Flurry Of Diplomatic Contacts Fuel Iran Deal Speculation

TOP STORIES

Flurry Of Diplomatic Contacts Fuel Iran Deal Speculation | Associated Press

A flurry of diplomatic contacts and reports of major progress suggest that indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran may be nearing an agreement. That’s despite efforts by U.S. officials to play down chances of an imminent deal that would bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. With the negotiations in Vienna on hiatus, the U.S. and Britain on Monday denied Iranian reports that any agreement was at hand with Iran for a swap of American and British prisoners. Such an exchange could be a confidence-building measure to revive the nuclear deal.

Iran’s Hard-Liners Step Up Attacks On Rouhani Government, Sowing Suspicion Over Nuclear Talks | The Washington Post

A fictional series that aired recently on Iranian television portrayed the country's foreign ministry as infected by Western spies bent on stealing information about nuclear talks with the United States and other world powers. Another show, a documentary, suggested that hapless Iranian nuclear negotiators were strolling into a trap laid by the United States. “America plans to lift sanctions only on paper and force Iran to reduce nuclear activity in return for nothing,” a narrator says in the documentary, called the “The End of the Game,” which like the series, aired on a state-run channel controlled by Iranian hard-liners.

Opinion: An Iranian TV Show Targeted Me. Now It’s Attacking Journalism — And It’s Not Alone | Jason Rezaian For The Washington Post

In the second season of “Gando,” a popular show on Iran’s state television network, a blindfolded man is taken to a desert rendezvous in a neighboring country. He is accompanied by the show’s protagonists, agents of the intelligence wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who exchange pleasantries with several French-speaking accomplices, presumably also spies. After a long journey, the blindfold is removed and the detained man sees Tehran’s Freedom Square. He immediately understands his fate. And so do viewers. It is, after all, taken from Iran’s headlines.

UANI IN THE NEWS

China And Iran: A Dangerous Strategy For An Unstable Region – Opinion | UANI Outreach Coordinator Bob Feferman For The Jerusalem Post

…There is also wider context to this agreement that makes Iran a key part of China’s global strategic ambitions. According to a report on the China-Iran relationship which appears on the website of the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), “Iran is currently a linchpin in Beijing’s signature ’One Belt, One Road’ initiative, which aims to invest over $1 trillion in infrastructure, connecting over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.” Israeli analysts are especially concerned about the China-Iran relationship and its implications for the security of Israel. 

The Zarif Tape Shows Why Biden Should Abandon Reviving The Iran Nuclear Deal | UANI Advisory Board Member John Bolton For The Washington Post

A recording of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that leaked last week remains unverified, but his apology on Sunday and a key Iranian official’s dismissal provide confidence in its accuracy. Considerable ink has been spilled over whether former secretary of state John F. Kerry at some point leaked classified U.S. information (he denies it) to Zarif about Israeli strikes in Syria. Far more significant, however, is Zarif’s assertion that he learned sensitive Iranian information from Kerry. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

What Is Iran’s Real Goal In Nuclear Talks With The US? | The Jerusalem Institute For Strategy And Security

As the US and Iran are heading towards an exchange of drafts about returning to the JCPOA, the stance of both parties remains ambiguous. After the last round of talks in Vienna, both American and Iranian officials said the talks were “constructive.” The US is signaling readiness to lift sanctions if Iran will reverse recent actions and return to compliance with the JCPOA. Most US media are sympathetic to the revocation of sanctions, arguing that President Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy failed. President Biden’s envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, is more nuanced. He said in an interview that Iranian foreign minister Zarif’s insistence on the removal of sanctions before Iran changes its behavior is “not serious” and “that it is not going to work that way.”

Iran Sought Nuclear Weapons, Technology For WMDs Last Year, Reports Find | Fox News

The Islamic Republic of Iran made multiple attempts in 2020 to obtain technology for its weapons of mass destruction program and has not stopped its drive to develop atomic weapons, intelligence agencies from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany recently reported. The Netherland’s General Intelligence and Security Service "investigated networks that tried to obtain the knowledge and materials to develop weapons of mass destruction. Multiple acquisition attempts have been frustrated by the intervention of the services," the agency wrote in its April report.

US Launches Push To Sell New Iran Nuclear Deal | Arab News

The US has launched a diplomatic drive to persuade skeptical allies in the Gulf of the benefits of a revived nuclear deal with Iran. Top envoys and senators close to President Joe Biden are shuttling between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan, as talks continue in Vienna to breathe new life into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions collapsed in 2018 when Donald Trump withdrew from it and began reimposing sanctions, and Iran retaliated by increasing enrichment of fissile uranium beyond the purity permitted by the JCPOA.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS  

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy Says U.S.'s Iran Sanctions Make Yemen Cease-Fire 'Hard' | Newsweek

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said that U.S. sanctions on Iran will make it "hard" to obtain a cease-fire from the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to an interview with the Associated Press. Murphy was headed this week to Oman, Qatar and Jordan to discuss political solutions to the war in Yemen, where Saudia Arabia has led a coalition of Gulf States against the rebels. He said the Biden administration has taken recent steps to defuse tensions in the region.

Iran Aims To Raise Oil Exports To 2.5 Million Bpd Once U.S. Sanctions Are Lifted | Oil Price

Iran will be able to raise its crude oil exports to 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) after the U.S. sanctions on its oil industry are lifted, a top Iranian official said over the weekend, while reports emerged that the talks in Vienna for bringing Iran and the U.S. back to the nuclear deal had made progress. “Oil sales have dropped a lot, but now the situation is better, and we are in control. We will be able to increase oil exports to 2.5mn b/d after removal of the sanctions,” Argus quoted Iran’s vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri as saying.

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Don’t Abandon Human Rights In Push For Nuclear Deal, Iranian Activists Say | The National

Western governments are overlooking Iran’s human rights record in their rush to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, activists told The National. Activists including pro-democracy campaigner Mariam Memarsadeghi and human rights lawyer Kaveh Shahrooz on Monday urged the US not to abandon Iran’s long-suffering women and minority groups. They spoke of Iran’s recent election to the UN’s top women’s empowerment body and the US State Department’s decision to overlook the treatment of Iranian journalists on World Press Freedom Day on Monday.

US And UK Reject Reports Of Imminent Prisoner Deal With Iran | Associated Press

The U.S. and the U.K. dismissed reports coming out of Iran that they are thrashing out a prisoner exchange deal with Tehran that could see the imminent release of a British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and four Americans, among others. Iran was a key topic of discussions Monday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his host in London, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Their meeting took place a day before the first face-to-face meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations in two years, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hopes Raised For Two Americans Jailed In Tehran Being Freed | The Guardian

Two high profile American-Iranian dual nationals detained in Tehran have been moved to a new location inside Evin prison in a procedure that has previously led to the release of detainees, according to sources inside the jail. The moves could add credence to Iranian media reports at the weekend that a prisoner swap involving four unidentified detainees might be, or had been, imminent. Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday denied the reports. It also said it was not in negotiations over the release of another detainee, the British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, saying th case was an issue for the judiciary.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

US Officials In Mideast To Reassure Jittery Allies Over Iran | Associated Press

Top Biden administration officials and U.S. senators crisscrossed the Middle East on Monday, seeking to assuage growing unease among Gulf Arab partners over America’s re-engagement with Iran and other policy shifts in the region. The trips come as the U.S. and Iran, through intermediaries in Vienna, discuss a return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that former President Donald Trump abandoned three years ago.

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS

On The Ground With Yemeni Soldiers Battling Iran-Allied Rebels | PBS

Three months ago, President Biden ended American military involvement in the war in Yemen and reversed President Trump's decision to designate the Houthis a terrorist organization. But soon after, as special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports, the Houthis launched an offensive east from the capital, Sana'a, towards the city of Marib, the last stronghold of Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

Iran's Khamenei Responds To Zarif Leak | Al Monitor

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has finally responded to the leaked recording in which Iran’s foreign minister spoke candidly about the difficulties of managing the country’s foreign policy, which is complicated by military influence. The audio, which was made for the sake of posterity, was not intended for public release. Since becoming public and being shared online, the Iranian and American pres have been speculating about the fallout, with some wondering if it will force Mohammad Javad Zarif’s resignation. 

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN

Israel’s ‘Shadow War’ And Plans To Scupper Iran’s Nuclear Deal | Al Jazeera

US President Joe Biden is pushing to reinstate Iran’s nuclear deal and weeks of talks in Austria appear to be bearing fruit. Israel, however, continues to see its security jeopardised by a potentially nuclear Iran and is trying to thwart negotiations any way possible. The Mossad spy agency chief Yossi Cohen – a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – met Biden on Friday and, according to one media report, pressed the US president not to sign back on to the nuclear accord unless “improvements” were made.

Senior Israeli Defense Officials Question Effectiveness Of Policy Of Operations Against Iran | Haaretz

Officials in the defense establishment have raised doubts about the effectiveness of some operations against Iran. According to a series of reports, in recent years Israel has attacked, among other targets, dozens of tanker trucks smuggling oil from Iran to Syria. These officials think that the potential damage of certain actions outweighs their benefits, and that other ways must be found to halt Iranian entrenchment in the region.

Mossad Chief Conveys Israeli Concerns About Iran To Biden | Al Monitor

President Joe Biden met with Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen on April 30 at the White House. An unnamed spokesperson for the US National Security Council said Cohen’s meeting at the White House was with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA director Bill Burns. Reportedly, Biden “dropped by to express condolences for the tragedy at Mount Meron." Thus, Cohen is now the first top Israeli official to have met with Biden since the US president took office. The meeting lasted for an hour, with Cohen the only person to attend from the Israeli side.

CHINA & IRAN

Iran Wants To Use China To Counter US - What Are The Implications? | The Jerusalem Post

Iran has been increasing ties to China in recent years, impressively securing a 25-year cooperation agreement with Beijing. The details of the deal are still obscure, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted about the importance of China on Sunday. The point of his message should not be lost on the region. Iran is signaling that it can balance the US role in the region through work with Russia and China. Russia is a known quantity, but China’s emerging role has far-reaching consequences.

China-Iran Strategic Cooperation: Symbolism Vs. Substance | Dr. Gedaliah Afterman For The Diplomat

How has the China-Iran 25-year agreement strategically changed bilateral relations? The agreement has been described both as a new China-Iran strategic alliance and as an empty gesture. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The signed agreement has not been made public to date, but a draft circulated by Tehran in 2020 allows some insight into its content. The current agreement, first discussed in 2016, appears to be a long-term roadmap rather than a groundbreaking strategic alliance. It maps out potential areas of cooperation, including the energy, banking, infrastructure, and industrial sectors. It also mentions cooperation on intelligence, counterterrorism, and Chinese investment in several Iranian ports. But which elements of the agreement will materialize, and to what degree, remains to be seen – these decisions are generally in Beijing’s hands.

 IRAQ & IRAN

Rockets Land In Iraqi Base Hosting US Contractors | Reuters

At least three rockets hit the Iraqi military air base of Balad, north of Baghdad, where some US contractors are billeted, Iraqi security officials said on Monday. Three other rockets fell near the base in the attack on Sunday, the sources said. No casualties or damage have been reported. No group has claimed responsibility, but armed groups that some Iraqi officials say are backed by Iran have claimed similar incidents in the past.

CYBERWARFARE

Iran 'Using Fake Social Media Profiles To Encourage Scottish Independence' | The National

Iran is attempting to influence Scotland to split from the UK by using fake social media accounts to “promote disunity and division”, a think tank said. Tehran is putting “considerable effort” into developing a strong political relationship with Scottish nationalists who want independence, a report by the Henry Jackson Society in London said. It is understood that Iran, which has a long history of hostility towards Britain, would like to see Scotland break away as a means of undermining UK power. 

MISCELLANEOUS

Senior Swiss Diplomat In Iran Found Dead After Fall From High-Rise | Reuters

The first secretary at the Swiss embassy in Tehran was found dead on Tuesday after falling from a high-rise building where she lived in the north of the city, a spokesman for emergency services was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies. The Swiss foreign ministry (FDFA) said an employee at its embassy in Iran had died of an accident, without identifying the victim. "The FDFA and its head Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis are shocked by the tragic death and express their deepest condolences to the family," it said.