The Latest On Iran: Captured Spies, Intercepted Tanker And More

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In this Sunday, July 21, 2019 photo, an aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guard moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday by the Guard. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
In this Sunday, July 21, 2019 photo, an aerial view shows a speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guard moving around the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday by the Guard. (Morteza Akhoondi/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Iran claims it’s captured 17 spies working for the U.S. President Trump denies it. A British-flagged tanker remains in Iran’s custody. How much more can tensions rise between Washington and Tehran?


Laura Rozen, diplomatic correspondent for the Middle East-focused online news site Al-Monitor. (@lrozen)

Sanam Vakil, head of the Future Dynamics in the Gulf project and the Iran Forum at Chatham House. Lecturer in the Middle East studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Europe. (@SanamVakil)

From The Reading List

Al-Monitor: "Source: Iran FM met Rand Paul to feel out possible US-Iran talks" — "Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) in New York July 18 to feel out prospects for possible discussions between Iran and the United States, a non-government expert in contact with the Iranian team told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

"The Iranian mission to the UN did not respond to Al-Monitor queries on the meeting. Zarif told reporters in New York Thursday that he was holding meetings while in New York this week with some members of Congress, but not with US administration officials or envoys. He would leave it to the US lawmakers he met with to identify themselves if they wish, he told UN reporter Susan Modaress.

"The US administration was aware of a possible meeting between a US Senator and Zarif in New York, a US official said Wednesday. Paul was not acting as an official US envoy, Al-Monitor understood."

The Straits Times: "Iran to meet nuclear deal parties on Sunday" — "Iran said it will attend a meeting in Vienna on Sunday (July 28) of diplomats from countries still party to the 2015 nuclear deal, as they try to salvage the landmark agreement.

"The hard-won deal has been threatened with collapse since the United States withdrew from it last year and reimposed biting sanctions against Iran as part of a 'maximum pressure' campaign.

"'It was agreed to convene an extraordinary meeting of the JCPOA joint commission in Vienna on July 28,' Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (July 23), using the acronym for the deal's formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action."

CNN: "Iran detains 17 citizens accused of spying for the CIA" — "Iran has detained 17 Iranian citizens accused of acting as spies for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, according to the country's Ministry of Intelligence.

"An Intelligence Ministry document sent to CNN claims Iran had broken up a CIA spying ring and captured 17 suspects, all of whom confessed to acting as spies for the CIA.

"'Defendants serving their sentences in prison mentioning tempting promises of CIA officers including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money,' the Intelligence Ministry document said. It added that the spy mission was to collect classified information 'from substantial centers as well as intelligence/technical operations.'

"The ministry said some of the 17 will be executed."

Washington Post: "A Royal Navy warship tried to stop Iran from seizing a British tanker, leaked audio reveals. Iran took it anyway." — "A British warship tried but failed to prevent Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week, intercepted radio communications show, fueling a wave of recriminations in London on Sunday over who was to blame for the incident last week.

"In recordings obtained by the shipping consultancy Dryad Global and posted on its website Sunday, a member of the Revolutionary Guard is heard ordering the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker to divert course toward Iran.

"'Alter your course,' the man says. 'If you obey, you will be safe.'

"A British naval officer interrupts, telling the Stena Impero that it has the right to proceed through the waterway.

"'Under international law, your passage must not be impeded, obstructed or hampered,' he says.

"The British officer then addresses the Iranian: 'Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board the MV Stena.' "

The Guardian: "Opinion: New PM, take note: the Iran crisis could escalate into war" — "The boarding and holding of the tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar, while allegedly carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions regime, was clearly going to provoke a response. Indeed, the Tehran regime clearly articulated the fact that they would do something in retaliation.

"Having already carried out a number of attacks on international tankers in and around the strait of Hormuz, a week ago, an attempt was made to take a British-flag registered ship, the BP British Heritage. It was only thwarted by the close presence of HMS Montrose.

"The UK issued a warning to British-registered shipping to avoid the area and raised the threat level. But this was not good enough. We should have enacted control of shipping procedures, directing ships to assemble in safe areas and then taken them through in convoy.

"Even with only one major warship in the Gulf this could have been done until reinforcements arrived – although the Royal Navy is disgracefully short of ships."

New York Times: "As Conflict With U.S. Grows, Some Iran Hard-liners Suggest Talking to Trump" — "Iran’s most revered Revolutionary Guards commander says talking with President Trump would be admitting defeat. The country’s supreme leader has ruled out any dealings with Washington.

"But now, in a surprising split among Iranian hard-liners, some are expressing a different opinion: It’s time to sit down and resolve 40 years of animosity with the United States, by talking directly to Mr. Trump.

"And the most striking voice in that contrarian group is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, largely known in the West for his anti-American bombast, Holocaust denial, and suspiciously lopsided victory in a disputed vote a decade ago that set off Iran’s worst political convulsions since the Islamic revolution.

"'Mr. Trump is a man of action,' Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a lengthy telephone interview with The New York Times. 'He is a businessman and therefore he is capable of calculating cost-benefits and making a decision. We say to him, let’s calculate the long-term cost-benefit of our two nations and not be shortsighted.' "

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This segment aired on July 23, 2019.



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