Iran January 2021 –

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Iran on Diana’s Wednesday
Al Jazeera: Iran news

Backers of Iran-linked militias try to storm Baghdad’s Green Zone after election losses
(WaPo) Supporters of Iran-backed militias clashed Friday with Iraqi security forces outside the fortified Green Zone complex as tensions spiked over the results of national elections last month.
At least 125 people were injured, according to Iraq’s Health Ministry. Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful militias, said three people had been killed.
Iran-backed groups have been demanding a recount of the Oct. 10 parliamentary election results, which saw Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s party secure the most seats even though the influential Fatah alliance of Iran-linked parties won more votes. The discrepancy appears to be the result of a superior electoral strategy on the part of Sadr’s party.
After the Fatah alliance saw its seats in parliament cut by about two-thirds, militia supporters began camping outside the gated Green Zone, which is home to government offices and foreign embassies. For several weeks, the protesters have rotated shifts inside tents on the sidewalk or sitting outside under banners that denounce Iraq’s election as fraudulent.

28 September
An Avocado Revolution | Episode 1
Everything was going great for Jason Rezaian. He was The Washington Post’s correspondent in Tehran. He had just gotten married. Then, in July of 2014, Jason and his wife were arrested and thrown in an Iranian prison.
(Politico Nightly) In the summer of 2014, when the Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian was arrested by Iranian authorities. Iranian guards questioned Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh about a video of Iranian youth dancing to the Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” and a Kickstarter campaign Rezaian launched to raise money to bring avocados to Iran.
“544 Days” — Rezaian’s new podcast, named for the length of his detention in Iran — released its first three episodes today. The show details the couple’s arrest, which happened in their apartment, the early days of their detention in Tehran’s Evin Prison, notorious for abuses, and their families’ early efforts to free the pair. In the fourth episode, airing next Tuesday, Rezaian talks to John Kerry, Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration officials about how his captivity became linked to the nuclear deal talks.

28 July
Drought and water mismanagement spark deadly protests in Iran
The driest conditions in 53 years have brought chronic mismanagement of water resources to crisis point
(Climate Home News) Iran’s water resources have been depleted by a lack of rain, the building of hydro-electric dams and farming of water-intensive products like rice, wheat and sugar cane. Farmers hit by water shortages are fleeing their villages to live in precarious settlements on the outskirts of cities.
Protests against these water shortages began two weeks ago in the south-western province of Khuzestan, inflamed by a heatwave with temperatures of up to 50C. Unrest has spread to other cities including the capital Tehran.
Experts say a lack of capacity and coordination between government agencies has allowed the problem to get worse and a comprehensive overhaul of regulations in multiple sectors is needed.
“Climate change is a player here,” said Ali Nazemi, an Iranian hydrologist, who researches at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, “but environmental problems in general and water problems in Iran in particular are multi-faceted issues.”
Over 90% of Iran’s water is used for agriculture. Due to international sanctions, the government wants the country to be self-sufficient and has encouraged farmers to grow water-intensive crops like wheat, rice and sugar cane.
“Iranian officials have acknowledged that outdated agricultural and irrigation systems, as well as poor water management policies in the past three decades, have contributed to nationwide water shortages,” Banafsheh Keynoush, an expert in the region’s geopolitics, told Climate Home News.



Violence escalates in water-shortage protests in Iran’s Khuzestan
Six nights of protests over water shortages have turned deadly
(Al Jazeera) Oil-rich Khuzestan, parts of which were temporarily seized by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein after he invaded Iran with backing from the West, has faced water problems for decades.
This year, however, has been especially difficult for the province – and the whole country by extension – due to extremely hot temperatures and droughts that have led to widespread blackouts and water shortages.
“Khuzestan’s problem stems from illegal water transfer projects from river forks and stealing water from the source of the rivers by water mafias,” tweeted Fereshteh Tabanian, a lawyer based in Ahvaz.
Khuzestan residents have pointed out on social media that the province has never truly had drinkable tap water and they have had to buy their water or take it from the rivers, many of which have now dried up as well.

20 July
Iran locks down capital amid COVID surge ahead of Eid holiday
Six-day lockdowns imposed ahead of Eid al-Adha holiday as Delta variant drives Iran’s fifth major wave of infections.

15 July
Ayatollah Massacre at the helm
Iran’s new president had a central role in killing Iranian political prisoners whose loved ones are now Canadians.
Iran may soon be entering a period of crisis. Strikes and protests against the regime have intensified in recent years. An online campaign this spring urged citizens not to vote in the presidential election, and indeed voter turnout was less than 50 per cent — the lowest since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. At 82, Khamenei knows the end of his rule is nearing. He wants the presidency to be in a safe pair of hands during the instability that is sure to ensue upon his death. In the Islamic Republic, those safe and loyal hands are inevitably drenched in blood.

By: Arash Azizi
(Open Canada) On August 5, 2021, Ebrahim Raisi will be inaugurated in the Iranian parliament as the new president of the Islamic Republic. There is something cynical to the picking of this date for this purpose. Officially it stands to commemorate the anniversary of Iran’s Constitutional Revolution of 1906, beginning of a long-lasting struggle for democracy and rule of law. But Raisi, his career, the regime he serves and the process through which he was elected president, could hardly be less in tune with the liberal ideals of the 1906 revolution.
… This August we will commemorate another anniversary much more directly tied to Raisi. On August 15, 1988, years before he was Iran’s president-elect, Raisi sat down with Grand Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, one of the highest religious authorities for Shia Muslims and then deputy supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. The 27-year-old Raisi was Tehran’s deputy prosecutor and part of a four-person committee that had been called for a meeting with the Iranian regime’s second-highest official.
Speaking in his sweet-sounding Persian, with an accent that betrayed his origins in central Iran, Montazeri’s voice had a grave tone and a clear message. Facing Raisi and his fellow committee members, Montazeri said: “I believe you have committed the greatest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic. History will remember you as criminals.”
… In the final weeks of the summer of 1988, just as Iran concluded a devastating eight-year-war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, thousands of political prisoners in Iranian jails were secretly executed and buried in mass graves. They numbered anywhere between 5,000 to 30,000. They included teenagers and old people; men and women; Kurdish nationalists, Communists and proponents of the left-Islamist People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI.)

13 July
Masih Alinejad: Iranians ‘plotted to kidnap US, Canada and UK targets’
Four Iranian intelligence officials have been charged with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist critical of Iran, US prosecutors say.
(BBC) The indictment did not name the target, but Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American author and activist, says it was her.
The conspirators, who all live in Iran and remain at large, also allegedly plotted to lure a person in the UK and three others in Canada to Iran.
Iran’s government said the allegations were “ridiculous and baseless”.
US Department of Justice: Iranian Intelligence Officials Indicted on Kidnapping Conspiracy Charges
Iranian Intelligence Services Allegedly Plotted to Kidnap a U.S. Journalist and Human Rights Activist from New York City for Rendition to Iran

8 July
The Middle East should be afraid of Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi
Alireza Nader, Senior Fellow and Saeed Ghasseminejad, Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor, FDD
(Al Arabiya via FDD) Iran’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, is known for his brutal and fanatical devotion to the Islamic Republic, a history that it would serve Middle Eastern nations well to remember in future foreign policy dealings with the country.
Raisi’s selection by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as president is meant to facilitate a smooth succession and instill fear in Iranians yearning to break free from the theocracy. While domestic politics drove the selection of Raisi, it nonetheless has implications for foreign policy. Raisi and Khamenei, who will likely feed each other’s hardest impulses, will surely lead to further Iranian intervention in the Middle East, an expanding ballistic-missile program, and unrelenting hostility toward Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Unlike some of Khamenei’s supporters, Raisi does not oppose the US return to the nuclear agreement or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Like Khamenei, he understands that the regime desperately needs an infusion of cash. US sanctions have served as a constraint on the Islamic Republic’s ability to fund its most nefarious activities, therefore a US return to the JCPOA and the easing of sanctions will see greater resources for regional expansion.

29 June
U.N. expert backs probe into Iran’s 1988 killings, Raisi’s role
Javaid Rehman, UN expert on Iran, criticises conduct of election
Urges independent inquiry into alleged 1988 killing of thousands
Tells Reuters probe must establish role of President-elect Raisi
Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions in Khomeini era
(Reuters) – The U.N. investigator on human rights in Iran has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 and the role played by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor.

25 June
In Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s clerics have groomed and promoted their ruthless enforcer
By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
(WaPo) … What is instead most striking about Raisi is that he has been groomed for this moment — a moment when the regime teeters on the brink of illegitimacy and needs a brutal enforcer. Raisi isn’t a clever, well-read mullah, as were so many of the Islamic republic’s founding fathers. But he is the quintessence of a mature Islamic Republic of Iran: He’s all about compulsion sustaining a creed that ever-smaller numbers of Iranians embrace. The mullahs’ hope is that Raisi is ruthless enough to overcome rising resistance to their rule.
In the end, with half the electorate staying home and approximately 3.7 million Iranians turning in blank or protest ballots, Raisi was declared the winner.
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard called Raisi’s victory “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran” and called for investigation of “his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law.”

20-22 June
Abbas Milani: The End of the Islamic Republic
Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi’s victory in Iran’s presidential election places all of the country’s levers of power in the hands of regime hardliners for the first time in decades. But behind the apparent consolidation of power, domestic turmoil looms as the country’s structural challenges worsen.
(Project Syndicate) Iran’s presidential election on June 18 was the most farcical in the history of the Islamic regime – even more so than the 2009 election, often called an “electoral coup.” It was less an election than a chronicle of a death foretold – the death of what little remained of the constitution’s republican principles. But, in addition to being the most farcical, the election may be the Islamic Republic’s most consequential.
Never has such a motley crew been chosen to act as a foil for its favored candidate. The regime mobilized all of its forces to ensure a big turnout for Raisi, who until the election was Iran’s chief justice. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei decreed voting a religious duty, and casting a blank ballot a sin, while his clerical allies condemned advocates of a boycott as heretics. But even according to the official results, 51% of eligible voters did not vote, and of those who did, more than four million cast a blank ballot. There are already allegations that the announced numbers were doctored, and a powerful movement to boycott the election has already declared the outcome a virtual referendum against the status quo.
This election was not just about the presidency, but also about the selection of the next Supreme Leader. Khamenei is 82, and has long been battling prostate cancer. Some believe the plan is to anoint Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, as the next Supreme Leader, making the post hereditary (and moving Iran closer to becoming a caliphate). In this scenario, Raisi is to be the pliant president who enables Mojtaba’s rise. But others think that Raisi himself is Khamenei’s designated successor.
The US neither can nor should accept the responsibility of changing Iran’s regime. Only the people of Iran can and should make that decision. But any US negotiations with the Islamic Republic must recognize that America’s long-term interests, and those of the people of Iran, can be realized only with a modern democracy, not an Islamic caliphate. The country’s grave structural challenges can be solved only by a national concordance that includes all strata of Iranian society, particularly women, as well as the Iranian diaspora.The election of Raisi indicates that Khamenei and his allies are moving in the exact opposite direction, which all but guarantees domestic turmoil in the coming months and years. A prudent and effective US strategy toward Iran must place this reality at the center of its calculations.
Bret Stephens: Iran Bets on Religion, Repression and Revolution
(NYT) According to one analysis, Iran will most likely move quickly to finalize an agreement while the departing, ostensibly moderate government of Hassan Rouhani remains in office, the better for it to receive the blame for the deal’s shortcomings (as Iranian hard-liners see them) while Raisi’s government reaps the benefits of sanctions’ relief.
That may well be, to the extent that the Kabuki theater of Iranian politics matters much on questions dictated by the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. The Kabuki extends to the deal itself, which Iran will pretend to honor and the West will pretend to verify and enforce.
The one thing it will achieve is a fleeting diplomatic victory for the Biden administration, since the Raisi government will never concede to additional demands for additional curbs on Iran’s nuclear and military programs. In the meantime, billions of dollars of new money will flow to Iran’s malevolent proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Gaza and Yemen.
Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi consolidates hard-line grip as reformers pushed aside
(WaPo) Iran’s announcement Saturday [19 June] of a resounding election victory by Ebrahim Raisi, the ultraconservative judiciary chief, signaled a stunning consolidation of power, handing the elected leadership back to hard-liners and sidelining reformists who negotiated a nuclear deal with global powers and advocated greater engagement with the West.
The victory by Raisi also showed the determination of Iran’s conservative establishment, including its security and intelligence agencies, to eliminate any political challenge at a critical moment, analysts said.
Among the potential landmark moments ahead: reckoning with who would succeed the 82-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is seen as a mentor to Raisi.
Some experts speculated about whether the return to unity at the top — Khamenei’s ruling clerics and the political structure around Raisi — could become a permanent fixture in Iran and the country’s relatively vibrant election contests could be a thing of the past. For Friday’s election, most moderates were barred by the ruling establishment, leaving many voters frustrated and turnout apparently low.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan says preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority’ for United States
Sullivan added that the United States believes the decision on whether to revive the 2015 nuclear deal lies not with Raisi but with Iran’s 82-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“He was the same person before this election as he is after the election, so ultimately, it lies with him,” Sullivan said.

16 June
Why Iran’s Elections Are a Critical Turning Point for Khamenei’s Regime
Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi
(TIME) Friday’s vote is set to trigger a transformation of the country’s political system, marking a new stage of the Islamic Revolution.
… in 2019, Khamenei launched a manifesto outlining his future vision, which involves installing a generation of young Khamenei loyalists across the government, to water down the regime’s “republican” aspects. Aware that factional faultlines may emerge after his death—perhaps causing the clerical regime to suffer the same fate as the Soviet Union—Khamenei is doing all he can to ensure his Islamist ideology outlives him.
As hardline cleric and Khamenei ally Mehdi Taaeb recently declared “we have now reached the stage for the purification of the Islamic Revolution.” The Guardian Council’s extensive election engineering reflects this; of 529 people who registered to stand, just seven candidates were approved. Only two have any chance of winning and shaping the new administration, and they share identical political agendas, ideological support bases and loyalty to the leader: Saeed Jalili, former hardline nuclear negotiator under Ahmadinejad, and Ebrahim Raisi, the current chief justice tipped as Khamenei’s choice to succeed him.
… We can expect the Quds Force to become much bolder in pursuit of the regime’s ideological and strategic objectives in the near future: from furthering Shia militancy in the Middle East to advancing its policy of “wiping Israel from the face of the earth”. The rise in Quds Force operations on European soil since 2015—infiltrating charities, for example, and educational institutions—suggests this threat is not confined to the Middle East.

6 June
Foreign Affairs Backstory: Iran’s June 18 election is expected to bring to power a more hard-line leader than Hassan Rouhani, the term-limited Iranian president whose government negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal. Could a political transition in Tehran change the outcome of ongoing talks in Vienna to revive that accord? The ascendance of conservatives has “[pushed] moderate voices in favor of engagement and diplomacy to the margins,” Vali Nasr wrote earlier this year. “To have any hope of salvaging the agreement, the new U.S. administration will have to move fast.”

25 May
Iran Needs the Nuclear Deal to Keep Russia and China at Bay
Geopolitical Gains Will Last Longer Than Military Concessions
By Jamsheed K. Choksy and Carol E. B. Choksy
(Foreign Affairs) Iran has vocally insisted that “the nuclear deal it made” in 2015 be restored and “implemented word by word.” But in practice, the Islamic Republic has actually shown considerable flexibility. A senior member of Iran’s parliament, taking his cue from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has suggested that negotiations in Vienna will result in “a new and binding agreement.” The diplomatic door is open for the United States and Iran to reach a more robust deal that will weather transitions of administrations in both countries.
To begin with, Iran has advanced its nuclear program considerably. Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement freed Iran to seek higher levels of uranium enrichment. … By continuing enrichment, Iran has demonstrated to itself and to the world that it can overcome strikes against its nuclear facilities and the assassinations of its scientists. Once a reinstated deal sunsets or at a renegotiated later date, Iran can stay at breakout capability or proceed to test a nuclear weapon—depending on its strategic and geopolitical needs at that time. Thus, the international agreement is no longer an absolute obstacle to Iran’s nuclear quest.
On the other hand, eliminating sanctions would greatly benefit the country economically and geopolitically. Direct and indirect financial pressure from the United States has made Iran dependent on a handful of trading partners. By 2019, China had gained a stranglehold of 48.3 percent of Iran’s exports and 27.5 percent of the country’s imports. So long as sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions on its trading partners stay in place, Tehran remains economically vulnerable and reliant on those nations that dare to breach Washington’s will.
Russia has emerged as Iran’s primary security guarantor, military collaborator, and materiel supplier. China has also rapidly expanded its cooperation in those sectors.
Reviving the nuclear deal will loosen the grip of these two superpowers on Tehran. Factions within Iran’s political system would then become less amenable to foreign pressure and more mindful of Iran’s geopolitical autonomy.
… diplomacy can realistically achieve quite a lot. … Economic and geopolitical gains outweigh military concessions, because tactical advancements can be resumed in the future, within the Iranian calculus. But to reach these goals, the United States needs to stop speaking through its partners and rivals, such as the European Union and Russia, and rejoin the Vienna negotiations to negotiate directly with Iran.

27 April
Explosive-laden ‘drone’ boat targets Saudi port of Yanbu
(AP) — Details remained scarce, but the incident comes after a series of attacks on shipping in the wider Mideast region amid a shadow war between Iran and Israel and against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations between Tehran and world powers over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal.

For diplomacy to work, Iran must understand that it cannot overplay its hand
By Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, counselor and William Davidson distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
(WaPo) The Iranians are pressing for the lifting of all the sanctions imposed since 2015, including the sanctions and designations that the Trump administration imposed for Iranian involvement in terrorism. In effect, the Iranians are essentially saying that if you apply any sanctions on us for human rights or terrorism, we will engage in nuclear blackmail.
But even that is not enough for Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as he is also insisting on how the JCPOA must be resumed, declaring that Iran will reverse its steps that breach the JCPOA only after the United States verifiably lifts all the sanctions in a way that actually has Iran selling its oil, gaining access to frozen accounts and doing business. In other words, the United States must go beyond what is required of it to come back into compliance with the JCPOA first, and only then will the Iranians act — but in a way that will fall short of completely reversing its acts of noncompliance. After all, the know-how and experience the Iranians have acquired with regard to advanced centrifuges cannot be reversed.

14 April
Iran’s Rouhani says 60% enrichment is an answer to attack at Natanz site
(Reuters) – Iran’s move to enrich uranium up to 60% purity is a response to the sabotage at its key nuclear facility, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, adding the Islamic Republic had no intention of building a nuclear weapon.
Nuclear chutzpah in the Middle East
Israel’s temerity, Iran’s bellicosity and America’s ambiguity could plunge the region in turmoil
(Al Jazeera) Iran has accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear site in Natanz, portraying the attack as a “very bad gamble”, a desperate “revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting international sanctions”. Once again, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has tried hard to put a brave face on a humiliating situation, threatening “revenge against the Zionists”.
Israel has responded on script with a conspicuous “no comment” posturing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeated his apocalyptic mantras about Iran’s evil intentions to develop nuclear weapons in order to “wipe out” Israel and his determination to stop it in its tracks, come what may.
…the repercussions of Israeli attacks on Iran could lead to a catastrophic escalation.
Already, Iran has bombastically declared its intention to begin enriching uranium up to 60 percent from its current 20 percent level, getting it ever closer to a weapons-grade level. It has argued that it needs such high-grade fuel to power nuclear ships, but it has no such vessels in its navy.
This is sure to elicit another Israeli attack. The situation is on the brink of spiralling out of control, leading to serious regional turmoil and leaving American diplomacy in tatters.

12 April
Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site
(AP) — Iran blamed Israel on Monday for an attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges — sabotage that imperils ongoing talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal and brings a shadow war between the two countries into the light.
Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but Israeli media widely reported that the country had orchestrated a devastating cyberattack that caused a blackout at the nuclear facility.

7 April
Iran ship serving as Red Sea troop base near Yemen attacked
(AP) — An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen has been attacked, Tehran acknowledged Wednesday.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the attack on the MV Saviz, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. The assault came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the U.S. potentially rejoining Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, showing that challenges ahead don’t rest merely in those negotiations.
Israel-Iran Sea Skirmishes Escalate as Mine Damages Iranian Military Ship
(NYT) The explosion came the same day as progress was reported in talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel opposes.
Iran sets new record for virus infections amid holiday surge
(AP) The country is in the midst of one of the most severe surges of the coronavirus to date, following a two-week public holiday for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which drove millions to travel to popular vacation spots across the country, crowd markets and congregate in homes for parties in defiance of government health guidelines.

6 April
Roadmap to rescue Iran nuclear deal agreed in Vienna talks
(The Guardian) 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.
Since the US pulled out of the deal in 2018, Iran has taken a series of steps away from it, including on the use of advanced centrifuges, enriched uranium levels and limiting access for UN weapons inspectors to its nuclear sites.
Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador to Vienna, hailed the outcome as “successful”. He said two groups tasked to identify measures for Washington and Tehran to take had started work immediately, but it was impossible to say how long the process would be. A further meeting between diplomats is expected on Friday, suggesting the pace of the talks is designed to be intense, and already has a base of prepared background technical work on which to draw. Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team

27 March
Iran and China sign 25-year cooperation agreement
Deal signed in Tehran is expected to increase bilateral trade and military cooperation as US rivals move to deepen ties.
(Al Jazeera) Iran and China have signed a long-gestating 25-year cooperation accord as both countries remain under Unites States sanctions. The agreement is said to have been in the works since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran in 2016, also agreeing to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600bn in the next decade.
No details of the agreement have yet to be officially published, but it is expected to be a sweeping “strategic accord” that includes significant Chinese investments in Iran’s key sectors such as energy and infrastructure, in addition to military cooperation.
As China and Iran are approaching 50 years of official diplomatic ties, an exhibition of diplomatic documents and achievements between the two countries was opened at the foreign ministry building in Tehran on Saturday.
But the cooperation pact has also been a subject of contention inside Iran, where a discussion on its objectives and merits has divided people and officials alike.
Proponents of the deal say Iran will benefit from turning east as the US and the West adopt an increasingly hostile approach, while critics say Iran may be giving up too much in its quest to boost ties with China.

20 March
A New Year in Iran, but the country’s crises remain the same
(AP) — The Persian New Year, Nowruz, begins on the first day of spring and celebrates all things new. But as families across Iran hurried to greet the fresh start — eating copious crisp herbs, scrubbing their homes and buying new clothes — it was clear just how little the country had changed.
A year into the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated Iran, killing over 61,500 people — the highest death toll in the Middle East — the nation is far from out of the woods. And although Iranians had welcomed the election of President Joe Biden with a profound sigh of relief after the Trump administration’s economic pressure campaign, the sanctions that have throttled the country for three years remain in place.
The virus has touched all aspects of daily life, infecting some 1.78 million people, overwhelming hospitals, filling vast cemeteries and pummeling an economy already reeling from U.S. sanctions.
Iran’s economy shrank 5% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Over 1 million people lost their jobs in 2020, reported the Interior Ministry. Inflation has soared to nearly 50% compared to 10% in 2018, before then-President Donald Trump withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers and re-imposed sanctions. The prices of basic goods, including Nowruz staples like spiced nuts and clothes, have doubled or tripled.

18 March
Canadian officials say Iran failed to prove Flight 752 was shot down in error
Canadian safety officials said today that Iran’s investigation of the destruction of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 failed to support its claim that the passenger jet was shot down due to human error.
(CBC) In its final report released yesterday, Iran’s civil aviation authority concluded the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane was shot down accidentally in January 2020 after being “misidentified” by an air defence unit as a “hostile target.”
Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said the report offers no detailed explanation or evidence regarding the underlying factors that led the air defence unit to launch two surface-to-air-missiles at the plane shortly after it took off from Tehran’s main airport in the early hours of Jan. 8.
“We believe that the final report issued by Iran yesterday is incomplete. It raises more questions than it answers. It does provide some basic information about the factors that led to [the] military shoot down of PS752 but it falls short of answering many of the detailed questions of the underlying factors that caused that,” said Fox.

4 March
Iran and IAEA clear potential roadblock to talks with US on nuclear deal
European nations to shelve censure motion after agreement to hold technical meetings
(The Guardian) A potential roadblock to talks between Iran and the US on the future of the nuclear deal has been cleared after the UN nuclear inspectorate said it had won Iran’s agreement to return to Tehran to hold focused talks on doubts over the veracity of the country’s previous declarations about its nuclear sites.
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, said … Iran had now agreed to take part in direct, focused technical meetings at the beginning of April, with the aim for inspectors to report back to an IAEA board meeting in June.

25 February
Biden orders airstrikes against infrastructure used by ‘Iranian-backed militant groups’ in Syria
(Business Insider) The Iranian government supports a number of militant groups in Iraq and Syria and has pledged continued retaliation for the January 2020 killing of its general, Qassim Suleimani. That assassination came after Iraqi militant groups, days earlier, had killed another US military contractor in a rocket attack.
Thursday’s strikes, according to defense officials, were primarily aimed at the militants’ “infrastructure,” not necessarily their personnel.

19 February
Biden administration takes major steps to restoring Iran nuclear deal, offering to join European allies for talks with Tehran
The president has made restoring the deal a major foreign-policy goal.
Iran nuclear deal: Tehran plays down hopes of nuclear talks with US
(BBC) Iran says that despite an EU offer to broker talks with the US aimed at reviving a nuclear deal, America “must act” first and lift sanctions.
“Gestures are fine,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted, adding: “Remember, Trump left the room.”l.
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. The incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate and champion of the deal, cannot stand again following two terms in office. Anti-deal conservatives – already dominant in parliament – hope to replace him with a figure of their own.

9 February
Secret recording suggests Iranian official concedes truth about downing of Flight PS752 may never be revealed
(CBC) The Canadian government and security agencies are reviewing an audio recording in which a man — identified by sources as Iran’s foreign affairs minister — discusses the possibility that the destruction of Flight PS752 was an intentional act, CBC News has learned.
The individual, identified by sources as Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, is heard saying on the recording that there are a “thousand possibilities” to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three “infiltrators” — a scenario he said was “not at all unlikely.”
He is also heard saying the truth will never be revealed by the highest levels of Iran’s government and military.
Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and member of the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague, said the recording now in the hands of Canada’s intelligence agencies is a “highly significant” piece of new evidence.
He said Zarif is not involved directly in military or intelligence operations, so the recording is not a “smoking gun” offering conclusive proof that the aircraft’s destruction was intentional.
Zarif understands the inner workings of the IRGC and is a “highly influential and well-informed member of the highest level of the Iranian government,” Akhavan said, adding the recording suggests Iran did not conduct a proper investigation.

7 February
Biden says Iran must return to negotiating table before U.S. lifts sanctions
(CNBC) Biden, in a clip from a CBS interview on Sunday, indicated that Iran would have to stop enriching uranium before his administration would lift sanctions.
When asked if the U.S. would lift sanctions to get Iran back to the negotiating table, Biden said “no.”

20 January
Iran nuclear deal: What are Biden’s plans and challenges
(BBC) US President Joe Biden says he wants to restore the nuclear deal with Iran – making it a top foreign policy priority. Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018 and during his time in office the two countries came to the brink of war.
So, with so much hostility – and mistrust – between Washington and Tehran, will President Biden be able to revive the deal?

2 January
Trump may launch ‘reckless’ attack on Iran, experts fear
(Al Jazeera) Trump administration’s ‘sabre-rattling and aggressive rhetoric’ raise fears about a potential confrontation with Iran before Joe Biden takes office.
The US flew B-52 bombers over the Gulf three times in the past month, most recently on Wednesday, in what the Trump administration called a deterrence measure to keep Iran from retaliating on January 3, the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing in a US drone strike.
Why an Iran Attack Could Be Biden’s ‘Hour One’ Crisis
Speculation is rampant that Trump will launch a military strike, but it could be the new president who has to decide how to balance the safety of Americans with the chance for re-engagement with Iran.
(Politico) The evidence for a post-Jan. 20 confrontation has been accumulating for some weeks. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei cautioned on December 16 that Iran’s revenge would come “at its own time and place,” and thus not necessarily under Trump, who has pledged to strike back hard if Americans are harmed. Inside Iraq, the key Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, has warned against revenge attacks until Trump is gone, and even Mohammed al-Hashemi, an Iraqi government envoy sent to Iran, was quoted in Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper as beseeching Tehran to maintain calm “until the Biden administration takes over the presidency from Trump.”

1 January
Iran says it will enrich uranium up to 20 percent, UN nuclear watchdog says
(France 24) Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it intends to produce uranium enriched to up to 20 percent purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord, the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday.
According to the latest report available from the UN agency, published in November, Tehran was enriching uranium to levels greater than the limit provided for in the Vienna agreement (3.67 percent) but not exceeding the 4.5 percent threshold, and still complied with the Agency’s very strict inspection regime.

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