Biden Says It’s ‘Not Time To Give Up’ On Reviving Iran Accord

TOP STORIES 

Biden Says It’s ‘Not Time To Give Up’ On Reviving Iran Accord | Bloomberg 

President Joe Biden said “it’s not time to give up” on reviving the accord restraining Iran’s nuclear program as talks between world powers drag on in Vienna. “There is some progress being made,” but “it remains to be seen” if Tehran will make a deal, Biden said in a news conference Wednesday marking his first year in office. Biden’s negotiators say they’ve largely agreed on the sanctions that would be lifted in exchange for Iran coming back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But they’re unable to satisfy Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s demand for guarantees that a future U.S. administration won’t quit the deal as former President Donald Trump did in 2018. 

China Discloses Iranian Oil Imports As Nuclear Talks Drag On | Bloomberg 

China disclosed its first Iranian oil imports in a year amid talks between Tehran and world powers aimed at reviving a nuclear accord that could pave the way for lifting U.S. sanctions. A total of 260,312 tons, or 1.9 million barrels, arrived in December, according to customs data on Thursday. That’s the first time the Chinese central government has reported any purchases from the fifth-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries since December 2020. 

Jailed French Tourist To Appear In Iran Court On Spying Charges -Lawyer | Reuters

A French tourist jailed in Iran, Benjamin Briere, will appear before a Revolutionary Court on Thursday on spying charges, his lawyer said on Wednesday, over a year after his arrest while operating a remote-controlled mini helicopter in a desert area. Briere has been held since May 2020, when he was arrested after flying a helicam - a remote-controlled mini helicopter used to obtain aerial or motion images - in the desert near the Turkmenistan-Iran border. He was charged with espionage and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic". "Benjamin will attend the court to be tried for spying and acting against national security charges," one of his lawyers, Saeid Dehghan, told Reuters. Representatives of Iran’s judiciary could not be reached for comment. 

UANI IN THE NEWS 

Former U.S. Hostage Goes On Hunger Strike To Push For Release Of Foreigners Held By Iran | Radio Free Europe 

…Rosen, a senior advisor to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a U.S.-based lobbying group that opposes the nuclear agreement and has pushed for tougher sanctions against Tehran, says Washington should not strike a deal with Iran if the country holds foreign nationals in prison. “My message is simple: no deal with Iran unless the hostages are free, and this message is a message [that] I will deliver both to the Iranian and to the American delegations in Vienna,” Rosen said in a January 17 video announcing his decision to stage a hunger strike. 

We Were Hostages in Iran. The U.S. Can Prevent More Stories Like Ours | UANI Senior Advisor Barry Rosen And Michael White For Newsweek  

Iran is a country rich in culture, beauty and architectural marvels, so it is no wonder that it continues to attract American travelers on tours arranged by U.S. travel agencies. But the American people deserve to know the truth. Due to the regime's longstanding policy of hostage-taking, an enriching visit to World Heritage Sites could easily end behind bars in a Tehran prison. Americans and Europeans alike run the risk of being taken and held for months or years—just as we both were, 39 years apart. 

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

Drones Jolt a Persian Gulf Focused on Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions | Bloomberg 

The drones that struck near Abu Dhabi’s airport and an oil depot this week served as a jolting reminder of an uncomfortable military reality: the ability of armed groups to target critical infrastructure using cheap, hard-to-repel weapons. Monday’s attack by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi fighters set fuel trucks ablaze, briefly disrupted air transit and killed three people. But its impact went further. Though it’s still not clear where Monday’s attack originated from, the group’s locally assembled “suicide” drones can now fly more than 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), putting the capital of the United Arab Emirates -- and its commercial hub Dubai -- within striking distance of northern Yemen. 

China Plays Discreet But Critical Role In Iran Nuclear Negotiations | France 24 

As talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal proceed in fits and starts, China is trying to position itself as a key player in the region, and for good cause: It is in Beijing's interest to push for the lifting of US sanctions on Iran, with which it has signed a historic bilateral partnership. Talks to revive the 2005 Iranian nuclear deal are entering the tough stage of discussing substance. The Iranians set the scene before a weekend of consultations in Vienna, when Irna, the official Iranian news agency, declared that the parties had reached the "stage of details, the most difficult part of the negotiations". 

Iran Deal Requires Faster Diplomacy Or Slower Nuclear Advances: U.S. Official | Axios 

To get a deal, Iran will have to either accelerate its pace at the negotiating table or slow down the pace of its nuclear program to buy more time for diplomacy, a senior U.S. official involved in the Vienna nuclear talks tells Axios. Why it matters: Biden administration officials have set the end of January or beginning of February as an unofficial deadline for the talks, in large part because they believe Iran's nuclear advances will soon render the 2015 deal ineffective. The U.S. official said there had been some progress recently in the nuclear talks but that it had been “painfully slow and painfully small," with the core issues still unresolved. 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS 

A Year Of Iran Talks Yields Little For The Biden Administration | The National 

A major foreign policy push in US President Joe Biden's first year was the attempt to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that his predecessor Donald Trump ripped up. But Mr Biden has little to show for his efforts as Tehran's proxies continue attacks against US and international interests in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Proponents and critics of the original nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saw Mr Biden fail to secure Iranian compliance early in 2021 under the Hassan Rouhani government. Hurdles only grew taller following the ascendance of hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency. 

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS 

Russia, China And Iran To Hold Joint Naval Drill On Friday – ISNA | Reuters 

China, Russia and Iran will hold their joint naval drills on Friday, a public relations official from Iran's armed forces told semi-official ISNA news agency on Thursday. The "2022 Marine Security Belt" joint drill will take place in the north of the Indian Ocean and is the third joint naval drill between the three countries, Mostafa Tajoldin added. 

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Russia And Iran Put On A Show Of Unity — Against The U.S. | The New York Times 

Sitting across a long table from President Vladimir V. Putin at a Covid-conscious distance, President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran reminded his Russian counterpart on Wednesday that Tehran had been “resisting America for 40 years.” And now that Russia was plunging deeper into its own confrontation with the United States, Mr. Raisi told Mr. Putin in televised remarks, it was time to take on “the power of the Americans with an increased synergy between our two countries.” It was a bit of geopolitical theater at the Kremlin at a critical moment for Washington and its adversaries. 

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN 

Iran Reveals Key Details Of Yemen Houthi Attack On UAE – Analysis | The Jerusalem Post 

A recent drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi has raised concerns across the Middle East about the increasing threat of Iranian drone technology. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen are alleged to be responsible for the attack, but key details remain missing from many accounts about how it was carried out. A long article at Iran’s Tasnim News, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has laid out a blow-by-blow account of the attack; its background is likely the fullest explanation yet as to what was behind it and Iran’s next steps.  

TURKEY & IRAN 

Iran Gas Flow To Turkey Cut By Technical Failure -Officials | Reuters

Turkey ordered gas-fuelled power plants to slash gas use by 40% after Iran cut gas flows to Turkey for up to 10 days due to a technical failure, sector officials said on Thursday, and an industry group warned that production would be hit. Turkish natural gas distributors were asked to reduce supply to 60% for large consumers except for gas used for heating, the Turkish sector officials said, adding that schools and hospitals will be exempt. Iran notified Turkey of a 10-day cut to natural gas flows but talks are ongoing to start flows earlier, the officials added.