Iran updates. Reports surfaced Thursday night that U.S. Cyber Command launched a retaliatory digital strike against the Iranian party allegedly responsible for the mine attack in the Strait of Hormuz last week. So far, the U.S. appears to be holding off from military activity. It has even dismissed rumors that U.S. personnel were vacating Iraq’s Balad air base, emphasizing that operations continue as normal. Iran has responded only with official statements that clarify where the government stands. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Tehran will not abide the violation of its borders and is prepared to deal with any threats against Iran’s territorial integrity of the country. A senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said Iran does not want a war but is ready to defend itself. Notably absent from these comments are references to areas under Iranian influence or populated by Iranian proxy groups.
This week in diplomacy. The U.S. and Iran have not yet come to blows, so diplomatic measures to coordinate the next steps are in full swing. Enter three high-profile security meetings that will take place this week to discuss the situation in the Middle East. The first and most critical one convenes Monday in Jerusalem and will bring together the U.S., Israel and Russia. Also on Monday, officials from the U.S., France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt will meet in Paris to discuss the stalemate in Syria and the fate of Idlib (traditionally brokered by Russia and Turkey). NATO will then hold a meeting in Brussels to address the future of the areas in eastern Syria and western Iraq that have been liberated from the Islamic State. It’s worth noting that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Isfahan yesterday to discuss enhanced cooperation in energy, banking and trade, and they committed to ministry talks every six months. Though not explicitly reported, the two almost certainly used the opportunity to discuss their strategies for dealing with the U.S., Russia and others in the Middle East.
Warnings for Lebanon. European authorities have reportedly advised the Lebanese government to stop any political party from agitating for regional confrontation and, explicitly, to avoid entering a military conflict. The subtext here is: Keep Hezbollah on a short leash in this time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The report comes from Asharq Al-Awsat and cites only anonymous officials. Still, the message was apparently received. This morning, Lebanon’s social affairs minister said that he expected a war in the region but wants his country to stay out of it. Lebanon’s primary concern is preserving its country, according to the minister, and Hezbollah’s participation in a war would jeopardize that.
Threats in Russia’s borderlands. Opposition protests against the Georgian government continued throughout the day yesterday. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that as of July 8, Russian airlines would be temporarily banned from flying to Georgia and tourist agencies from selling trips and services. He did not specify how long the suspension would last. Russian media said the U.S. has a hand in the uprising, citing trips by U.S. officials to Georgia just before the protests. (Considering Washington’s role in the Color Revolution in parts of the former Soviet Union, it’s not a baseless accusation.) More subtle is the recent announcement by South Ossetia’s chamber of commerce and industry that Iranian investors were interested in putting money into the region. The South Ossetian official called for greater economic ties with Iran after just returning from a trip to Iran. South Ossetia is a Georgian breakaway region that is traditionally aligned with and dominated by Russia. Moscow would consider an Iranian financial and trade presence there a threat to its security.
- The Financial Action Task Force has said Iran will have until October to comply with anti-terrorism financial measures or face tougher oversight. An Iranian official responded by saying anti-money laundering laws are on the back burner and that further consideration is dependent on the U.S.
- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that the aggressive behavior shown by Turkey after the arrival of a drilling ship near Cyprus was damaging Ankara’s relationships with the U.S. and Europe.
- The Open Society Foundations announced plans to work with local partners in East Berlin on projects that combat hate crimes.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce severely restricted exports by U.S. companies to five more Chinese companies: Chengdu Haiguang Integrated Circuit, Sugon, Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology, Higon and Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology.
- Hundreds of Jordanians gathered after Friday prayers in Amman to protest the peace plan proposed by the U.S. to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he will meet with officials from 19 countries over the next two weeks to discuss Mexico’s development plans for Central America.
- Cuba hosted its first business forum aimed at attracting more foreign capital. During the event, the European Union pledged its support for continued economic cooperation.
- The Italian government won a parliamentary confidence vote (288-181). The vote clears the way for Parliament to convert into law a government decree meant to relieve the debt of local governments, companies and individual savers affected by the recent banking crisis.