A group of Taliban officials met over the weekend in Iran with leaders of several armed Afghan resistance groups, reportedly offering to let them return home safely. It was the first direct interaction between Afghanistan’s new rulers and an alliance of domestic militias that launched a short-lived uprising after the Islamist extremists took power in August. But a spokesman for the resistance groups later angrily rejected the Taliban’s outreach move, saying the meetings had “achieved nothing” and calling the Taliban a tyrannical regime that opposes human rights and freedoms. He said that the Taliban is not serious about addressing the group’s concerns and that they will continue to fight.
Foreign ministers from the Gulf, Iran and Turkey were separately heading to China this week for talks, China's foreign ministry said, while discussions were under way in Vienna on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the Secretary General of Gulf Cooperation Council were visiting China between Monday and Friday. Turkey's foreign minister was set to visit on Wednesday and Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Friday, the ministry said. "China and Iran resolutely support each other on the core issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press conference on Tuesday.
In 2021 alone, Iran’s naval forces and Revolutionary Guard added the Alvand destroyer, four Martoob al-Sabehat 15 Type submarines and 110 combat speedboats. And a top official says there’s more to come. Iran has ambitious plans to build a 6,000-ton destroyer and giant submarines, Rear Adm. Amir Rastegari, who heads the Iranian Defence Ministry’s Marine Industries Organization, told the local Mehr News Agency in April. Experts say the buildup of naval forces in Iran represents a rising threat to its neighboring countries. The Alvand, the newest ship of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, was set afloat on Dec. 19.
UANI IN THE NEWS
… Mousavian “recently sounded gleeful over the fact that American citizens and their families were concerned by death threats received from supporters of the Iranian regime in a documentary lauding the late Commander of the IRGC Quds Force Qassem Soleimani,” wrote the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Chairman, former US Senator Joe Lieberman, and CEO Mark D. Wallace, a former US Ambassador to the United Nations. “UANI strongly condemns Mousavian and calls upon Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber to dismiss him from any association or affiliation with Princeton without delay,” the two wrote. “His gleefulness at Americans who fear reprisals at the hands of the Islamic Republic should be cause for universal condemnation.”
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The Biden administration has warned that Iran is on the brink of producing enough fuel for a nuclear bomb. But how close is Iran to actually having the ability to launch a nuclear weapon? There are a number of critical technological hurdles Tehran must surmount first to acquire a fully functioning nuclear weapons program. Iran must develop enough highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium to fuel one or more nuclear bomb; construct a nuclear warhead capable of housing the fissile nuclear fuel; and develop a ballistic missile system capable of delivering a nuclear explosive to its target.
The media blackout on the nuclear negotiations in Vienna between Iran and representatives of the West, Russia and China makes it difficult to see exactly what was achieved, who made concessions, and, primarily, whether we can expect to see an agreement signed in the near future. The Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov who tends to take to Twitter to bypass the blackout, this week tweeted that “we will be able to sign an agreement by the beginning of February.” The Chinese representative Wang Qun said that “talks are progressing and will continue.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has asserted that negotiating does not mean giving in to the enemy. "Not surrendering to the enemies is one of the principles of the Islamic revolution. However, holding talks and negotiating with the enemy at a certain juncture does not mean surrendering. We have never surrendered so far, and we never will," Khamenei said. In his speech, Khamenei did not directly address the Vienna talks, but it is the first time he has approached the negotiations in general since their resumption in late November, according to Agence France Presse.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran’s prosecutor general threatened Monday to launch criminal proceedings against judiciary personnel who have protested against the denial of a planned pay rise. “The colleagues must put an end to some actions that can open the way to abuse by enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Mohammad Jafar Montazeri in a statement by the judiciary’s media arm Mizan Online. Such “illegal actions… contradict sharia principles and are liable to legal action,” he added.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
On Saturday, after reports stated that the despotic theocratic regime in Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, had sanctioned her, among other U.S. officials, for their involvement in the killing of terror-master Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley fired back that she viewed the sanction as a “badge of honor.” After former President Trump’s successful attempt to kill Soleimani, Haley tweeted, “Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands. His demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice. Proud of President Trump for doing the strong and right thing.”
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel will not be constrained by any agreement reached between world powers and Iran in Vienna, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. “It’s important for me to unequivocally clarify: Israel is not a side to the agreements, Israel is not obligated to what is written in these agreements if they are signed, and Israel will continue to maintain full freedom of action at any time or any place, without limitations,” he said, adding that Israel is concerned about the talks.
AFGHANISTAN & IRAN
The Taliban administration's acting foreign minister travelled to Iran to meet with his Iranian counterpart, who called for Afghan financial assets blocked since the Taliban takeover to be released for humanitarian purposes. A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry said on Monday the visit did not constitute official Iranian recognition of neighbouring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But Iran's foreign minister criticised the United States over the frozen assets.