
The Tehran-backed group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon. A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under U.S. sanctions.
Late on Friday, the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI said that a new group of tankers carrying Iranian fuel entered Lebanon through the Hermel area.
Hermel is at the northern end of the Bekaa Valley, an area populated mainly by Shi’ite Muslims from whom Hezbollah draws its support.
Reporting by Reuters
US Says No Plans For Blinken To Meet Iranian Counterpart At UN
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has no plans to meet with his new Iranian counterpart next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Friday.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna on reviving a 2015 deal, aimed at curbing Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon, stopped in June. Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Iran's hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August and his Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian is due to travel to New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
"We have been engaged with the Iranians and in Vienna, and those discussions will continue," Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters.
"We have not made any direct plans for bilateral meetings while they are here, but that doesn't mean that we don't see value in having discussions with the Iranians because we do want to move forward on issues related to the JCPOA," she said.
The nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China is referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under the agreement Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
However, former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Tehran to start violating some of the nuclear limits in 2019.
Israel Is Reluctant To Interfere With Iranian Fuel Shipments To Lebanon
Amid claims of victory by Lebanon’s Hezbollah to have imported Iranian fuel, Israeli sources and media said their country will not interfere to stop the shipments.
Tanker trucks carrying the fuel Syria, where it was unloaded from an Iranian vessel, began arriving in Lebanon, which is desperately short of essential fuel amid a serious economic crisis since 2019.
The shipment was arranged by Hezbollah in August, and it is not clear whether Iran is getting paid or is sending the fuel for free. In case of brokering free or very cheap Iranian fuel shipments through Hezbollah, the militant organization is poised to make large financial gains.
Israel’s Channel 12 has reported that if the Iranian shipping of fuel is stopped by Israel, it will be seen as harming Lebanon, with which Israel has a complicated relationship. While it is practically at war with Hezbollah, there are many other groups and communities in the small country that do not regard Israel as an enemy.
While Hezbollah blames US sanctions for the economic meltdown in Lebanon, local media, citizens and international experts say that decades of corruption in a sectarian political system drowned Lebanon in debt and empty government coffers.
The fuel delivery is also seen by many as a sign of more domination by Hezbollah, which is a state within a state, pulling multi-religion country more into Iran’s orbit.
Iran Says It Has Been Accepted As Full Member Of Shanghai Pact
Official government media report that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accepted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Friday’s summit held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
The government’s IRNA official news website says that President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) in his speech at the summit thanked other members of the SCO, which includes Russia, China, four former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
IRNA also reported that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Iran in his speech.
Iran’s admittance to the SCO is just the first step to its full membership that has a long process, but the Friday’s development is treated as a big victory for Iran’s new hardliner president who fully follows policies set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Both Raisi and Khamenei have been emphasizing that Iran should “look East” to counter its economic isolation imposed by American and to a lesser extent, European sanctions. However, without a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran acceding to international financial regulations set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) its isolation cannot be easily overcome.
Negotiations over the nuclear issue that started in Vienna in April came to a halt in June by Iran’s decision. Western powers have been urging Tehran to return to the talks in the past few weeks, as it continues to advance its uranium enrichment program, getting closer to accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.
Iran's Raisi Will not Travel To NY For UNGA, Delivering Speech Via Video
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) will not travel to New York to take part in the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Tehran’s ambassador at the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi has announced.
Raisi is under US human rights sanctions and his travel to New York will be potentially a complicated issue amid suspended nuclear talks between Tehran and the West. Instead, Raisi will address the annual gathering via video link next Tuesday, the UN ambassador was quoted by the official government news website IRNA. However, Iranian government-controlled media avoid mentioning Raisi's status as a sanctioned individual.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to travel to New York, as his first trip to the West after assuming office in August.
In the previous decade, both former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani attended the UNGA and delivered speeches in person.
Iranian Americans opposed to the Islamic Republic have appealed to the 192 UN members, President Joe Biden and the UN Secretary General to remind then that Raisi has a serious track record of human rights violations.
Farashgard, an opposition group has asked member states to leave the meeting when Raisi starts to deliver his speech.
Iran, Russia, China And Pakistan Discuss Afghanistan In Dushanbe
Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan have held talks on Afghanistan in recent days prior to and during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Iran’s foreign minister has announced.
The official IRNA news website quoted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Friday as saying that the results of the talks will be announced in a communique later, and that the foreign ministers have confirmed the counties’ commitments to the results of the discussions.
The issue of Afghanistan and policy toward the new Taliban government dominates the 21st summit of SCO that will conclude on Friday. Iran also hopes its membership will be accepted in the organization where Tehran is currently an observer.
Amir-Abdollahian also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the summit. IRNA says the Iranian foreign minister emphasized cooperation and mutual understanding between Moscow and Tehran specially on Afghanistan. Lavrov invited Amor-Abdollahian to visit Moscow and hold further talks.
Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is participating in the summit with the official invitation of Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.