Esfand 9 1399 - February 27 2021
NIAC Applauds Reintroduction of the NO BAN Act

NIAC Action issued the following statement after the reintroduction of the NO BAN Act, which would guard against any President issuing discriminatory immigration orders: "President Biden fulfilled his promise to end the Muslim ban on day one, but Trumpism and xenophobia remain strong forces in American politics. Just as Biden wiped away the ban, a successor administration could reimpose it without further action. That is why Congress needs to pass the NO BAN Act quickly and send it to President Biden for his signature. 2/26/21

Iran Slams Israel for Recent Activity at the 'Region's Only Nuclear Bomb Factory'

New satellite analysis by the Associated Press of Israel's nuclear facility in the Negev desert provides fresh evidence of recent, major activity at at the site. Israel, which has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has never officially declared its nuclear weapons program but is believed to have an arsenal of an estimated 90 nuclear warheads. -Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams 2/26/21

Airstrikes in Syria kill 22 in Joe Biden's first military act as president

Joe Biden has carried out his first military action as president, with airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed fighters in Syria, in what the Pentagon said was retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops. The overnight strikes killed 22 people after hitting three trucks loaded with munitions near the border town of Abu Kamal, a war monitor said on Friday. -Guardian 2/26/21

The Real Regional Problem With the Iran Deal

As U.S. President Joe Biden explores returning to the Iran nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-two of only three countries in the world that opposed the agreement-insist that they must be included in future negotiations over its fate. Their inclusion, representatives of the two countries argue, would rectify the agreement's supposed flaw: its failure to rein in Tehran's regional policies. -Trita Parsi, Foreign Affairs 2/26/21

Iran threatens to end deal with IAEA over U.S.-led push to criticize it

Iran is threatening to end a deal struck with the U.N. nuclear watchdog last weekend temporarily salvaging much monitoring of its activities if the agency's board endorses a U.S.-led push to criticise Tehran next week, an Iranian position paper shows. -Reuters 2/26/21

Iran Reiterates That It's Up To U.S. To Move First On Saving Nuclear Deal

The United States should take the first step toward saving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran's ambassador in Geneva told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on February 24. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh spoke a day after Iran officially began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to pressure European countries and Washington into lifting economic sanctions and restoring the landmark nuclear deal. 2/25/21

Poll: Iranians support nuke deal but no further concessions

Most Iranians favor resuming full compliance with the 2015 international nuclear deal but only if the United States returns to the agreement and meets its obligations first or at the same time, according to a phone poll of Iranians. The Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland and the independent Toronto-based agency IranPoll surveyed more than one thousand Iranians by phone conducted between January 26 and February 6. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 2/25/21

Biden Risks Playing into the Hands of Iranian Hardliners

"Iran kept the nuclear deal alive, but the deal died and its stench offends people," hardline Iranian parliamentarian Javad Karimi Ghodousi declared in January. "It was the revolutionary parliament with its revolutionary law that buried the deal." Ghodousi was addressing Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in parliament and grilling him over his support of negotiations with the United States. Zarif left parliament that day with two "yellow cards," a reprimand from the majority conservative body that weakened his political standing. -Sina Toossi, Just Security 2/25/21

Israeli Military Preparing to 'Take Action' Against Iran

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is preparing to take "action" against Iran's nuclear program. "The IDF is currently working to build up our forces and is preparing itself for any scenario, including one in which we would need to take action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," Gantz said at a graduation ceremony for new IDF officers. -Dave DeCamp, Antiwar 2/25/21

Recent drone attack on Saudi royal palace launched from Iraq

Explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia's royal palace in the kingdom's capital last month were launched from inside Iraq, a senior Iran-backed militia official in Baghdad and a U.S. official said. -AP 2/25/21

Iran is "considering" joining the US for informal nuclear deal talks

Iran's leaders are signaling they're open to participating in informal talks with the United States, brokered by the European Union, to keep the sputtering 2015 nuclear deal alive. The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear pact in 2018, leading the US to reimpose crushing sanctions on Tehran, and Iran to enrich uranium beyond the agreement's caps. -VICE 2/24/21

Iran's rulers close ranks, raise pressure on Biden to lift sanctions

An Iranian state newspaper, taking aim at hardline lawmakers' intervention in Tehran's nuclear row with the West, warned on Tuesday that overly radical actions may lead to Iran's isolation after a new law ended snap inspections by U.N. inspectors. -Reuters 2/24/21

China says Iran nuclear issue at 'critical point'

Developments surrounding Iran's nuclear program are at a "critical point" and lifting sanctions on the country is key to breaking the deadlock, China's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. Spokesperson Wang Wenbin's comments came a day after Iran officially began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to pressure European countries and the U.S. into lifting crippling economic sanctions and restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. -AP 2/24/21

Diplomacy has only a narrow window of opportunity, as the nuclear debate inside Iran remains volatile.

Both Iran and the US have declared that they are willing to come back into full compliance with the nuclear deal. However, as each side is waiting for the other to take the first step, there is an increasing risk of ending up with no nuclear compromise at all. Europeans should be careful not to overestimate Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's readiness to hold on to the JCPOA while underestimating the role of nuclear discourse in the Islamic Republic. -Azadeh Zamirirad, RUSI 2/23/21

Biden attempt to resurrect Iran nuke deal off to bumpy start

The Biden administration's early efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are getting a chilly early response from Tehran. Though few expected a breakthrough in the first month of the new administration, Iran's tough line suggests a difficult road ahead. -Matthew Lee, AP 2/23/21

Will Biden's Iran Diplomacy Become a Shakespearean Tragedy?

ast Thursday, Iran's U.N. mission, which is on the thirty-fourth floor of a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, received what is known as a "diplomatic note" from the U.S. mission, seven blocks away. The Biden Administration, the e-mail said, was lifting restrictions imposed by the Trump Administration that had confined the movement of Iranian diplomats and their families to the mission, the United Nations, their homes, or John F. Kennedy Airport. -Robin Wright, New Yorker 2/23/21

Iran deal with U.N. nuclear inspectors buys time for diplomacy as Biden pursues negotiations

An agreement announced late Sunday that would allow the U.N. nuclear watchdog to continue some monitoring of Iran's atomic program has momentarily eased a standoff between Tehran and Western nations and may provide a narrow opening for diplomacy as the Biden administration attempts to restart negotiations with Iran. -Kareem Fahim, Washington Post 2/23/21

IAEA and Iran strike three-month deal over nuclear inspections

The UN's nuclear inspectorate has struck a three-month deal with Iran giving it sufficient continued access to verify nuclear activity in the country, opening the space for wider political and diplomatic talks between Tehran and the US. Iran will go ahead with its threat to withdraw this week from the additional protocol, the agreement that gives inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) intrusive powers. -Guardian 2/22/21

Hawks in Iran and Israel agree: Biden's bid to salvage nuclear deal must not succeed

For sworn enemies, Iran and Israel have much in common. Both are regional powers, projecting their interests beyond their borders. Both are beholden, in different ways, to shifting US policy. Both have secretive nuclear programmes. And both are heading towards national elections - in Israel next month, in Iran in June - that could decide whether cold-hearted enmity turns into hot-blooded war. -Simon Tisdall, Guardian 2/22/21

Iran Sees Hypocrisy as West Mum on Israel's Nuclear Expansion

For years, anything Iran does even tangentially related to its civilian nuclear program elicits gasps of horror from Western leaders. This is true particularly when those actions have nothing to do with nuclear arms... Iran's FM Javad Zarif couldn't help but notice hypocrisy among leaders when reports emerged of substantial expansion of Israel's nuclear program, which is already known to include a nuclear arms component, and which the West continues to ignore. -Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com 2/22/21

Iran nuclear deal: US agrees to join talks brokered by EU

The US has agreed to take part in multilateral talks with Iran hosted by the EU, with the aim of negotiating both countries' return to the 2015 nuclear deal that is close to falling apart in the wake of the Trump administration. The state department spokesperson, Ned Price, said the US would accept the EU high representative's invitation for discussions with Iran and the five other countries that agreed the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), by which Iran accepted strict constraints on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. -Guardian 2/19/21

First steps toward returning to the Iran nuke deal. But what's next?

Something is going very wrong with President Joe Biden's Iran policy and it's not clear why. Unless he corrects course, Biden risks losing a vital agreement and putting the two nations back on a path towards war - at precisely the time he wants to focus on the multiple domestic crises gripping America. In his first month in office, Biden quickly reversed the most damaging of Donald Trump's policies on climate, immigration, health care, and many others. But he has left untouched Trump's Iran policy. -Joe Cirincione, Responsible Statecraft 2/19/21

Iran nuclear deal: Clock ticks as rivals square up

The window for saving the international nuclear deal with Iran is rapidly narrowing - and a power-struggle inside the Islamic republic between those for and against it could soon seal its fate. Iran holds crucial presidential elections in June, and hardliners who see the deal as a humiliation want to stall its revival before the polls. -Siavash Ardalan, BBC 2/19/21

Iran nuclear deal hangs in balance as Tehran turns screw on US

The future of the Iran nuclear deal is hanging in the balance as the west prepares its response to Iranian plans to increase pressure on Washington by banning snap intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites. The German, French and British foreign ministers are to confer urgently with the US secretary of state, Tony Blinken, on how to respond to Iran's plans, which it is expected to implement on Tuesday. -Guardian 2/18/21

Biden's snub of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a 'warning' signaling a relationship downgrade

President Joe Biden's press secretary delivered a striking message to Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this week. Jen Psaki told a news conference, using diplomatic language, that the U.S.-Saudi relationship - particularly that with the kingdom's crown prince - is being downgraded. -CNBC 2/18/21

Netanyahu and Biden speak about pandemic, Iran, peace effort

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Wednesday after a month of silence that raised concerns in Israel about a frostier relationship between the two allies. Netanyahu's office was first to announce the conversation, releasing a photo of a smiling prime minister holding a phone to his ear. The statement said the conversation was "warm and friendly" and lasted about an hour. -AP 2/18/21

Blame Game Intensifies Over Iranian Accomplice To Assassination Of Top Nuclear Scientist

A blame game has intensified in Iran more than two months after the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist and the purported mastermind of an alleged atomic-weapons effort, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The 59-year-old Fakhrizadeh was killed on a highway outside the Iranian capital in broad daylight in November in what was regarded as a major security failure. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 2/18/21

India joins Iran-Russia joint navy drill; China also to take part

Iranian forces have launched a two-day navy exercise with Russia in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, with India also joining in and China expected to take part, too. Forces and vessels from the navy divisions of both the Iranian army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) participated in the drill, which kicked off on Tuesday, alongside several vessels from the Russian navy. 2/17/21

Iran-Taliban growing ties: What's different this time?

It could not have been a more striking picture: a Taliban delegation visiting Tehran in late January and being received by senior Iranian officials. They reportedly discussed "relations between both countries, the situation of the Afghan migrants in Iran, and the current political and security situation of Afghanistan and the region." -Fatemeh Aman, Atlantic Council 2/17/21

Is Biden Committing Diplomatic Suicide Over the Iran Nuclear Agreement?

American neocons and hawks, including those inside his own administration, appear to be flexing their muscles to kill Biden's commitment to diplomacy at birth, and his own hawkish foreign policy views make him dangerously susceptible to their arguments. -Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J.S. Davies, Common Dreams 2/16/21

Reviving the Nuclear Deal Gives the U.S. More Leverage Over Iran

As officials in Washington consider returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, much of the debate has centered on whether the U.S. government will lose leverage. Some experts and officials argue that if the Biden administration rejoins the deal-also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-the United States will squander the leverage built in recent years through former President Donald Trump's maximum pressure strategy. -Mahsa Rouhi, Bourse & Bazaar 2/16/21

Report: Iran and Russia begin joint naval drill

The Iranian and Russian militaries have kicked off a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean aimed at boosting security of maritime trade in the region, Iran's state TV reported on Tuesday. The TV said units from Iran's Navy and the powerful Revolutionary Guard's navy will take part in the exercise dubbed "Iran-Russia Maritime Security Belt 2021" in the northern part of Indian Ocean, spanning a stretch of about a 17,000 kilometers. -AP 2/16/21

Iranian Immigrants Place Hopes In Biden To Reverse Muslim Travel Ban

President Joe Biden says he is reversing the barriers to immigration the Trump administration imposed on several majority-Muslim countries, and the White House is reviewing just how to undo those complex restrictions. Among those most often rejected for visas in the last three years are Iranians, according to State Department figures. That has disrupted life for them and, in some cases, relatives already in the U.S. NPR's Peter Kenyon has this report. 2/15/21

Economic sanctions are damaging the environment

President Joe Biden has been elected on a promise, among others, to move the United States towards an ambitious new climate agenda - a feat that will require a radical transformation of thinking and practices across all areas of American policymaking. -Shirin Hakim & Barney Bartlett, Al Jazeera 2/15/21

Iran vows to limit nuclear inspections if partners fail to act

Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said President Hassan Rouhani's government is obliged by law to stop voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol - which gives the UN's nuclear watchdog more inspection authority - if US sanctions on Iran's oil and banking sectors are not lifted by February 21. -Al Jazeera 2/15/21

Iran's army test fires short-range 'smart' missile

Iran's army test fired a sophisticated short-range missile on Sunday, state media reported. The report by the official IRNA news agency quoted the chief of the army's ground forces, Gen. Kioumars Heidari, as saying that the missile's range was 300 kilometers, or 186 miles. 2/15/21

Exiled Iranian judo champion lands in Israel for Tel Aviv tourney

A former world judo champion who fled Iran in 2019 in a dispute over competing against Israelis arrived in the Jewish state late Sunday to compete in a Judo Grand Slam competition being held this week in Tel Aviv. After landing he was taken to a hotel to quarantine ahead of the competition. -Times of Israel 2/15/21

Dismantling the 'sanctions wall' myth

Since President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, Iranian and U.S. officials have postured in public remarks over who should make the first move in returning to the Iran nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Underlying this debate, however, are questions of how each party can come back into compliance with the deal and what barriers stand in the way. Iran will need to reverse a number of steps it has taken in ramping up its nuclear program. The Biden administration, on the other hand, must contend with a series of sanctions and designations that were inherently designed to make returning to the JCPOA more difficult. -Shervin Ghaffari, Responsible Statecraft 2/12/21

Regime changers love to think Iran is always on the 'brink of collapse'

February 11 marks the 42nd anniversary of the Iranian revolution of 1979, which ousted a despotic monarch and ushered in what many Iranians hoped would be the independence and freedom they had fought to attain for so long. These hopes were not fulfilled, however, and under the Islamic Republic, Iranians have had to continue their fight for freedom. Their efforts have at times been undermined by outside pressure, driven by the false narrative propagated by opponents of diplomacy in the United States that the Islamic Republic is on the brink of collapse. -Assal Rad, Responsible Statecraft 2/12/21

To End 'Blank Check' for Saudi-UAE Assault on Yemen, Coalition Demands Biden Permanently Cancel $37 Billion in Arms Sales

A coalition of more than 80 anti-war advocacy groups and experts is calling on President Joe Biden to solidify his commitment to ending U.S. support for the devastating, years-long assault on Yemen by permanently canceling dozens of Trump era arms sales-worth a combined $36.5 billion-to the murderous Saudi regime and the United Arab Emirates. -Common Dreams 2/12/21

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Kick Off Drills Near Iraq Border

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has launched ground forces drills in the southwest of the country near the Iraqi border. IRGC Ground Force Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said on February 11 that drones, helicopters, and artillery are to be used in the drills, dubbed Great Prophet 16, according to Press TV. 2/11/21

IAEA Confirms Iran Produces Uranium Metal, Despite Western Warnings

Recent focus on Iran's civilian nuclear program has been centered on them producing uranium metal, which is being done in spite of warnings from other parties to the nuclear deal that the deal forbids them from doing so. The clause in the deal specific to this is that "Iran will not engage in activities, including at the R&D level, that could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device, including uranium or plutonium metallurgy activities." -Jason Ditz, Antiwar 2/11/21

Call me maybe? Nervous Israelis fear a Biden snub

It's been three weeks, and he still hasn't called. Israelis are expressing growing concern that President Joe Biden has yet to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his inauguration. Some fear that it could forecast a chillier relationship between the two close allies after President Donald Trump's warm embrace. -AP 2/11/21

How To Repair The U.S.-Iranian Relationship

The U.S.-Iranian relationship is at one of the lowest points in its history. In the last few years, there have been several incidents that brought the two countries closer to open war than ever before. The lack of diplomatic relations and normal channels of communication make it likely that there will be more near-misses in the future unless there is a fundamental change in that relationship. The Biden administration has a short time to salvage the nuclear deal... -Daniel Larson, American Conservative 2/10/21

Iran Foreign Minister Tells Biden US 'Violated' Nuclear Deal, So It Is US 'That Has to Return'

While U.S. President Joe Biden insisted Sunday that Tehran must halt its uranium enrichment program before the U.S. rejoins the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif countered that it was former President Donald Trump who abandoned the agreement and deprived Iranians of food and medicine-and therefore the onus is on Washington to bring the U.S. back into compliance with the pact by lifting all sanctions on Iran. -Common Dreams 2/9/21

U.S. may weigh baby steps to revive Iran nuclear deal

The United States is weighing a wide array of ideas on how to revive the Iranian nuclear deal, including an option where both sides would take small steps short of full compliance to buy time, said three sources familiar with the matter. Such a modest approach could slow the deterioration in relations since former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and freeze Iran's subsequent violations, which have brought it closer to enriching weapons-grade uranium. -Reuters 2/9/21

In a U.S.-Iran standoff, Biden must be willing to take a little political heat

The new Biden administration has put the Iran File at the top of its "must dos" in foreign policy because of two factors. First, it is imperative to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability or even to get close to it. Indeed, Washington will not let that happen even if it means resorting to military action. Second, the intensity of U.S. media coverage and political commentary on the Iranian nuclear program requires that it be dealt with post-haste. -Robert E. Hunter, Responsible Statecraft 2/9/21

Iran may pursue nuclear weapon, intel minister warns West

Iran's intelligence minister has warned the West that his country could push for a nuclear weapon if crippling international sanctions on Tehran remain in place, state television reported Tuesday. "If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not," he said and added that Iran has no plans to move toward a nuclear weapon under current circumstances. -AP 2/9/21

Biden, Iran's Khamenei Issue Dueling Demands Amid Nuclear Talks Stalemate

Iran and the United States have deepened their standoff over Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers as the leaders of both countries demanded the other side act first. U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated he will not lift sanctions to get Iran back to the negotiating table, saying Tehran must first adhere to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. 2/8/21

Regime changers don't want Biden to re-join the Iran nuclear deal

Several proponents of regime change and war - as well as a Saudi prince and intelligence chief - signed a letter asking President Joe Biden to be "bipartisan" by continuing the Trump administration's pressure campaign against Iran. The letter was organized by United Against Nuclear Iran, a pressure group that received funding from recently-deceased Republican Party megadonor Sheldon Adelson, and Thomas Kaplan, an investor whose companies looked to profit from unrest in the Middle East. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 2/8/21

Involving regional states in Iran talks is a recipe for failure

In an interview with the Saudi-owned television channel, Al Arabiya, last Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that Saudi Arabia should be included in any future negotiations with Iran. He added that excluding regional states from nuclear talks that culminated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with Iran in 2015 was a big mistake. -Shireen Hunter, Responsible Statecraft 2/8/21

SPYING ON THE U.S.: How Iran Tried to Recruit Spies Against the U.S. in Iraq

THE IRAQI HAD a lot to prove to his Iranian spy handler. For years, the Iraqi had secretly spied for Iran, providing valuable intelligence about American operations in Iraq. But when the United States withdrew most of its troops and reduced its presence in Iraq in 2011, he had little new information that interested his Iranian minders. With the Americans pretty much gone, the Iraqi was cut loose by the Iranians. -James Risen, Intercept 2/8/21

90 percent of Chabahar coral reefs are dying: Iranian official

Up to 90 percent of coral reefs in Chabahar waters along the Sea of Oman have been bleached and are dying, an official with the Department of Environment has said. A rise in temperature of the water has had a negative effect on the ecosystem so that 90 percent of coral reefs in this region have been bleached and are dying, IRNA quoted Davood Mirshekar, deputy chief of the Department of Environment for marine ecosystems, as saying on Wednesday. 2/5/21

Legends Of Tomorrow's Zari Is A "First" The MCU Should Learn From

Originally hailing from a very grim future that saw her parents persecuted and ultimately killed because they were Muslim, Zari joins the Legends on their time traveling adventures at the beginning of Legends of Tomorrow season 3. In an alternate timeline, the original Zari is replaced by a version who grew up with her family in season 5. It's kind of complicated, but it works. As an Iranian-American, Zari is the first Middle Eastern superhero on television and in DC Comics' live-action slate. -Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant 2/5/21

How to avoid the 'you first' quandary on reentering the Iran nuclear deal

After years of bludgeoning during Donald Trump's presidency, the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, the most intrusive and comprehensive nuclear inspection regime imposed on any nation, is on life support. Although both the Iranian government and the new Biden administration are eager for the deal to survive, neither side appears willing to take the crucial first step towards ensuring its survival. -Sajjad Safaei, Responsible Statecraft 2/5/21

U.S. Should Pay Iran Reparations

Ignoring Iran was a long Congressional tradition before the establishment of the tradition of claiming Iran is a threat to the world. Now lying about Iran is a major industry. US now imposes deadly sanctions on the entire nation of Iran, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Iran made an agreement for more thorough inspections than any other nation on earth to get sanctions relief. US violated and tore up the agreement, and now says that Iran had better change its ways if it wants the agreement back. -David Swanson, Counterpunch 2/5/21

Macron supports U.S.-Iran dialogue, floats himself as 'honest broker'

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday welcomed the renewed U.S. willingness to engage with Iran, offered himself as an honest broker and said Saudi Arabia and Israel must ultimately be involved somehow. "We do need to finalize, indeed, a new negotiation with Iran," Macron told the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank in a video conference from Paris. -Reuters 2/5/21

New Iran envoy shows Biden is serious about reviving nuclear deal

Malley appointment, alongside Mr Biden's selection of seasoned diplomats involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, such as Antony Blinken as secretary of state and William Burns as CIA director, is a strong statement of intent. It could hardly be more different to the outgoing US envoy for Iran, Elliott Abrams, one of a cohort of Trump aides who acted more as lawyers for Israel than mediators. - David Gardner, Financial Times 2/4/21

Biden's Iran Dilemma: Serve Obama's Third Term - or Trump's Second?

Even before winning the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden began hedging his bets on US policy toward Iran. While correctly blaming Donald Trump for violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran nuclear deal, he tried to fob responsibility for restoring that deal off on the Iranians rather than accepting the job himself. -Thomas Knapp, Antiwar.com 2/3/21

U.S. cool to, but does not reject, Iran's idea on reviving nuclear deal

The U.S. State Department reacted coolly on Tuesday to an Iranian suggestion that Washington and Tehran take synchronized steps to return to the Iran nuclear deal, though a U.S. official said the stance should not be seen as a rejection. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had said one way to bridge the impasse with Washington was for an EU official to choreograph their steps to restore the 2015 pact abandoned in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump. -Reuters 2/3/21

US moves carrier from Persian Gulf in a sign of ebbing tensions with Iran

US President Joe Biden's administration has pulled an aircraft carrier out of Persian Gulf in a move to potentially ease tensions with Iran, which had soared under former President Donald Trump. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group had sailed from the US military's Central Command in the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific Command region. -Al Jazeera 2/3/21

Iran is ready for a new relationship with the US, but the clock is ticking, says Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Iran is ready for a new relationship with the US -- but the clock is ticking, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday, Zarif said the Biden administration has a "limited window of opportunity" to re-enter the 2015 nuclear agreement. -CNN 2/2/21

Iran state TV airs launch of new satellite-carrying rocket

Iranian state TV on Monday aired the launch of the country's newest satellite-carrying rocket Zuljanah, which it said was able to reach a height of 500 kilometers (310 miles). The footage of the solid-liquid-fueled rocket showed the launch taking place during daytime in a desert environment. The report did not say when or where the launch happened. -AP 2/2/21

What next as Israel steps up attacks on Iranian forces in Syria?

While Israel has worked to counter Iran's efforts to extend its influence in Syria for a decade, recent developments indicate an increased push to eradicate the Iranian presence, raising questions about what comes next. -Thomas O Falk, Al Jazeera 2/2/21

Biden Meets Iran: The Upcoming Diplomatic Battle

President Biden has offered the first hope in four years for Iran. There are early signs, though, that that hope could be threatened or illusory. Biden's secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, has made two recent statements that are of interest to Iran but also to Saudi Arabia. -Ted Snider, Antiwar.com 2/2/21

Talks with Taliban done with knowledge of Afghan government: Tehran

Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, said on Monday that the talks Iran had with the Taliban were all coordinated with the Afghan government. Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Monday, Khatibzadeh said, "All talks have taken place either at the request or with the knowledge of the government of Afghanistan." 2/2/21

Who goes first? Biden's first JCPOA hurdle

He's only been president for a bit more than a week, but Joe Biden's promise to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has already hit a roadblock. While the United States and Iran both publicly favor returning to the nuclear deal, they both also insist that the other must take the first step. As heated as some of the rhetoric has been between the two sides, the "who goes first" problem has been prevalent throughout diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program, so there are nonetheless good reasons to remain calm. -Trita Parsihew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 2/1/21

Biden presidency 'may herald new start for Saudi-Iranian relations'

An opportunity for a new beginning between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been presented by Joe Biden's presidency, two leading Saudi and Iranians close to their diplomatic leaderships are proposing in an article in the Guardian today. The article is co-written by Abdulaziz Sager, the Saudi Arabian chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center, and Hossein Mousavian, a former senior Iranian diplomat and now a nuclear specialist based at Princeton University. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian 2/1/21

Iran rejects new talks or parties in nuclear deal

Iran's foreign ministry has rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, after French President Emmanuel Macron said any new talks should include Saudi Arabia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Macron should "show self-restraint". "If French officials are worried about their huge arms sales to Persian Gulf Arab states, they better reconsider their policies," Khatibzadeh said. -Al Jazeera 2/1/21

Biden will contend with divergent Middle East preferences on Iran

The Middle East is experiencing a period of diplomatic and strategic readjustment that will create both challenges and opportunities for the Biden Administration and its friends in the region... The tricky task may have been on the mind of the newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken when, during his Senate confirmation hearings, he declared that the United States would not "rush" to reach an agreement with Tehran. -Daniel Brumberg, Responsible Statecraft 2/1/21

Rumored Iran envoy gets big boost after smear campaign tries to take him down

Two hundred foreign policy professionals and 29 organizations issued an open statement on Thursday in support of Robert Malley's rumored appointment as special envoy to Iran, marking the latest salvo in a proxy war over the Biden administration's policy towards the Middle East. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 1/29/21

Biden expected to appoint nuclear deal architect as US Iran envoy

The Biden administration is expected name Robert Malley, a former top adviser in the Obama administration, as special envoy for Iran, according to multiple sources. Malley was a key member of former Barack Obama's team that negotiated the nuclear accord with Iran and world powers, an agreement that Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 in the face of strong opposition from Washington's European allies. -Guardian 1/29/21

Iran says it will not reverse nuclear steps before U.S. sanctions are lifted

Tehran will not accept U.S. demands that it reverse an acceleration of its nuclear programme before Washington lifts sanctions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday. The demand "is not practical and will not happen", he said at a joint news conference in Istanbul with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. -Reuters 1/29/21

Iran is actually reducing its weapons-usable uranium inventory

On December 1, 2020, the Iranian parliament passed a sweeping bill directing the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to take a number of steps designed to garner attention from the incoming Joe Biden administration and to respond to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Some of these steps looked quite ominous at first blush, but, in reality, do not have serious implications for starting a real Iranian nuclear weapons program. -Robert Kelley, Atlantic Council 1/29/21

Iran disappointed over Biden administration's refusal to lift sanctions

Iran has responded with anger and disappointment to the new US secretary of state saying American sanctions against Tehran will not be lifted until it comes back into verifiable "full compliance" with its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. Antony Blinken said Iranian compliance would take some time, indicating there is unlikely to be any major movement in negotiations until after the Iranian presidential elections in June. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian 1/28/21

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