Tir 25 1399 - July 15 2020
US relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran need a rethink, not reset

As the chances are growing that a Biden administration could take the reins in Washington come January 2021, so is the scrutiny of its prospective policy proposals. When it comes to foreign affairs, there seems to be little doubt among his supporters that some reassessment of U.S. priorities in the Middle East is in order. At the heart of it lies what Daniel Benaim, fellow at the Democrat-aligned Century Foundation calls in a recent paper the failure of President Donald Trump's twin policies of the "maximum pressure" against Iran and "maximum latitude" towards Saudi Arabia. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 7/15/20

The Iranian case, an uncontrolled U.S. foreign policy, a new threat for the world

The assassination of General Soleimani on January 3, 2020 and the ensuing declarations of the Trump administration have plunged the entire international community in a new era of uncontrolled and rogue U.S. policy. On January 13, in his "Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example" speech at the Hoover Institute, State Secretary Mike Pompeo made a declaration that strangely went unnoticed by media. -Lionel Vairon, CGTN 7/15/20

Back to square one, as the JCPOA turns five

On July 14, 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was finalized in Vienna between Iran, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany, and the European Union as the arbiter of the negotiations. Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted about the deal being "not a ceiling but a solid foundation" to build on. Three months earlier - after the political agreement of the nuclear talks was reached in Lausanne - Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had characterized this process as an "experience" which "if the opposite side gives up its misconduct" can be continued on "other issues." -Adnan Tabatabai, Responsible Statecraft 7/14/20

China: World must stop US push to reinstate Iran sanctions, kill JCPOA

China has reaffirmed its firm support for the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and five other world states, calling on the international community to put pressure on the US - which left the deal in 2018 - to abandon a hostile push to reinstate sanctions against Tehran and deal even more blows to the multilateral accord. -Press TV 7/14/20

Sabotage, sanctions and the bullying of Iran is bound to backfire on the west

t now seems fairly certain that Israel or its agents blew up Iran's main nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz on 2 July. A "Middle Eastern intelligence official" who told two American newspapers that Israel was behind the explosion was identified in Israeli media reports last week as Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad spy agency and a close confidant of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. -Simon Tisdall, Guardian 7/13/20

Defying U.S., China and Iran Near Trade and Military Partnership

Iran and China have quietly drafted a sweeping economic and security partnership that would clear the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other sectors, undercutting the Trump administration's efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions. -New York Times 7/13/20

Pompeo's Flimsy Case for Extending the Arms Embargo on Iran

As part of its continued "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, the Trump administration is pushing to extend a UN arms embargo on the Islamic Republic that is set to expire in October. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently presented the UN Security Council with a list of grievances against Iran, a list full of unsubstantiated claims and half-truths. And like most things Washington accuses Tehran of, the U.S. and its allies in the region are guilty of similar or worse offenses. -Dave DeCamp, Antiwar.com 7/13/20

Chabahar-Zahedan railway work begins

The track-laying operations of Chabahar-Zahedan railroad was started on Tuesday in a ceremony attended by Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami and Deputy Transport Minister Kheirollah Khademi. As reported by IRNA, the project which is aimed to connect Chabahar to Zahedan (the capital city of southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province) is planned to be completed by the end of the Iranian calendar year of 1400 (March 2022). 7/10/20

Mystery swirls around explosion at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility

An explosion at the heart of Iran's nuclear programme in the dead of night. An obscure group called the Cheetahs of the Homeland takes credit for it. Then there are fires and gas leaks at key infrastructure around the country. In recent days, speculation has flourished about what exactly happened at Natanz, an assembly plant for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, and other facilities around Iran. -Financial Times 7/10/20

Series of 'explosions & power outages' reported near Tehran

A series of explosions have rocked the outskirts of the Iranian capital Tehran, as well as the cities of Garmdareh and Quds, Iranian media reported amid speculation that missile depots were the intended target. Citing social media, official news agency IRIB reported an explosion in western Tehran in the early hours of Friday local time. More explosions were reported in Garmdareh and Quds, the Mehr News Agency added. -RT 7/10/20

Iran Signs Military Deal with Syria to Boost Air Defenses, Challenge U.S.

Iran has signed a new military agreement with Syria, vowing to boost the war-torn country's air defense power and challenge the U.S. presence there. Iranian Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Revolutionary Guard commander and chief of staff of the Islamic Republic's armed forces, met Wednesday with Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub to sign a new deal to strengthen defense ties between the two allies. -Tom O'Connor, Newsweek 7/9/20

Right-Wing Media Outlets Duped by a Middle East Propaganda Campaign

Conservative sites like Newsmax and Washington Examiner have published Middle East hot takes from "experts" who are actually fake personas pushing propaganda. -Adam Rawnsley, Daily Beast 7/7/20

U.N. expert deems U.S. drone strike on Iran's Soleimani an 'unlawful' killing

The January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Monday. The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani's convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. -Reuters 7/7/20

Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish: The Iranian Coup of 1953

Brands' prediction of a return to Cold War-era covert regime change looks like it might be coming true. In 2020, supporters of the Trump administration's policy of "maximum pressure" against the Islamic Republic of Iran defend regime change as a feasible and "liberal" policy option. Reexamining the 1953 coup's planning, execution, and impact is relevant to examining the current U.S. stance toward Iran. -Gregory Brew, War On The Rocks 7/7/20

Israel Is Trying To Provoke Iran To Start a War

With only four months left to the U.S. presidential elections, and the increasing likelihood of Donald Trump, the most pro-Israel President in history, losing, Israel has been trying to provoke Iran to start a war, so that it can drag the United State into it. This is not anything new. For over a decade Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to force the United States to go to war with Iran, and Israel itself almost attacked Iran three times between 2010 and 2011. But the with events of the last several months darkening the prospects of a second Trump term, Israel feels a new urgency for a war with Iran. -Muhammad Sahimi, Antiwar.com 7/6/20

Iran admits incident at Natanz nuclear site caused major damage

Iran has admitted an incident at one of its main nuclear sites last week caused major damage and could slow down the country's production of advanced centrifuges, technology Israel and the US see as a threat, intensifying suspicions there may have been a deliberate attack on the facility. -Guardian 7/6/20

Israel announces successful launch of new spy satellite

Israel's Defense Ministry announced the successful launch of a new spy satellite early on Monday that would help the country monitor Iran's nuclear activity as its foreign minister hinted that Israel may have been behind a fire that damaged an Iranian nuclear site last week. -AP 7/6/20

Iran operates underground missile cities along southern shores: IRGC commander

Iran's Armed Forces have developed underground missile cities along the country's entire southern shores, including the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, says the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy. Brigadier General Alireza Tangsiri made the remarks in a detailed interview whose text was published on Sunday, noting that such cities accommodate both naval vessels and missiles. -Press TV 7/6/20

Can New Spy Thriller 'Tehran' Affect Israeli-Iranian Relations? Its Writer Hopes So

'We present a different, pleasant side of Iran, which no Western series has ever shown,' says Moshe Zonder, the creator of 'Tehran': Moshe Zonder always liked peeking outside and over the fence - and that's not just a metaphor. While working as a young reporter on the local weekly Tel Aviv, he made it a habit to visit Gaza at every opportunity... -Itay Stern, Haaretz 7/3/20

Iran will not disclose cause of mysterious nuclear site fire

An online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for a fire that analysts say damaged a centrifuge assembly plant at Iran's underground Natanz nuclear site deepened the mystery Friday around the incident - even as Tehran insisted it knew the cause but would not make it public due to "security reasons." -Jon Gambrell, AP 7/3/20

How John Bolton and Mike Pompeo thwarted Trump's plan to get a deal with Iran

Former national security adviser John Bolton's new book gives a window into President Donald Trump's preferred style of negotiation. Bolton paints a picture of a Trump who wants deals but does not believe in conventional diplomacy. Instead, Trump approaches international relations with the real-estate market tactics he formulated in "The Art of the Deal." Trump thought Bolton would help him in this regard. He was sorely mistaken. -Sina Toossi, Responsible Statecraft 7/2/20

U.S. finds little support for extending arms embargo against Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to extend an arms embargo against Iran due to expire in four months, but he faced resistance from China, Russia and even European allies that share his concerns about Iran's missile and nuclear activities. -Carol Morello, Washington Post 7/1/20

Iran may exit the nuclear accord if the US succeeds in extending UN arms embargo

As the U.N. arms embargo on Iran nears its October 2020 expiration date, the United States has intensified its campaign to extend the ban - which was implemented as part of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China. -Saeid Jafari, Responsible Statecraft 7/1/20

What's behind Iran's sudden realignment with Turkey?

Ever since Turkey's military incursion into northeastern Syria in October 2019, dubbed "Operation Peace Spring," and particularly after the Syrian government's offensive on rebel stronghold Idlib in December with the crucial assistance of Iran-allied militias, bilateral ties between Ankara and Tehran have increasingly sourced. Until now. -Maysam Behravesh and Hamidreza Azizi, Responsible Statecraft 7/1/20

Top diplomats from US and Iran at UN on Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif are scheduled to address a U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday on the implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal - the accord that the Trump administration pulled out of more than two years ago. -AP 6/30/20

Iran warns against US-led efforts to extend arms embargo

Iran's U.N. ambassador said Thursday that he believes a U.S. resolution to extend an arms embargo against his country will be defeated and warned it would be "a very, very big mistake" if the Trump administration then tries to re-impose U.N. sanctions. Ambassador Majid Ravanchi said restoring U.N. sanctions will end the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers and release Tehran from all its commitments. -AP 6/26/20

John Bolton Can Stomach Kim Jong Un's North Korea, but Not Iran

The real revelation of the former national security advisor's memoir is that he placed Israeli and Saudi interests ahead of America's-by successfully undermining any U.S. diplomatic efforts with Iran. Bolton boasts about his extensive coordination with Pompeo and Netanyahu to scuttle mediation efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron and to, at all costs, prevent a meeting between Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, in 2019. -Trita Parsi, Foreign Policy 6/26/20

A Maximum Pressure Exit Strategy: Returning to & Building on the Iran Nuclear Deal

In November 2018, we warned that President Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement had substantially damaged U.S. national security interests, credibility with allies, and global leadership.[1] To mitigate the long-term damage to the U.S. and salvage the nuclear accord, our previous report urged lawmakers and Presidential contenders to announce their commitment to returning the United States to compliance with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)-the nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran, and other major world powers. -NIAC 6/24/20

Biden can reverse Trump's failures on Iran

In 2017, Donald Trump inherited a better position on Iran than any U.S. President over the last four decades, with Iran's nuclear program restrained and an opportunity to build on a historic diplomatic accord. More than two years after Trump threw out the successful diplomatic playbook in favor of so-called "maximum pressure," it is clear that a Biden administration would inherit a far worse scenario. Under Trump, the U.S. and Iran have only narrowly avoided all-out war on two occasions, Iran's nuclear program is expanding, and Iranian hardliners are exerting increasing control over policy in Tehran. If elected, Biden would need to immediately shift course. -Jamal Abdi & Ryan Costello, Responsible Statecraft 6/24/20

Iran's Rouhani warns UN agency over nuke site access demands

Iran's president on Wednesday warned the U.N. nuclear watchdog to expect a "stern response" from his country regarding the agency's demands for Iran to provide access to sites where Tehran is thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material. In a televised speech, President Hassan Rouhani said a stern response "is easy" for Iran but that the country prefers cooperation with the U.N. watchdog. -AP 6/24/20

Rise of Iran hardliners threatens nuclear diplomacy, Europe warned

European diplomats are being urged to restart shuttle diplomacy with Iran after the US presidential election in November or risk Tehran hardliners gaining still wider control of Iran's many layers of government and its economy... There is a growing feeling that the trends in internal Iranian politics mean the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will slowly collapse unless some fresh political initiative is made soon by the west. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian 6/24/20

Russia slams Europe's dual standards on JCPOA, 'destructive' US actions

Russia has censured the European signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal for putting pressure on Iran over its nuclear program in spite of claiming they remain committed to the accord, saying such problems are rooted in "destructive" measures adopted by the United States against the accord. In a comment published on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website on Monday, Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit out at the UK, Germany and France for introducing an anti-Iran resolution, which was passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Board of Governors last week. -Press TV 6/23/20

A Maximum Pressure Exit Strategy: Can the U.S. Save the Iran Nuclear Deal Before it's Too Late?

Webinar on Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Since President Trump withdrew from and violated the Iran nuclear deal, tensions with Iran have risen dramatically. The U.S. and Iran have moved to the edge of war twice in the past year, including in January following the airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Iran has halted compliance with limits under the nuclear accord, and hardliners have increasingly exerted control over Iranian policy. Still, the framework of the nuclear accord remains intact, and the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has pledged to return the U.S. to compliance if Iran does the same. -NIAC 6/22/20

Chief rabbi of Iran: Israel does not represent Judaism

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Rabbi Yehuda Garami, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran, explains about their daily lives and why he paid a condolence visit to the family of assassinated Gen. Qasem Soleimani. -Mordechai Goldman, Al Monitor 6/22/20

Iran Nuclear Row Escalates as China Warns of Dire Consequences

A U.S.-backed resolution drafted by three European powers at the International Atomic Energy Agency calls on Iran to "fully cooperate" with IAEA requests to visit two sites that may have hosted low-level atomic work two decades ago. But it has triggered a furious backlash from Iranian allies, with China submitting a 5-page statement to the Vienna-based IAEA on Thursday arguing the reprimand could demolish "the entire global non-proliferation regime." -Bloomberg 6/19/20

Turkey, Iran summoned over bombing of Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Baghdad on Thursday summoned ambassadors from Turkey and Iran over their countries' separate military operations this week targeting Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, calling the attacks an affront to Iraq's sovereignty. Iran routinely attacks its own Kurdish rebels who have bases in northern Iraq. In a statement, the Iraqi ministry condemned the attack and called on Iran to respect Iraq's sovereignty and encouraged bilateral cooperation to maintain security along the shared border. -AP 6/19/20

State media: Iran test fires cruise missiles in naval drill

Iran test fired cruise missiles in a naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman and northern Indian Ocean, state media reported Thursday. The report by the official IRNA news agency said the missiles destroyed targets at a distance of 280 kilometers (170 miles). It said the tests took place during a naval drill by Iran's navy in the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean. -AP 6/18/20

Iran rejects U.S. sanctions on Syria, vows to boost trade with ally

Iran on Thursday condemned as inhumane a fresh round of U.S. sanctions against its regional ally Syria and said it would expand its trade ties with Damascus. The United States on Wednesday imposed its toughest sanctions targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to choke off revenue for his government and force it back to U.N.-led negotiations on ending his country's war. -Reuters 6/18/20

The doves and hawks are here to stay: Time for the E3 to show bold leadership on Iran

This week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will convene its Board of Governors virtually for the first time in its history. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, much attention has been given to the Agency's outstanding request to visit two sites in Iran where there may have been undeclared nuclear activity, suspected to have occurred in 2003. These requests are based on the Israeli-obtained "atomic archive" which Mossad allegedly stole from a warehouse outside of Tehran in early 2018. -Sahil Shah, European Leadership Network 6/17/20

Russia hosts Zarif, promises to stand by Iran on nuclear deal

Russia has promised to stand by its ally, Iran, amid tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in Moscow. Lavrov said on Tuesday Russia would do "everything" to preserve a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that started to unravel two years ago when the US renounced it and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. -Al Jazeera 6/17/20

Iran warns IAEA board against falling under US, Israel pressure

Iran's Foreign Ministry has warned the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Board of Governors against targeting Tehran under pressure from the United States and Israel. "Should an unconstructive decision as such be taken, Iran is likely to respond with a proportionate reaction," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in Tehran on Monday during a regular press briefing, adding, "They can probably guess what Iran's reaction will be." -Press TV 6/15/20

U.S. reaffirms commitment to withdrawing troops from Iraq

The United States intends to continue withdrawing troops from Iraq, it said in a statement late Thursday, after the two countries began talks on the future of their strategic relationship. Seventeen years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the talks, which began Thursday, focus on a wide range of issues. Thorniest among them is the question of foreign troop presence: Iraq's parliament has urged the U.S.-led coalition to leave, and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is under pressure to satisfy that demand without risking security gaps that Islamic State fighters might exploit. -Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post 6/12/20

Iran, Iraq reach initial deal on building 354km highway: Minister

Iran's minister of transportation says an initial deal has been reached with the neighboring Iraq to build a long highway that would ease traffic across the border and would help boost trade between the two neighboring countries. Mohammad Eslami said on Wednesday that the 354-kilometer highway would connect the city of Mehran on the western Iranian border to the holy city of Najaf in central Iraq. 6/11/20

Iran's new hardline parliament has adopted a more radical foreign policy approach

It caught no one by surprise when the new speaker of the Iranian parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in his inaugural address on May 31 described talks with the United States as "fruitless" and "harmful" and went on to say that Iran's strategy in dealing with the United States is to complete the chain of revenge for the blood of General Qassem Soleimani. Ghalibaf, who was one of the military commanders during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and also served as a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as the national police chief, now leads probably the most hardline parliament in Iran's history. -Saeid Jafari, Responsible Statecraft 6/11/20

Troubled Iran struggles to maintain sway over Iraq militias

Iraqi militia factions expected the usual cash handout when the new head of Iran's expeditionary Quds Force made his first visit to Baghdad earlier this year, succeeding the slain Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Instead, to their disappointment, Esmail Ghaani brought them silver rings. For his second visit, Ghaani had to apply for a visa, something unheard of in Soleimani's time - a bold step by Baghdad's new government effectively curtailing Iran's freedom of movement inside Iraq. -AP 6/11/20

PHOTOS: Newly hatched turtles on Kish Island, Persian Gulf

A group of hawksbill sea turtles hatched out on Kish Island in Persian Gulf and made their way into the sea. Each mother hawksbill sea turtle can lay up to 120 eggs which will hatch after nearly 90 days. -Nasrin Faegh 6/10/20

What the latest IAEA reports mean for the future of the Iran nuclear deal

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on June 5 detailed the latest ways that Iran has exceeded limits agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal and failed to cooperate with monitoring obligations that predate the accord. The agency also listed the ways that Iran continues to honor both its ongoing safeguards obligations and additional verification measures agreed to by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While it would be Pollyannaish to call the glass half full, it would be flatly wrong to call the glass empty. -Mark Fitzpatrick, Responsible Statecraft 6/10/20

'Maximum pressure' on Iran has failed to achieve both its stated and real goals, experts say

"The fundamental problem with U.S. policy toward Iran has been a ridiculous inflation of Iran's importance to the United States," said Jarrett Blanc, former State Department coordinator for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal, under the Obama administration. "You don't have to excuse a variety of genuinely problematic Iranian policies to say 'this is not actually a particular threat to the United States.' The way in which it becomes a threat to the United States is largely through our own mistakes." -Sam Fraser, Responsible Statecraft 6/9/20

Iran to execute 'CIA agent' over Gen Suleimani intelligence

An Iranian responsible for leaking information about the powerful general Qassem Suleimani but without direct involvement in his assassination by the US in January has been sentenced to death and will be hung shortly, the Iranian judiciary has said. Speaking on Tuesday, at a regular judicial press conference, the alleged culprit was named as Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, an Iranian citizen. -Guardian 6/9/20

Russia rejects US drive for permanent Iran arms embargo

Russia's foreign minister is accusing the Trump administration of unleashing a politically motivated campaign against Iran and is calling for "universal condemnation" of the U.S. attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to impose a permanent arms embargo against the Islamic Republic. -AP 6/9/20

Analysis: How Saudi Arabia and Iran became rivals

So, contemporary Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Muslim world ... and then along comes Iran with a very different idea of what the Muslim world should be. Iran firmly believes that political currents in the Muslim world need to be viewed as forces of change in a region long exploited by the US and other Western powers. Naturally, as a Shia Muslim nation it backs other Shia Muslim groups, but also vocally throws its weight behind the Palestinian cause. -Imran Khan, Al Jazeera 6/5/20

Israel and Iran Just Showed Us the Future of Cyberwar With Their Unusual Attacks

In late April, Israeli media reported on a possible cyberattack on several water and sewage treatment facilities around the country. Israel's national water agency initially spoke of a technical malfunction, but later acknowledged it was a cyberstrike...Then, on May 9, a cyberattack targeted the computer systems at Iran's busiest hub for maritime trade, Shahid Rajaee Port in Bandar Abbas near the Strait of Hormuz. -Foreign Policy 6/5/20

The legacy of the Iraq sanctions regime is alive and well in US foreign policy today

The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council, from 1990 to 2003, may well lay claim to be the worst humanitarian catastrophe ever imposed in the name of global governance. The unconscionable human damage done by those sanctions is routinely dismissed as the unintended consequence of a well-intentioned policy from the past, which has since given way to more nuanced and humane measures. But in fact, the Iraq sanctions program is the template for the systemic, devastating sanctions we see in place today applied in a subtler and more circuitous form - although Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran is neither subtle nor circuitous. -Joy Gordon, Responsible Statecraft 6/4/20

Iran signs new deal with Iraq for export of electricity

Iran and Iraq have agreed on a two-year contract for supply of Iranian electricity to the Arab country as the neighbors keep deepening energy ties despite American sanctions that forbid such exchanges. Iranian state-news agency IRNA said late on Wednesday that Iran's Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian and Iraqi minister of electricity Majid Mahdi Hantoush had signed a two-year contract for export of Iranian electricity to Iraq. -Press TV 6/4/20

Regional initiative for locust infestation

A trilateral plan among Iran, Pakistan and India is being formulated to address locust swarm infestations that devour crops and threaten the livelihood and sustenance in the region, already struggling with coronavirus pandemic. The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a single swarm covering one square kilometer can contain up to 80 million locusts. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on Friday there was an increased risk along both sides of India-Pakistan border. 6/2/20

The true objectives of Trump's counterproductive foreign policy

What do human rights in Hong Kong and nuclear reactors in Iran have in common? Answer: both have been the subject of recent announcements by the Trump administration that run directly and obviously counter to the very objectives that ostensibly were the purpose of the moves. President Trump's statement following Beijing's imposition on Hong Kong of mainland security strictures correctly described China's action as a "tragedy for the people of Hong Kong" and a blow against Hong Kong's status as a prosperous and free society. -Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft 6/2/20

Team Trump's new move on Iran puts the nuclear deal in jeopardy and risks a new Middle East nuclear crisis

The Trump administration's policy toward Iran reached a new level of recklessness when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that Washington would no longer waive sanctions for certain cooperative projects outlined in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. With this move, it is increasingly clear that the Trump administration is bent on killing the multilateral nuclear accord and ensuring that there is no agreement for a future U.S. administration to return to, irrespective of the consequences for nonproliferation, regional stability, and U.S. credibility. -Kelsey Davenport, Responsible Statecraft 6/1/20

Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump's War on Iran?

On May 6th, President Trump vetoed a war powers bill specifying that he must ask Congress for authorization to use military force against Iran. Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign of deadly sanctions and threats of war against Iran has seen no let-up, even as the U.S., Iran and the whole world desperately need to set aside our conflicts to face down the common danger of the Covid-19 pandemic. -Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J.S. Davies, Common Dreams 5/29/20

13 Organizations to DNC: Support JCPOA Reentry

NIAC Action and a dozen other organizations - including Foreign Policy for America, J Street, MoveOn, Our Revolution and Truman Center for National Policy - sent a letter jointly calling on the Democratic National Committee to support an unequivocal U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal, in the Party's 2020 Democratic Platform. While there may be divisions on some issues within the Democratic Party between the center and the left, the breadth of organizations backing this letter demonstrates a political consensus on this key foreign policy issue. 5/29/20

Does Trump Want Iran to Try to Go Nuclear?

Despite a pandemic, a looming cold war with China, and the harshest economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Donald Trump still has room on his plate for provoking a war with Iran. That is the only plausible interpretation of his decision, reported by the Washington Post this week, to end the sanction waivers that allow Russian, Chinese, and European companies to do work at Iranian nuclear sites. -Fred Kaplan, Slate 5/29/20

Mystery Submarine May Reveal A Major New Capability For Iran

It was only a matter of time before this happened. A new vessel, shown in public for the first time this week, is either a very small submarine or a very large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV). It appears to be the latter. If correct, this will add a new dimension to Iran's systematic warfare capability. It will also mean that Iran joins an elite club with only the U.S. Navy and Britain's Royal Navy having such large UUVs. -H I Sutton, Forbes 5/29/20

U.S. Ends Sanctions Waivers On Iran's Civilian Nuclear Program

The United States will end sanctions waivers that allow Russian, Chinese, and European firms to carry out civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran, effectively scrapping the last remnants of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. But critics of the Trump administration say that its policy of "maximum pressure" has failed to convince Iran to negotiate a "better deal." Instead, the strategy is to completely eliminate the nuclear accord, making it harder for other signatories or a future president to save the JCPOA. 5/28/20

Photos: Newly hatched Hawksbill turtles crawl into Persian Gulf

A group of Hawksbill baby sea turtles, hatched out on Tuesday morning in the southern Iranian Qeshm Island, crawl clumsily into the Persian Gulf to swim out to the free waters. The Persian Gulf islands of Shidvar, Nakhiloo, Kish, and Qeshm are four conservation sites for hawksbill sea turtles in Iran. -Asghar Besharati, Mehr 5/28/20

Real and imagined problems of the Middle Eastern arms trade

One of the latest steps in the Trump administration's never-ending pressure campaign on Iran is its attempt to extend a United Nations-imposed embargo prohibiting the export to or import from Iran of conventional arms. At a rhetorical level, the administration's pitch is easy to make - no American politician ever lost votes by arguing against arms going to Iran. But the administration says nothing about the background and context of the embargo, which it would if it really were concerned about arms and insecurity in the Middle East. -Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft 5/28/20

Iran changes tack in Iraqi politics after mastermind's assassination

Two diplomats are quietly leading Iran's push to influence politics in Iraq, in a departure from the more blunt enforcement employed by Qassem Soleimani, a top commander slain in a U.S. air strike. -Reuters 5/28/20

The strategic implications of the brewing Iran arms embargo crisis

In the last few weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed a new initiative to extend the arms embargo on Iran. According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, United Nations restrictions on conventional arms sales to Iran would expire after five years, on October 18, 2020. Washington plans to claim that it legally remains a participant state in the JCPOA, which President Donald Trump officially withdrew from in May 2018... -Gawdat Bahgat, Responsible Statecraft 5/27/20

Iranian spending spree on arms unlikely if UN embargo expires

One of the most important outcomes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - signed in 2015 between the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Iran - is the planned expiration of a U.N. arms embargo imposed on the Islamic Republic. The first major sanctions on Iran were adopted by the U.N. Security Council in March 2007, and reinforced in June 2010 with a U.N. embargo on the export of most major conventional weapons to Iran. -Robert Czulda, Responsible Statecraft 5/25/20

Iran and the US 'meet' again over Afghanistan

In an administration short on diplomatic talent, Zalmay Khalilzad stands out. His title is US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and he is charged with extricating the United States' military presence in that country. Tangentially, Khalilzad's deep background as a multilingual former ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations-and his nature as an inveterate schmoozer-have put him in a position to revive US diplomatic engagement with Iran and to help de-escalate what had been a dangerous rise in tensions. -Barbara Slavin, Atlantic Council 5/22/20

Washington's Tall Tale of Iranian-Al Qaeda Alliance Based on Questionably Sourced Book, The Exile

The U.S. assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in January touched off a new wave of disinformation about Soleimani, with Trump administration allies branding him a global terrorist while painting Iran as the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. Much of the propaganda about Soleimani related to his alleged responsibility for the killing of American troops in Iraq, along with Iran's role in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. - Gareth Porter, Antiwar 5/20/20

Iran Quietly Lowers the Temperature With U.S.

After years of increasing tensions that nearly led to war, Iran has moderated its approach to the West, shifting from a policy of provocation to one of limited cooperation. The change reflects an effort to avoid direct confrontation with the United States that the Iranians say could benefit President Trump in the November election. -Alissa J. Rubin and Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times 5/20/20

US tells vessels in Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from its warships

The US Navy has warned vessels in the Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from American warships or risk "lawful defensive measures," in a move that appears to be aimed squarely at Iran. "Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat," according to the text of the notice issued on Tuesday. -Press TV 5/20/20

U.S. and Iran Need a Coronavirus Peace Plan

While Americans are rightly focused on handling the coronavirus at home, the government must also remain vigilant to threats around the world. Yet the Donald Trump administration's approach to Iran, in particular, increasingly lacks any clear policy or overarching strategy. The administration is at times threatening and at times conciliatory, giving Iran little sense of what actions the president will take. This could inadvertently lead us to war, and neither the U.S. nor Iran can afford to engage in hostilities that distract us from the pandemic. -Senator Dianne Feinstein, Bloomberg 5/15/20

Why isn't Arab literature popular in Iran?

One day during the war with Iran, an Iraqi Army newspaper editor receives a handwritten manuscript from a low-ranking soldier on the frontline. He is astonished by what he finds: a literary masterpiece. When he learns that the soldier was killed on the battlefield, the editor publishes the story under his own name. He wins praises from every corner of the world for it. But then, he begins to receive a torrent of extraordinary stories from the same soldier who was supposedly killed in the war... This is one of my favorite stories by the renowned Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim, from his collection of short stories, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq. -Farnaz Seifi, Middle East Institute 5/15/20

Iran's FM Zarif likens Trump's 'disinfectant' advice to nuclear deal argument

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has likened Washington's JCPOA argument to U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion to inject disinfectant to treat coronavirus patients. "Those who muse about injecting disinfectant to 'clean' the coronavirus, also argue that they are a 'participant' in a UN Security Council Resolution endorsing a deal that they long ago 'ceased participating' in," Zarif tweeted on Thursday. "Their own words. If only Kafka were around," he added. 5/15/20

A health crisis as an incentive to foster regional cooperation in the Persian Gulf?

Iran has been the Middle Eastern epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic Republic was hit early on into the global health crisis. While it is still unclear when and how Iran's 'patient zero' entered the country, it is fair to assume that he or she was part of one of the numerous delegations that kept on traveling between Iran and China even after weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Due to the encompassing US sanctions regime imposed on Iran, China has increasingly become an economic lifeline Tehran simply cannot afford to forego. It, thus, took Iran much longer compared to other states to halt flights to and from China. -Adnan Tabatabai, Responsible Statecraft 5/15/20

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