Efforts to revive the Iranian 2015 nuclear agreement resumed Tuesday in Qatar’s capital, with U.S. and Iranian officials playing down expectations of a quick breakthrough that would open the way to a restored deal. The talks, which are being mediated by European Union diplomats since Iran refuses to meet directly with the U.S., are the first since negotiations broke down in mid-March. The aim is to agree steps Washington and Tehran would need to take to return into compliance with the nuclear deal, which lifted most international sanctions on Iran in exchange for tight but temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear work.
An Iranian appeals court upheld the eight-year prison sentence of a French tourist for taking photos in a prohibited area and asking questions about Iran’s obligatory Islamic hijab for women, his lawyer said Tuesday. Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced in January. He went on a hunger strike on Dec. 25 to protest his treatment in prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he is being detained.
For more than a decade, he was a feared presence in Iran, presiding over a vast intelligence apparatus. He crushed domestic dissent and political rivals, and expanded covert operations beyond Iran’s borders to target dissidents and enemies abroad. Hossein Taeb, a 59-year-old cleric and chief of intelligence for the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, seemed untouchable. That was until he was abruptly removed from his position last week, a casualty of a relentless campaign by Israel to undermine Iran’s security by targeting its officials and military sites, according to officials and analysts in both countries.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani was in the Qatari capital Doha on June 28, as Tehran and Washington agreed to push the restart button on nuclear talks that have been stalled since March. In a tweet, Iranian Ambassador to Doha Hamidreza Dehghani avoided "any unrealistic prejudgement" about the negotiations that are meant to restore the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Dehghani wished the Iranian team "success in securing the interests of the Iranian nation."
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iranian oil workers have struck for a second day over wages and the government's inability to tame price growth as official data showed the country's inflation rate jumped to 52.5 percent in June. According to the Coordinating Council of Protests of Oil Contract Workers, employees at the Tehran Oil Refinery continued their protest against an increase in working hours and low wages, while drivers and workers at the West Oil and Gas Exploitation Company gathered at the company's location in the western city of Dehloran saying they hadn't been paid in months.
The mother of Anisha Asadollahi, a translator and imprisoned labor activist, has demanded the "immediate" release of her daughter and son-in-law, Keyvan Mohtadi, who she says are being detained without due process. In a video message dated June 27, Shafiqa Alemi chastises Iran's government for arresting her daughter "for translating the statements of two French labor activists." Anisha Asadollahi and her husband, Keyvan Mohtadi, both cultural and civil activists, were arrested by security forces on May 9.
Risking a public appeal while caged in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison speaks volumes about the depth of my despair. I have suffered quietly as nearly 2,500 of what should have been the best and most productive days of my life were lost behind these bars. But I am compelled to break that silence now because I believe that the Biden administration’s approach to rescuing Americans in distress in Iran has failed spectacularly so far and unless the president intervenes immediately, we are likely to languish in this abyss for the foreseeable future.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday called on judicial authorities to fight corruption in the country, a statement on his website said. “The issue of fighting corruption should be taken seriously; there is corruption,” Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in major state policies, said during a meeting with judicial officials. Iran is among the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 150th out of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2021.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
The recent detainment of a Venezuelan cargo plane in Argentina could be linked to attempts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to attack Israelis abroad, according to independent Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon, who runs the blog Intelli Times. The cargo plane, which belongs to the Venezuelan state-owned Emtrasur cargo company was detained on June 8 after landing in Buenos Aires due to concerns linked to the aircraft’s past as an Iranian aircraft and Iranian crewmembers staffing the flight.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced that efforts are underway to draft a document on long-term comprehensive cooperation between his country and Turkey. He made his remarks ahead of talks in Ankara on Monday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. The officials discussed cooperation between their countries and ways to bolster them in various fields. They also tackled regional and international developments of interest, including the latest in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.
Iran has become our dominant rival in cyber together with Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) Chief Gaby Portnoy said on Tuesday. Speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Cyber Week, he said, “We see them, we know how they work and we are there.” “We see them, we know how they work and we are there.” Portnoy made his comments a day after Iran’s steel industry took one of its biggest cyber hits in history, bringing it to a grinding halt and only days after an Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s siren early warning systems in Jerusalem and Eilat.
Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Tuesday, a day after Iran’s major steel companies were hit by a cyberattack, that anyone who attempts a cyberattack against Israel will “pay a price.” “[The] approach with our enemies, especially Iran… we don’t go around wreaking havoc in Tehran — that’s never been our policy. Our policy is, if you mess with Israel, you’ll pay a price,” Bennett said at the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv.