Iran’s top leader injected new doubts Wednesday into the stalled effort to save the country’s 2015 nuclear pact with major powers, accusing the United States of duplicity and chastising the outgoing Iranian president as naïve. The remarks by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, come one week before President Hassan Rouhani — an architect of the original nuclear accord — will step down after eight years. The fate of Iran’s negotiations with the United States to revive the accord, which have been suspended for more than a month, now falls to Mr. Rouhani’s successor, Ebrahim Raisi, an arch-conservative disciple of Mr. Khamenei who takes office in a week.
Here is a snapshot of what’s happening with Iran, its nuclear talks and energy markets. Iran’s Supreme Leader lashed out at the U.S. and other Western powers on Wednesday, accusing them of malice and failing to meet commitments made during nuclear negotiations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments came as President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric, prepares to take office on Aug. 5. They underscore the tensions between Tehran and world powers after a sixth round of talks in Vienna broke up last month without a deal.
The State Department on Wednesday condemned the use of violence against anti-government protesters in Iran, a rebuke that comes as nuclear negotiations with Tehran remain at a standstill. The widespread protests, which erupted nearly two weeks ago over chronic water shortages in the southwestern region of Khuzestan, have spread to several cities including the capital, Tehran. Amnesty International has accused Iran’s security forces of deploying unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition and birdshot, on the protests.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
With the new Iranian government about to take office, U.S. officials are stressing that Iran won't win more concessions by attempting to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna. State of play: The U.S. hoped an agreement on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal would be reached before hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office. But after six rounds of talks, the negotiations were suspended by the Iranians until the new government can form its own negotiating team. Driving the news: Raisi will be inaugurated next week and start to fill out his government.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has attributed the Biden administration’s push for talks with Tehran to the need to “put Iran’s nuclear program in a box.” Iran has added urgency to the White House’s efforts by announcing ever greater nuclear advances in recent months. But what if Iran is bluffing? U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has attributed the Biden administration’s push for talks with Tehran to the need to “put Iran’s nuclear program in a box.” Iran has added urgency to the White House’s efforts by announcing ever greater nuclear advances in recent months.
Iran is perhaps 18 to 24 months from completing an underground centrifuge assembly hall at its Natanz nuclear facility, according to a recently released analysis from Center for Security and International Cooperation. The analysis shows that Iran will be able to rebuild and extend its ability to enrich uranium despite several high-profile setbacks that Iranian officials have blamed on sabotage. The new facility, which CISAC analysts first described to the New York Times in December, is just south of existing facilities at Natanz.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The State Department on Wednesday said it was monitoring reports of internet outages and slowdowns in Iran amid ongoing anti-government protests spurred by a water shortage in the country. State spokesman Ned Price said in a statement issued by his office that the U.S. supports the “right” of the Iranian people “to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.” “The Iranian people are now putting a spotlight not only on their unmet needs but also their unfulfilled aspirations for respect for human rights — rights to which individuals the world over are entitled,” Price explained.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Severe water shortages in Iran in recent weeks have prompted electricity outages and even sparked deadly protests, but analysts say the underlying causes go back decades - and will rattle the country for much longer than this summer's drought. Sadeq Ziaeian, director of Iran's National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center, said the country was facing one of its toughest rainfall seasons in 50 years. In comments to the official IRNA agency and carried by the Tehran Times, he noted rainfall had dropped by nearly 50% in South Khorasan province this year compared to the long-term average and by as much as 80% in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan province.
CONGRESS & IRAN
Republican senators called on the White House to block senior Iranian officials, including incoming hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, from entering the United States to attend the United Nations’ annual general assembly later this year. In a letter sent late Tuesday, the group of senators led by Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) petitioned the Biden administration to deny visas to Raisi and other Iranian government diplomats, citing Raisi’s leading role in a 1988 "death commission" that approved the mass murder of Iranian dissidents.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
A bundle of leaked intelligence documents purportedly created by a secret intelligence unit within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp and obtained by Sky News reveals proxy wars being fought between Israel and Iran online and at sea. The documents, dubbed “Iran’s secret cyber files,” detail five different reports created during 2020 by what Sky News identified as “Intelligence Group 13,” said to be “a sub-group within the IRGC Shahid Kaveh unit," according to a source the British news network spoke with. Each of the reports were labeled “very confidential” and relate to maritime and cyber sectors.
Iranian and Israeli media have an ecosystem of quoting each other and also quoting other regional sources, such as Arabic-language media. This can be part of the war of words in the region or used to spread information and misinformation, or in other cases to confirm and affirm what is already known. This sometimes creates a kind of laundered affect for information, whereby Iran boasts of various threats which then get reprinted in Israeli media and then get “reported” on in Iran, as though Israel is concerned about the threats.