Iran’s Foreign Minister has said he is stepping down, in a surprise announcement made on his Instagram account. The veteran diplomat played a prominent role in striking the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. But he has come under attack by anti-Western hardliners in Iran after President Donald Trump announced the US would be leaving the agreement last May. Since then Mr Trump’s administration has reimposed harsh economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal.
The US has charged a former Air Force intelligence specialist with spying for Iran, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court Wednesday. Monica Witt, who was also a former counterintelligence officer for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, defected to Iran in 2013, according to the indictment, and remains at large. Iranian government officials provided Witt with “goods and services, including housing and computer equipment,” in order to facilitate her work on behalf of the government of Iran after her defection, the indictment said.
A suicide attack in south-eastern Iran has killed at least 27 members of the Revolutionary Guards and wounded 13 others, state media say. The bomber targeted a bus transporting personnel in Sistan-Baluchestan province near the border with Pakistan. The Sunni Muslim militant group, Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), has said it was behind the bombing. The Revolutionary Guards, which is a major military, political and economic force in Iran, blamed foreign powers.
Iran has confirmed media reports that U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White is being held in an Iranian prison. It is unclear when the United States was informed of White’s arrest but his mother has told reporters that he went missing in July. “An American Citizen, named Michael White was arrested a while ago in the city of Mashhad,” the spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
The US announced its ‘toughest ever’ sanctions on Iran on Monday, sparking mass protests. All sanctions that were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal have been reinstated. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reinstating of sanctions will force Tehran to stop sponsoring terrorism. The EU is looking to bypass US sanctions. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has vowed to “break” swingeing sanctions re-imposed by the US targeting core parts of the economy.
The US has been ordered to ease sanctions reinstated against Iran by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest court. The court ruled the US must remove ‘any impediments’ to the import of humanitarian goods and products and services linked to civil aviation safety by Iran. The US claimed the ruling was a ‘defeat’ for Iran since humanitarian-related transactions are allowed. The ICJ cannot enforce the rulings.
At least 42 people died after drinking contaminated bootleg alcohol in Iran. Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Iraj Harirchi said 170 underwent dialysis and 16 were left blind after drinking the alcohol. At least 460 people across five provinces were hospitalized due to consumption. Alcohol is illegal in Iran but bootleg varieties are common.
US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed each other at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday with Trump threatening additional sanctions and Rouhani saying that Trump suffers from a ‘weakness of intellect.’ Trump attacked Iranian leadership while defending his decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear deal.
Iran’s president on Sunday accused an unnamed U.S.-allied country in the Persian Gulf of being behind a terror attack on a military parade that killed 25 people and wounded 60 on Saturday, further raising regional tensions. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying, ‘The Iranian people are protesting, he needs to look at his own home base.’
The Trump administration announced on Thursday a new special envoy post to coordinate the US economic pressure campaign against Iran. The move is the latest in a series aimed at cutting off Tehran’s revenue to force it into a new nuclear agreement. The ‘elite team of foreign affairs specialists’ will be led by Brian Hook.