Farvardin 26 1400 - April 15 2021
Entanglements: Lives Lived Under Sanctions

I started to gather news, perceptions, opinions, and reflections about the effects of sanctions on my Iranian interlocutors during the summer of 2015, shortly after Iran and the P5+1 signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement on the Iran nuclear program. On the plane over that August, I noted an immediate optical change with regard to this once and often isolated state. For the first time in the two decades that I had been making annual trips to Iran, the plane was full, occupied by non-Iranians, many of them business people seeking to secure ventures in a country ripe for investment potential. -Arzoo Osanloo, SAIS 4/14/21

Senate Dems Tell Biden Returning to Iran Nuclear Deal Should Be a Top Priority

Amid critical talks in Vienna, more than two dozen Senate Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to treat the United States' return to the Iran nuclear agreement as a top priority. "While the damage of the last four years has left our country facing numerous challenges across the globe, there is no question that one of your early pressing national security priorities should be to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to address the threat of Iran's nuclear program," the letter (pdf) says, using the deal's formal name. -Common Dreams 4/14/21

Rouhani says Iran will boost nuclear activity after Natanz attack

President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran will keep strengthening its nuclear programme and continue negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of the attack on its nuclear facility which Tehran blamed on Israel. "This is the answer to your malignancy," he said in a televised address on Wednesday in reference to the country's announcement on Tuesday that it will begin enriching uranium to a new high of 60 percent and deploy new centrifuges in response to an attack on its nuclear facility in Natanz. -Al Jazeera 4/14/21

By sabotaging Iran's nuclear program, Israel sabotaged world peace

Pentagon chief Austin's visit to Israel serves as a stark reminder that regardless of stated US policy goals, Israel almost always gets its way. After a week of fruitful discussions between the parties to the Iranian nuclear agreement, it looked as if the US and Iran had agreed to a mutually accepted outcome: the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the US in exchange for Iran returning to full compliance with its obligations under the terms of the JCPOA... -Scott Ritter, RT 4/14/21

What's the Deal with Iran's Foreign Exchange Reserves?

When it comes to Iran, even economic data can cause controversy. The International Monetary Fund's latest regional report for the Middle East and Central Asia places Iran's gross international reserves at $4 billion in 2020, a tiny fraction of the $122.5 billion of reserves Iran held in 2018, and down further from the estimate of $8.8 billion published in October of last year. -Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Bourse & Bazaar 4/14/21

Iran and Russia discuss ties, the Middle East, and nuclear deal

Iran and Russia have held high-level talks on bilateral ties, the region, and Iran's nuclear deal with world powers during Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's trip to Tehran on Tuesday. In a meeting with Lavrov, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran wishes to expand regional cooperation with Russia on Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen in order to help establish stability and combat American interventions. -Al Jazeera 4/14/21

Analysis: Iran's powerful Guard faces scrutiny after attacks

The recent sabotage at Iran's main nuclear enrichment facility is just the latest setback for the country's Revolutionary Guard, though the paramilitary force is rarely publicly criticized due to its power. But with some of its leaders now considering vying for the presidency, the Guard's influence and failures could become fair game. -AP 4/14/21

Why Israel would attack Iran's nuclear facility

Whatever else happens in the coming hours and days in the high-stakes drama over Iran's nuclear program, there is one thing we can all be sure of. Israel's apparent, daring attack on Iran's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz will be repeatedly and widely described in U.S. media as a move intended to "set back Iran's nuclear program." But it was nothing of the kind. -John Ghazvinian, Responsible Statecraft 4/13/21

Iran Says Israeli 'Nuclear Terrorism' Could Have Led to Catastrophic 'Crime Against Humanity'

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday that an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility over the weekend, which it accused Israel of carrying out, could have led to a catastrophic "crime against humanity" if the damage had been more extreme than what occurred. -Jon Queally, Common Dreams 4/13/21

Iran warns sabotage could hurt Vienna talks over nuke deal

Iran's foreign minister warned Tuesday that a weekend attack on its main nuclear enrichment site at Natanz could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. "Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks," Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. "They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them." -AP 4/13/21

The 'NY Times' is whitewashing Israel's efforts to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal

Even veteran observers of the New York Times's zeal to protect Israel's reputation will be astonished at the paper's latest whitewash. The paper just published a long, sensible editorial endorsing the U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal - without once mentioning Benjamin Netanyahu's violent efforts to sabotage the agreement. -James North, Mondoweiss 4/13/21

Attack on Iran's Natanz plant muddies US-Iran nuclear talks

The attack on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility is casting a major shadow over the resumption of indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran over resurrection of the international accord limiting Iran's nuclear program. Neither Iran nor the U.S. say the incident will crater the negotiations. But the attack and the destruction of a significant amount of Iran's uranium enrichment capability add uncertainty to the discussions set for Tuesday in Vienna. -AP 4/13/21

EU Sanctions Iranian Officials Amid Vienna Talks

While the European Union is trying to play the honest broker between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, the bloc slapped sanctions on Iranian officials on Monday over alleged human rights violations surrounding protests in 2019... The timing could damage the delicate indirect talks that are ongoing between the US and Iran in Vienna. -Antiwar.com 4/13/21

Israel appears to confirm it carried out cyberattack on Iran nuclear facility

Israel appeared to confirm claims that it was behind a cyber-attack on Iran's main nuclear facility on Sunday, which Tehran's nuclear energy chief described as an act of terrorism that warranted a response against its perpetrators. The apparent attack took place hours after officials at the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges that could speed up the production of enriched uranium, in what had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country's nuclear programme. -Guardian 4/12/21

South Korean PM arrives in Iran to help try to revive nuclear deal

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun arrived in Iran on Sunday to help try to restore a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and free up $7 billion in Iranian funds trapped in South Korea, Seoul officials said. Chung is the first South Korean prime minister to visit Iran in 44 years amid icy relations between the two countries due to Iran's military cooperation with North Korea. -Reuters 4/12/21

Nuclear chief says the world and IAEA must address 'nuclear terrorism' against Iran

Nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi on Sunday slammed the act of sabotage against Iran's nuclear site in Natanz earlier in the day, noting that the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must deal with such "nuclear terrorism" that targets Iran's facilities. Salehi's remarks came hours after a nuclear spokesman said that an incident took place at the electricity distribution network of the Shahid Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility in Natanz in Iran's central province of Isfahan. 4/12/21

Iranian TV action thriller delivers warning to Zarif

It is hardly surprising that Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister and nuclear negotiator, is not a fan of Gando, a popular television drama that depicts an incompetent minister who scuppers nuclear talks with world powers by hiring dual nationals who turn out to be spies for MI6. -Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times 4/12/21

Defense Secretary Vows 'Ironclad' Commitment to Israel During Visit to Talk Iran Deal

A Sunday meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz is looming large over nuclear talks with Iran, with the US trying to reassure Israel that they are committed to Israeli security, and Israeli officials expecting to have effective veto power over the negotiations. -Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com 4/12/21

Attack on Natanz nuclear plant 'will set back Iran's programme by nine months'

Iran's foreign ministry has blamed Israel for an attack on a nuclear plant, as US intelligence sources claimed the incident would set back Tehran's nuclear programme by nine months. Israel has not confirmed it was behind a cyber-attack on the heavily guarded Natanz facility, but its security officials have done little to dispel the notion. -Guardian 4/12/21

Iran nuclear talks to continue next week after breakthrough

Talks on the terms for the US and Iran to come back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal are to resume next week after making sufficient progress since Tuesday's breakthrough agreement on a roadmap for both sides. The US has not been in direct talks with the Iranian delegation in Vienna this week but is relaying messages mainly to European members of the body that oversees the deal. -Guardian 4/9/21

'Here's the (Iran) deal, folks': Americans are fine with a return to the JCPOA

Supporters of the Iran nuclear deal got a bit antsy as the weeks rolled by after Joe Biden's inauguration without apparent progress toward restoring the landmark 2015 agreement. Members of the US Congress and assorted lobbyists who had opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from its inception took advantage of the time to argue against the Biden administration lifting punitive sanctions and returning to compliance with the JCPOA even if Iran would do so as well. =Barbara Slavin, Atlantic Council 4/9/21

Netanyahu's desperation could prompt him to sabotage the Vienna talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal

Benjamin Netanyahu is desperate. His first corruption trial has already started; he's struggling to form a government that might keep him out of jail; even observers who recognize his past ability to squirm out of trouble think he may finally have come to the end of the line. As the talks continue in Vienna to restore the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu's desperation could prompt him to extreme measures to try and sabotage the agreement - but, yet again, the U.S. mainstream media is ignoring the Israel angle. -James North, Mondoweiss 4/9/21

Iran's middle class and the nuclear deal

This week the U.S. and Iranian negotiators met for indirect talks in Vienna and agreed on procedures for the two countries to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Millions of Iranians continue to suffer economically from both U.S. maximum pressure sanctions and the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been waiting for Iran to get back into compliance before it considers easing the sanctions. -Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Brookings Institution 4/9/21

Families Of Austrians Jailed In Iran Call On Their Government To Do More To Secure Their Release

The families of two Austrian citizens currently imprisoned in Iran have written an open letter to the Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg demanding he does more to try and secure their release. Massud Mossaheb and Kamran Ghaderi are both serving ten-year sentences, having been convicted on spying charges. -Dominic Dudley, Forbes 4/9/21

Iran nuclear deal talks: the key issues on the Vienna negotiating table

A joint commission responsible for overseeing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is looking for a way for the US to rejoin the agreement - abandoned under Donald Trump - and lift its sanctions on Tehran, and for Iran to end its retaliatory breaching of the limits placed on its nuclear programme. Throughout this week experts from the deal's remaining signatories - Iran, France, Germany, the UK, Russia, China and the EU - have been meeting in Vienna's Grand Hotel and relaying messages to the US delegation over the road in a neighbouring hotel. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian- 4/9/21

Iran releases South Korean tanker seized in January

Iran has released a South Korean ship that was seized in January after the conclusion of an investigation and at the request of Seoul's government, the Iranian foreign ministry has said. There was no immediate sign that a parallel three-way agreement had been reached between Seoul, Tehran and Washington to release as much as $7bn in Iranian assets that had been frozen in South Korean bank accounts because of US sanctions. -Guardian 4/9/21

Iran welcomes 'new chapter' in nuclear talks as Washington seeks to heal 'profound differences' in Vienna

The United States and Iran will resume talks on Friday aimed at restoring trust and bridging what Washington calls "tremendous and profound differences" over how to salvage their failed nuclear agreement. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday that initial talks with the U.S. and world powers in Vienna to rescue the deal were a "success" that opened a "new chapter" to save the agreement, according to a statement via his official website. -CNBC 4/8/21

IMF sees Iran's GDP growth at 2.5 percent in 2021

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its latest World Economic Outlook titled "Managing Divergent Recoveries", predicted a 2.5-percent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for Iran in 2021, up one percent from 1.5 percent in 2020. The data presented in the IMF report indicates that Iran's GDP growth has outpaced that of West and Central Asia which is reported to be - 2.9 percent in 2020. 4/8/21

New Iran nuclear talks allow Biden to fix Trump's mess before we head toward war

Delicate talks to restore constraints on Iran's nuclear program began in Vienna on Tuesday between the United States and other leading countries. Their task is to undo the damage Donald Trump caused when he left an agreement that had effectively shrunk Iran's program, frozen it for a generation and put it under lock and camera. It should be possible to put the deal back together, but not if President Joe Biden listens to the siren song of junking that agreement for "a better deal." -Joseph Cirincione, NBC 4/8/21

3 Years Later, A Prisoner's Family Still Awaits His Return From Iran

Later this month, Bahareh Shargi will mark an anniversary: It will be three years that her husband has been stuck in Iran. Iranian authorities first imprisoned Emad Shargi, a U.S. citizen, on April 23, 2018. Though they eventually released him on bail, they did not allow him to leave the country and later returned him to Tehran's Evin prison. Now his family hopes that speaking out may help him. -NPR 4/8/21

Is Clubhouse boosting democracy in Iran?

Iran's FM Mohammad Javad Zarif made headlines last week when he made a late-night appearance in Clubhouse, the increasingly popular group audio-chat mobile app. Even though hours into the conversation he said it was past his bedtime, the country's top diplomat stayed longer to discuss issues that ranged from Iran's recent controversial 25-year cooperation accord with China, to its nuclear deal with world powers, to again denying he has aspirations to become president, to his bedtime routine. -Maziar Motamedi, Al Jazeera 4/8/21

As US and Iran talks progress, Netanyahu says Israel is not bound by 'garlic peel' deal

As the Iran-US talks proceed in Vienna, there are clear signs that both countries want to reenter the Iran deal. And there are indications that Israel, which opposes the deal more strenuously than any country in the world, has been sidelined and is not being consulted on the talks. -Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 4/8/21

No timetable for withdrawal of troops after US, Iraq talks

The mission of U.S. forces in Iraq has shifted to training and advisory roles, allowing for redeployment of combat forces remaining in the country, U.S. and Iraq delegates said Wednesday, after a third round of strategic U.S.-Iraq talks. Statements issued by both sides, however, said the timing of such a redeployment would be determined in upcoming technical talks, without specifying when they would take place. They also stressed the need for continued security cooperation. -AP 4/8/21

For true JCPOA re-entry, Biden must tear down this sanctions wall

It was clear from the outset: Returning to the Iran Nuclear Deal was not a matter of nuclear technicalities or diplomatic savvy. It was and remains primarily a matter of political will and political capital. Though all eyes will be on the start of formal talks in Vienna this week, the real test will take place in Washington D.C. where President Joe Biden must muster the political will to tear down the "sanctions wall" his predecessor put in place for the sole purpose of preventing an American return to the nuclear agreement, lest the talks in Vienna will be for naught. -Tyler Cullis and Trita Parsi, Responsible Statecraft 4/7/21

Warnings of Attempt to 'Sabotage' Diplomacy as Israel Reportedly Attacks Iranian Ship

Israel reportedly informed U.S. officials that it was behind a Tuesday mine attack on an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea, a dangerous escalation that came on the same day American and Iranian negotiators took part in European-led talks in Vienna on the 2015 nuclear agreement. -Jake Johnson, Common Dreams 4/7/21

Facebook Busts Iranian Dissident Group's Elaborate Troll Farm Operation

Facebook says it busted a troll farm run by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK)-a dissident Iranian group that lobbies for the overthrow of Iran's revolutionary government-that used artificial intelligence-generated fake faces to populate sham accounts. The social media company linked the troll farm, based alongside the MEK's headquarters in Albania, to 300 different assets on Facebook's platform, including pages, groups, and accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior. -Daily Beast 4/7/21

Are we pressing Saudi Arabia enough on the Yemen blockade?

Amidst growing reports of the devastation caused by the Saudi blockade of Yemen, a letter from a coalition of over 70 groups* representing tens of millions of people is calling on the Biden administration to do everything in its power to press Riyadh to bring that blockade to an end and open the way to distribution of fuel, food, and medical supplies to all parts of the country. -William Hartung, Responsible Statecraft 4/7/21

Public Spat Reveals Divisions In Iran's Revolutionary Guards Ahead Of Presidential Vote

A dispute within Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has spilled into public view with a deputy commander lashing out at an aide to the IRGC's commander in chief who has ambitions to win the presidency in a June election. Divisions within the IRGC over the vote became public when Yadollah Javani, an IRGC deputy commander for political affairs, gave an interview with the Fars news agency on April 3. -Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE 4/7/21

Battle for Yemen desert city now a key to Iran, US tension

he battle for an ancient desert city in war-torn Yemen has become a key to understanding wider tensions now inflaming the Middle East and the challenges facing any efforts by President Joe Biden's administration to shift U.S. troops out of the region. Fighting has been raging in the mountains outside Marib as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who hold Yemen's capital of Sanaa, attempt to seize the city, which is crucial to the country's energy supplies. -AP 4/7/21

The window for an Iran missile deal is already closing

Calls to limit Iran's missile program have become all the rage in Washington. In early March, a bipartisan group of 140 US lawmakers urged the Biden administration to pursue a more "comprehensive" deal with Iran that goes beyond the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to include not just Iran's nuclear program but also its ballistic missile program and its support for non-state groups in the Middle East. -John Krzyzaniak, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 4/7/21

Roadmap to rescue Iran nuclear deal agreed in Vienna talks

A broad roadmap designed to rescue the Iran nuclear deal undermined by Donald Trump has been agreed in talks in Vienna, with the aim of bringing Iran and the US back into compliance in as little as two months. Two working groups have been set up to examine the economic sanctions on Iran that the US will need to lift to come back into compliance with UN security council resolutions, and the steps Iran will need to take to bring its nuclear programme in line with the terms set out in the 2015 deal. -Guardian 4/6/21

Vienna could be a small step toward bigger places if US-Iran take advantage of it

Although Iran and the U.S. agree on the goal of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action through a full return to commitments by all parties, they've hit an impasse on how to proceed. The Iranians believe that the U.S. should make the first move by lifting sanctions since it was the Trump administration that withdrew from the deal in May 2018. Biden administration officials are unwilling to take an initial, unilateral step... -Suzanne DiMaggio, Responsible Statecraft 4/6/21

US, Iran expected to begin indirect nuclear talks in Vienna

Efforts to bring the United States back into the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear program stepped up a gear Tuesday as Iran and the five world powers still in the accord were meeting in Vienna while the U.S. is due to start indirect talks with Tehran. Friday's announcement that Washington and Tehran would begin indirect talks through intermediaries was one of the first signs of tangible progress in efforts to return both nations to the terms of the accord, which restricted Iran's nuclear program in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions. -AP 4/6/21

Biden Should Listen to Americans and Return to the Iran Deal

Despite being the most powerful nation in the world, the last U.S. election exposed the fragility of American democracy. It highlighted the need to continually work toward improving and fostering our democratic institutions... In order to nurture democracy, President Joe Biden should abide by its core belief to carry out the will of the people. His administration's openness to diplomacy with Iran reflects that very will. -Assal Rad, Newsweek 4/6/21

Iran Charges 10 Officials Over 2020 Downing Of Ukrainian Airliner Near Tehran

Iran says it has charged 10 officials over the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) jet that was shot down last year, killing all 176 people on board. Gholam Abbas Torki, the former military prosecutor for Tehran Province, said on April 6 that the 10 have been "brought to responsibility" and will face trial to determine "the necessary conclusions" over the incident in January 2020, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported. 4/6/21

The Iran-China agreement: Inconsequential or a game changer?

After a nearly two-year delay, on Saturday March 27 during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Iran and China signed the 25-year Comprehensive Agreement on Economic, Political and Cultural Cooperation. This event generated a great deal of attention and controversy both inside Iran and globally. Within Iran, the debate has centered on the costs and benefits of the agreement, which remains short on details. -Shireen Hunter, Responsible Statecraft 4/6/21

Nakhchivan rail plans promise to rewire Caucasus connections

A new rail line connecting Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhchivan promises to revolutionize transportation in the Caucasus and could have broad ramifications further afield. In February, a camouflage-clad Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation for a new 100-kilometer stretch of railroad across southern Azerbaijan, along the Iranian border, in territory that Azerbaijan took back from Armenia after the war last year. "This railroad has enormous strategic significance," he said. -Eurasianet 4/6/21

Iranians and Americans Support A Mutual Return to JCPOA

A joint Council and IranPoll survey shows that although Iranian and American public support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has waned over time, there is still sizable backing for it in both countries. -Chicago Council on Global Affairs 4/5/21

'The Beautiful Dreams That Are Burnt': Portraits From Iran Under Sanctions

Iranians across a broad spectrum of society are having a tough time right now, and many blame U.S. sanctions. Hospitals struggle to get medical supplies. Imported goods are hard to come by. Tourism has dried up. And forget about traveling abroad. These are just some of the many concerns Iranian photojournalist Marjan Yazdi hears from her subjects in this portrait series. -NPR 4/5/21

Biden's Iran nuclear diplomacy needs to fix Trump's mistakes

The hotels of Vienna are likely to be prepping for a bit of deja vu. The Austrian city is where, after months of negotiations, the United States and five other world powers signed a pact with Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities in 2015. On Tuesday, representatives of all seven countries will be back to figure out whether the deal can be salvaged. -Hayes Brown, MSNBC 4/5/21

'Angry' protesters show up at Sen. Bob Menendez's house

Antiwar protesters demonstrated Saturday outside the suburban New Jersey home of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) over his opposition to diplomacy with Iran. The protest was led by Codepink and Peace Action NJ. About two dozen people marched to the house in the upscale suburb of Englewood Cliffs where Menendez's third wife lives and the senator spends much of the year. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 4/5/21

How a shadowy, hawkish new group tied to Iranian monarchists is gaining influence in Congress

A new organization with ties to Iranian monarchists is cultivating relationships with the Republican Party, holding a series of online events with newer GOP House members, strongly advocating against diplomacy with Iran, and pushing for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate so-called "Islamic Republic agents and lobbyists" in the United States. -Bryan Metzger, Responsible Statecraft 4/5/21

Letter protesting the unjust prosecution and sentencing of Touraj Amini in Iran

To Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, We write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) to express our concern over the imprisonment of Touraj Amini, a historian of the Qajar era and the Iranian Constitutional movement, who is also Baha'i. -Middle East Studies Association of North America 4/5/21

What to expect as Iran and world powers head for nuclear talks

Representatives of the world powers that signed a 2015 nuclear deal are headed to Vienna on Tuesday to save the landmark accord, but the path forward appears long and arduous. News on Friday that remaining members of the accord - Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom - will hold in-person talks was greeted as a welcome development to avoid a total breakdown. -Maziar Motamedi, Al Jazeera 4/5/21

Iran spy TV show ignites controversy for 2nd season

A controversial Iranian TV spy thriller is once again generating buzz in the Islamic Republic, drawing the ire of government officials and complaints from viewers Sunday over alleged censorship in the second season finale. The fictional series, titled "Gando," chronicles the exploits of Iran's Revolutionary Guard agents - in the style of James Bond or Jason Bourne. -AP 4/5/21

Clubhouse Brings Together Iranians More Used to Trading Insults

Public debate in Iran has for decades been monopolized by state authorities primarily concerned with promoting Islamic values, stemming Western influence and curbing dissent. Enter Clubhouse. The invite-only iPhone app is connecting Iranians more used to venting their seemingly irreconcilable differences: political exiles, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps veterans, monarchists and staunch defenders of the 1979 Islamic revolution. -Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg 4/5/21

U.S, Iran to go to Vienna for indirect nuclear deal talks -sources

Officials from Tehran and Washington will travel to Vienna next week as part of efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers, though they will not hold direct talks, diplomats said on Friday. -Even without face-to-face talks, which Tehran has ruled out, the presence of both of Iran and the United States in the Austrian capital would mark a step forward in efforts to bring both sides back into compliance with the accord. -Reuters 4/2/21

Hopes rise of breakthrough on US return to Iran nuclear deal

A potential breakthrough in the apparently deadlocked efforts to bring the US back into the nuclear deal with Iran is on the horizon after secret diplomatic talks in Frankfurt this week. The joint commission, the body that brings together the existing signatories to the deal, will meet virtually on Friday to discuss the outcome of Monday's meeting amid growing optimism that unexpected progress has been made. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian 4/2/21

U.S. Civil Society Groups Call for Sanctions Relief

Though the Biden administration announced soon after taking office that they would review these sanctions for the purposes of humanitarian assistance in a global crisis, no such relief has been granted and all Trump era sanctions remain in place on Iran. As such, a group of civil society organizations-including human rights, faith-based, advocacy and other groups-sent a letter to President Biden last week urging him to take swift action on sanctions relief. -NIAC Action 4/2/21

Iranian Americans Hope For a Better Year in Orange County This Nowruz

Nowruz, the Persian New Year, has not only been celebrated for decades by the tens of thousands of Iranian Americans who live in Orange County, but it is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. The word Nowruz means "new day" and for many, the tradition is about hope, letting go of the past and preparing for new beginnings. It's not just Iranians, many people celebrate the festivities. -Hosam Elattar, Voice of OC 4/2/21

Iran minister's social media stint sparks talk of openness - or fix

Iran's foreign minister has taken to the social media forum Clubhouse to answer questions in front of 8,000 people, in a move regarded by some as showing an unprecedented degree of openness but denounced by others as a fix in which unwelcome queries were not permitted. Javad Zarif is the latest in a line of politicians to try out a medium that is proving increasingly popular in Iran amid a growing demand for political debate and discussion. -Patrick Wintour, Guardian 4/2/21

China and Iran announced a new economic and security partnership. That's not as alarming as it sounds.

On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Tehran to sign a 25-year partnership deal between China and Iran. The deal, according to a leaked draft, outlines plans for economic, political and security cooperation between the two countries, which are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties. -Lucille Greer and Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, Washington Post 4/2/21

Military force would hasten, not prevent, an Iranian nuclear weapon

Continued failure to restore full U.S. and Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, risks outbreak of U.S.-Iranian warfare in ways that Joe Cirincione partly reviewed in these pages. Some of the scenarios leading in that direction involve unrelated motives that purported U.S. "allies" have for stirring up a fight. Other scenarios involve unforeseen incidents, which tend to arise amid high tension and confrontation, spinning out of control. -Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft 4/2/21

Progressive Dems: Biden needs to move first on Iran nuclear deal

Two progressive Democratic members of Congress argued on a Wednesday panel that the United States needs to make the first move in returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called for a more proactive U.S. stance towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a video event hosted by the National Iranian American Council and several other pro-diplomacy groups. -Matthew Petti, Responsible Statecraft 4/1/21

Iran's President Sees 'No Serious Efforts' From Biden to Revive Nuclear Deal

On Wednesday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani expressed his growing frustration with the US and said he has seen "no serious efforts" from the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. Rouhani's comments come after media reports said the US is preparing to offer a new proposal to Iran related to the JCPOA. -Dave DeCamp, Antiwar.com 4/1/21

Containing Iran and drawing the wrong lessons from the Cold War

When it comes to Iran, there is a persistent belief in Washington that the Cold War experience in confronting the Soviet Union is relevant to dealing with the Islamic Republic. Yet the pundits and policymakers insist on drawing the wrong lessons from that experience. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 4/1/21

EU to sanction Iran militia, police, three entities over 2019 protests, diplomats say

The European Union will target eight Iranian militia and police commanders and three state entities with sanctions next week over a deadly crackdown in November 2019 by Iranian authorities, three diplomats said on Wednesday. -Reuters 4/1/21

Webinar: The Iran Nuclear Deal or No Deal

Grassroots organizations from across the country are joining together to present the most recent developments surrounding the JCPOA and what they may mean for the future of Iran and the rest of the Middle East. For those who care about preventing a future war as well as addressing the humanitarian role the U.S. has in Iran, Yemen, and elsewhere, this is the event to join. -Wednesday, March 31, 2021 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET 3/31/21

Biden wants to be Harry Truman but may end up like Lyndon Johnson

President Joe Biden and most of his senior aides view Iran as a distraction from their agenda. They are not wrong. There are six solid reasons why Biden should go slow on diplomacy with Iran. And one very good reason why he cannot. -Joe Cirincione, Responsible Statecraft 3/31/21

Don't let facts get in the way of your pursuit for regime change

Foundation for the Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz is best known for his leadership in promoting "economic warfare" against Iran as a means to foment regime change in Tehran or outright war with the Islamic Republic. Part of that campaign requires spreading a lot of mis- or disinformation, and Dubowitz himself has been a fervent participant in those efforts. -Ben Armbruster, Responsible Statecraft 3/31/21

An Iranian cleric, rights activist, and hacker entered a room-on Clubhouse

A member of the Khomeini clan, a women's rights activist, and a hacker enter a room. It sounds like the beginning of a joke but in reality, that's what happened recently in a Clubhouse chatroom discussing whether or not the hijab should remain mandatory in Iran. -Holly Dagres, Atlantic Council 3/31/21

Officials Claim US Is Open to Talks on Roadmap to Revive Iran Nuclear Deal

Unnamed US and Western officials speaking to Reuters claim the US is willing to discuss a road map for a complete restoration of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, with Iran and that the Islamic Republic might be ready to have this conversation. -Antiwar.com 3/31/21

Iranian leaders pressed to disclose details of 25-year China pact

Iran's ministers are being pressed by critics in the country to reveal details of a 25-year strategic partnership deal signed with China at the weekend, following accusations that Iran has sold its sovereignty. Many analysts say the agreement is largely aspirational, but the secrecy surrounding the final version has provided a useful stick for the regime's critics. -Guardian 3/31/21

U.S. tries to break Iran nuclear deadlock with new proposal for Tehran

If President Joe Biden is serious about rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, then the next few weeks could prove make-or-break as the politics in both Washington and Tehran appear poised to intensify. For now, however, Biden's team is struggling just to get the Iranians to the table. -Nahal Toosi, Politico 3/30/21

Sign the petition to President Biden: Restore the Iran Deal

President Biden campaigned on the promise of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and we must hold him to that. Returning to the Iran deal is a necessary requirement for effective, broader diplomacy with Iran. The United States, along with people worldwide, deserve a long-term diplomatic approach to Iran and the wider region that minimizes human suffering and fosters lasting peace. -15 Participating Organizations 3/30/21

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