On June 7, the U.S. Senate voted 92-7 to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran. The legislation aims to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East by sanctioning “Iran’s ballistic missile program, applying terrorism sanctions to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, imposing sanctions on Iranians engaged in human rights abuses, and tightening enforcement on arms embargoes on the Iranian regime,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said.
On June 5, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move. They accused Qatar of destabilizing the region by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al Qaeda, Iranian-backed groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government also cut ties with the small Gulf nation. Only two Gulf Cooperation Council states, Kuwait and Oman, did not cut ties. Kuwait offered to mediate.
Women in Iran “confront an array of legal and social barriers, restricting not only their lives but also their livelihoods, and contributing to starkly unequal economic outcomes,” according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. “Iranian women’s achievements in higher education demonstrate their capability and passion to be equal partners in building a better country, but discriminatory laws are holding them back,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Iran “remains a significant challenge to the United States within the Middle East and Southwest Asia,” according to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment.” On May 23, DIA Director and Lt. Gen Vincent Stewart briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on the report’s findings.
On May 19, Iranians living in the United States overwhelmingly voted for President Hassan Rouhani. Some 96 percent of the 30,039 voters supported him. More than 50 polling stations were set up across the country. Iranians in the Washington D.C. area cast their votes at the Iranian Interests Section at the Pakistani Embassy. No polling stations were set up in Canada, so some Iranians traveled to Washington, New York or other states near the border to vote.
Iranian leaders have harshly criticized U.S. foreign policy and President Donald Trump for revitalizing the U.S.-Saudi relationship on his trip to the region. In a tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sarcastically referred to the Sunni kingdom as a “bastion of democracy and moderation” and rhetorically asked if the arms deal Trump signed was foreign policy or “simply milking” the country of $480 billion.
On May 22, President Hassan Rouhani criticized U.S. foreign policy in his first press conference since he was reelected. “Americans have always made mistakes with regard to our region – when they attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, when they imposed sanctions on us, and in Syria and Yemen,” he told domestic and foreign journalists. “Americans do not know our region and the problem is that those who are advising the Americans are unfortunately either rulers who are misguiding the U.S., or buying off people in the U.S.”
On May 18, Iran’s foreign ministry announced new sanctions on nine American individuals and firms in response to the latest U.S. sanctions. On May 17, the U.S. Treasury had blacklisted three individuals and four entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
On May 17, the U.S. State Department released a semi-annual report to Congress on sanctions imposed on individuals for human rights abuses committed in Iran. The following is the full text of a media note and the report.
On May 17, the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran even as it waived sanctions as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United States committed to waive nuclear-related sanctions if Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA’s terms.
The Arms Control Association welcomed the decision in a statement: