Britain, France and Germany have scrapped a U.S.-backed plan for the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board to criticise Iran for scaling back cooperation with the agency, diplomats said on Thursday, amid concerns about efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal. The European powers, all parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, have been lobbying for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors to adopt a resolution at this week’s quarterly meeting expressing concern at Iran’s latest breaches of the deal and calling on it to undo them.
Iran is reaching out to old customers in Asia to gauge their interest in buying its oil as Tehran ramps up diplomacy to get U.S. sanctions lifted. The National Iranian Oil Co. -- the state oil marketer -- has approached at least five refiners across the region to discuss the possibility of supply deals if sanctions are eased, according to people familiar with the matter. Talks are preliminary, with no discussion on volumes or prices yet, they said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential.
The Emerald, the Iranian vessel at the heart of the Israeli oil spill crisis was seen anchored off the coast of Iran's Kharg Island on January 17, new information has revealed. Photographs of the vessel, which Israel has accused of deliberately sabotaging the coastline and its environment in an act of 'eco-terrorism', show the ship off the Iranian coast. There, it is loaded with an estimated 112,000 tons of crude oil, before encircling the Persian Gulf and entering Egyptian waters.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Any new nuclear deal between the West and Iran should be “dramatically improved” from the previous agreement, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Wednesday. Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urged U.S. President Joe Biden to put “enormous pressure” on Iran to change its behavior and dismantle its nuclear program, which he said could affect not only the Middle East, but Europe and the United States.
Iran has been given a chance to address the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s concerns on uranium particles found at undeclared, old sites and Washington will watch closely, the United States told the watchdog’s board on Thursday. “Iran has now been given another opportunity by the Director General to offer up the necessary cooperation before this Board next meets,” the U.S. statement to the board said, shortly after diplomats said plans for a resolution criticising Iran had been scrapped.
U.S. air strikes successfully destroyed facilities used by Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria last Thursday. But the operation also exposed the contradictions in the Biden administration's approach to Iran. Returning to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has been central to the Biden foreign policy vision, contingent only on Iran's meeting its obligations. Addressing the several flaws in the agreement, such as the exclusion of Iran's regional destabilization efforts, is supposed to be postponed to some future second stage of wider talks.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The government of Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and unfortunately its educational curriculum is no exception. Public school teachers in Iran today use textbooks designed by the state to indoctrinate young people to export global revolution using terrorism and other aggressive means. As a result, the content of its textbooks should be a global concern. I recently completed the first comprehensive study of hate and extremism in current Iranian textbooks in nearly half a decade as part of my ongoing work with the Anti-Defamation League, the results of which are accessible in full on the ADL website.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, likened President Donald Trump's Middle East diplomatic achievements to Nixon's opening of China in 1972. He also warned that the U.S. should continue the tough Trump policy on Iran. "I think that one of the great successes of the previous administration was that they had lined up, that they had achieved, two things in the Middle East. One, to separate the Palestinian problem from all of the other problems so that it did not become a veto over everything else – and secondly, of lining up the Sunni states in actual or potential combination against the Shiite states, which is Iran," he said.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
The more radical sectors of Iran’s embattled Reform movement say past experience has taught them not to “hire a candidate” from outside their tribe for the June presidential election. The concept of “the hired candidate” made its way into Iran’s political discourse with the pro-Reform movement’s endorsement of Hassan Rouhani in 2013 and later for his reelection in 2017. To many members of the camp, that was a choice in reluctance between a lesser of two evils. In their view, Rouhani had never expressed allegiance to their fundamental tenets of genuine reform in the Islamic Republic.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
The Arab Ministerial Quartet Committee met on Wednesday to discuss developments in the crisis with Iran and ways to address interference by Tehran in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Osama bin Ahmed Naqli, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt and permanent representative to the Arab League, represented the Kingdom on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. The meeting, which took place in Cairo on the sidelines of the 155th session of the Arab League Council, was chaired by UAE Minister of State Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar.
CONGRESS & IRAN
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled President Biden’s nominee for the No. 2 position at the State Department on Wednesday, homing in on her role as the chief negotiator for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal during the Obama administration. The nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, faces a difficult confirmation process as Republicans and some Democrats raise concerns about the Biden administration’s promise to reenter the deal, even as some liberal groups say the White House is moving too slowly on restoring an agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel accused Iran on Wednesday of being linked to a recent oil spill off its shores that caused major ecological damage, calling the incident environmental terrorism. The spill was caused by an oil tanker that was carrying pirated cargo from Iran to Syria last month, Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said. The vessel sailed through the Gulf and the Red Sea without radio contact, switching its tracking devices back on before passing through Egypt’s Suez Canal, Gamliel told reporters.
IRAQ & IRAN
Qasem Soleimani, the late and unlamented leader of Iran’s Quds Force, used to visit Iraq about twice a month. He would come more when he was needed: for example, when the Iraqis had to form a government and Iran ordered him to meddle. Or he would when nothing much was happening except the odd care and feeding of his proxy militias. In none of these trips did Soleimani need a visa or get his passport stamped at the airport like even the most august American, even though every American, bar none, gets a visa to Iraq.