Iran, the U.S. and the European Union said Wednesday that they would send negotiators to Vienna for what could be make-or-break talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, but expectations of an agreement weren’t high after months of stalled negotiations. A senior Western official said the latest Vienna talks, which will start Thursday, were a chance to agree on the final points of a deal to revive the nuclear pact. That agreement lifted most international sanctions on Iran in exchange for tight but temporary restrictions on its nuclear work.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on Wednesday and expressed his concern over her safety following the arrest of a man with a rifle outside her home in New York last week, an NSC spokesperson said in a statement. The man, Khalid Mehdiyev, spent two days last week outside the home of Alinejad, and at one point attempted to open the door, an FBI agent wrote in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court last week. Police stopped him after he ran a stop sign and found the gun in the back seat of the car, according to the complaint.
Iranian officials now speak openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: The Islamic Republic is ready to build an atomic weapon at will. The remarks could be bluster to force more bargaining-table concessions from the U.S. without planning to seek the bomb. Or, as analysts warn, Iran could reach a point like North Korea did some 20 years ago where it decides having the ultimate weapon outweighs any further international sanctions.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…Two of the sanctioned cargo ships, the Adler and the Ascalon, were previously involved in delivering a shipment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia to China in 2018 while operating under different names, according to an investigation by the independent Russian news site Meduza. A second vessel, the Maia 1, which called at the port of Cochin, is reported to have been shipping military equipment. The oil tanker, the Inda, has previously been accused of transporting Iranian crude oil by U.S.-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.
Iran has made $44.7 billion in illegal oil sales since US President Joe Biden assumed office, selling its oil mainly to dictatorships like China, Syria and Venezuela, watchdog group United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) said in a report. Iran’s illegal selling of sanctioned oil has skyrocketed under the Biden presidency. From January 2021 until June 2022, Iran sold $44.7 billion mostly to China, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Tehran’s energy exports "totaled $39 billion, compared [with] $22 billion for the previous year – a rise of 77 percent and an extra $17 billion," said UANI, which monitors Iran’s fleet of illegal oil tankers.
Iran has massively profited off the illegal oil trade during President Biden’s time in office, raking in a whopping $44.7 billion in sales while laughing at the weak American president and his sanctions. The Islamic Republic has aligned itself with America’s foremost enemies, China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and others, selling them its oil according to figures published by United Against Nuclear Iran. From the time that Biden took office through June 2022, Iran made its massive sales of oil primarily to China which is also mocking U.S. sanctions.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Top Iranian and U.S. officials will resume talks in Vienna this week on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact, officials from both countries said on Wednesday, though they played down chances of a breakthrough and placed the onus on each other to compromise. The ball is in Washington's court to save the pact, Iran's chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted before heading to Vienna, calling on Washington to "show maturity & act responsibly".
Iran has completed installing three advanced IR-6 centrifuge cascades at its Natanz fuel enrichment plant (FEP), according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report to member states on Wednesday seen by Reuters. Iran has also informed the agency it plans to install an additional six IR-2m cascades at the FEP in a new operating unit, the report said, as top Iranian and U.S. officials headed to Vienna for talks this week on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact.
Several senior Iranian officials and politicians have opened the door over the last two weeks to the possibility of producing nuclear weapons — despite the fact that Iran has long maintained it will never do so. Driving the news: Iran says Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa — a legal Islamic ruling — against nuclear weapons. But in an unusual statement on Tuesday, Iranian MP Mohammad-Reza Sabbaghian Bafghi warned that Parliament could ask Khamenei to revise his fatwa if Iran's "enemies... continue their threats."
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran exported 366,000 tons of gasoline from March 21-July 20, and earned $133 million, spokesman of the country’s customs organization told local media on Wednesday. Ruhollah Latifi said that the biggest destination for Iran’s gasoline shipments was the United Arab Emirates that purchased 269,000 tons, followed by Afghanistan 59,000 and Iraq with 34,000 tons. Despite cheap prices Iran is offering the exports seem quite modest due to sanctions by the United States, which create risk of secondary sanctions on buyers and payment difficulties. Iran’s refining capacity is also limited, and its extremely low domestic prices keep consumption high. Lately there has been talk in local media of Iran being forced to import gasoline.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
When Sepideh Rashno appeared last month on Iranian state television to apologize to another woman for refusing to wear a hijab in public, longtime observers of Iran's government viewed her actions as a “forced confession.” A viral video posted days earlier appeared to show Rashno in public without a hijab, which Iranian women have been required by law since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Rashno appeared to be arguing with a woman who wore a hijab, saying she would send the video of their altercation "to the world."
Amnesty International says several people were killed in May when Iranian security forces used live ammunition to quell protests over the rising cost of living and has called on the international community to hold authorities to account. The protests over rising food prices erupted in southwestern Khuzestan Province in early May before spreading to neighboring Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari provinces. In a report published on August 3, Amnesty said video and audio evidence indicated that security forces "fired weapons loaded with live ammunition and birdshot on multiple occasions during the protests."
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has arrested a group of 10 Islamic State militants who were planning attacks on religious gatherings, the Iranian intelligence ministry said on Thursday. The 10 were captured in possession of explosive equipment, communication devices and weapons, a ministry statement said, adding the arrests took place over the past three days in two locations in western and southern Iran. The militants injured two Iranian intelligence agents in an exchange of fire before being arrested, the ministry said, without specifying where or when the clash took place.