Wall Street Journal: Iran Uses Iraqi Waters to Transfer Oil And Evade Sanctions | Iran International

Wall Street Journal: Iran Uses Iraqi Waters to Transfer Oil And Evade Sanctions

Wall Street Journal cited American officials saying Iranian oil tankers are constantly using Iraqi waters to transfer their cargo to other tankers.

According to the report, Iranian oil tankers transfer their oil to other tankers near the al-Faw port.

Wall Street Journal added: During this transfer, Iranian oil is mixed with other cargo in order to hide the source and finally be sold in global markets.

According to the report, this operation is part of a very profitable business during which Iranian oil cargos are transferred several times to other ships and get mixed with other cargo and are finally sold as Iraqi oil, which is more expensive than Iranian oil.

The WSJ sources say satellite images show these activities are on the rise in response to the increased pressure of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The WSJ recently reported from informed sources that the Trump administration is designing more sanctions against Iran before the presidential election to solidify the Maximum Pressure Campaign and prevent the efforts to render it ineffective in the future.

A former official in the Trump administration says that if Biden comes to power, he might be able to remove some sanctions on Iran as a gesture of goodwill, but he won’t be able to remove the bigger sanctions related to terrorism.

Biden has said that if he becomes president, he would return the US to Iran nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance with its commitments.

Iranian Tanker Flotilla Sailing To Venezuela Despite US Sanctions

A fleet of around ten Iranian tankers with signals turned off to avoid detection are heading to Venezuela in defiance of United States sanctions, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. The fleet is the biggest since President Donald Trump imposed stringent sanctions on Venezuela in 2019 and seeks to ease fuel shortages plaguing the oil-producing country and encouraging protests against President Nicholas Maduro.

Quoting “people with knowledge of the matter” who declined to be named “because the transaction is not public,” Bloomberg said some of the tankers would also export Venezuelan crude oil after discharging their cargo. 

According to Bloomberg, the oil ministry in Tehran had been unavailable for comment during the Iranian weekend (Friday). Messages sent to Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company had not been answered.

Iran has been supplying fuel to Venezuela since May. The last shipment of gasoline carried by three tankers arrived in early October. Relations between Iran and the Latin American country expanded during the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after they in 2007 announced an ‘Axis of Unity’ against ‘US imperialism.’ The two presidents signed over 250 deals.

When Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Venezuela in early November, the two countries agreed to continue ‘defense cooperation.’ After meeting his Venezuelan counterpart, Zarif said the countries were “legally entitled to develop cooperation in this field.” The head of the US Southern Command Admiral Craig Faller on Wednesday [December 2] told reporters that Iran had sent arms and Revolutionary Guards to help Maduro stay in power.

The US is among around 50 countries that do not recognize Maduro, who became president in 2013 after Chavez’s death, as Venezuela’s president. Around five million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years due to political tension and economic hardship.

Iranian Parliament Seeks To Restrict Foreign Travel Of Rouhani Officials

The Iranian parliament is considering a draft bill that would restrict foreign travel by senior officials and managers in President Hassan Rouhani’s government once their term in office ends next year.

Jalal Rashidi-Kuchi, a member of parliament, told Fars news agency Saturday that the purpose of the bill was to protect confidential and secret information from leaking. But an overview of the proposed bill published in November referred to protecting people’s money from “profit-seeking” individuals who were “defenders of enemies’ interests.”

The bill would apparently require former government officials to make a special request for foreign travel and only with the permission of intelligence organizations they would be able to leave the country. The bill would restrict travel during the last year of public service and for three years subsequently.

Kuchi referred to an alleged trend of senior officials resigning now with plans to leave the country before Rouhani’s term in office expires next June. A consideration of officials’ property and assets would be part of the review process before permission for travel was granted.

Kuchi underlined the case of individuals privy to “special and secret information,” who should not be able to “easily” leave the country after their term in office ended. He also vaguely referred to the bill covering the children of officials living abroad.

In recent years, both exiled opponents of the Islamic Republic and Iranian hardliners have complained of thousands of family members of senior officials living abroad, especially in the United States and Canada. Since February’s election, parliament has had a solid majority of principlists critical of the Rouhani administration in both domestic and foreign policies, with some accusing Rouhani and allies of being close to countries like the United States they describe as ‘enemies.’

Iran Supreme Court Orders Re-Investigation Into Death-Row Protesters

Iran’s Supreme Court has ordered a re-investigation into the cases of three protesters sentenced to death, the court said in a statement on Saturday [December 5]. The Chief of the Supreme Court, Ahmad Mortazavi Moghaddam, has ordered the cases re-examined by a different branch of the Revolutionary Court.

Babak Paknia, one of the lawyers representing the three men, wrote in a tweet on Saturday that he had been informed of the decision and that the re-investigation will open in the next few days. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran in February passed a death sentence behind closed doors on Amir-Hossein Moradi, 27, Mohammad Rajabi, 27, and Saeed Tamjidi, 29, all arrested during anti-government protests in November 2019.

Judge Abolghasem Salavati − known to opposition activists as the ‘hanging judge’ − sentenced the three to a total of 38 years in prison and 222 lashes on top of the death sentence on various charges including being accessories to armed robbery.

The verdicts were upheld by the Supreme Court, but the death sentences spurred a massive social-media campaign. On July 19, the Supreme Court put the executions on hold.

Defense lawyers, who were denied access to court documents, have always insisted that the defendants were not involved in any violence. The Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News Agency published a video of Amir-Hossein Moradi confessing, something a source close to his family has said was forced. The young man’s father committed suicide in September, reportedly due to the psychological impact of his son’s death sentence.

 

Pompeo says Iran ‘Desperately’ Keen To Return To Talks For Sanctions Relief

Reuters - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said Iran was “desperately” signaling its willingness to return to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief, but warned against going easy on Tehran in such talks.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal, and restored harsh economic sanctions to pressure Tehran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.

US sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy but so far have not led to the opening of a negotiation for a new nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.

In a virtual address to the IISS Manama Dialogue, a Middle East security summit, Pompeo defended Washington’s “maximum-pressure” campaign, which opponents have widely criticized as failing to change Tehran’s behavior while increasing hardships for Iran’s people.

“We know our campaign is working because now the Iranians are desperately signaling their willingness to return to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief,” Pompeo said. He did not elaborate on what signals Washington has seen.

Pompeo warned against going easy on Tehran.

“In the event that they come to the table, and are only willing to talk about turning off a few (nuclear) centrifuges for a few months or a few years, the world should not find that satisfactory. ... We ought to not cut short negotiation,” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office on Jan. 20, has said he will return the United States to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance with the agreement.

 

Israel Has Secret Recording Of Fakhrizadeh Asking For Funds To Build 5 Nuclear Bombs

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has released top-secret documents that indicate Israeli intelligence had a recording of recently assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in which he talks about his efforts to produce five nuclear warheads for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The report states that the Israeli intelligence agencies had managed to recruit an Iranian official close to Fakhrizadeh who recorded him talking about developing these nuclear weapons.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, these documents clearly show the role of Fakhrizadeh in pointing Iran’s nuclear activities toward building nuclear bombs.

This recording of Fakhrizadeh in which he requests funding for developing the nuclear bombs was played in 2008 by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for the US president of the time George Bush.

In the recording, while talking about building five nuclear bombs, Fakhrizadeh insists that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) must provide him with the necessary funding for it.

Yedioth Ahronoth goes on to say that a close friend of Fakhrizadeh, named Nasiri, delivered his recorded tape to Mossad and was later executed by the order of Fakhrizadeh.

In another part of this report, Yedioth Ahronoth has published Fakhrizadeh’s handwriting under a report about installing nuclear warhead on missiles, saying “to be followed through”.

The report also reveals maps of places designated for nuclear bomb testing in Iran. The maps are part of the documents that Israel was able to bring out of Iran in 2018.

Fakhrizadeh, a senior IRGC official who is characterized by Iranian media as a nuclear scientist was killed on November 27 near Tehran in what looked like an ambush on his motorcade.

 

 

 

 

Avenging IRGC Official's Assassination Is Not Necessarily A Military Action: Khamenei's Office

The revenge for the killing of senior IRGC official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is not necessarily a military action, says Khatte Hezbollah (Hezbollah’s Path) magazine, an organ of the office of the leader of Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khamenei.

The magazine points to the previous comments made by Ali Khamenei about “rationalism in Islam’s thought structure” and emphasizes that based on this “rationalism,” the Islamic Republic’s response does not necessarily have to be a military one.

The magazine claims that a reciprocal action will “cause numerous challenges” for regional interests of Israel and the US in political, economic, scientific, and international rights fields.

It also refers to the recent bill passed by the parliament that demands Iran expand its uranium enrichment and reduce UN nuclear inspections unless sanctions were soon lifted as a prelude for this path.

The leader of the Islamic Republic has demanded an investigation into the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and “decisive punishment of its culprits and orchestrators”.

President Hassan Rouhani has also announced that the regime of Iran will respond to this assassination “in time and proper manner”.

He also stated that Israel is trying to “cause chaos and mayhem” but the Islamic Republic “has read their hand” and will not fall into this “trap”.

The Islamic Republic officials have blamed Israel for the assassination of the senior member of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Mohsen Fakhrizade, but Israel has not taken responsibility for it.

Another Honor-Killing Of A Woman By Her Two Brothers In Iran's Sanandaj City

A court in Sanandaj city in the west of Iran confirmed the reports about the honor-killing of a woman by the hands of her two brothers.

Sanandaj prosecutor Mohammad Jabbari told the reporters that the two brothers have confessed to the murder being motivated by “honor issues”.

Jabbari said the brothers stabbed their sister to death by knives, but the reports about her decapitation are not accurate.

Hengaw human rights organization reported five days ago that Sargol Habibi was killed by her family members.

Sargol was 31, married, with a two-year-old child. According to some reports, she was arrested by the police along with a young man, and they were released a day later.

The judge released her to the custody of her brothers Hassan and Esmaeel. After receiving her, the two took her to an area a few kilometers outside of Sanandaj and murdered her.

Faremeh Barhi, 19, from Abadan, Romina Ashrafi, 14, in Gilan, and Rayhaneh Ameri, 22, in Kerman, are among the officially reported victims of honor-killings in Iran in the past few months.

According to Sharia Law, when a person is murdered, only the guardians and next of kin of that person have the right to demand equal retribution for the murderer, and in the case of honor-killings, since most of them are committed by the consent of the family, the murderers who are usually other members of the family, will only receive a civil punishment of short-term prison sentence.

This issue in recent years has caused uproar and activists have demanded heavier sentences that might dissuade family members from honor-killings.

German Foreign Minister: Return To Nuclear Deal Not Enough, Ballistic Missiles Must Be Included

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated on Friday that returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is no longer enough and a new and broader nuclear deal must be reached, one that would also include the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, told Spiegel magazine: “A form of 'nuclear agreement plus' is needed, which also lies in our interest."

“We have clear expectations for Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic rocket program which threatens the whole region,” Maas added.

Taking a more aggressive tone than ever before, Maas said Germany is in agreement with France and UK on Iran and declared: “Iran must also play another role in the region. We need this accord because we distrust Iran."

Two weeks ago, after the release of the newest report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the three European countries had released a statement stating that Iran’s uranium enrichment stockpile is dozens of times bigger than the permitted amount under the nuclear deal, and demanded immediate return of Tehran to compliance.

The potential US president-elect Joe Biden yesterday once again emphasized that his administration will not allow the Islamic Republic to develop nuclear weapons.

He said in an interview with CNN: “The bottom line is, we can’t let Iran to get nuclear weapons.”

On Thursday, the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran’s missile program was not included in the 2015 nuclear deal not as an advantage to Iran, but because other parties of the deal were not ready to cease their “malevolent” behavior in the region.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Says 'Lots Of Obstacles' To Rekindling Iran Nuke Deal

The European Union Foreign Policy chief said Friday there were "lots of obstacles" to rekindling the Iran nuclear deal and supported the Iranian position that there is nothing to renegotiate.

"The Iranians made the deal, and they fulfilled their part of the deal until the American withdrawal destroyed the possibility of fulfilling the other part of the deal," Joseph Borrell told the Med Dialogues conference in Rome, speaking by video from Brussels,

Borrell echoed the opinion of many observers that "it will not be easy" for US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal, pointing to domestic opposition, opposition from key allies in the region and difficulties with opponents in Iran.

The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed during the Obama administration in 2015.  Signatories included Iran, the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany and the EU. More than a year into his term, President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the accords, arguing that it does not fully prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons in the future.

The US administration also demanded that Iran should curtail its ballistic missile program and moderate its behavior in the Middle East, where it supports militant groups, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Trump administration abandoned the agreement in 2018 and reinstated tough sanctions on Iran.

Biden has signalled willingness to rejoin the deal, but he also says that Iran's missile remain a worrying issue.

 

Iranians Warned To Be Wary As Daily Crypto-Currency Trade Reaches $20 Million

Iranians are trading daily between 4 to 5 trillion rials ($16 to $20 million) in 12 different cryptocurrencies through two digital platforms. Bitcoin, XRP, Tether, and Etherium are the most popular cryptocurrencies, with each being traded daily to the value of $1.6 to $3.6 million.

Mehr news agency on Thursday December 3 warned citizens to be wary, as trading cryptocurrencies was a risky and volatile business. Mehr pointed out many outfits involved did not have a government license and that all sorts of fraud could take place in the virtual world of crypto-currencies.

The amount of Bitcoin traded each day is around $3.5 million, slightly behind XRP, the most popular cryptocurrency, which trades to the tune of $3.6 million a day. Tether, a dollar replacement in crypto-markets with each Tether costing a dollar, trades on the two patforms at a higher rate, with trade reaching $2.7 million a day.

Tron, which ranks 15th among crypto-coins globally, is traded at around $2.6 million a day. Stellar or XLM is traded around $2.2 million, and Etherium $1.6 million.

A second tier of cryptocurrencies is some distance behind. Bitcoin Cash is at $400,000 a day, Litecoin $370,000, EOS $272,000, and Dash $100,000.

In July 2019, the government shut down digital farms where people had set up hundreds or perhaps thousands of computers in old warehouses or factory buildings to crack codes that would “mine” digital currencies. The heavy use of electricity by these ventures had led to power shortages across the country. The government demanded that all traders should apply for licenses.

Due to the increased pressure of sanctions, in November 2020, the Iranian government amended legislation on digital assets to allow the Central Bank to use cryptocurrency to pay for imports.

Formerly Jailed Dual Citizens Urge World To Help Free Swedish-Iranian Doctor

A group of foreign nationals and dual citizens previously imprisoned in Iran as “hostages” have written to world leaders urging them to put pressure on Iran to free Iranian-Swedish doctor, Ahmad-Reza Djalali (Jalali), 49, who is in imminent danger of execution.

The signatories of the letter - including United States citizen Xiyue Wang, British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, American-Iranian Jason Rezaian, Iranian-Canadian web designer Saeed Malekpour and Lebanese national Nizar Zakka – write as “former hostages.” Most were freed in prisoner exchanges or through international mediation. In the latest instance, on November 25, Iran swapped Kylie Moore-Gilbert with three Iranians jailed in Thailand for a planned bombing attack in 2012.

On November 25 Djalali’s wife, Vida Mehrannia, told Iran International that her husband was “a victim of Iran's relations with Europe,” so fueling speculation that Iranian authorities sought, by threatening to execute Djalali, either to influence the trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi in Belgium or to secure a prisoner exchange.

Executing Djalali would be “the most shocking escalation in its hostage enterprise,” Rezaian, former Washington Post reporter in Tehran arrested in 2015 and held for 544 days, said in a tweet on December 1. Rezaian mocked Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for hiding “behind ridiculous claims of an independent judiciary.”

Xiyue Wang on Thursday also criticized the foreign minister. “Zarif’s demand for more prisoner swaps is NOT diplomacy, but precisely ANTI-diplomacy in disguise of diplomacy,” he wrote. “You don’t take hostages of a given country if you want diplomacy with that country, as simple as that!”

Iran Parliament Official Says A 35 Percent Wage Increase Is Needed Amid Rising Poverty

Wages for workers in Iran should increase by 35 percent, the spokesman of parliament’s social commission has said, as high inflation has made million of people poor according to media and officials. Ali Babaee-Karnami said that this estimate is based on careful research over along period of time.

Workers receive wages ranging from $100-150 dollars a month, while some estimates put the minimum living basket for necessities at $400 a month. 

Iran’s currency has lost its value eightfold since early 2018, when the US was deciding to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement and to impose sanctions, that have led to more than 40 percent annual inflation for two consecutive years, making current wages completely inadequate for millions of people.

There is no agreement as to how much the minimum basket of necessities costs, but some labor groups have demanded 100 million rial wages or $400 per month, considering that a worker has to support a family of four. According to this estimate a 35 percent wage increase will not be adequate to address the minimum needs of workers.

According to a minimum food basket the health ministry has announced, it is estimated that 60 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Iran has experienced intermittent labor strikes and protests since 2017, and three rounds of nationwide protests have rocked the country. Last November, a sudden decision by the government to raise fuel prices led to widespread unrest and security forces killed hundreds to suppress the revolt. Economic demands have increasingly led to anti-regime protests, which has alarmed the clerical rulers.