The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he will visit Iran in the coming days as the U.S. and Europe seek to resolve concerns over Iran’s recent nuclear activity and jump-start talks on re-entering the 2015 deal that put severe limits on its program. Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he hopes to meet Iran’s senior leadership to discuss disagreements around IAEA nuclear inspections, which he’s described as being in a “fragile state” since the country ramped up its uranium-enrichment and rolled back international monitors’ ability to access some facilities.
A retired British-Iranian engineer jailed more than four years ago in Tehran’s Evin prison has lost his final appeal against his conviction for spying on Iran. Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, lost his appeal last year against what the UK government considers as trumped up charges of working for Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad but the family’s lawyer learnt only last week that it had been unsuccessful. In a double blow for the family, Iranian authorities rejected a second request for freedom after Mr Ashoori served a third of his 10-year sentence, which could start a process leading to release for good behaviour. The setbacks came after hopeful signs that Mr Ashoori could be released this summer as part of an agreement struck between London and Tehran before it collapsed amid mutual recriminations. Lawyers for the father-of-two said on Tuesday that all legal avenues to challenge his sentence in Iran were blocked.
China’s independent refiners are set for crude buying frenzy as they seek to use import quotas before they expire in less than three months. That’s likely to boost demand for crude that can be delivered quickly, such as Russia’s ESPO oil from the Far East that typically takes less than a week to be shipped. Chinese independent processors, also known as teapots, usually seek to use up quotas so they can apply for comparable volumes in the next year. Teapots will have to pay up if they want ESPO, however, after spot differentials for the grade surged.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Here’s a riddle: Iran has no access to international banking systems. It can’t do business with firms that want to access U.S. markets. Most of its assets are frozen. So how does the cash-starved Iranian regime continue to fund terrorist groups across the Middle East? The answer, increasingly, is China. And President Biden has largely chosen to look the other way as China steadily buys millions of barrels of Iranian oil. Late last month, an anonymous U.S. official told Reuters that the administration has "been approaching this diplomatically with the Chinese” because doing so is “a more effective path forward.”
It is a common hope within Washington’s foreign-policy establishment that no matter how close Iran gets to the atomic threshold, it won’t detonate a bomb. The intelligence community claims Tehran isn’t currently taking steps to build a nuclear weapon. Many want to believe that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against the production and use of nuclear weapons will keep Iran a threshold state. These hopes are delusional. The Islamic Republic of Iran is led by an ardent ideological regime that frequently relies on conspiracies to explain its predicament.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The UK shares concerns over Iran’s nuclear program with Arab countries, a government official said on Tuesday. Tehran has stopped honoring some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal and has been holding up negotiations aimed at reviving the landmark accord that scales back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, sparking concern from the UN nuclear watchdog agency. The comments were made during a meeting in London between the UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, James Cleverly, and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League.
Last week, an EU delegation left Tehran without agreeing to a timeline to resume negotiations for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, also known as the JCPOA. However, they did not leave empty-handed, having scheduled a meeting in Brussels on Thursday for more detailed consultations on the way forward. EU officials have been pressing Iran to return to the negotiating table, four months after talks were stalled due to its presidential election and the subsequent inauguration of a new administration.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Payam Derafshan was confined in a dark, windowless room inside a safe house run by the feared intelligence branch of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The human rights lawyer was then transferred to Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where he was drugged with unknown substances that triggered violent convulsions. During one seizure, Derafshan bit part of his tongue off. Derafshan was then subjected to electric shocks after he was forcibly transferred to a psychiatric hospital.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami this week celebrated the “retreat” of Iran’s enemies in the region. “We are witnessing obvious retreats of enemies and great powers from the region,” he was quoted by Iran’s Tasnim News Agency as saying. He was referring to the US leaving Afghanistan. “These days, we look at the retreat and the last months of the US presence in Iraq,” he said. “We see their failure in the dangerous Lebanese project. We see the defeat of enemy targets on the Syrian front; we see the defeat of the enemy’s goals and movements in the sanctions against Iran, and we see the defeat of the enemy in the political and economic siege of our system.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Defense Minister Benny Gantz appeared before the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday to justify the government’s requested budget increase for the military, warning that the additional funds are necessary in order to prepare for a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear program. This summer, the government announced that it had agreed on a NIS 58 billion ($17.5 billion) defense budget for 2022, an increase from the previous defense budget, which was set in 2019 and has remained in force as the governments since then failed to pass a new one.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
A high-ranking Iranian official sent a signal that Tehran wishes to “resume relations with Egypt”, nearly a month after the foreign ministers of the two countries held a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that progress in relations between Cairo and Tehran was in the region’s interest. While the Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not comment on the Iranian statement, a well-informed source reported that Cairo “continues to receive undeclared messages from Tehran regarding its desire to resume relations” with Egypt.