The United States took a major step on Thursday toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said. In a series of moves intended to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, the administration also backed away from a Trump administration effort to restore United Nations sanctions on Iran. That effort had divided Washington from its European allies.
The Biden administration on Thursday rescinded former president Donald Trump’s restoration of U.N. sanctions on Iran, an announcement that could help Washington move toward rejoining the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at reining in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council on behalf of President Joe Biden saying the United States “hereby withdraws” three letters from the Trump administration culminating in its Sept. 19 announcement that the United States had re-imposed U.N. sanctions on Tehran.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and the United States expressed their “shared fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime” for Iran when they met on Thursday, Britain said. “Regarding Iran, the E3 and the United States expressed their shared fundamental security interest in upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensuring that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon,” the foreign ministry said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Given the extreme unlikelihood of the U.S. returning to the currently structured Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Iran’s unwillingness to renegotiate the deal any time soon, the Islamic Republic remains focused on three key areas where it can make money despite ongoing sanctions form Washington. Alongside the continued development of its huge West Karoun oil fields, the completion of the supergiant South Pars non-associated gas offshore sector (including the implementation of Phase 11 operations), and the finalisation of the crude oil transfer pipeline from Guriyeh to Jask, Iran’s core focus in the current sanctions environment is to optimise the output and revenues from its already world-scale petrochemicals sector.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
A person with dual French and Iranian citizenship and a German national were arrested in Iran more than two weeks ago, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on Friday. Without citing its sources, the newspaper said the two individuals were arrested and detained before Feb. 4 as leverage in anticipation of the sentencing of Iranian diplomat Assadolah Assadi in Belgium that day. The diplomat was sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France in 2018.
When a foreign government befriends Iran and pursues appeasement policies toward Tehran, it opens the door for the regime to exploit it and pursue its hard-line agenda on that foreign soil more easily. A recent example is the case of Turkey, which has been cozying up with the Iranian regime and consequently harming its own national interests. Ankara’s close relationship with Tehran has emboldened and empowered the regime to reportedly assassinate dissidents on Turkish soil.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Yesterday, the U.S. offered to join talks it hopes will revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — first bringing Tehran back into full compliance, then lifting the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. So far, the Iranian regime has seemed uninterested. Its leaders have threatened that if President Joe Biden doesn’t ease U.S. sanctions by next week, they’ll limit international inspectors’ access to suspected nuclear sites. Biden is right to talk, but he shouldn’t deviate from compliance first, then sanctions relief.
On Monday, armed militants launched rockets at a U.S. air base in northern Iraq. The Biden administration still hadn’t weighed in on who was responsible as of Thursday evening, even though an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite militia quickly claimed credit. As the United States commences its new diplomatic engagement with Iran, the administration must insist Tehran stop its proxies from attacking Americans. On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a video conference with his British, French and German counterparts, after which they issued a joint statement officially kicking off efforts to re-engage Iran in nuclear negotiations.
A mix of grief and defiance permeated through the crowd that gathered in the southern suburbs of Beirut last week to bid final farewell to Lokman Slim, a friend who was widely recognized for being a sharp critic of Hezbollah. He worked on a range of issues that put him at odds with the Iran-backed militants, including LGBTQ rights, women's rights, justice for political prisoners in neighboring Syria and opposition to Iranian regional hegemony.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
They were hardly revolutionaries, both being men of "the system." They ran on kinder, gentler Islamic Republic of Iran tickets and captivated the country’s youth, who, having learned from their parents’ stories how bloody revolution can be and figured reforming the system from within would be better than toppling it, figured it was the safer, more stable way to get the change they craved. But those two men who ran for change were sent home from where they’ve essentially never been allowed to leave.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The Biden administration informed Israel in advance that it planned to announce on Thursday it was ready to talk to Iran about Washington and Tehran returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. Biden's aides wanted to avoid blindsiding Israel, Iran's regional arch-foe, over the U.S. plans, which included telling the U.N. Security Council the new administration was rescinding former President Donald Trump's assertion that all U.N. sanctions had been reimposed on Iran in September.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
The U.S. military is looking for fallback bases in Saudi Arabia to prevent its troops deployed there from becoming obvious targets in the event of tensions with Iran, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. "We are not looking for new bases. I want to be clear on that," said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Army Central Command, during a tour of the Middle East. "What we would like to do, without shutting down these (current) bases ... is to have the ability to go to other bases to operate in a period of heightened risk," he explained.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran could move up to 200 long-range missiles to Iraq, a report noted earlier this week, a move that would be designed to put in place missiles that could reach Israel. The reason Iran might do this is to prevent a direct IDF retaliation against targets within Iranian territory if there is a confrontation with Iran or Hezbollah in Syria or Lebanon. In a sense, Iran’s concept of using ballistic missiles based in Iraq is similar to the planning concepts that underpinned US-Soviet tensions over missile bases and strike capability during the Cold War.