LATEST: Government Cuts Water for Agriculture as Crisis Grips Iran

Concerned about US intervention in Iraq and Syria and about the fragile state of nuclear discussions, Iran has pursued its diplomatic offensive as President Rouhani arrived in New York for the UN General Assembly.

A day after a breakthrough meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif continued the strategy of “engagement” of the Gulf States with a discussion with his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (pictured).

Zarif pressed the line of an alternative to the US coalition in Iraq against the Islamic State — at least as long as the Americans refused to end support for insurgents in Syria: “This threat [of the Islamic State] is against all countries in the region, and that is why broad cooperation is needed among all regional states to take serious action against it.”

The headline encounter is likely to be Rouhani’s talk with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the first meeting between Iranian and British heads of Government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tehran has ruled out the possibility of a Rouhani face-to-face discussion with President Obama. Last year, the Iranian President, in office only seven weeks, had a historic phone call with Obama as he left New York.

Meanwhile, there was little news out of the talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers on a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

The talks enter their 6th day on Tuesday with no sign of a resolution of key issues such as the number and level of Iranian centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the status of facilities such as the Arak heavy-water reactor, and the lifting of US-led sanctions on Tehran.

Government Cuts Water for Agriculture as Crisis Grips Iran

Deputy Energy Minister Rahim Meydani has warned that a water crisis is now threatening underground basins and 78% of Iran’s plains, with some facing extinction.

Meydani said that reducing consumption is “the only path of saving these resources” and announced that the Supreme Water Council will reduce agricultural consumption by 25%.

For decades, Iran’s water supply has been shrinking as lakes have dried and development has restricted other sources, while subsidies have fed an increase in consumption.

Lake Urmia, a salt lake in northwestern Iran that once was the largest in the Middle East, has lost 95% of its volume in 20 years. The Zayandeh River is mostly a dry bed after being diverted and dammed to provide irrigation for farms.

Head of Military Belittles Islamic State as No More Than “Dreadful Creature of Zionist Media”

The head of Iran’s military, General Hassan Firouzabadi, has belittled the Islamic State as no more than a “Frankenstein monster created through a media hype by the Zionists” to frighten Islamic states.

“The Islamic State is a dreadful creature which has been created through the psychological operations and hues and cries of the Zionist media,” Firouzabadi told reporters on the sidelines of a military ceremony on Monday.

The commander used his dismissal of the jihadists to deny that Iranian forces were involved in the counter-offensive in Iraq against the Islamic State:

There is no need for any [foreign[ military forces’ deployment in Iraq and you saw that the Iraqi people and army accompanied by religious leaders managed to make them withdraw….

There is no need for the deployment of Iranian soldiers to fight the ISIL.

He reminded the common borders of Iran and Iraq, and said Tehran is providing Baghdad with military consultations under the defense pacts that the two neighboring states have.

Judiciary Defends Arrest of British-Iranian Woman Who Tried to Watch Volleyball Match

Stung by publicity over its detention of a British-Iranian woman after she tried to watch a volleyball game, Iran’s judiciary has defended the arrest.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, who returned to Iran in March after completing a law degree at the University of London, was arrested with other women on June 25 outside the Iran-Italy international men’s match at Azadi Stadium. They were released, but Ghavami was detained five days later when she tried to collect her confiscated belongings at Evin Prison. She was held in solitary confinement for more than a month.

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei insisted, “Although this individual has been arrested at a spot where sports were being played, her case is not related to the issue of sports. She is currently in custody and the case is proceeding.”

Mohseni Ejei did not explain the specific reason for Ghavami’s detention or any charges against her.