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.
The US announced on Monday its decision to reinstate economic sanctions on Iran lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal. The decision aims to force Iran to shut down nuclear enrichment efforts, curb weapons program and end support of brutal Middle East governments. President Trump later Twitted “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”
President Trump announced on Monday that he would meet with Iran’s leaders ‘anytime they want, saying he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with ‘no preconditions’. Iran responded to Trump’s comments saying ‘reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken’ to move toward talks between the countries.
Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran’s special forces responded to President Trump’s tweet warning to Iran to ‘never, ever’ threaten the US on Thursday, saying attacking Iran and starting a war ‘will destroy all that you possess.’ Tensions between the two countries have increased since the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran deal.