Vienna Nuclear Talks Hit A Snag Over Iran's Centrifuges

TOP STORIES

Vienna Nuclear Talks Hit A Snag Over Iran's Centrifuges | Axios

Big gaps between the U.S. and Iran over the measures needed to roll back and limit the Iranian nuclear program are stalling the Vienna talks, European diplomats and former U.S. officials briefed on the issue tell me. What's happening: The Biden administration has said any deal to restore the 2015 nuclear accord must include a return by Iran to full compliance with its previous commitments. But that's complicated by the fact that Iran's nuclear program has advanced since 2015.

Iraq Brokers Secret Saudi-Iran Talks As Biden Resets U.S. Policy | Bloomberg

Iraq is carving out a mediating role between Iran and Gulf Arab oil producers including Saudi Arabia, a shift for a country better known as a victim of regional conflict than a conduit to defuse it. In recent weeks, Iraq convened indirect talks between its neighbors Saudi Arabia and Iran, with a focus on Yemen’s war, where the two countries back opposing sides. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief experienced in regional security issues, is seen by Saudi Arabia and its ally the UAE as having a degree of autonomy from Iran.

Top Iranian General Says Israel Could Be Defeated With 'A Single Operation' | Newsweek

The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard said recent events across the Middle East have exposed vulnerabilities in Israel, which he argued could be defeated with just one, decisive blow should a conflict break out between the two top foes. In an interview aired Wednesday by the semi-official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Major General Hossein Salami discussed recent developments he argued belied Israel's weakness.

UANI IN THE NEWS

Joe Lieberman: US Won’t Achieve Progress With Iran Unless We ‘Remain Tough’ | UANI Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman For Fox Business Mornings With Maria

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (I) provides insight into U.S. relations with Iran under the Biden administration.

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

US, Iran Signal Possible Breakthroughs In Nuke Talks | The Hill

The U.S. and Iran are signaling a possible breakthrough on discussions for both countries to return to the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Trump withdrew from in 2018. Ahead of the resumption of indirect talks between the two countries in Vienna this week, U.S. and Iranian officials are shuttling around the Middle East in a signal of close regional cooperation and an unprecedented easing of tensions between Iran and Gulf nations.

Diplomacy Centers On Reviving Iran Nuclear Deal, U.S. Prisoner Releases | NPR

The U.S. and Iran appear to be inching back into the nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned. There is hope that Iran will release some foreign nationals it has been holding. NOEL KING, HOST: The U.S. and Iran appear to be inching back into the nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned. There's also some hope that Iran will soon release some of the foreign nationals they've been holding. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS  

US Legislators Warn Against Lifting Iran Sanctions After Chilling Fake Propaganda Video | Asharq Al-Awsat

A chilling fake propaganda video depicting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) blowing up the US Capitol has enraged officials in Washington, where Congress legislators are increasingly opposing the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. The video was broadcast on Iranian state-run television only a few days after the leak of an audio recording of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif bemoaning the crushing influence the IRGC enjoys over diplomacy.

Iran's President Claims Sanctions Will Soon Be Lifted | Al Monitor

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting today, “The sanctions have failed and if we remained united, the sanctions will soon be removed.” Iran and the members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are currently renegotiating the terms of the Iran nuclear deal known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The United States exited the deal in 2018 and reapplied crippling sanctions. Iran took steps out of compliance but technically remained party to the agreement. With President Joe Biden in office, the United States has decided to reenter the deal and negotiations are currently taking place in Vienna.

Ex-Boss Of Iran Central Bank Indicted Over ‘Wasting’ Of Funds | Al Jazeera

Iranian prosecutors have issued an indictment against the former governor of the country’s Central Bank over the alleged mismanagement of tens of billions of dollars worth of funds. Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasi-Mehr accused Valiollah Seif, who led the central bank from 2013 to 2018, of “wasting” more than $30bn and 60 tonnes of gold reserves, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday. Seif’s case, which has been ongoing since shortly after his sacking in mid-2018, will now head to a court set up to rule on economic crimes, with the banker being accused of “repeatedly violating regulations” and of “dereliction of duty”.

MISSILE PROGRAM

Revealed: Iran's Seven Mountainside Missile Silos Discovered In New Satellite Imagery | The National

Analysis of satellite imagery obtained by the International Institute of Strategic Studies has revealed the construction of a new set of seven silos storing advanced new missiles in southern Iran. Defence analysts at the IISS have told The National the storage facility is placed on a steep mountainside and is designed to hold dozens of the weapons at a particular slant, for precision targeting of the missiles. The imagery given to The National shows the bank of launch sites set into mountainous terrain close to the southern Iranian town of Haji Abad.

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM

The Iran Terror Trial Verdict Could Forever Change Terror Trials In Europe | Atlantic Council

The February verdict against an Iranian diplomat tried in a Belgian court for an act of terror committed in Europe will have long-standing implications for how terrorism-related offenses are investigated and adjudicated in European courts. The trial concerned the attempted bombing of a rally held by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK)—an exiled leftist-Islamist political group that seeks regime change in Iran—which was attended by tens of thousands of people in Villepinte, near Paris, France on June 30, 2018. 

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Anxious Families Await End To Iran 'Hostage' Ordeal | AFP

Mixing hope with fears of more disappointment, families of Western nationals held in Iran are anxiously following intense diplomatic contacts and recent rumours for signs their loved ones could be allowed home. Iran is holding over a dozen Western nationals -- almost all of whom also hold Iranian passports -- in prison or house arrest on charges their families say are absurd and in what activists say is a brazen act of hostage-taking to extract concessions.

G7 Urges Iran To Release Foreigners, Dual Nationals Under 'Arbitrary Arrest' | Arab News

G7 foreign ministers concluded their first in-person talks in more than two years Wednesday, hitting out at China for human rights abuses and a crackdown on pro-democracy figures, and voicing concern about Russian aggression. The club of the world's leading economies also called on Iran to release foreign and dual nationals who they said had been imprisoned arbitrarily, in a wide-ranging final communique after three days of meetings in London.

No Ransom Payment for Iran | Opinion | Wang Xiyue For Newsweek

Iran's state news agency reported a few days ago that the Biden administration has agreed to release $7 billion of frozen Iranian assets and four Iranian prisoners in exchange for four American prisoners falsely accused of espionage in Iran. While the Biden administration denied the report, Iranian security forces have reportedly already removed American prisoners from Evin Prison's general ward in advance of an imminent swap. I hope the prisoners will all return home soon, but the likely prisoner swap is far from reassuring. If the Biden administration repatriates any funds to Iran in connection with the release of American hostages, regardless of how the Biden administration may spin it, the Iranian regime will regard it as ransom and arrest more Americans as hostages for new rounds of extortion.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

Iranian Compliance And The JCPOA Negotiations | Eliott Abrams For Council On Foreign Relations

The current (indirect) negotiations between Iran and the United States over a return to the JCPOA have seen repeated Iranian complaints about the American decision to leave the agreement in 2018. What they have not seen is American statements about Iran’s continuing clandestine efforts to build a nuclear weapon and its refusal to allow mandated inspections. In general terms, we know how countries behave when they do not seek nuclear weapons.

Antony Blinken: US Negotiators ‘Don’t Yet Know’ If Iran Is Prepared For A Deal | The National

US negotiators do not know whether Iran is willing to do a deal to wind up its nuclear programme, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Mr Blinken said the US was committed to restoring the Iran nuclear deal, which former president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Talks between Iran and world powers have since taken place in Vienna aimed at bringing the parties back together. Mr Blinken cautioned on Thursday that it was still unclear whether Iran was willing to strike a new deal. “We’ve been engaged in Vienna for some weeks with our European partners, Russia and China, and indirectly with Iran,” he told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

Youth Participation Important In Iran Presidential Vote: Official | AFP

The spokesman for Iran's influential Guardian Council stressed Wednesday the importance of youth representation in the country's presidential election next month. Iran is "going through a generational change," said Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee, spokesman for the powerful conservative-dominated body that is responsible for vetting and validating candidates. "The entry of young people (into politics) is also important in our view and can be a promise that our youth... play a role at higher levels of the executive branch" of the government, he told AFP in an interview at his office.

For Progress On Iran, Focus On The People | Mora Namdar For The Hill

Another week, another round of failed diplomacy toward Iran. More than three months into its tenure, the Biden administration has made Iran the focal point of its Mideast policy, and seems intent on reviving the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, despite that agreement’s numerous flaws. The renewed push for engagement with Iran seems to be driven by a conviction on the part of the Biden White House that there is no non-violent alternative to diplomacy with Iran.

IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION

There Can Never Be Peace With Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps | Reza Parchizadeh For Algemeiner

When Ali Khamenei was appointed Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, he knew he lacked Khomeini’s charisma. He needed the power of the military to subdue his rivals and consolidate his position, and accordingly pulled the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) closer to himself. At the same time, newly elected president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who, as wartime supreme commander, had nurtured his own close relationships with IRGC generals, sought to exploit the public resources of the nation with fewer restrictions. He attempted to partner with the IRGC in his “privatization” movement, which was basically the mass transfer of public property, resources, and organizations from the government sector to regime insiders. The resulting Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Camp was the first, and remains the most notable, financial institution of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN

Israeli Defense Officials Weigh Halting Naval 'War' With Iran | Asharq Al-Awsat

Israeli defense and intelligence officials, who held talks in Washington over the past week, raised doubts about the effectiveness of the naval operations against Iran and are mulling halting them. The officials believe that the potential damage of the actions outweighs the benefits and that other ways must be found to halt Iranian entrenchment in the region. According to a series of reports, in recent years Israel has attacked, among other targets, dozens of tankers smuggling oil from Iran to Syria.

Top Ten Ways Iran Has Claimed Attack On Israel, Mid East Region – IRGC | Jerusalem Post

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps head Major General Hossein Salami provided a long list of Iran’s operations and apparent threats to Israel and the region in an interview Wednesday. His claims reveal the depth of Iran’s strategy in the region. These are the top ten claims he made:

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN

Saudi Arabia, Iran Held Talks More Than Once In Iraq - Iraqi President | Reuters

Iraq has hosted more than one round of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Wednesday. Salih made his remarks during an interview broadcast live online with the Beirut Institute think tank. He gave no more details. Diplomats hope the opening of direct channels between Iran and Saudi Arabia will signal a calming of tensions across the Middle East after years of hostilities that have brought the region close to a full-scale conflict.

Iraqi President: Talks Between Rivals Iran And Saudi Ongoing | Associated Press

Iraq’s president said on Wednesday that his country recently hosted direct talks between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran on more than one occasion, the first public recognition of Baghdad’s role as mediator. The first round of talks between Riyadh and Tehran took place early last month, Iraq’s President Barham Salih said during an interview broadcast live by the Beirut Institute, a think tank. He said talks have since occurred “more than once,” describing the discussions as ongoing, “important and significant.” It marked the first time that an Iraqi official publicly confirmed the talks had occurred.

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS    

Death Of Diplomat In Iran Feeds Gossip And Conspiracies – Analysis | The Jerusalem Post

Iranian police said this week they are investigating the death of a Swiss diplomat. According to reports she died after “falling from a high-rise” in Tehran. She supposedly fell from a 20-story building. News reports say that the Swiss Foreign Ministry in Bern acknowledged in a statement that an employee “died in a fatal incident on Tuesday.” This has fed a series of rumors, gossip and conspiracies. This was partly due to the fact that the victim was not initially named and because it is unusual for people to fall from such a height.

Danish High Court Upholds Conviction Of Norwegian Man In Iran Spy Case | Reuters

A Danish high court on Thursday upheld the seven-year sentence given to a Norwegian citizen of Iranian heritage for spying and complicity in a failed plot to kill an Iranian Arab opposition figure in Denmark.

CYBERWARFARE

'Iranian Attacker Impersonating Russians': Inside Recent Attacks On Israel | Haaretz

The last several days have seen another wave of attacks on Israel’s cyber-homefront. The source, according to experts: Iran. The background: The shadow war between the two countries that’s taking place on the ground in Iran and includes mysterious explosions and assassinations, as well as attacks on ships and in cyberspace.