**NOTE: UANI’s Eye On Iran will be suspended on Friday, April 2 & Monday, April 5 in observance of the Easter holiday. It will resume Tuesday, April 6.**
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is discussing options with European allies to revive the Iran nuclear accord “through a series of initial and mutual steps,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday. Blinken explored the possibilities with the allies during meetings in Brussels last week, Price said, adding that the U.S. remains committed to a joint return to the multinational nuclear deal that President Donald Trump abandoned. “Those discussions have been ongoing about the best way to achieve compliance,” Price said. “We have been looking at options of doing so, including through indirect conversations with European partners.”
The United States said Wednesday that it has a shared interest with Beijing in curbing Iran’s nuclear program, declining to fan the flames over a 25-year cooperation pact signed by the frequent US nemeses. The agreement sealed Saturday has triggered commentary among US conservatives of a new anti-US “axis” and would have likely been sharply criticized by former president Donald Trump’s administration. But President Joe Biden’s government declined to wade in on the pact, which has also provoked opposition inside Iran.
The European Union will target eight Iranian militia and police commanders and three state entities with sanctions next week over a deadly crackdown in November 2019 by Iranian authorities, three diplomats said on Wednesday. The travel bans and asset freezes will be the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013 and are set to be put in place some time next week after the Easter holidays in Europe, the diplomats said.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
US officials believe Iran may be willing to discuss a broad road map to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a report Wednesday. US President Joe Biden has placed resumption of the nuclear deal high on his list of foreign policy priorities, but so far all of his proposals have been rejected. Most recently, the US floated a step-by-step approach back to compliance, which Tehran has turned down. An unnamed US official told the Reuters news agency: “What we had heard was that they were interested first in a series of initial steps, and so we were exchanging ideas on a series of initial steps.”
During a Cabinet meeting today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed the ongoing tension with the United States over reentry into the nuclear deal and the economic sanctions on Tehran. Rouhani said the United States is “100% at fault for the sanctions, no one can doubt this.” He said the “inhumane sanctions” started under President Donald Trump and said he had recently heard there has been an issue on importing chicken because of sanctions.
More than two months following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the United States and Iran remain deadlocked over the process of restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. In recent weeks, however, the Biden administration appears to be signaling that it is willing to take a more flexible approach to coordinate the steps necessary for Washington and Tehran to return to compliance with the accord. In a March 17 interview with BBC Persian, Robert Malley, the president’s special envoy for Iran, said that the United States is willing to talk in “whatever format the Iranian government is comfortable with.”
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The United States has renewed a waiver allowing Iraq to pay for electricity imported from Iran, this time giving Baghdad 120 days to reduce its energy dependence on neighboring Tehran, a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday. The waiver was renewed despite U.S. sanctions imposed after former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers, and Iran began breaching the deal’s terms.
OPEC oil output has risen in March as higher supply from Iran countered reductions by other members under a pact with allies, a Reuters survey found, a headwind for its supply-limiting efforts if Tehran’s boost is sustained. The 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pumped 25.07 million barrels per day (bpd) in March, the survey found, up 180,000 bpd from February. Output has risen every month since June 2020 with the exception of February. The rise in Iranian supply comes as OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, have delayed unwinding more of their output cuts as the impact of the pandemic persists.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Just after midday on June 30, 2018, Belgian police surrounded a Mercedes-Benz being driven by a Belgian-Iranian couple through Brussels. The couple had set off on a four-hour journey to Paris that morning and did not know unmarked police vehicles had been tailing them since they left their rented accommodations in Antwerp. When they took a detour through the Belgian capital after hitting traffic on the motorway, police swooped in.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The enormously popular podcast journalist Joe Rogan devoted a segment of his Tuesday show, with its 9.5 million followers, to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s execution of the champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. While discussing international wrestling with the American Olympic gold medalist wrestler, Dan Gable, Rogan said about Afkari and the regime in Tehran: “It seems like what they were are doing was just making sure that people were scared. If they can kill a man who's so beloved, a national hero, they would kill anybody.”
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
When the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) received a letter that referred to a Department of Justice investigation into his son and asked for help funding the search for Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran 14 years ago, he thought the request was suspicious and went to the FBI, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that in the waning days of the Trump administration, the DOJ launched an investigation into whether Gaetz had a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Nothing captures the irony and troubling nature of the Islamic Republic’s relationship with its regular armed forces—known as Artesh—like the mistreatment of its officers and Non- Commissioned Officers (NCOs). This is despite Artesh—in particular the Iranian Air Force—utilizing its superb training and modern equipment—acquired during Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s monarchy—to turn the tide of the war with Iraq in 1981 and the achievement of Iran’s first strategic successes during the bloody eight-year war (1980-1988). The daring airstrike on the Al-Walid airbases (known as H-3 after the three bases in southwestern Iraq, near the Jordanian border) came to be known as “Attack on H-3,” which later became title of a movie more than a decade later.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Public debate in Iran has for decades been monopolized by state authorities primarily concerned with promoting Islamic values, stemming Western influence and curbing dissent. Enter Clubhouse. The invite-only iPhone app is connecting Iranians more used to venting their seemingly irreconcilable differences: political exiles, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps veterans, monarchists and staunch defenders of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Inside virtual “rooms” they’re openly, and reasonably politely, discussing Iran’s political system, with more than 2,000 people listening in at times.
CHINA & IRAN
The United States said Wednesday that it has a shared interest with Beijing in curbing Iran's nuclear program, declining to fan the flames over a 25-year cooperation pact signed by the frequent US nemeses. The agreement sealed Saturday has triggered commentary among US conservatives of a new anti-US "axis" and would have likely been sharply criticized by former president Donald Trump's administration. But President Joe Biden's government declined to wade in on the pact, which has also provoked opposition inside Iran.
IRAQ & IRAN
It was a stark message: A convoy of masked Shiite militiamen, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, drove openly through central Baghdad denouncing the U.S. presence in Iraq and threatening to cut off the prime minister’s ear. The ominous display underscored the growing threat that rogue militias loyal to Tehran pose for Iraq. It came at a time when Baghdad seeks to bolster relations with its Arab neighbors and is gearing up for early elections, scheduled for October, amid a worsening economic crisis and a global pandemic.
Along Iraq’s borders, a corrupt customs-evasion cartel is diverting billions of dollars away from state coffers to line the pockets of armed groups, political parties and crooked officials. The prime beneficiaries are Iran-linked Shiite paramilitaries that intimidate federal officials who dare obstruct them, sometimes through chillingly specific death threats, a six-month AFP investigation has found. The network is so well-oiled and entrenched that revenues are parceled out among rival groups with remarkably little friction, part of a parallel system that Iraq’s finance minister has described as “state plunder.”
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
New forms of geopolitics are taking shape in the Middle East, starring Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Persian Gulf sent similar messages to Iran. Russian officials have indicated they are looking for new partners in the region, as evidenced by developments in Syria. These events will put more pressure on Iran and block more international political avenues for the regime. Iran is losing some areas that previously provided security or political influence and advantage.