Iran is not prepared to resume negotiations on coming back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal until Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi's administration has begun, a diplomatic source said on Wednesday. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Iran had conveyed this to European officials acting as interlocutors in the indirect U.S.-Iranian negotiations and that the current thinking is the Vienna talks will not resume before mid-August.
Outgoing Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a report to parliament that the Biden administration has agreed to lift almost all U.S. sanctions on Iran to secure a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Why it matters: The report includes details that hadn't been made public before now and is the most official and comprehensive Iranian account of the status of the indirect talks with the U.S. The Farsi-language document also serves as Zarif's "political will" for the incoming hard-line administration.
The United States said Wednesday it was allowing Iran to use frozen funds to settle debts in South Korea and Japan, as talks drag on over reviving a nuclear deal that could see sanctions relief. The United States maintains sweeping sanctions on the clerical regime, meaning that companies that deal with many bank accounts in Iran can face legal penalties in the world's largest economy. The State Department said that it has been letting Japanese and South Korean companies receive payments from US-targeted Iranian accounts to pay for exports shipped before former president Donald Trump's administration started enforcing its toughest sanctions in 2019.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is set to cease operations at the end of July due to lack of funds as Beirut sinks deeper into economic and political crisis. The tribunal was created by United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1757 (2007) and was officially established in 2009 to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The tribunal’s budget was $67 million last year, with Lebanon paying 49% of the bill and foreign donors and the UN members covering the rest. Unsurprisingly, however, Lebanon is unable to pay the invoice. Following the first judgment issued in August 2020, the STL found only one individual, Hezbollah member Salim Ayyash, guilty for the bombing that killed then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and twenty-one others.
Former Connecticut Senator and United Against Nuclear Iran Chairman Joe Lieberman argued that President Biden should not negotiate with Iran in wake of recent actions, and an alleged plot to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist on FOX Business’ "Mornings with Maria."
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said that the country had the ability to reach the 90 percent uranium enrichment level needed to manufacture nuclear weapons, though the government is still aiming to renegotiate the fractured 2015 nuclear deal. Rouhani, who is set to leave office next month and be replaced by hard-line President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, reportedly said in remarks published by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency that “even if one day there is a need for 90 percent enrichment for a reactor, we do not have any problem and we are able.”
The United States will continue to negotiate a mutual return to the landmark Iranian nuclear accord, despite allegations of an Iranian-orchestrated plot to kidnap an American journalist, US officials said Wednesday. According to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, four Iranian operatives have been charged over a conspiracy to kidnap Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based Iranian dissident and author who fled Iran in 2009. Prosecutors say the Iranian spy network had surveilled Alinejad and were planning to forcibly take her to Iran, “where the victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best.”
This week marks the six-year anniversary of the creation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between and the P5+1 nations, which has informally become known as the “Iran nuclear deal.” Proponents of the deal assert that the agreement is the best method for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, proponents of the deal are sadly mistaken. The JCPOA contains many flaws that not only fail to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but actually grant Iran an internationally recognized path to nuclear weapons, in addition to emboldening the country’s military and regional ambitions.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
An Iranian-American journalist who was allegedly the target of a wild, elaborate plot by Iran to use a speedboat to kidnap her in New York City, has vowed she will not be silenced. Federal prosecutors said they had charged four Iranians with plotting to kidnap journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who lives in Brooklyn and is an outspoken critic of the Iranian government. An American-Iranian who lives in California was arrested earlier this month and charged with providing funds to the plot.
Iran rejected as "ridiculous and baseless" the United States' claim of Tehran's involvement in plotting to kidnap a New York journalist and human rights activist who was critical of the Islamic Republic, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday. "This new claim by the U.S. government ... is so baseless and ridiculous that it is not really worth answering," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh. A Justice Department indictment unsealed on Tuesday showed that U.S. prosecutors have charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, with plotting to kidnap the activist.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The Israel Defense Forces is reportedly asking for a major budget increase worth billions of shekels so that it can properly prepare for a potential attack against Iran’s nuclear program. The request was made during preliminary discussions on the budget that the new government will seek to pass in the coming months, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday. Those discussions took place as Israel began preparing for the possibility that indirect negotiations between the US and Iran in Vienna, aimed at reviving their multilateral nuclear agreement, will fall apart, Kan said.
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon's pending collapse.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The head of the U.K.’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, said the agency is doubling the resources it devotes to tackling threats from Russia, China and Iran—and faces a growing challenge from right-wing extremists, many of whom are teenagers. The shift of emphasis comes after 20 years of focus on Islamist terrorism has crowded out other priorities for the agency. Yet, MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum said, Islamist terrorism still constitutes the agency’s largest operational mission and new challenges could arise as the U.S. and its allies depart from Afghanistan.