Twitter said Friday it has permanently banned an account that some in Iran believe is linked to the office of the country’s supreme leader after a posting that seemed to threaten former President Donald Trump. In the image posted by the suspect account late Thursday, Trump is shown playing golf in the shadow of a giant drone, with the caption “Revenge is certain” written in Farsi. In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a Twitter spokesman said the account was fake and violated the company’s “manipulation and spam policy,” without elaborating how it came to that conclusion.
Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country’s waters Sunday. The tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea — were seized in waters off Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency. He said the tankers are suspected of a variety of violations, including not displaying national flags, shutting off their identification systems, anchoring illegally as well as the illegal transfer fuel between ships and spilling oil.
Iran urged new U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday to “choose a better path” by returning to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers, but said the opportunity would be lost if Washington insists on further Iranian concessions up front. Under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, Washington withdrew from the deal - designed to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon - and bolstered sanctions in a bid to force Tehran into talks on a broader agreement that also addressed its ballistic missile program and support for proxies around the Middle East.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…The suspension came amid a wider call to permanently ban Khamenei from the social network. Khamenei uses the site despite a ban on Twitter in Iran and amid a new wave of scrutiny on the treatment of world leaders on social media platforms after the banning of Trump this month in the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol riot, which social media companies accused Trump of inciting. “The accounts of the Office of Iran’s Supreme Leader should be suspended from Twitter for repeatedly sending out tweets inciting violence and spewing disinformation,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director at the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran.
As the incoming Biden administration plans to re-engage diplomatically with Iran, it is important for the United States to take into account the concerns of Israel about its security. It is not only Iran’s nuclear ambitions that worry Israeli leaders. It is the combination of Iran’s nuclear program with its precision guided missile project that keeps Israeli military leaders awake at night.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iranian diplomats have been in touch with members of US President Joe Biden’s administration about restarting talks on Iran’s nuclear program and have laid out seven preconditions, a source in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s office told a Kuwaiti newspaper on Sunday. Speaking to Kuwait’s al-Jarida newspaper, the Iranian official said that contacts began before Biden took office, and indicated that they are ongoing but informal.
Following a series of provocative Iranian nuclear advances in December and January, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog told Reuters, “It is clear that we don’t have many months ahead of us. We have weeks.” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael M. Grossi was referring to the need for parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran to quickly salvage the accord and restrain Tehran from taking further escalatory nuclear steps. Grossi’s conclusion, however, is upside-down and backward.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran had barely started to reap the economic benefits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers when Donald Trump withdrew and imposed sanctions so tight they plunged the country into its worst economic crisis since the 1980s. Sworn in on Wednesday, the new U.S. president, Joe Biden, has already reversed some of his predecessor’s most controversial policies on immigration, climate and health. He’s also promised to re-engage with the Islamic Republic and picked some of the architects of the original pact for top policy posts.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Islamic Republic of Iran authorities in January launched a new crackdown against athletic friends of the wrestling champion Navid Afkari who was hanged in September because he protested against the growing political and economic corruption of Iran’s clerical regime. Sardar Pashaei, the renowned Greco-Roman Iranian wrestler world champion, confirmed on Saturday to The Jerusalem Post that "the regime just took the wrestling club of Navid's coach and cut his insurance and salary. They gave his wrestling club to Omid Norouzi, the head of Sepahe Fajr Basij.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran may cooperate with the United States on oil and security in the Gulf, but not on Israel, the Iranian foreign minister said in remarks published on Saturday. Ties between Tehran and Washington worsened under the administration of former President Donald Trump, who in 2018 withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy. Iran called for action and “not just words” shortly after Joe Biden was sworn in as president on Wednesday. Biden has said Washington will rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran resumes strict compliance.
US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have discussed combating climate change, containing COVID-19, and ensuring global health security as well as shared foreign policy priorities in China, Iran and Russia. Johnson congratulated Biden on his inauguration in their first conversation since the US president's inauguration, the British prime minister's office said Saturday. The White House in a readout of the call said that Biden "conveyed his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries" and also "noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organizations, on shared challenges."
President Biden is eager to reengage with Iran and return to the nuclear deal. Yet the murderous regime has no interest in changing its ways. It is boosting its nuclear-weapon development and its network of deadly militias across the Middle East in its continued drive for hegemony. Biden said during the campaign he’d rejoin the nuclear deal “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations” if “Iran returns to strict compliance,” working “to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” such as Iran’s ballistic-missile program, human-rights abuses and “destabilizing activity.”
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that COVID-19 vaccinations will begin in the coming weeks in Iran, the Middle East’s worst hit country. “Foreign vaccines are a necessity until local vaccines are available,” Rouhani said in televised remarks, without giving details of what foreign vaccines would be used. His remarks came as daily COVID-19 deaths fell to a low of more than seven months and officials announced that there were no more high-risk “red cities” in the country.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel’s new ambassador to the United States began work this past week as his country braced for conflict with its most important ally. President Biden has vowed to rejoin the international nuclear deal with Iran that was signed in 2015, when he was vice president. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bitterly opposes the agreement and former president Donald Trump built his pro-Israel bona fides by renouncing it. But Gilad Erdan, the new ambassador, does not appear rattled.
Israel is preparing a full-court press to discuss Iran’s threats with the new US administration, according to various media reports. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat spoke on Saturday with Jake Sullivan, his counterpart in the Biden administration, and Mossad head Yossi Cohen is expected to travel soon to Washington to present Israel’s concerns to his counterparts in the intelligence community. The discussions are expected to be wide-ranging.