The mysterious case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman facing federal charges in New York, has grown even stranger over the past couple of weeks.Zarrab, who is thirty-three, was arrested by F.B.I. agents, in Miami, last March. At the time, he was one of the flashiest and wealthiest businessmen in Turkey. He sported a pouf of black hair; owned twenty houses, seven yachts, and a private jet; was married to one of Turkey’s biggest pop stars; and counted among his friends Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman President.The U.S. government, however, believes that Zarrab masterminded a sprawling operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions that were put in place to hinder the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Zarrab’s operation—which relied on what the Turkish government claimed was a legal loophole in the sanctions—involved shipping gold to Iran in exchange for oil and natural gas, which Zarrab then sold. The scheme, according to prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, involved moving enormous amounts of cash, gas, and gold; at the operation’s peak—around 2012—Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and shipping it to Iran every day. The Obama Administration protested Zarrab’s operation, which the media dubbed “gas for gold,’’ but he carried on anyway. For the Iranians, the gold was as good as American cash, and it helped shore up the rial, Iran’s currency, whose value was collapsing.
Tag Archives: Iran
The art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.
In the early years of the last decade, following the shock of 9/11, with George W. Bush in office and the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan under way, security at American airports was beefed up considerably, under the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Travellers of all types were subjected to greater security checks, and immigration agents were more routinely frosty than they were before. Visitors of certain ethnicities and nationalities, especially Arabs and people from Muslim countries, were increasingly treated with mistrust by American immigration officials. Stories of humiliating episodes abounded and circulated widely in the Middle East. Some of them, sadly, were true.
After Donald Trump’s election, the death of Ayatollah Rafsanjani is grim news for Iran’s nuclear deal
The death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani comes at a potentially difficult time for Iran’s relations with the international community, with Donald Trump and his team threatening to tear up the landmark deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme. It also means that the reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, has lost a highly important ally in a crucial stage of his struggle against powerful conservative clerics.
The two issues are not unrelated. Just as the American right, egged on by Israel and Saudi Arabia, has virulently opposed the agreement, so had the hardliners in Iran railed against President Rouhani and his government for what they saw as a surrender of the country’s sovereign rights on defence and security.
The battle for Mosul has begun. For the past two years, Iraq’s second-largest city has languished under the harsh rule of the Islamic State (ISIS). Now a combined force of Iraqi army troops, Shiite militias, and Kurdish fighters, backed up by a US-led coalition of more than sixty nations, is pushing forward to retake the city. The stakes are high. Dislodging ISIS from the city where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared his “caliphate” in 2014 promises to be a formidable undertaking, given the ferocity of resistance so far. But if the coalition manages to restore Iraqi government control over Mosul, it will certainly count as a major blow to the ambitions of the jihadists—even if final victory over them is still a long way off.
There are nine months until the next Iranian presidential election in May 2017, and analysts and supporters of President Hassan Rouhani are beginning to ask whether he will win a second term.
Widespread public frustration at the lack of economic benefits, after sanctions were supposed to be lifted following last year’s nuclear deal, has dented his popularity and boosted the chances of a come-back by conservative and anti-Western former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A scandal over the high pay awarded to top government officials has also not helped the incumbent president.
The US Treasury has “somewhat terrorised” European banks into not resuming business with Iran in spite of Western promises to lift sanctions, a senior Iranian official has told Middle East Eye.Amir Hossein Zamaninia, deputy oil minister for trade and international affairs, accused the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the US sanctions programme, of deliberately not clarifying how European banks and investors are allowed to operate in Iran without falling foul of US law.Multilateral sanctions mandated by the UN Security Council were lifted in January, but the US still enforces a number of its own, which complicate the business of doing business.“The European banks have some reluctance, let’s say, in terms of not being certain as to what OFAC’s decision will be if they get engaged. It’s more of a psychological problem than a legal one”, Zamaninia said.
In a booth outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran a lone policeman keeps guard. He hardly needs to bother. There are no diplomats left, and the building is a ruin. The metal doors on the first-floor balcony of the abandoned villa hang open. The windows’ broken glass has not been replaced, and pigeons now nest inside.The flagpole is empty and on the front wall an oval-shaped piece of brighter paint shows where the diplomatic crest used to be. A crowd of more than a thousand Iranian protesters had demonstrated outside the embassy on 2 January. Some threw petrol bombs and set part of it on fire.
It all starts with a Wahhabi-Zionist lovefest.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry was forced to go on a non-denial denial overdrive about a visit to Israel on July 22 by a delegation led by retired Gen. Anwar Eshki.
Eshki happens to be close to Saudi intel superstar and onetime close Osama bin Laden pal Prince Turki bin Faisal, who recently met in the open with former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) generals Yaakov Amidror and Amos Yadlin.
While in Israel, Eshki met with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, and Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the top IDF honcho in the West Bank.