Trump administration sanctions on Iran decimated the hardline regime's trade with the world's largest economies, knocking it from $46 billion in 2019 to $28 billion in 2020, according to a non-public report sent by the Biden administration to Congress earlier this month. The roughly $18 billion decrease in trade was a significant blow to Iran's attempts to gain access to hard currency amid an ongoing cash crunch that has ruined the country's economy and sparked nationwide protests. All told, the reimposition of sanctions, which began in 2018, decreased Iran's trade by more than $70 billion.
Ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will not meet with Iran at the United Nations this week to discuss a return to nuclear deal talks, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Monday. Diplomats were tentatively planning for a ministerial meeting of the parties to the 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders. "Some years it happens, some years it doesn't happen. It's not in the agenda," said Borrell, who acts as coordinator for the nuclear deal - known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On Sunday, the Chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council Sadegh Larijani announced the appointment of Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr as the new secretary of the Expediency Council, following the resignation of Mohsen Rezaei. Rezaei had held this post since 1997—he used it as a platform to mount unsuccessful runs for parliament and the presidency. That changed after he became vice president for economic affairs in the Raisi administration, which resulted in the need for a shakeup on the Expediency Council.
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NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saudi Arabia on Monday condemned Iran’s drive to obtain a nuclear bomb and Tehran’s failure to cooperate with the UN watchdog inspecting its nuclear program. The Kingdom’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, also called for the nuclear threat from Israel be dealt with, and for the Middle East to be free of nuclear weapons. Prince Abdulaziz told the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna: “The Kingdom expresses its concern with regards to Iran’s noncompliance with its commitments to the safeguards agreement, and its non-transparency with the agency, which poses a threat to the non-proliferation ecosystem.
As the UN General Assembly gets underway in earnest, one of the biggest threats facing the world remains Iran’s nuclear intentions. As Israel’s new Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has recently stated: “Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon is not only an Israeli problem, it’s a problem for the entire world.” This march has seen a significant acceleration in just the last few months. The latest developments on this front came last week when the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), presented a report describing Iran’s refusal to provide answers to a probe into its nuclear activities.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
After Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a bloc of Eurasian states committed to improving political, economic, and security ties, newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi declared that Iran’s accession represented a rejection of the “unilateralism” of the United States. Iranian state media announced Tehran’s entry into the pact on Friday, saying that it had been approved during the SCO’s annual conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Iran is the ninth member state within the SCO; the other eight states are China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Iran has lost out in economic competition to Russia and other countries in Syria, according to the deputy chairman of the Syrian-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. Speaking to ILNA news agency, Ali Asghar Zebardast admitted that the "same thing which happened in Iraq would also happen in Syria. Russia will win the economic benefit in Syria." He pointed out that Turkey has the upper hand in trade with Iraq. He explained that Syrian businessmen include those who do not support Bashar al-Assad and trade mainly with Jordan and other Arab countries, and those who back his government and are more likely to do business with Iran.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
President Sheikh Khalifa has received a letter of thanks from the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. Mr Raisi sent it after Sheikh Khalifa congratulated him on his election win, state news agency Wam reported on Monday. In the letter, Mr Raisi expressed his hope for the development of bilateral relations between the nations, particularly in the economic sector. He offered his appreciation for the message delivered by Sheikh Khalifa. He wished for his continued health and for the success of the UAE and happiness of its people.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Monday attacked Iranian Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq with artillery, destroying four headquarters belonging to the militants, one of the Iranian paramilitary group's commanders said. The attack on Iraqi territory was an act of retaliation, the spokesman said. “We gave the Iraqi government the necessary warnings and told them that if we see any hostile activity from these dissident groups we will respond harshly. Since the hostile activity did not stop, we destroyed four of the headquarters,” said Gen Majid Arjomandfar, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, according to Iranian news agency Tasnim.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has celebrated progress in diplomacy in the Middle East and promised that France will continue to take an active role in ensuring the region remains stable. In a wide-ranging press conference held on Monday and attended by Arab News, Le Drian also lamented the recent “breach of trust” by the UK and US over the sale of submarines to Australia. France had originally been slated to supply submarines to Australia as part of that deal, but Canberra did a U-turn in favor of an agreement with the US and UK, in what some have called an embarrassment for the French.