Vienna Nuclear Talks Hit A Snag Over Iran's Centrifuges

TOP STORIES

Iran Spells Out Election Terms, Potentially Bars Candidates | AFP

Iran's election-vetting body has spelt out conditions for running in next month's presidential poll, potentially barring several high-profile candidates, local media reported Thursday. The conservative-dominated Guardian Council complained earlier this week of the "unpleasant situation" that allowed would-be candidates lacking basic requirements to register to run in the election held every four years. Under the Islamic republic's constitution, candidates for the presidency require vague qualifications such as being among "political and religious" figures.

U.S. Says Swift Return To Nuclear Deal Hinges On Iran’s Moves | Bloomberg

The U.S. and Iran could revive their nuclear agreement with world powers as early as this month if the government in Tehran proves its willingness to rein in its atomic work in exchange for sanctions relief, according to a U.S. official. Diplomats will enter a fourth round of indirect nuclear talks in Vienna on Friday with sides closing in on an agreement that could restore the accord struck in 2015 and abandoned by the Trump administration three years later. A decision to rejoin the deal would arguably be President Joe Biden’s riskiest foreign policy move a little more than 100 days into office. The agreement with Iran has riven the U.S. from some Middle East allies and deeply divided domestic politics.


US Weighs Unfreezing $1 Billion In Iranian Funds | CNN

The Biden administration is weighing unfreezing $1 billion in Iranian funds that the country could use for humanitarian relief, amid the negotiations for the US to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal and bring Iran back into compliance with its terms. It is not clear whether the release of the funds would occur unilaterally, but one line of thought is that it could serve as a useful goodwill gesture to Tehran, according to three people briefed on the internal deliberations, as the talks in Vienna enter their second month with no concrete signs yet of a breakthrough.

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Nuclear Talks With Iran Could Reach Agreement Within Weeks, U.S. Says | The New York Times

The United States and Iran could each come back into compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal within weeks, a senior State Department official said on Thursday, on the eve of what could be a final round of negotiations before an agreement is brokered. Significant hurdles remain. But the comments were an optimistic signal by the Biden administration that an American return to the accord between Iran and world powers could be within reach. Briefing journalists on the condition of anonymity, the senior official described the likelihood of an agreement before Iran’s presidential elections in mid-June as both possible and doable.

Iran Talks Enter Fourth Round in Vienna | Foreign Policy


A fourth round of talks begins in Vienna today over a U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as differences over sanctions relief and the status of Iran’s nuclear program threaten to prolong discussions. Speaking to reporters on Thursday on the condition of anonymity, a senior State Department official played down the prospect of this being the final round of talks before an agreement is reached, saying the ball is ultimately in Iran’s court. “Is it possible that we’ll see a mutual return to compliance in the next few weeks, or an understanding of a mutual return to compliance? It’s possible, yes. Is it likely? Only time will tell,” the official said.

Observers Urge US To Address Iran Nuclear Threat During Talks To Revive Deal | Voice Of America

Negotiations continue on a U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal and on how to ensure its full and effective implementation. Observers say the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East cannot be ignored and must be tackled, even as Iran demands an end to crippling U.S. sanctions. Analysts also say that the wide-ranging activities of Iranian-backed Shiite militias and missiles in the region need to be addressed. Along with other observers, David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Trump administration Middle East advisor, says Iran is desperate for sanctions relief as it demands all punitive measures be lifted before it returns to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS  

Outdated U.S. Policies Are Helping Iran Censor Its Citizens | Karen Kramer For Foreign Policy

An existential battle is playing out online in Iran between citizens and the state that seeks to control them. Citizens there rely on the internet to get information beyond the state-controlled media and share this information with one another and the outside world. The government, meanwhile, relentlessly restricts what people can see on the internet, eavesdrops on what they do, and punishes those who cross the state’s red lines. It’s a cat and mouse game with tools that allow online censorship and surveillance on one side and those that allow circumvention and encryption on the other.

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS

Biden Would Not Bar UK Paying Iran Debt To Secure Nazanin’s Release - Antony Blinken | Evening Standard

The US Secretary of State has said Joe Biden would not stand in the way of the UK paying a long-standing debt to Iran in order to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family argue she is being held “hostage” over a historic debt owed by the British Government - but there are fears paying the money would breach international sanctions against Iran. However, hopes of her release were boosted when Antony Blinken said on Thursday that any move to pay Tehran was a “sovereign” decision for the United Kingdom.

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS

U.S. Signals It Will Make No Further Concessions As Iran Nuclear Talks Resume | Radio Free Europe

The United States has laid out all the concessions it’s prepared to make in order to rejoin the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, a senior administration official said on the eve of a fourth round of talks on bringing Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the deal. The official, who spoke to reporters on a conference call on May 6, said Iran shouldn't expect major new concessions, and success or failure now depends on Iran making the political decision to accept those concessions and to return to compliance with the accord.

Blinken Reveals Uncertainty Clouding US-Iran Nuclear Talks | Arab News

Negotiators in talks with Iran over curbs to its nuclear program do not yet know if Tehran is willing to make a deal, according to the White House’s top diplomat. “We’ve been engaged now in Vienna for some weeks with our European partners, with Russia, China, and indirectly … with Iran,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC on Thursday. “We’ve demonstrated our very seriousness of purpose in terms of wanting to get back into the so-called JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),” he added.

If Talks Fail, US Ready To ‘Do Everything That It Can’ To Prevent A Nuclear Iran | The Times Of Israel

The United States is prepared to “do everything that it can to make sure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon” if indirect talks in Vienna on a return to the nuclear deal fail to bear fruit, a senior State Department official said Thursday. “We’re prepared for that scenario as well, but the scenario that we prefer, that’s in our interest and that is in Iran’s interest is to come back into mutual compliance and that’s what we’re… in Vienna to try and achieve,” the official said.

MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS

Iran ‘Conceals Illegal Activities’ For WMD Tech - German Intel | Jerusalem Post

A new intelligence report from Germany’s northernmost state Schleswig-Holstein disclosed detailed information on Tuesday about the secretive methods which the Islamic Republic of Iran uses to cover up its attempts to secure illicit technology for the world’s most deadly weapons.“Proliferation-relevant countries such as Iran, North Korea and Syria, but also Pakistan, try to circumvent safety precautions and legal export regulations and to disguise illegal procurement activities. To do this, they turn to mostly conspiratorial means and methods,” wrote the intelligence agency.

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS

Supreme Leader Directly Intervenes In Iran’s June Vote | Atlantic Council

The Guardian Council, a twelve-member body tasked with vetting election candidates, announced on May 5 that it was amending its criteria for those running for president. Among the changes: candidates must be between forty and seventy-five years old at the date of registration. That effectively disqualifies Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, who turns forty a month after the June 18 vote.

CONGRESS & IRAN

John Kerry To Be Quizzed Under Oath In The House About Alleged Revelations Of Israeli Secrets To Iran | Fox News

GOP lawmakers are expected to press Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry on his dealings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee next Wednesday. Kerry will testify at the hearing, dubbed "Driving a Global, Whole-of-Society Response to Climate Action." The hearing will utilize a hybrid format, raising the possibility that Kerry will appear in person. The hearing will focus on steps to combat climate change as the Biden administration moves forward with its goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030.

Schumer Calls On Biden To Address Broader Range Of Issues In Iran Talks | Jewish Insider

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on the Biden administration on Thursday to address a range of issues in addition to Iran’s nuclear program in its negotiations with Tehran during a virtual event with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Schumer emphasized that he opposed both the 2015 nuclear deal when it was signed as well as the Trump administration’s withdrawal from it three years later, which he said “isolated the U.S., instead of Iran.”

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN

Iran's Khamenei Says Fight Against Israel Is A Public Duty | Reuters

Iran's Supreme Leader on Friday called on Muslim nations to keep fighting against Israel, which he said was not a state but a "terrorist garrison" against the Palestinians. "The fight against this wretched regime is the fight against oppression and the fight against terrorism. And this is a public duty to fight against this regime," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech.

IRGC Chief: Israel Could Be Blown Up In Single Operation | Al Monitor

"Israel could be blown up in a single operation," said the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami. Known for his harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric, Salami downplayed the Jewish state's defenses as a security "bulb" that has been "burst" following a series of recent incidents. The Iranian commander enumerated Israel's "vulnerabilities" in "domino-style" attacks, for which he suggested the Islamic Republic's responsibility. Salami referred to a powerful explosion at an Israeli plant for advanced weapons April 21.

The Countdown To An Israeli War With Iran Has Begun | John Hannah For Foreign Policy

A small army of top Israeli national security officials descended on Washington last week for their first in-person consultations with the Biden administration over its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal. Israel is adamantly opposed to the agreement, arguing that in exchange for a pause in Tehran’s nuclear program, it virtually guarantees that Iran can become a nuclear-weapons threshold state by the time the deal expires in 2030, while immediately funneling billions of dollars to a revolutionary regime single-mindedly focused not just on sowing aggression and terrorism across the Middle East but on the destruction of the Jewish state itself.

CHINA & IRAN

How The China-Iran Deal Could Reshape The Middle East | Farhang Faraydoon Namdar For The National Interest

No agreement between two states is more comprehensive than the Sino-Iranian agreement. In fact, it resembles a semi-confederacy, for the deal covers many critical areas such as security, economics, finances, and infrastructure. As the years pass, the respective economies will become more interdependent and interconnected making it more difficult for such an agreement to expire. It is over-simplistic to call it a $400 billion deal, for its strategic significance will determine the future of the Middle East.

Robert Gates On US Action In Iran, Afghanistan And China | PBS

Over 100 days into the Biden administration, how is the president dealing with national security issues? Judy Woodruff explores the question with former Defense Secretary, and former CIA Director, Robert Gates. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and authored "Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World."

GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN

Gulf States And Iran Should Agree On Format For Dialogue, Says Qatari Minister | Reuters

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said on Thursday that Gulf Arab states and Iran need to agree on a format to address concerns and ease regional tensions. Sheikh Mohammed also welcomed steps by Doha’s ally, Turkey, to mend ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and urged the two Arab states to continue to engage with Ankara. “The region needs to feel some stability and needs to have all the players in the region coming along together and to have dialogue to calm down all these tensions,” he told Reuters.


Yemeni Minister: Iran’s Quds Force Commander Acting As De Facto Ruler Of Houthi-Held Areas | Arab News

Iran’s Quds Force commander, Hassan Erlo, is acting as de facto ruler of areas controlled by the Houthi militia, a senior Yemeni official has said. Erlo’s movements are highlighted by the Houthis’ media outfit, which confirms that he is acting as a leader, Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s minister of information, culture and tourism, said on Wednesday. Eryani was quoted by state news agency SABA as saying that the Quds Force commander’s actions show that the Houthi leadership takes political, military and administrative orders from the Tehran regime.

TURKEY & IRAN

Turkey And Iran: Parallel Islam Imperialist Ambitions For The Middle East | The Jerusalem Post

Turkish forces last week launched a renewed attack on the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) organization in northern Iraq. This latest offensive follows the “Claw Eagle 2” operation in Gare in February, in which Ankara’s forces unsuccessfully tried to liberate 13 prisoners held by the PKK in the Dohuk area. The operation, dubbed “Claw Lightning” and “Claw Thunderbolt,” involves airdrops of commando forces into the Zap, Metina and Avashin areas.