The United States seeks to lengthen and strengthen the nuclear constraints on Iran through diplomacy and the issue will be part of President Joe Biden’s early talks with foreign counterparts and allies, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Biden has said that if Tehran resumed strict compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement - under which Iran restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions - Washington would too.
Piles of plush carpets line the floors of a northern Iraq shopping center hosting traders from neighboring Iran who hope the spangle of their ornate handicrafts might offer a lifeline out of poverty. In their own country, the economy is in tatters amid crippling U.S. sanctions. “Our money is so devalued, so when we come to this side — apart from the cultural exchange that we share — from a financial perspective it’s more profitable for us,” said Iranian Ramiyar Parwiz, the organizer of the exhibition who is originally from Sanandaj. “The money we receive … whether in dollars or dinars has a higher value on our side and it’s worth a lot.”
Britain is working “virtually around the clock” to secure the release of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals held in Tehran, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday. “We’re working virtually around the clock to secure the release of all the dual nationals that concern us in Tehran ... We’re doing everything we can to secure the (end to) what we regard as the completely unjustified detention in Tehran of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,” he told parliament.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Iran is the biggest concern about Joe Biden's foreign policy, former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said on Wednesday. “I thought the Iran deal was a very bad deal,” Lieberman told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings With Maria” and he added that he was "very glad" when President Trump took the United States out of it. The move, he said, "helped a lot of steps forward in the Middle East, including the unprecedented peace agreements between some of the Arab countries and Israel." Lieberman's comments come on the heels of Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, saying that the U.S. is a "long way" from rejoining the Obama-era agreement and highlighting the imminent dangers the nation could face.
… A more current example are groups opposed to Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons. The most effective of these, UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran) is a registered non-profit organization founded in 2008 by several former American diplomats to increase the monitoring of Iranian smuggling activities by using a growing network of volunteers and organizations able to spot and quickly suspicious activity by Iranian ships. With worldwide availability of smartphones and the Internet, groups like UANI can establish databases of suspicious and confirmed Iran shipping activity that are not only available to government agencies but are used by UANI to report to shipping companies that one of their ships is acting in a suspicious manner and that usually results in quick action before an illegal transaction takes place and the shipping company is held responsible for it.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Israeli television on Wednesday reported that Jerusalem is warning an American return to the former terms of the nuclear deal with Iran under President Joe Biden could lead the countries to a crisis in relations. Channel 12 news cited “a very senior Israeli official” as saying: “If Biden adopts Obama’s plan, we will have nothing to talk about with him.” The official was referencing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by former president Barack Obama in 2015.
The interviews were posted on the website of Iran's supreme leader this month, in Persian and English, quoting senior officials involved in nuclear negotiations over the years: a brief, tortured history of relations with the United States, timed to broadcast the worldview of Iran's establishment at a pivotal moment, as the Biden administration prepared to take office. “There are certainly differences between the policies of Democrats and Republicans, as well as between the personality traits of Trump and Biden,” wrote Kamal Kharazi, a foreign policy adviser to the supreme leader, reflecting the guarded optimism among some in Iran at President Biden’s ascendance.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
India is hoping U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration will take a softer line against adversaries Iran and Venezuela, enabling the world’s third-largest oil importer to diversify its sources of crude. The country would be happy if the number of oil-producing nations rise, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in an interview on Bloomberg TV, reiterating comments that he made last month. “Some geopolitical changes are there,” he said. “Let us wait for how things unfold.”
The Trump administration issued a flurry of sanctions after Election Day, a move that could complicate foreign policy for the Biden administration, sanctions policy observers said. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced 307 designations of blacklisted individuals and entities between Nov. 3 and Tuesday, the last full day under the Trump presidency, according to data analysis from law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Tehran has accused Washington of "hostage taking" after an Iranian political scientist was arrested in the United States and accused of being an agent of Iran's government. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh made the accusation on January 20, a day after U.S. authorities announced the arrest of Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iranian citizen with U.S. permanent residency. The Justice Department said Afrasiabi was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, on January 18 on charges of "acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent" of Tehran.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran called for action and “not just words” shortly after Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted. “The world knows that only the US can fix itself - in practice; not just words,” Khatibzadeh said in a Twitter post.
The incoming Biden administration is inheriting from President Donald Trump an Iran-focused social media campaign that dramatically boosted U.S. engagement with Iranians by sharply criticizing their Islamist rulers, a strategy that President-elect Joe Biden appears set to change. Trump and his State Department used a variety of social media channels, messaging techniques and languages to exert what they called “maximum pressure” on Iran’s ruling clerics to stop perceived malign behaviors.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran’s judiciary released the country’s telecom minister on bail Wednesday after he was summoned for prosecution by Iran’s general prosecutor, state TV reported. The state media outlet quoted Jamal Hadian, a spokesman for the telecommunications ministry, as saying Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi appeared before a prosecutor Wednesday, was released and had already returned to his office. The office of the general prosecutor had summoned Jahromi for prosecution over his refusal to block Instagram and other foreign social media messaging systems, according to earlier reports.
TURKEY & IRAN
Iranians are buying real estate in Turkey in hope of acquiring citizenship and leaving behind the bitter realities of life in Iran’s failing state and economy. Foreign nationals who purchase Turkish houses, apartments, offices, shops or land worth at least US$250,000 can obtain Turkish citizenship, according to the Turkish government’s citizenship by property investment scheme. The previous threshold was $1 million but Ankara slashed the minimum purchase in 2018 amid an economic crisis and eyeing increased investment by well-to-do Persian Gulf citizens as well as would-be Iranian immigrants.