Analysis: Iran Ups Nuclear Ante As Vienna Deal Talks Resume

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Analysis: Iran Ups Nuclear Ante As Vienna Deal Talks Resume | Associated Press 

After a monthslong hiatus, Iran has returned to negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving its cratered nuclear deal with world powers. But Tehran isn’t slowing down the advances in its atomic program, further raising the stakes in talks crucial to cooling years of tensions boiling in the wider Mideast. The case in point? Iran’s underground nuclear facility in Fordo. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations body charged with monitoring the Islamic Republic’s program, acknowledged Wednesday that Iran began feeding a cascade of 166 advanced IR-6 centrifuges with uranium there. The agency said Iran plans to enrich uranium there up to 20% purity — a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. 

Israel Calls On World Powers To Stop Iran Nuclear Talks Immediately | Reuters 

Israel on Thursday urged world powers to halt nuclear talks with Iran immediately, citing a U.N. watchdog's announcement that Tehran has started producing enriched uranium with more advanced centrifuges. "Iran is carrying out nuclear blackmail as a negotiating tactic, and this should be answered by the immediate halt to negotiations and the implementation of tough steps by the world powers," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office quoted him as saying in a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Iran Forces And Taliban Clashed On Afghan Border, Tasnim Says | Bloomberg 

Iranian security forces and Taliban fighters clashed in a gun battle over a “misunderstanding” related to a border wall on the Iran-Afghanistan border, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, citing an unnamed official. The incident near the Afghan district of Shaghalak in Nimroz province has now ended and Iranian officials are holding meetings with Taliban over the matter, Tasnim said, adding that the Taliban was first to open fire on an Iranian border post earlier on Wednesday. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Diplomats Mull Iran Proposals To Revive 2015 Nuclear Deal | Bloomberg  

Iranian negotiators at nuclear talks with world powers presented draft proposals for how to overcome the biggest hurdles to reviving their 2015 nuclear accord, texts that will help determine whether the sides see the basis for a deal. Ali Bagheri Kani, chief nuclear negotiator, told Iran’s state television that he presented European diplomats with a set of amendments to existing draft agreements on the removal of U.S. sanctions and how Iran intends to roll back advances in its atomic activities. The drafts were submitted to European diplomats on Wednesday night and were “a demonstration of our seriousness,” Bagheri Kani said, adding he expects to hear feedback during meetings on Thursday, including with European Union envoy Enrique Mora. 

Iran Accuses Israel Of 'Lies To Poison' Nuclear Talks | Reuters 

Iran on Wednesday accused Israel of "trumpeting lies to poison" the Vienna talks on reviving Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers and it said all parties in the negotiations faced a test of their political will to complete the job. "Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh posted on Twitter without specifying what Israeli comments he meant. "All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job— irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success," he added. 

Iran’s New Elite Are A Major Challenge To The West – Analysis | The Jerusalem Post

As Iran deal negotiations continue in Europe and Tehran tries to squeeze the West to get sanctions relief while it races toward becoming a nuclear threshold state, it is worth focusing on who Iran’s leaders are today. This isn’t the Iranian leadership of several years ago, a new report warns. Research from the Tony Blair Institute exposes a new class of highly indoctrinated technocrats, a report says. The new report – “Raisi’s Rising Elites: The Imam Sadeghis, Iran’s Indoctrinated Technocrats” – was released this week. 

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS   

The Inevitable Recovery Of Iran’s Oil Industry | Oil Price 

Iran’s recent hydrocarbon agreement with Azerbaijan is the latest in a string of developments that demonstrate the country’s determination to overcome U.S. sanctions. Its plans to boost oil production to 5 million bpd and its improving trade relations with China suggest that Iran will not be back by Biden for much longer.  Iran and Azerbaijan are expected to finalize a number of energy deals that would see joint development of a new oil field off the coast of Iran, adding to the energy cooperation between the two states. In 2018, the two countries signed a convention stating that resources from the Caspian sea would be shared with neighboring countries Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. 

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Iran Doubles Down On Abortion And Contraception Restrictions | The Washington Post 

Iranians long had degrees of access to free contraception at public health facilities, part of family planning policies aimed at limiting population growth. In recent years, policy shifts have whittled away such programs. The changes have culminated under a new law — meant to address an emergent demographic shift — which critics have decried as a major setback for women’s and reproductive rights. The law, enacted by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi last month, adds more red tape to existing abortion restrictions, bars public health-care providers from offering free contraception, prohibits voluntary sterilization and offers more benefits to childbearing families, among other measures. 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS 

Iran Is Poised To Act Boldly, So Washington Needs A New Approach | Matthew Calabria For The Hill 

With America’s departure from and the Taliban’s reclamation of Afghanistan, Iran has secured a moral victory, though probably not a strategic one. Recent events in Afghanistan are just the latest accelerant behind Iran’s geopolitical momentum from the past six years or so, to include Lebanese Hezbollah’s parliamentary victory, the restoration of bilateral ties with Qatar, the fall of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthi coup d’état in Yemen.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Air Force Chief: Israel Is ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Iran Getting Nuclear Bomb | The Times Of Israel 

Israel Air Force Chief Amikam Norkin says Israel is the ‘insurance policy’ against Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb. In a rare interview on Channel 13 News, that will be aired in full tomorrow, Norkin is evasive when asked about the Air Force’s capabilities and Iran’s immediate threat. “We’re the insurance policy; we make mistakes; we’re improving,” says Norkin. Asked if that insurance policy has to be exercised, he adds: “We’ll do whatever is required.” 

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN 

Yemeni President: We Are Facing An Iranian Project Targeting Arab Nation | Asharq Al-Awsat 

Yemen’s legitimate government faces an enemy that knows only war and imposing a fait accompli, said Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, expressing regret at the international community’s inability to meet the arrogance of Iran-backed Houthi militias. Addressing Yemenis on the eve of the 54th anniversary of Yemen’s independence, Hadi vowed to continue the struggle for the state to regain power and end the Houthi-led coup. “We will continue our struggle until we restore the state, end the coup, and these militias submit to peace and national consensus,” said the president.