The United States on Wednesday said it was deeply concerned Iran has yet to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information the agency needs regarding its potential undeclared nuclear material, State Department spokesman Ned Price said. The IAEA and Iran reached a three-month agreement in February cushioning the blow of Tehran’s decision to reduce its cooperation with the agency by ending extra monitoring measures introduced by the 2015 deal.
The Biden administration is urging Venezuela to turn away two Iranian naval ships that are believed to be headed towards the country, Politico reported. Multiple sources close to the matter told Politico the White House is pressuring Venezuela's government to not allow the Iranian ships, which are believed to be carrying arms, to dock. One congressional official said Biden officials are reaching out to countries neighboring Venezuela to ensure that the ships do not dock.
Almost six years ago, Iranians poured into the streets to celebrate Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. They saw it as a chance for the Islamic Republic to re-enter the world economy and create opportunities like purchasing airplanes and selling its oil on the international market. Today, that dream has faded into a daily grinding nightmare of high inflation, an ever-weakening national currency and high unemployment worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The Biden Administration asserted that its decision to revoke the designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group was driven by a desire to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Yemen and to create political conditions necessary to end the nearly eight-year long war in that country. The U.S. used the same justification to end offensive support to the Saudi-led coalition’s efforts to restore the UN-recognized Yemeni government, living in exile since 2015. In the weeks that followed, the Administration also assigned an experienced and respected diplomat and re-engaged with regional partners.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, resigned to the revival of a nuclear pact with Iran they always opposed, are engaging with Tehran to contain tensions while lobbying for future talks to take their security concerns into account. World powers have been negotiating in Vienna with Iran and the United States to revive the 2015 deal, under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
A top U.S. envoy appealed to Iran to accept a “mutual return” to a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers as diplomats are set to gather to negotiate a cap on the Persian Gulf country’s atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief. The statement delivered by Washington’s top International Atomic Energy Agency diplomat late Tuesday acknowledged trust needs to be rebuilt after former President Donald Trump unilaterally applied punishing economic sanctions three years ago, prompting Iran to respond by dramatically increasing its nuclear work.
Negotiations between Iran and the world powers on how to revive the 2015 nuclear accord will resume this weekend, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday, adding that Iran's June 18 presidential election was a complicating factor. "I know that the negotiation will start again over this coming weekend," Sherman said during a virtual event organized by the German Marshall Fund think tank. "I think there's been a lot of progress made, but, out of my own experience, until the last detail is nailed down, and I mean nailed down, we will not know if we have an agreement," Sherman, one of the key U.S. negotiators for the original deal, said.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran said it’s preparing to hike oil production even as talks with world powers over how to lift sanctions curbing the nation’s crude exports have so far failed to clinch an agreement. Parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, led by the European Union, are attempting to fully restore the landmark accord that all but collapsed after then-President Donald Trump withdrew three years ago. The negotiations in Vienna aim to ease U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s economy and scale back a significant expansion of its atomic activities.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian women's poor political representation could be set to worsen under an ultraconservative poised to win next week's presidential election. Ebrahim Raisi, who heads Iran's judiciary, is the clear favourite from an all-male field of seven candidates to replace President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate elected on promises of social and cultural reform. Women's rights campaigners in Iran have criticised Rouhani for breaking his promises to create a women's ministry and appoint three female ministers -- instead presiding over a decrease in women's representation over his two terms in office.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
A prominent Iranian presidential candidate said Wednesday he'd be willing to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden if he wins his country's election next week, though “America needs to send better and stronger signals” to the Islamic Republic. Speaking to The Associated Press, former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati stressed that an American return to Iran's tattered nuclear deal was key to any possible relationship amid the wider tensions in the Mideast.
President Joe Biden’s plan to provide 500 million doses of the Covid vaccine to countries suffering from a deadly pandemic is welcome news for many reasons. The most obvious is that it’s in everyone’s interest to inoculate as many people as possible in order to diminish the chances that the virus and its mutations will spread. It also happens to be true that donating vaccines is good public diplomacy. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said: “We are not seeking to extract concessions, we’re not extorting, we’re not imposing conditions the way that other countries who are providing doses are doing.”
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
An Iran expert on Wednesday warned that none of the candidates in the country’s presidential election on June 18 offer a route out of its many crises. Nazila Fathi, an independent journalist and non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, was speaking at an event hosted by Chatham House titled “Iran’s presidential election: Domestic and international implications” and attended by Arab News. “Coronavirus has really wreaked havoc in Iran. The death tolls are huge. While it’s true that the country started vaccines before the elections, no one knows what shots they’ll get, what the plan is, and how the majority of people under 50 are going to get vaccinated,” she said.
Iran’s next president will take charge of a country suffering from serious economic problems and bruised by the pandemic, a Chatham House online seminar has heard. Voter turnout for the election next week is expected to be low, in part because the powerful Guardian Council disqualified many candidates. In 2018, Donald Trump, then US president, withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal Iran agreed to with world powers. Iran’s economy suffered and its currency plummeted after Mr Trump imposed heavy sanctions.
IRAQ & IRAN
Iraq's government suffered an embarrassment Wednesday after a rare move to limit impunity among Iran-linked militias instead resulted in a commander accused of several killings walking free from custody and into a hero's welcome. Although Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government issued no statement about the May 26 arrest of Qasim Musleh, a militia commander from the southern city of Karbala, the fallout from it has dominated news broadcasts and underscored the administration’s weakness as militias kill and intimidate members of a protest movement that brought Kadhimi to power.