US Secretary of State Antony Blinken backed a proposal from the European Union aimed at salvaging the Iran nuclear deal, saying Monday that the United States is "prepared to move forward on the basis of what's been agreed," but it is unclear if Iran is prepared to do the same. His comments come as hopes for reviving the 2015 agreement fade as Iran continues to breach its commitments under the deal and grow its nuclear program. The US withdrew from that deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 under former President Donald Trump.
The US sanctioned four companies associated with the shipping of Iranian oil and petrochemicals from Iran to East Asia, operations that officials said comprised tens of millions of dollars of the country’s product. “The United States continues to pursue the path of diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation” of the 2015 accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Brian Nelson, the under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.
Iran has been seeking to increase its influence in South America and undermine American interests and security, drawing little response from the Biden administration as it tries to salvage the Obama-era nuclear agreement with the country. "The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are much more actively involved in subversive and assassination issues," James Phillips, the senior research fellow for foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… Investigations by United Against Nuclear Iran, a pressure group, found that the Panama-flagged 7,425 dwt liquefied petroleum gas carrier spoofed its Automatic Identification System signals to hide its position while loading butadiene from Iran between July 4-8 last year. The vessel currently sits at anchor near China’s Fuzhou Port, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data. Its registered owner Golden Warrior Shipping is a Hong Kong-based company that also has an address in China’s Shandong province. Singapore-based Pioneer Shipmanagement has connections to LPG tankers Gas Orchid (IMO: 8912558) and Sea Opera (IMO: 9000883), both of which are suspected of having carried sanctioned Iranian oil, according to UANI.
Iran's illegal oil trade has boomed under the Biden administration, with the hardline regime selling more than $44 billion worth of its heavily sanctioned oil to malign regimes like China, Syria, and Venezuela, according to figures published by a watchdog group. From January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office, to June 2022, Iran sold around $44.7 billion in oil primarily to China. The regime's export revenues between March 2021 and March 2022 from oil, gas, and related products "totaled $39 billion, compared [with] $22 billion for the previous year—a rise of 77 percent and an extra $17 billion," according to United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), a watchdog group that tracks Iran's network of illegal oil tankers. "This drastic increase in revenue is not surprising when you look at the increase in oil exports that have occurred under the Biden administration," UANI chief of staff Claire Jungman told the Washington Free Beacon. "This is the result of terminally lax sanctions enforcement."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A return to the 2015 nuclear deal remains the best outcome for the United States, Iran and the world, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at global nonproliferation discussions at the United Nations on Monday. Blinken also repeated a U.S. warning that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test. U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier that Washington was ready to outline a new nuclear arms deal with Russia and called on Moscow to demonstrate its ability to negotiate in good faith at the talks that began on Monday.
Iran has begun the process of feeding gas into cascades of new centrifuges as its top diplomat proposed a new round of negotiations in Vienna to restore the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), told state television Monday night that an order was given to begin feeding gas into “hundreds” of both first-generation IR-1 and advanced IR-6 machines.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran’s intelligence ministry said on Monday it had arrested a number of adherents of the banned Baha’i faith for links to a centre in Israel, and for proselytising in schools and kindergartens. The ministry statement, carried by state media, did not say how many people were arrested or when the arrests were made. The Baha'i International Community - which represents the faith worldwide, and operates, according to its website, under a governing council based in Israel - tweeted on Sunday that “a significant number of Bahais,” including three of its former leaders, had been arrested in Iran.
Executions on a scale not seen for years. Mass arrests of regime critics including top film-makers. Trials of foreign nationals denounced as a sham by their families. Activists argue Iran is in the throes of an intensified crackdown affecting all sectors of society from trade union activists, to campaigners against the enforced wearing of the headscarf for women, to religious minorities. The repression comes one year into the rule of President Ebrahim Raisi, the ultra-conservative former judiciary chief who in August 2021 took over from the more moderate Hassan Rouhani.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A year after Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi took power, his government has curbed the COVID pandemic but faces a sharp downturn of the sanctions-hit economy as nuclear talks remain stalled. Having pledged to help especially the poor, the ultraconservative cleric now faces runaway consumer prices that have sparked protests. Raisi was elected in June last year in a ballot for which less than half of voters turned up, after his major rivals had been disqualified by electoral bodies.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Vladimir Putin has traveled outside the boundaries of the former Soviet Union only twice this year. Once was to visit China in February, and once was to visit Iran last month, my colleague David Sanger points out. Those two countries obviously have something in common. Like Russia, both China and Iran view the U.S. as an adversary. If the world is breaking into two competing blocs — democracy versus autocracy, as President Biden has put it — Russia, China, and Iran make up the core of the anti-U.S. bloc. And they recently seem to be increasing their cooperation. Their closer ties raise an alarming prospect: What if all three countries decide to confront the U.S. simultaneously sometime soon in an effort to overwhelm the American ability to respond?
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
Border clashes are continuing on Iran’s border with Afghanistan, prompting the two countries to formally meet on the issue. Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister Seyyed Majid Mir-Ahmadi said yesterday that border guards for the Taliban government in Afghanistan shot at Iranian border guards late last month. Iranian forces returned fire, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Today, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s special representative to Afghanistan, announced the formation of a joint committee between the two countries to prevent further border conflicts.