Iran January 2021 –

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Iran on Diana’s Wednesday
Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
Al Jazeera: Iran news
Iranwire

3-4 October
Iran arrests musician as anthem for protests goes viral
The lyrics to Baraye by Shervin Hajipour are taken from ordinary Iranians voicing their anger in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death
As demonstrations against the death of Mahsa Amini enter their third week in Iran, a protest song by one of Iran’s most popular musicians has become the soundtrack to the biggest civil uprising for decades, channelling the rage of Iranians at home and abroad.
The lyrics to Baraye by Shervin Hajipour are taken entirely from messages that Iranians have posted online about why they are protesting. Each begins with the word Baraye – meaning “For …” or “Because of …” in Farsi.
Hajipour released the song online last week and it quickly went viral, being viewed millions of times across various platforms. Videos show the song being sung by schoolgirls in Iran, blared from car windows in Tehran and played at solidarity protests in Washington, Strasbourg and London this weekend.
Iran protests: riot police use teargas on students at Sharif university
Unverified social media videos show security forces firing teargas amid reports some students are trapped in campus car park
Iran protests: Supreme leader blames unrest on US and Israel
In his first public comments on the unrest, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “riots” had been “engineered” by Iran’s arch-enemies and their allies.
The protests are the biggest challenge to his rule for a decade, and he urged security forces to be ready for more.
Addressing a graduation ceremony of police and armed forces cadets on Monday, the supreme leader said Ms Amini’s death “broke our hearts”.
“But what is not normal is that some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burned the Quran, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars,” he added, without mentioning any specific incidents.
The ayatollah, who has the final say on all state matters, asserted that foreign powers had planned “rioting” because they could not tolerate Iran “attaining strength in all spheres”.

Iran Crisis Update, September 29
Key Takeaways
(ISW) Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance or statement on September 29.
Anti-regime protests likely occurred in at least six Iranian cities on September 29, but demonstrations appear to have subsided overall for now.
Anti-regime protests may increase inside and outside of Iran on October 1.
The IRGC conducted an artillery attack into Iraqi Kurdistan on September 29, marking the sixth consecutive day of such attacks.

21-28 September
Thirteen killed in Iraq as Iran attacks Kurdish groups blamed for protests
(BBC) Thirteen people have been killed in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, officials say, as Iran launched missiles and armed drones at what it said were bases of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps said it hit “separatist terrorists” who had supported recent “riots”.
Nine dead in Iranian attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq
The attacks come after protests have rocked Iran for the past 11 days, particularly the country’s western Kurdistan province, near the Iraqi border.
(Al Jazeera) Iranian authorities have accused Iranian-Kurdish separatists based in northern Iraq of involvement in protests in Iran that have led to the deaths of dozens of people.
Death toll grows in Iran as Mahsa Amini protests continue for 10th night
At least 41 people have died in unrest sparked by young woman’s death as judiciary warns of ‘decisive action without leniency’
Norway-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Sunday evening that the death toll was at least 57, but noted that ongoing internet blackouts were making it increasingly difficult to confirm fatalities in a context where the women-led protests have spread to scores of cities.
Images circulated by IHR showed protesters on the streets of Tehran shouting “death to the dictator”, purportedly after nightfall on Sunday.
The Bonfire of the Headscarves
For Iran’s protesters, the fight for women’s freedom of choice is now synonymous with a desire to end the rule of the ayatollahs.
By Roya Hakakian
(The Atlantic) Forty-three years ago, Iran humiliated America before the world by parading in front of cameras the blindfolded U.S. embassy staff it had taken hostage in Tehran. Today, the Iranian people are humiliating their own leaders by defacing the murals of Ali Khamenei and tearing down his image from billboards.
These demonstrators are asking not for lower fuel prices, or better salaries, or fair elections—the demands of so many previous protests. In fact, they are not asking for anything at all. They simply want the regime to go.
Like the Ukrainians, Iranians cannot win their freedom without the support of the U.S. and other Western nations. They are willing to make sacrifices, but that willingness and determination alone cannot win revolutions. Americans have waited four decades for Iranians to reject the regime’s propaganda and stop seeing them as the enemy. This is a historic opportunity for the two nations to forge a new bond if the U.S. chooses to support Iranians in their hour of need. Those who wish to see democracy regain momentum around the world must do their part.
Iran and Russia protests expose their authoritarian regimes’ frailty
Jennifer Rubin
At the United Nations General Assembly meetings last week, the Biden administration was scathing in its denunciation of Iran. President Biden on Wednesday declared, “Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen all denounced the regime’s brutality, and the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the morality police. (Iran is under a slew of sanctions already.) On Friday, The Post reported, Treasury “modified U.S. sanctions to let technology companies counter the Iranian government’s internet lockdown and surveillance.”
Protests spread in Iran as President Raisi vows to crack down
Demonstrations have spread to most of Iran’s 31 provinces and almost all urban centres, pitting anti-government demonstrators against regime forces, including the military, and posing the most serious test to the hardline state’s authority in more than 13 years.
President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday blamed conspirators for inciting unrest and pledged to crack down on “those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility”.
Iran Protests Surge to Dozens of Cities
Iranians fed up with oppressive rules and a battered economy have faced bullets, tear gas and arrests to demand an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule.
The largest anti-government protests in Iran since 2009 gathered strength on Saturday, spreading to as many as 80 cities, even as the authorities escalated a crackdown that has reportedly killed dozens of people and brought the arrests of prominent activists and journalists, according to rights groups and news media reports.
Internet access — especially on cellphone apps widely used for communication — continued to be disrupted or fully blocked, affecting Iranians’ ability to communicate with one another and the outside world. News from Iran has trickled out with many hours of delay.
Treasury Department helps expand internet access to Iranian people amid violent government crackdown
The Iran government on Wednesday cut off global internet access for most of its 80 million citizens.
(Politico) The Department of Treasury announced Friday it was updating guidance to expand internet service to Iranians, most of whom have been cut off from the internet by their own government amid its violent crackdown on peaceful protests.
“While Iran’s government is cutting off its people’s access to the global internet, the United States is taking action to support the free flow of information and access to fact-based information to the Iranian people,” the Treasury said in a press release.
Iran’s regime faces a slew of challenges. Here’s what people are saying.
By Jason Rezaian, Global Opinions writer
(WaPo) Every so often over the past quarter-century, analysts have predicted that Iran was on the cusp of major change. They always turned out to be wrong. Now, unrest is engulfing the country yet again.
Here are the threats the Islamic republic’s regime is facing, what people are saying — and why this time could be different
Nationwide protests
Iran is being rocked by nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran last week for the alleged crime of wearing an improper hijab. …her name has become the latest rallying cry against the regime’s repression and misogyny. Women have largely powered the protests.
International legal trouble
Iran is also embroiled in some nasty fights at The Hague. Potentially most consequential is the complaint filed at the International Criminal Court by families the 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down in 2020. Plaintiffs want the incident investigated as a war crime.
Nuclear talks
Meanwhile, nuclear negotiations between Tehran and world powers have stalled. Again. With Iran’s economy long sputtering under the weight of sanctions, the value of the rial, Iran’s national currency, along with the nation’s spending power, has nosedived.
Hostages
And we cannot forget the four Americans held hostage in Tehran — and the resulting pressure to release them.
Raisi in the U.S.
Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is accused of crimes against humanity for overseeing the execution of thousands of dissidents in 1988. His address at the U.N. General Assembly— like his “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday, the first with a major American news program — was predictably tone-deaf. He also reneged on a planned interview with journalist Christiane Amanpour when she declined to wear a headscarf for the questioning.
Supreme Leader death watch
Iran has faced crises before — and simultaneous ones. This time, though, the storm comes as Iran’s supreme leader since 1989, Ali Khamenei, appears increasingly frail.

Iran’s president calls his nation a fighter against injustice as it cracks down on protests.
(NYT) Even as Iran waged a violent crackdown at home that advocacy groups said had killed seven people and injured hundreds more, President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran insisted that his country was a model of justice and human rights as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
Mr. Raisi’s remarks — in a long speech that mixed religious sermons and political rhetoric — made no mention of the widespread anti-government protests or the death of the young woman that had sparked them. Nor did he address the health concerns surrounding the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, who was reported to have been gravely ill.
Three people killed in Iran protests over death of Mahsa Amini
(Guardian editor’s note) Kurdistan governor blames deaths on ‘plot by the enemy’ on fourth day of protests over 22-year-old’s death in custody
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was travelling with her family from Iran’s western province of Kurdistan to the capital, Tehran, to visit relatives when she fell foul of Iran’s notorious morality police. Stopped for failing to meet the required standards for wearing the mandatory hijab, her arrest allegedly turned violent with reports of her being beaten in police custody. Days later, she died in a Tehran hospital.
Her death has sparked a wave of fury on the streets of Iran and across social media that the authorities are now struggling to contain.
Her death is the consequence of an increasingly repressive crackdown on women’s rights across the country, after Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi launched a new hijab decree mandating stricter enforcement of Iran’s laws on women’s dress in public spaces.
Annie Kelly, editor, Rights and freedom
The controversy is sensitive for the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, who is currently in New York to address the UN general assembly for the first time. Human rights groups in New York are protesting against his presence and launching legal actions against him.
As unrest grows, Iran restricts access to Instagram, WhatsApp

18 September
Iran president repeats call for nuclear deal guarantees ahead of U.N. visit
(Reuters) – Tehran would be serious about reviving a deal on its nuclear program if there were guarantees the United States would not again withdraw from it, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
Last month, Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran needed stronger guarantees from Washington for the revival of the 2015 deal and urged the U.N. atomic watchdog to drop its “politically motivated probes” of Tehran’s nuclear work. (Iran seeks stronger U.S. guarantees for revival of 2015 nuclear deal)
Speaking to the CBS show 60 Minutes in a interview conducted last Tuesday, Raisi said, “If it’s a good deal and fair deal, we would be serious about reaching an agreement.”
The deal appeared near revival in March.
But indirect talks between Tehran and Washington then broke down over several issues, including Tehran’s insistence that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites before the pact is revived.
There has been no sign that Tehran and Washington will manage to overcome their impasse but Iran is expected to use the U.N. General Assembly to keep the diplomatic ball rolling by repeating its willingness to reach a sustainable deal.

Protests at funeral of Iranian woman who died in police custody
Local media reports say police fire tear gas at a rally following the funeral of a young woman who died after being arrested by the so-called ‘morality police’, who found fault with her hijab.
Mahsa Amini: Woman dies after arrest by Iran’s morality police
(Al Jazeera) President Raisi orders an inquiry after Mahsa Amini, 22, died after being detained by Iranian morality police.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has supported a softer attitude towards women who do not comply with the official dress code. But hardliners have called for harsh punishment and even lashes, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decay and the disintegration of families. The judiciary has in recent years urged people to inform about women who do not wear the hijab.

1 September
Iran sends ‘constructive’ response to U.S. proposals on nuclear deal -state media
(Reuters) – Iran has sent a “constructive” response to U.S. proposals aimed at reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani was quoted by state media as saying on Friday.
“The text that was sent (by Iran) has a constructive approach aimed at finalising the negotiations,” Kanaani was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.

26 August
Is There Another Iran Nuclear Deal or Not?
The snail’s pace of negotiations between the US and Iran may result in a deal after all.
By Daniel R. DePetris, fellow at Defense Priorities and a foreign affairs columnist at Newsweek.
(InkStick) We are at yet another high point in the negotiations. If public reports are accurate, Washington and Tehran are as close to re-signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — also known as the Iran nuclear deal — as they’ve ever been. On Aug. 8, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, the coordinator of the talks, put what he described as a “final text” on the table. The United States and Iran, however, naturally called Borrell’s bluff; it turns out there was nothing “final” about the draft after all. Iran, as expected, submitted a response with concerns to the EU. After days of evaluating Iran’s comments, the United States sent its own comments to the coordinator this week.
Is the JCPOA a perfect deal? Hardly. But military options or additional economic sanctions aren’t exactly ideal either.
…there’s no disputing that US sanctions relief will result in a fatter wallet for the Iranian government. US financial restrictions have frozen approximately $100 billion of Iran’s own money in international banks, reduced Iran’s oil exports by approximately 80% between 2018–2020, and forced Western business interests to flee the Iranian market for fear of being shut out of the US financial system.
Yet, if the objective is to resurrect a stringent monitoring and verification regime over Iran’s nuclear program, then US sanctions relief is an inevitability. The Iranians are simply not going to eliminate the highly enriched uranium they’ve acquired, rip out the advanced centrifuges they’re operating, and agree to caps on the amount of uranium they can stockpile out of the goodness of their hearts. Iran’s uranium enrichment program is a major source of leverage for Tehran. … Sanctions relief for Iran, therefore, was always baked into the pie and is a fundamental prerequisite for reaching the point where Iran concedes a nuclear program it has devoted enormous resources to building over a span of decades.
Daniel DePetris: Iran Deal negotiations and U.S. options if talks collapse (8 August)

25 August
The Ukraine war has made Iran and Russia allies in economic isolation. Here’s how.
(Atlantic Council) The United States, European Union, and the Group of Seven (G7) have imposed severe sanctions on Russia. These punitive multilateral sanctions have put Russia in a situation that is familiar to Iran, which has ample experience circumventing their damaging effects.
From the outset of the war, Iran declared the invasion a legitimate Russian response to security concerns over actions by the United States and NATO. The new administration of Ebrahim Raisi admires Russia’s action-oriented foreign policy. Iranian officials have also grown weary of exerting strategic patience and have become more assertive in light of the long-lasting animosity between Iran and the United States, coupled with the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal to reintegrate Iran into the international community.
On July 22, Ali Akbar Velayati, a veteran foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that, instead of trying to appease the West, Tehran should turn to Russia for support and strategic alignment. Russia, Velayati remarked, has a strong track record of backing the Islamic Republic.

24 August
Iran reviews U.S. response to EU nuclear text for revival of 2015 pact
(Reuters) – Iran has received Washington’s response to an EU-drafted final offer for saving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, Iran’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, giving no firm indication of how close they are to narrowing remaining gaps.
After 16 months of fitful, indirect U.S.-Iran talks, with EU officials shuttling between the sides, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Aug. 8 the bloc had laid down a final text and expected a response within a “very, very few weeks.”

3 August
Iran nuclear talks to restart in Vienna with EU mediation
Iran and the US are set to hold indirect talks centred on a text recently proposed by the EU in the latest attempt to revive the nuclear deal.
Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers are set to resume, as representatives from Iran and the United States return to Vienna for a new round of discussions mediated by the European Union.
The bloc’s coordinator for the talks, Enrique Mora, in addition to top negotiators from Tehran and Washington, were reportedly heading back to the Austrian capital on Wednesday for indirect talks that are expected to begin on Thursday.
Iran deploys more centrifuges as it proposes new round of talks
Tehran has maintained a potential sustainable agreement would require ‘flexibility’ by Washington.

31 July
Days of deadly floods and landslides wreak havoc in Iran
Dozens are dead and at least 45 people missing after most Iranian provinces were affected by the inundations.

19 July
Putin endorsed by Iran for invasion of Ukraine but clashes with Turkey at summit
This article is more than 2 months old
Tehran meeting saw discord over Erdoğan’s plan to intervene in Syria but ‘progress’ on shipping Ukrainian grain

9 June
Iran pulls UN nuke cameras in possible ‘fatal blow’ to deal
(The World) The UN’s nuclear watchdog says that Iran has begun the removal of 27 surveillance cameras from nuclear facilities across the country. The move will limit the IAEA’s ability to track Tehran’s uranium enrichment program, which is said to be reaching closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. World powers censured Iran this week over the advances in its nuclear program. And the body passed a resolution reprimanding Tehran for not explaining traces of uranium found at three of its undeclared sites. Tensions have been high amid talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which was meant to limit Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions.

11 May
A People Paralyzed by Sanctions
Restarting the Iran nuclear deal and lifting sanctions is the only way to stop the suffering of regular Iranians.
(InkStick) As negotiations for re-entering the nuclear deal have dragged on for over a year, the Iranian people continue to suffer at the hands of maximum pressure sanctions. While the Trump administration implemented the sanctions, the current administration has failed to deliver any relief. Working and middle-class Iranians largely support democratic ideals and greater civil rights, but their trust in the West has proven futile.

30 March
Iran won’t break with Russia over Ukraine. Here’s why.
By Javad Heiran-Nia
Russia doesn’t want Iran to become a nuclear weapons state or be subjected to sanctions, since this would undermine trade and technical relations with Iran. Russia’s policy is to maintain crises that can be controlled and hinder the improvement of Iran-West relations.
(Atlantic Council) Russia has abandoned a recent attempt to exploit the Vienna talks to gain sanctions relief beyond what was guaranteed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, there are no signs that Tehran is walking away from its relationship with Moscow despite Russia’s actions toward Iran and its invasion of Ukraine.
Any improvement in Iran’s relationship with the West has always been a concern for Russia. Its March 5 demand for a written guarantee from the United States that trade with Iran not be affected by new US sanctions imposed on Russia for the invasion is the latest example of Moscow playing the Iranian card and jeopardizing Tehran’s interests to secure its own interests.
This isn’t the first time that Russia has used nuclear talks in such a manner.
Former Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in March 2021 during a leaked interview about Russia’s destructive role in the Iran nuclear talks: “The Russians have been trying to prevent the nuclear deal (JCPOA)since 2015 and [Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov wanted to disrupt everything on the night of the agreement. After the JCPOA, when Lavrov returned to Russia, he was attacked by the Russian media. Why did you allow this agreement to be reached and Iran to get closer to the West?”

14 March
Russia may do Biden a favor by killing the Iran deal
Some Democrats and diplomats are increasingly wary of restoring the 2015 agreement, arguing it is weaker than before and gives too much sanctions relief to Tehran.
(Politico) In a desperate bid to save its economy, Russia has been making demands that could kill President Joe Biden’s effort to revive the Iran nuclear agreement.
Strangely enough, that might be a blessing for Biden.
The Kremlin — battered by Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine — is trying to undermine the international negotiations with Iran. The last-minute moves have rattled Tehran and infuriated other countries who have spent roughly a year in talks to restore the nuclear deal.
At least two members of the U.S. negotiating team have left in recent months over concerns about the talks’ direction. Ariane Tabatabai and Richard Nephew are political appointees, not career staffers, but are well-regarded experts on Iran. People familiar with the pair’s thinking said they thought the United States was leaning toward giving up too much in sanctions relief and that a restored deal would not be strong enough.
10 March
Iran nuclear talks close to collapse over Russian demands
With its economy teetering, Russia wants sanctions protections written into the deal. Negotiations will likely now pause amid the impasse.

8 March
Henry Rome: The Limits of a New Iran Nuclear Deal
Why the Original Agreement’s Flaws Remain Unresolved
(Foreign Affairs) In its likely form, the deal will provide significant near-term economic benefits to Iran—allowing it to sell oil freely and reconnect to the global financial system. In turn, Tehran will restrict its enriched uranium production and centrifuge testing and accept enhanced international inspections. But any agreement will also suffer from the same broader shortfalls as its predecessor did six years ago—likely exacerbated by worsening attitudes in the United States and in Iran itself.
The uncertain future of the nuclear deal risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Doubts about the longevity of the agreement may convince businesses to steer clear of Iran, reducing Tehran’s interest in keeping the deal afloat and lowering the costs of another U.S. withdrawal. That will leave the agreement fundamentally unstable in the coming years, undermining its potential to serve as a firm foundation for subsequent negotiations or any broader improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations.

7 March
As the world shuns Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Iran strengthens its ties with Moscow
Hours after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi to inform him about Russia’s “special military operation.” During the call, Raisi expressed Iran’s understanding of Russia’s security concerns and affirmed the country’s contention that “NATO expansion is a serious threat to the security and stability of independent nations.”
To an extent, Iran’s support for Russian actions reflects the improvement in bilateral ties, which have grown considerably at the political and military levels over the past decade. Russian and Iranian cooperation in the Syrian Civil War—though not without problems—when combined with their mutual antipathy towards the West, has led to greater coordination on overlapping goals and interests. Iran’s response to the Russian invasion of a sovereign state stands out in its particularly pronounced pro-Russian stance—a contrast to Moscow’s traditional allies, such as Kazakhstan.
Iran seeks ‘creative ways’ to nuke deal after Russian demand
(AP) — A top Iranian official said Monday that his country is seeking “creative ways” to restore its nuclear deal with world powers after Russia’s foreign minister linked sanctions on Moscow over its war on Ukraine to the ongoing negotiations.
The tweet by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, offers the first high-level acknowledgment of the demands of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“Vienna participants act & react based on interests and it’s understandable,” Shamkhani wrote. “Our interactions … are also solely driven by our people’s interests. Thus, we’re assessing new elements that bear on the negotiations and will accordingly seek creative ways to expedite a solution.”
Shamkhani later tweeted criticism of the United States; earlier, he avoided directly mentioning Russia.
In recent days, negotiators on all sides in Vienna had signaled that a potential deal was close as the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agreed to a timetable with Iran for it to answer the watchdog’s long-standing questions about Tehran’s program.

5 March
Iran, IAEA agree timeline to remove obstacle to reviving nuclear deal
Summary
Iran tried to end IAEA investigation in nuclear talks
It has now agreed three-month roadmap with agency
Obstacle to a nuclear agreement within days removed
Unclear what happens if roadmap only partially successful
(Reuters) – Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Saturday agreed a three-month plan that in the best case will resolve the long-stalled issue of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in the country, removing an obstacle to reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

28 February
Diplomats reconvene in Vienna for Iran nuclear talks
(AP) — Diplomats from Iran and world powers reconvened in Vienna on Monday to seek a deal reviving Tehran’s 2015 nuclear accord, with pressure mounting for results soon.
Among them was Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, who returned to Vienna after consultations with his government in Teheran over the weekend.
The other parties to the agreement are Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The United States has participated indirectly in the talks because it withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal.
Under Trump, the U.S. reimposed heavy sanctions on Iran. Tehran has responded by increasing the purity and amounts of uranium it enriches and stockpiles, in breach of the accord.
Officials say that the talks are reaching their final stage, though it’s unclear how long that might take. The negotiations have dragged on for months, punctuated by a long gap last year caused by the arrival of a hard-line new government in Iran.

21 February
Iran’s Raisi calls on U.S. to lift sanctions to revive nuclear deal
(Reuters) – Efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal cannot succeed unless Washington lifts “major” sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday, as sources said indirect talks between Iran and the United States were reaching a final stage.
Reuters reported last week that a U.S.-Iranian deal is taking shape in Vienna after months of indirect talks to revive the nuclear pact abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who also reimposed extensive sanctions on Iran
Two sources close to the Vienna talks told Reuters that some minor technical issues were being discussed and that a deal was expected before end of the week.
[Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed] Khatibzadeh said the talks were being handled by Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, which reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

3 January
Iran vows revenge for Soleimani killing if Trump not put on trial
(Reuters) – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking on the second anniversary of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States, said that former U.S. President Donald Trump must face trial for the killing or Tehran would take revenge.
Iran and groups allied with it in Iraq and other countries have been holding events to honour Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the elite Revolutionary Guards. He was killed in Iraq in a drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, ordered by then President Trump.

2021

5 November
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.

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.

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.

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.
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 U. S. sanctions.
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.
… 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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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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