Iran's Rial Rises And Falls In Opposite Direction To Donald Trump’s Health | Iran International

Iran's Rial Rises And Falls In Opposite Direction To Donald Trump’s Health

The value of Iran’s currency has fluctuated since last Friday when news about United States President Donald Trump’s hospitalization with the coronavirus hit television screens around the world. The Iranian rial rose as the news broke, and then fell again as it became apparent Trump might leave hospital.

On Thursday, before local markets closed for Friday, the rial was trading at more than 290,000 to the US dollar. When the markets opened again Saturday, the Iranian currency jumped 7 percent to 270,000 against the dollar.

The inverse relationship between Trump’s health and the value of the rial appears to reflect perceptions over the prospects for crippling US sanctions being eased – either by the US president succumbing to Covid19 or being more likely to lose the US election on November 3.

The rial has fallen tenfold since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018 and imposed stringent US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and banking ties to the world. A few days before news about Trump’s illness broke the rial had fallen to as low as 300,000 to the dollar.

But on Sunday, as Trump released videos and his doctors said he might leave the Walter Reed Hospital, the Iranian currency again dropped to 284,000, and further to 297,000 on October 6.

Iranian currency experts believe the outcome of US elections will shape not just the value of the rial but the whole Iranian economy. If Trump is re-elected the currency may reach unprecedented lows, while if his Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins, the rial may recoup a substantial portion of its losses and rise as much as 100 percent.

Biden has indicated that he will seek to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 nuclear agreement is called. That would involve the US easing the sanctions it introduced in 2018 and throwing an economic lifeline to Iran’s government, which has been deprived of tens of billions of dollars in oil export revenues alone.

Iran Watchdog Not Inclined To Approve Bill Against Financing Of Terrorism

There has been no change in Iran’s constitutional Expediency Council regarding opposition to two financial bills required by the international watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the deputy chairman of the Council said on Wednesday.

The two bills approved by Iran’s parliament in 2018 would incorporate the requirements of two international conventions into the country’s legal system and obligate Iran to honor their requirements.

The FATF has required Iran to accept the international convention to combat financing of terrorism (CFT) and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Convention. Although parliament passed the appropriate legislation, political hardliners dominating constitutional watchdog bodies have refused to endorse the bills.

Iran’s international banking relations depend on a bill of health by FATF overseeing country compliance of international laws for financial integrity. FATF has placed Iran on its ‘blacklist’ which means Iran’s banks are not considered protected from money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Ali Ahmadi, the deputy chairman of the Expediency Council told local media that members are more open to approve the Palermo Convention and it is possible to endorse that and wait for reciprocity from FATF.

The hardliners say that accepting the convention against financing of terrorism will limit Iran’s ability to support Palestinian groups, the Lebanese Hezbollah and other similar non-state actors. Some of these groups are recognized as terrorist entities by various governments and international organizations and the reason for FATF’s insistence to comply with its norms is exactly to prevent illegal and covert support to them.


IDF Chief Warns US Against Rejoining Iran Nuclear Deal, Talks Plans Of Attack

Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi warned the Biden administration that a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, or even a “slightly improved” one would be a mistake, and added that IDF has prepared accurate, destructive military options to thwart a possible Iranian nuclear breakthrough.

General Kochavi said he has ordered his forces to step up preparations for possible offensive action against Iran during the coming year. General Kochavi has also requested an additional NIS 3 billion (almost $1 billion) to finance the possible attack on Iran.

"We are taking care of these plans and will develop them during the coming year. Those who decide on carrying them out, of course, are the political leaders. But these plans have to be on the table," he said.

Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent last week, well in excess of the threshold set out in its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and a short technical jump from the 90 percent level of enrichment needed to produce weapons.

Israeli officials, including Kochavi, and many Trump administration officials believe that the Islamic Republic is in a much weaker position than in 2015 after years of sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.

They say that any new deal should eliminate "sunset" provisions that phase out certain limits on Iran's nuclear activities, address Iran's long-range missile program, and its military involvement and support of terrorism across the Middle East.

President Biden had previously announced that he would be willing to renegotiate and return to the nuclear deal if Iran would return to full compliance. However, Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a return to the nuclear deal is “way off”.

Bloomberg: US Intends To Seize An Iranian Oil Shipment

Bloomberg reported that the US intends to seize a shipment of two million barrels of possible Iranian oil sailing to the US in another attempt to block the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the order to seize the shipment came before the new administration came to power.

Capital Ship Management Corps, the Greek owner of the tanker Achilleas which flies the Liberian flag, informed US officials that the ship might have unknowingly taken on Iranian crude oil and that they initially thought the oil was from Iraq.

After President Trump unilaterally left the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) he implemented the “maximum pressure” policy in order to force Iran to negotiate a better nuclear deal that would involve Iran’s missile program and interventions in neighboring countries. Heavy sanctions were imposed on Iran’s oil and gas and metal industries and travel bans and sanctions were imposed on many Islamic Republic officials who were involved in violations of human rights in Iran.

The sanctions heavily impacted Iran’s mismanaged economy and reduced Iran’s oil production by almost half.

President Biden had previously announced that he would be willing to renegotiate and return to the nuclear deal if Iran would return to full compliance. However, Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a return to the nuclear deal is “way off”.



Iran's UN Envoy Denies Contacts With Biden Team, Says Sanctions Should Be Lifted First

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations in New York has denied any contacts with the new US administration, in an interview with NBC on Monday, saying Tehran is waiting for President Joe Biden to take the first step to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi’s denial came a day after the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted a source in the Iranian government saying that contacts have been in progress with the Biden administration and Iran has submitted seven conditions for the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In fact, the paper said that Takht-Ravanchi himself was the bearer of the diplomatic message to the US after spending two weeks in Tehran and returning to New York last week.

Takht-Ravanchi specifically answered a direct question that there has not been “any conversation” with the new administration “after Biden came into office” and added that Iran is not “planning to initiate anything.”

Echoing a policy set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei earlier this month, the Iranian envoy said Iran is not in a hurry to start anything and it is up to the US to return to the JCPOA that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 making demanding more concessions from Tehran.

Although Biden has indicated his intention to return to the agreement his national security team has said it will not be an easy and quick process. Biden is also concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile program and aggressive expansion of its influence in the region. Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that “We are a long way from there”.


Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce Director Warns Of New "Alarming" Signals

The director of the Coronavirus Taskforce for the Greater Tehran Alireza Zali reported a new “alarming” rise in the spread of coronavirus in Tehran and said: “We have received these signals from quickly released and hospitalized patients.”

According to ISNA, Zali said in a provincial coronavirus taskforce meeting: “In the fourth week of this months, compared to the third week, the drop in the rate of spread has slowed down, and the spread rate has even increased in some areas.”

According to Zali, in 30 to 40 days the Covid-19 death rate in Tehran will increase.

He also mentioned that the tracking and testing programs in Tehran have slowed down compared to previous weeks and said: “Currently the rate of social distancing in Tehran is 74 percent and it is dropping compared to previous weeks.”

“In the past week we have had 24 percent increase in city commutes which is very worrying,” Zali added.

The director of Tehran’s coronavirus taskforce emphasized “avoiding strategic mistakes” and the necessity of “implementing stricter protocols in the next two weeks in Tehran’s airports” and criticized “private schoolc for mandating student attendance”.

He continued: “We suggested the Azad University national entrance exam to be held from home or be postponed due to the current conditions in Tehran.”



Signal Responds To Filtering In Iran: We Haven’t Given Up

After Signal messenger app was blocked by the internet censors in Iran on January 24, the social media company tweeted in response: “Iranian people deserve privacy. We haven't given up.”

In a tweet on Monday, Signal announced: “Ever since Signal simultaneously hit number one on the Iranian Play Store and number one on the Iranian government’s block list, we have been working around Islamic Republic’s censorship.”

“Unable to stop registration, the Islamic Republic censors are now dropping all Signal traffic,” the statement added. “Iranian people deserve privacy. We haven't given up.”

Signal recently became the number one downloaded app in Iran after WhatsApp’s policy-change announcement regarding privacy.

The Internet filtering authority in Iran declared "criminal content" as the reason for removing the app. After the app was removed from Iranian markets, Iranian users who tried to download it received a message telling them the app was “removed by the order of the Criminal Content Designation Taskforce”.

Despite the removal of Signal from Iranian app markets, many users say they were able to download the app from Google Play. Some Iranian users believe the reason for the app’s removal is to “prevent the popularity of Signal so it doesn’t turn into another Telegram.”

Despite the filtering of Twitter and Facebook for Iranians, most regime officials and their families use these apps for their propaganda purposes.

Biden Administration Suspends Some Sanctions On Iran-Backed Houthis

Biden administration on Monday suspended sanctions on certain transactions involving the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that were imposed by the previous administration.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Houthis (Ansarallah) as a “foreign terrorist organization” on January 10, with the sanctions going into effect a day before President Biden’s inauguration.

Biden administration had previously mentioned the possibility of revisiting President Trump’s decision to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

The Treasury Department announced that if foreign banks announce their transactions with Houthis in a transparent way, they will not face sanctions.

The move appeared designed to allay fears of companies and banks involved in commercial trade to Yemen, which relies almost solely on imports.

The Trump administration exempted aid groups, the United Nations, the Red Cross, and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices from its designation, but the critics said the sanctions would exacerbate what is already a humanitarian crisis by barring aid deliveries to civilians in the war-torn nation.

The exemption will expire in a month, on February 25, pending more review of the situation.

“It essentially wipes out the entire effect of the designation while giving the Biden administration a chance to make the decision on its own rather than getting stuck with Mike Pompeo’s decision,” said Brian O’Toole, a former Treasury official under the Obama Administration.

Wrestler Executed In Iran's Khuzestan Province

Mahdi Ali Hosseini, a 30 year-old wrestler from Andimeshk city in Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan was executed on Monday morning in Dezful prison.

Ali Hosseini was arrested in 2015 for committing murder during an altercation and was later sentenced to death. His execution was delayed for seven days on January 10.

Several famous Iranian wrestlers such as Hamid Sourian and Habib Akhlaghi had tried to prevent the execution by persuading the family of the victim to forgive Ali Hosseini.

However, the chairman of Andimeshk’s wrestling board says Ali Hosseini was never a wrestler.

Iran has the highest rate of executions in the world. According to the Human Rights Activists, last year at least 236 citizens were executed in Iran and 95 more are on death row awaiting execution.

Among those executed are at least two under-age people, and many were sentenced to death when they were minors, and executed after they reached legal age. At least one execution was held in public.

According to the same reports, over 72 percent of executions in Iran are not reported.

A few months ago, the Islamic Republic’s judiciary executed another wrestler, Navid Afkari, despite the international backlash. Two months later, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning “blatant violations of human rights in Iran”.