Iran and world powers are still far from any agreement to revive their 2015 nuclear deal despite making some progress at the end of December, France's foreign minister said on Tuesday. Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed on Jan. 3. Western diplomats have indicated they are hoping to have a breakthrough by the end of January or early February, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved. Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.
The presence of a senior Iranian official at the investiture of Nicaragua’s president has angered Argentina, which alleges the official was involved in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the appearance of Mohsen Rezaei, the Iranian vice president for economic affairs, at the Nicaraguan ceremony on Monday was “an affront to Argentine justice and to the victims of the brutal terrorist attack″ in the Argentine capital.
An Iranian employee of the British Council arrested in Tehran and later sentenced to 10 years in prison over internationally criticized espionage charges has been freed and traveled to the United Kingdom, the organization said Wednesday. Iranian authorities did not immediately acknowledge the release of Aras Amiri. However, it comes amid ongoing negotiations in Vienna between Iran and world powers, including the U.K., over its tattered 2015 nuclear deal. The British Council said Wednesday that an appeal her lawyers made to Iran’s Supreme Court had been successful. Amiri worked for the council’s London office.
UANI IN THE NEWS
“If we have a return to the agreement, we need to know what the next step is. (US President Joe) Biden had promised a longer, stronger deal. That is for domestic political purposes, but it is also for US allies and partners. If the US can’t get it, then this deal is going to be in serious jeopardy again right from the start,” Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told The Media Line. “The Saudis, Emiratis and Israelis are quite nervous right now. They’ve seen this movie before, from 2015-18, when the US was still a party to the deal. Iran had more assets and financial ability to meddle and cause chaos in the region. This time, there will be an attempt to reassure regional players that Iran is committed to a regional security dialogue, to try to pacify and disarm critics of the deal. Without leverage on the Iranians, though, it’s meaningless,” Brodsky said.
Mousavian has frequently raised eyebrows and been the subject of criticism, but he may have crossed a line this time. Norman Roule, a former senior CIA advisor who was the agency’s intelligence manager for Iran called Mousavian’s comments “despicable.” Roule is currently a senior fellow at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a nongovernmental organization that is home to many former senior officials – senators, congressmen, diplomats, senior administration officials, and senior intelligence veterans from the United States and Western Europe – including Tamir Pardo, the former head of the Mossad. UANI chairman and former United States Senator Joe Lieberman condemned Mousavian’s statements and called for Princeton to dismiss him immediately. Noting the 1992 assassinations in Germany, Lieberman said Mousavian’s employment constituted a stain on the university’s reputation and credibility. “At a time in which the U.S. intelligence community assess that the Islamic Republic is working to develop networks for terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland, there should be no room at Princeton or any other U.S. institution for Ambassador Mousavian,” Lieberman said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Russia's representative at the Vienna talks has said the most important aspects of sanctions against Iran will be lifted. Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told the Tehran Times on Tuesday: “I can tell you for sure that as a result of the Vienna talks, the main body of anti-Iranian sanctions will be lifted, including in the most important areas, such as oil, trade, and many, many other areas." Iran, the US and EU have been holding talks in Austria’s capital - along with China, Russia and the UK - in the hope of reaching a new deal to curb Tehran's nuclear programme.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Cheaper crude from Iran and Venezuela while international oil benchmarks were rallying was incentive enough for the world's top oil importer, China, to purchase in 2021 the most crude from the two U.S.-sanctioned exporters in three years, shrugging off risks of penalties from the United States. Chinese refiners imported 53 percent more oil from Iran and Venezuela last year compared to 2020, according to estimates from market intelligence firm Kpler cited by Bloomberg. In total, China imported last year 324 million barrels of crude from Iran and Venezuela combined, the highest volume since 2018.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Two years after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran, families of the victims are still searching for answers and seeking justice. Among them are Iranian university professors Mohsen Asadi-Lari and his wife, Zahra Majd, who lost two of their children in the crash. Mohammad Asadi-Lari, 23, and his 21-year-old sister, Zeynab Asadi-Lari, were on their way back to Canada, where the siblings had been studying.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A homeless mother and her young child sleep on a night bus as it weaves through the empty streets of the Iranian capital, Tehran. The pair are among a growing number of Iranians who are resorting to sleeping in public buses out of economic desperation. Photos of the mother and daughter have gone viral on social media, serving to highlight the deepening poverty in Iran, where the economy has been crippled by tough international sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic, and years of mismanagement.
A number of lawmakers in Iran's conservative parliament are advancing an impeachment bid against the country's health minister, marking the first such attempt against the government of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi. During an open meeting Jan. 11, the impeachment motion's architect, Kamal Hosseinpour, criticized the health minister's personal preference in COVID-19 vaccination, and his decision to take an imported dose instead of an Iranian one. "This is inappropriate and [reveals] a significant flaw," the lawmaker said.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iranian media, to mark the anniversary of the death of Qasem Soleimani, have provided unique new details about Iran’s support for Palestinian groups. In a recent article from the Tasnim News branch located in Damascus, a report claims to provide new details on the “untold” story of how the Islamic Republic ran guns and technology to Palestinian groups. The report says that Soleimani, the Quds Force commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, worked for more than two decades to make Iran the “most relevant to different groups in Palestine" that were established.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Qatar and Iran’s top diplomats met in Doha today. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani hosted his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian for an official visit. They discussed bilateral relations and unspecified “regional developments,” according to a statement from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amir-Abdollahian also promised to provide Qatar “technical and engineering services” related to the 2022 World Cup, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The tournament will take place in Doha from November to December.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Monday that Tehran hopes to develop and strengthen relations with the Gulf States. He was speaking in Muscat, on his first visit to a Gulf country after taking office in September. Abdollahian conveyed the greetings of President Ibrahim Raisi to Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the Oman News Agency reported. It added that a meeting between Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad Al Busaidi and his Iranian counterpart touched on the means to strengthen bilateral relations in various fields.
IRAQ & IRAN
A group of Iraqi Shiite political parties that includes Iran-backed militias has contested the outcome of the weekend's first parliament session after October elections. The issue will be taken to the country’s Supreme Federal Court, a politician told The National. The move by the Co-ordination Framework could further prolong the process of forming a new government, which officially started with Sunday’s session when the legislative body convened and re-elected the speaker and his two deputies.