Senior European diplomats warned on Tuesday that negotiations to revive nuclear talks could be terminated if Iran moved to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel. “It would seriously imperil the process” if Iran did something “as provocative as going to 90% enrichment,” said a senior diplomat from the three Western European nations that are participating in the talks—Britain, France and Germany. The warning came on the second day of the latest round of talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, which lifted most international sanctions on Iran in exchange for tight but temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran must show seriousness this week about reviving a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, European diplomats said on Tuesday, saying otherwise they had a "problem" and it remained unclear if Tehran would resume talks where they left off in June. After a five-month hiatus, diplomats on Monday resumed talks on reviving the pact, which then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. economic sanctions. Trump's moves infuriated Iran and dismayed the other powers involved - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Financially motivated hackers likely based in Iran are successfully targeting and stealing billions in currency from Iranian civilians through a texting campaign, new research released Wednesday found. Israeli-American cybersecurity company Check Point Research found evidence that tens of thousands of Iranians had been targeted in the scheme, which involved the hackers sending texts to Android users that impersonated branches of the Iranian government. The texts prompted victims to download malicious applications that then steal credit card information and two-factor authentication codes, with the infected devices then used as bots by the hackers to spread the campaign further. The average victim lost between $1,000 and $2,000, and the Check Point researchers found that the stolen data was easily accessible online to third parties.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
French President Emmanuel Macron has called on his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to engage in a "constructive manner" in ongoing international negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. In telephone talks on November 29, Macron told Raisi that Paris’s objective is "to see Iran return to full respect for all of its commitments” under the accord and that “the United States return to the agreement," according to the French presidency. Raisi's office quoted the Iranian president as saying that "sending a full team to the talks shows Iran's serious will” in the negotiations in the Austrian capital.
Israel’s alleged assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh did not have the desired effect of slowing down Iran’s nuclear work, an official told Israeli television on Tuesday. “The killing of Fakhrizadeh a year ago did not brake Iran’s progress as was hoped,” the anonymous Israeli official was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news. “The current situation is the most advanced that Iran has ever reached.” Therefore, the official added, “there is a huge global Israeli effort — both publicly and behind the scenes — to push for an upgraded agreement as well as simultaneously building a large and significant attack plan.”
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with French President Emmanuel Macron today at the Elysee Palace. The focus of the meeting was the resumption of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna yesterday, Nov. 29, over Israeli protests. Lapid raised the same issue yesterday in London in his meetings with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Lapid’s office noted in a statement that the meeting with Macron was warm and friendly and that Lapid reiterated Israel’s stance that Iran is trying to stall for time to advance its nuclear program. Lapid also stressed the immediate need for the world powers to restore sanctions on Iran and to formulate what he called a Plan B.
Iran has entered a gas swap agreement with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on Sunday on the sidelines of the 15th meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization. “According to the agreement, 1.5 to 2 billion cubic meters of gas will be imported to Iran annually from Turkmenistan (Sarakhs) and will be sent to Azerbaijan (Astara) through the Iran Transmission Line Network,” Tasnim News reported in Iran. Voice of America confirmed that Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan had signed a trilateral gas swap deal for up to 2 billion cubic meters per year, based on Iranian media reports.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Amid a wave of protests in Iran over mass water shortages that has shaken the Iranian regime, an Iranian-American group is petitioning the Biden State Department for an immediate sit-down about ways to hold the regime accountable for its violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. The National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), a nonpartisan organization of Iranian Americans that promotes human rights in Iran, says the latest mass protests—and the Iranian regime's violent crackdown—represent a watershed moment in the Iranian people's efforts to depose the hardline clerical regime.
CONGRESS & IRAN
A group of 25 Republican members of Congress wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden this week pledging to block any sanctions relief for Iran, as negotiators meet in Vienna to try to reach an agreement on the nuclear deal. The letter, obtained by The National, accuses the White House of withholding information from Congress and ignoring requests to provide details about the nature of negotiations with Tehran. “Despite over a dozen letters by members of the Republican Study Committee asking for information on Iran sanctions enforcement, your administration has continued to leave Congress in the dark regarding its plans to weaken sanctions enforcement and provide sanctions relief to Iran,” the letter read.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
As negotiators gathered in Vienna for talks with Iran on its nuclear program Nov. 29, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed them in a tough-talking video, urging them not to give in to Iranian “nuclear blackmail” and not to reward Tehran's brutality, reminding his listeners that Iran has often vowed to destroy Israel. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (in London) and President Isaac Herzog in his largely ceremonial role also spoke from the same page of talking points. All declared that Israel reserves the right to defend itself and called on world powers to rein in and block Iran rather than surrender to its “blackmail.”
Lifting sanctions on Iran could lead to military action by Israel, officials in Jerusalem warned world powers, as negotiations to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program continued on Tuesday. If the US lifts sanctions – along with international sanctions soon to be lifted under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal – Iran could reach the nuclear threshold within six months, Israel has warned. At that point, Israel could find it necessary to take unilateral action.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
A senior Emirati official said on Tuesday the United Arab Emirates would soon send a delegation to Iran as part of efforts to improve ties with rival Tehran. "I hope that it is the sooner the better and all our friends are aware of it," Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, told reporters when asked when a UAE delegation would hold talks in Tehran. The idea was to "turn over a new page" in relations, he said. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, met Gargash and other Emirati officials on Nov. 24 in a rare visit.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The Iranian government said today that they are willing to continue talks with Ukraine on the Ukrainian passenger plane shot down last year in Tehran. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement they are “ready to continue with bilateral interactions through the embassies of both sides and arrange meetings between officials from Iran and Ukraine to further discuss the case,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by the Iranian military on Jan. 8, 2020, while they were striking US military positions in neighboring Iraq.