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Iran nuclear talks in Vienna make headway, as USA shows plans for removing sanctions

Independent 3rd May 2021, For months, the United States was humming and hawing about how and on what
terms it would return to the nuclear deal with Iran, as doubts were percolating in world capitals about whether the administration of Joe Biden even wanted to revive the deal.

But during indirect talks between Iran and the US over the last couple weeks in Vienna, Washington startled just about
everyone involved when it suddenly presented plans detailing how it would remove sanctions on Iran if it were to roll back its nuclear programme for both countries to back come into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action (JCPOA).

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/iran-us-nuclear-deal-headway-vienna-b1840992.html

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Israel’s ‘shadow war’ and plans to scupper Iran’s nuclear deal

Israel’s ‘shadow war’ and plans to scupper Iran’s nuclear deal

Hawkish elements in Israel will continue to play a leading role moving forward on Tehran’s nuclear programme, analysts say.  Aljazeera, Thomas O Falk, 3 May 2021

US President Joe Biden is pushing to reinstate Iran’s nuclear deal and weeks of talks in Austria appear to be bearing fruit.

Israel, however, continues to see its security jeopardised by a potentially nuclear Iran and is trying to thwart negotiations any way possible.

The Mossad spy agency chief Yossi Cohen – a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – met Biden on Friday and, according to one media report, pressed the US president not to sign back on to the nuclear accord unless “improvements” were made.

An unnamed senior Israeli official is quoted as saying Biden responded that the United States “is not close” to returning to the Iran deal, Axios reported.

Israel’s opposition to the nuclear agreement seems to go beyond words, however, with Iran accusing it of assassinating its top nuclear scientist and sabotaging its main nuclear facility Natanz in a series of attacks. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s defence minister, said in March his country has drawn up plans to strike Iranian targets if Tehran continues its nuclear escalation.

Simon Mabon, a professor of international politics at Lancaster University, told Al Jazeera that within Israel, and particularly in the government, hawkish elements will continue to play a leading role moving forward on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

“Those supporting Netanyahu’s view of the Iranian regime are steadfast in their view that the Islamic Republic cannot be deterred through conventional forms of deterrence and a military strike is needed,” said Mabon.

‘Considerable damage’

Yaniv Voller, senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Kent, said Israel’s efforts against Iran’s nuclear programme – often described as “the shadow war” – are likely to continue given the positive events in Vienna after Tehran’s recent negotiations with world powers on the nuclear accord.

However, Voller said a hot war remains unlikely despite Israel’s best efforts.

“I do not think the shadow war will turn into a full-blown conflict between Israel and Iran. A greater risk is a local conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies in the region, particularly Hezbollah,” Voller told Al Jazeera.

“This could be reminiscent of summer 2006, but with the potential to being even more devastating. Neither side has an interest in escalating the situation but, naturally, conflicts sometimes do spiral.”

He argued that, as the latest incidents have shown, Israel’s option to target the programme effectively is much broader than a mere preemptive attack.

“In any case, some of the actions that have been related to Israel and the US have already caused considerable damage to the Iranian nuclear programme, so a preemptive strike is not necessarily the only viable option to delay the Iranian nuclear programme.”…………. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/3/israels-shadow-war-and-plans-to-scupper-irans-nuclear-deal

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, politics international | Leave a comment

Iran’s foreign minister criticises influence of Revolutionary Guards and speaks of nuclear deal in leaked audio

Iran’s foreign minister criticises influence of Revolutionary Guards and speaks of nuclear deal in leaked audio, ABC, 26 Apr 21, A leaked recording of Iran’s foreign minister offering a blunt appraisal of diplomacy, the limits of power within the Islamic Republic, and a key nuclear deal with the US has set off a firestorm within the country.

Key points:

  • Iran’s Foreign Minister is heard saying Russia wants the 2015 nuclear deal between the US and Iran to fail, despite publicly supporting it
  • Mr Zarif also criticised famed Iranian Guard General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the US
  • The leak could affect US-Iran talks in Vienna, aimed at renewing the nuclear deal

The release of the comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif drew ire from Iranian officials, who usually mind their words amid a cut-throat political environment that includes the powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, ultimately overseen by the country’s supreme leader.

Mr Zarif had been suggested as a possible candidate for Iran’s June 18 presidential election.

When the leak became public, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh did not dispute the tape’s authenticity…… ……….https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-27/iran-foreign-minister-leaked-recording-revolutionary-guards/100096938

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics | Leave a comment

Iran Nuclear Deal Talks Advance as U.S. Offers Sanctions Relief

Iran Nuclear Deal Talks Advance as U.S. Offers Sanctions Relief

Biden administration signals openness to easing measures against oil, finance and other sectors, but Tehran wants to see specifics, WSJ, By Ian Talley, Benoit Faucon and Laurence NormanUpdated April 21, 2021

The Biden administration has signaled it is open to easing sanctions against critical elements of Iran’s economy, including oil and finance, helping narrow differences in nuclear talks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Despite the progress, senior diplomats warned that weeks of difficult negotiations over the 2015 nuclear agreement lie ahead and progress remains fragile. Talks in Vienna are complicated by domestic politics in Washington and Tehran and by Iran’s refusal to meet directly with the U.S.

President Biden wants to return to the 2015 deal after former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018. The U.S. decision to quit the deal and impose sweeping sanctions on Iran prompted Tehran to breach many of the key restrictions in the accord, making a return to the agreement’s provisions and limits difficult for both sides.

Senior officials in Vienna this week wrapped up five days of talks, with delegations returning home before negotiations resume next week. People involved in the talks say progress has come as the U.S. laid out more clearly the contours of the sanctions relief it is prepared to provide.

Many of the sanctions were imposed under Mr. Trump using U.S. terrorism authorities, and U.S. officials previously have said they are willing to consider lifting some of them. But they haven’t detailed which sanctions could be eased or which Iranian entities stand to be affected……..  (subscribers only)  https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-nuclear-deal-talks-advance-as-u-s-offers-sanctions-relief-11619024783

April 22, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Progress in Iran nuclear talks but resolution still far away

Progress in Iran nuclear talks but resolution still far away
By DAVID RISING, 19 Apr 21, BERLIN (AP) — High-level talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran are moving ahead with experts working on drafting proposals this week, but a solution remains “far away,” Russia’s delegate said Monday.

The U.S. unilaterally left the agreement, which promises Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear program, in 2018 under then President Donald Trump, who said it needed to be renegotiated and imposed crippling sanctions.

In response, Iran has steadily been violating the restrictions set by the deal, by enriching uranium far past the purity allowed and stockpiling vastly larger quantities, in a thus-far unsuccessful effort to force the other countries involved to provide economic relief that would offset the American sanctions.

U.S. President Joe Biden wants to return Washington to the deal, and Iran has been negotiating with the five remaining powers — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — for the past two weeks on how that might take place. Diplomats from the world powers have been shuttling between the Iranian delegation and an American one, which is also in Vienna but not talking directly with the Iranian side.


BERLIN (AP) — High-level talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran are moving ahead with experts working on drafting proposals this week, but a solution remains “far away,” Russia’s delegate said Monday.

The U.S. unilaterally left the agreement, which promises Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear program, in 2018 under then President Donald Trump, who said it needed to be renegotiated and imposed crippling sanctions.

In response, Iran has steadily been violating the restrictions set by the deal, by enriching uranium far past the purity allowed and stockpiling vastly larger quantities, in a thus-far unsuccessful effort to force the other countries involved to provide economic relief that would offset the American sanctions.

U.S. President Joe Biden wants to return Washington to the deal, and Iran has been negotiating with the five remaining powers — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — for the past two weeks on how that might take place. Diplomats from the world powers have been shuttling between the Iranian delegation and an American one, which is also in Vienna but not talking directly with the Iranian side.

Two expert groups have been brainstorming solutions to the two major issues: The rollback of American sanctions on one hand, and Iran’s return to compliance on the other…………..

The ultimate goal of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something it insists it doesn’t want to do. Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb, but nowhere near the amount it had before the nuclear deal was signed.

Challenges also remain outside of the negotiations.

An attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel recently struck Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, causing an unknown amount of damage. Tehran retaliated by beginning to enrich a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity, its highest level ever. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency also could be disrupted without an agreement…………… https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-iran-iran-nuclear-europe-d236858e8fef9cf48b4e1c9d2482b0bf

April 20, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Iran has named a suspect for the recent attack on its nuclear facility.

Independent 17th April 2021, Iran has named a suspect it alleges is responsible for the attack on the
country’s nuclear facility in Natanz. The incident at the country’s
main uranium enrichment facility last week – which Tehran quickly blamed
on Israel – cast a shadow over vital ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at
salvaging the international deal intended to block Iran’s route to
creating a nuclear arsenal.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-nuclear-natanz-attack-suspect-b1833238.html

April 19, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Iran | Leave a comment

Israel (itself having 80 nuclear weapons) will do ”whatever it takes” to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon

Israel will do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Iran on nuclear front -foreign minister  https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-will-do-whatever-it-takes-stop-iran-nuclear-front-foreign-minister-2021-04-16/Reuters, 17 Apr 21,  Israel will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday.

Speaking after a summit with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts and a senior representative from the UAE in Paphos, Cyprus, Ashkenazi said discussions centred around possibilities for building on prosperity and stability in the region.

“We also took time to discuss challenges that Iran and Hezbollah and other extremists pose to the stability of the Middle East and to the regional peace,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to prevent this extremist … success and definitely, to prevent this regime from having nuclear weapons.”

April 17, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran to enrich uranium to 60% after ‘wicked’ nuclear site attack,

Iran to enrich uranium to 60% after ‘wicked’ nuclear site attack, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-56743560 14 Apr 21, Iran will produce 60%-enriched uranium in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on a nuclear site, President Hassan Rouhani says, bringing it closer to the purity required for a weapon.

A blast knocked out the power system at Natanz on Sunday, causing damage to thousands of uranium centrifuges.

Mr Rouhani warned the perpetrators that enrichment would now be ramped up as a response to “your wickedness”.

But he reiterated that Iran’s nuclear activities were “exclusively peaceful”.

France, Germany and the UK expressed “grave concern” at the move, saying Iran had “no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level”.

The three countries are parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, under which it is permitted to enrich uranium up to 3.67% purity to make reactor fuel. Weapons-grade uranium is 90%-enriched or more.

Iran began producing 20%-enriched uranium – a level that takes most of the overall effort required to get to weapons-grade – in January as part of its response to the US sanctions reinstated by former President Donald Trump when he abandoned the accord three years ago.

Israel, which sees Iran’s nuclear programme as a potential threat to its existence and is critical of Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the deal, has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the Natanz incident. But public radio cited intelligence sources as saying it was a cyber operation by Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency.

US intelligence officials told the New York Times that a large explosion completely destroyed the power system that supplied an underground hall at Natanz where uranium hexafluoride gas was fed into centrifuges to separate out the most suitable isotope for nuclear fission, called U-235.

The head of the Iranian parliament’s research centre, Alireza Zakani, said on Tuesday that several thousand centrifuges were “damaged or destroyed in one instant” and that “the main part of our enrichment capacities” were eliminated.

On Tuesday night, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced it had just started enriching uranium up to 60% purity for the first time in response to the attack.

“We expect to accumulate the product next week,” Kazem Gharibabadi tweeted. “This will improve significantly both the quality and quantity of radiopharmaceutical products.”

Iran will also install 1,000 additional centrifuges at Natanz and replace damaged IR-1 centrifuges – the oldest and least efficient – with more advanced IR-6 models, significantly increasing its enrichment capacity.

President Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that, while Iranian security agencies had yet to provide their final reports on the attack, “apparently it is the crime of the Zionists”. Iran does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and often refers to it as the “Zionist state”.

“You cannot conspire against the Iranian nation and commit a crime in Natanz; we will cut off your arms when you commit a crime,” he said.

“What you did was nuclear terrorism; what we’ve done is legal,” he added.

Mr Rouhani said those responsible wanted to derail the indirect talks between US and Iranian officials in Vienna which are aimed at reviving the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We know what you are trying to do; you want us to be empty-handed at the talks but we’re attending the negotiations with an even fuller hand.”

ran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, later warned that US officials did not want to “accept the truth” and often made suggestions that were “not even worth looking at”.

“Sanctions must be removed first. Once we are certain that has been done, we will carry out our commitments,” he said.

The governments of France, Germany and the UK said enriching uranium up to 60% was “a serious development” since it constituted “an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon”.

“Iran’s announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPOA participants and the United States have started substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPOA. Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Iran’s decision was “provocative”.

In their annual threat assessment released on Tuesday, US intelligence agencies said they continued to “assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device”.

April 15, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics, technology | Leave a comment

A shadow war between Israel and Iran hangs ominously over nuclear talks in Vienna

A shadow war between Israel and Iran hangs ominously over the resumption of
critical talks in Vienna on Wednesday, aimed at returning Iran and the US
to the 2015 nuclear agreement. The talks come just three days after a
sabotage attack at a key Iranian nuclear plant near Natanz, where an
explosion cut off electricity to the whole site. The attacked damaged an
unknown number of centrifuges – sophisticated machines that make uranium
usable for nuclear purposes – and has stopped work at the facility for now.

BBC 14th April 2021

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-56716472

thousands of machines used to refine nuclear material were destroyed or
damaged in an attack at a key site on Sunday, an Iranian official has said.
Alireza Zakani, head of the Iranian parliament’s Research Centre, said the
incident had “eliminated” Iran’s ability to carry out the process. The
attack took place in a facility up to 50m (165ft) underground, another
official said. Iran has blamed Israel for what it called an act of “nuclear
terrorism”.

BBC 13th April 2021

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-56734657

Iran gave notice yesterday that it will begin enriching uranium closer to
weapons-grade purity, two days after an explosion at its most important
nuclear facility for which it blamed Israel.

TTimes 14th April 2021

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/iran-takes-its-biggest-step-to-building-atomic-bomb-rtt587wxf

April 15, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

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

Shutdown happened hours after Natanz reactor’s new centrifuges were started, Guardian,  Martin Chulov Middle East correspondentMon 12 Apr 2021, Israel appeared to confirm claims that it was behind a cyber-attack on Iran’s main nuclear facility on Sunday, which Tehran’s nuclear energy chief described as an act of terrorism that warranted a response against its perpetrators.

The apparent attack took place hours after officials at the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges that could speed up the production of enriched uranium, in what had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country’s nuclear programme.

As Iranian authorities scrambled to deal with a large-scale blackout at Natanz, which the country’s Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged had damaged the electricity grid at the site, the Israeli defence chief, Aviv Kochavi, said the country’s “operations in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy”.

Israel imposed no censorship restrictions on coverage as it had often done after similar previous incidents and the apparent attack was widely covered by Israeli media. Public radio took the unusual step of claiming that the Mossad intelligence agency had played a central role.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later Sunday that “the struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission”…..


The unexplained shutdown is thought to be the latest in a series of exchanges between the two arch-enemies, who have fought an extensive and escalating shadow war across the Middle East over more than decade, centred on Iran’s nuclear programme and its involvement in matters beyond its borders.

Clashes have more recently been fought in the open, with strikes against shipping, the killing of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Syria, and even a mysterious oil spill in northern Israel, which officials there have claimed was environmental sabotage.

Natanz has remained a focal point of Israeli fears, with an explosion damaging a centrifuge assembly plant last July, and a combined CIA and the Mossad cyber-attack using a computer virus called Stuxnet in 2010 that caused widespread disruption and delayed Iran’s nuclear programme for several years.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, urged the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take action against the perpetrators of the attack. He confirmed that a “terrorist attack” had damaged the electricity grid of the Natanz site. The IAEA said it was aware of the reports but declined to comment further…………

Western officials believe Israel has become increasingly brazen in its attempts to disrupt the Iranian programme, pointing to the killing of the country’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, last November, who was shot dead along with his bodyguards on a rural highway. Iran claims that artificial intelligence was used to identify Fakhrizadeh, who was gunned down by a remotely operated automatic weapon. The small lorry carrying the weapon then exploded…………… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/11/israel-appears-confirm-cyberattack-iran-nuclear-facility

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 2 Comments

Iran calls Natanz nuclear enrichment site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’

Iran calls Natanz nuclear enrichment site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’,  ABC, 12 Apr 21,  A blackout at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on Sunday was an act of “nuclear terrorism”, according to the country’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi.

Key points:

  • Multiple Israeli media outlets reported a cyberattack caused the blackout
  • The incident took place a day after Tehran launched advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges
  • Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion fell immediately on Israel, where its media nearly uniformly reported a devastating cyberattack orchestrated by the country caused the blackout. 

Earlier on Sunday, a spokesman for the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) said that a problem with the electrical distribution grid of the Natanz site had caused an incident, Iranian media reported.

The spokesman said that “the incident caused no casualties or contamination”.

The incident took place a day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site……… https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-12/iran-calls-natanz-atomic-site-blackout-nuclear-terrorism/100062156

April 12, 2021 Posted by | Iran, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Accident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear station

Guardian 11th April 2021, A spokesman for Iran’s civilian nuclear programme said an “accident”
struck the electrical distribution grid of the Natanz nuclear facility, a
day after the government announced it was starting up new uranium
enrichment centrifuges.

Behrouz Kamalvandi announced the accident on
Sunday, saying there were no injuries and no pollution. A mysterious
explosion in July 2020 damaged Natanz’s advanced centrifuge facility,
with Iran later calling the incident sabotage. Iran had announced on
Saturday that it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at
Natanz, in a breach of its undertakings under the 2015 nuclear deal, days
after the start of talks on rescuing the accord.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/11/accident-at-irans-natanz-nuclear-plant-as-new-uranium-enrichment-starts

France24 11th April 2021

https://www.france24.com/fr/moyen-orient/20210411-en-iran-un-accident-survient-dans-l-installation-nucl%C3%A9aire-de-natanz

Iran says it has begun mechanical tests on its newest advanced nuclear
centrifuges, even as the five world powers that remain in a foundering 2015
nuclear deal with Iran attempt to bring the U.S. back into the agreement.

Independent 10th April 2021

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/middle-east/iran-nuclear-centrifuge-us-talks-b1829564.html

April 12, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Iran | Leave a comment

Iran nuclear talks to continue next week after breakthrough

Iran nuclear talks to continue next week after breakthrough

Iranian deputy foreign minister says all Trump-imposed sanctions must be lifted to revive deal, Guardian,   Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
,  9 Apr 21, Talks on the terms for the US and Iran to come back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal are to resume next week after making sufficient progress since Tuesday’s breakthrough agreement on a roadmap for both sides.

The US has not been in direct talks with the Iranian delegation in Vienna this week but is relaying messages mainly to European members of the body that oversees the deal.

Iran is insisting all sanctions imposed by the US since 2016, including those classified by the US as non-nuclear-related, must be lifted, and it is not clear whether Iran will take its steps to come back into compliance until it is satisfied that the lifting of the sanctions has had a practical impact on its ability to conduct business, including exporting its oil.

The Trump administration imposed a wall of sanctions on Iran before and after it left the deal in 2018. The US has in the past drawn a distinction between its willingness to lift nuclear-related sanctions and to retain those not linked to the nuclear deal, such as human rights or terrorism-related sanctions.

“Lifting all US sanctions imposed under the previous US president is a necessary step in reviving the joint comprehensive plan of action [the Iran deal], and only after verifying the lifting of those sanctions Iran will be ready to stop its remedial actions and return to full implementation of the deal,” Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Seyed Araghchi, said at the end of the talks on Friday.

Full-scale talks at the level of foreign ministry deputies will recommence on Wednesday, with technical talks between officials continuing in the interim……………… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/09/iran-nuclear-talks-to-continue-next-week-after-breakthrough

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Iran frees South Korean ship as more nuclear talks planned in Vienna

Iran frees South Korean ship as more nuclear talks planned in Vienna,  WP,  By Loveday MorrisSimon Denyer and Kareem Fahim, April 10, 2021 ,

BERLIN — Iran said Friday it had released a South Korean ship seized three months ago and released its captain, easing a source of tension between Tehran and Washington as their negotiating teams held indirect meetings in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian forces intercepted the South Korean tanker in the Persian Gulf in January, alleging it was captured for “technical” reasons related to environmental pollution, while also complaining that Seoul had frozen $7 billion of its assets to comply with U.S. sanctions.

On Friday, South Korea also said that the ship, the MT Hankuk Chemi, had been freed, while MarineTraffic.com data showed the ship leaving the port of Bandar Abbas.

It was unclear to what extent Iran’s move was linked to the talks in Vienna, which are expected to stretch for weeks. But Iran’s demand for access to its frozen funds is part of broader negotiations over the revival of the nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran, in retaliation, began increasing its uranium enrichment beyond permitted levels. The Biden administration and Iran have expressed their desires to revive the agreement but have been at an impasse as to how to do so.

Iran and the United States began indirect talks in Vienna on Tuesday. For days, European diplomats have shuttled proposals between the two delegations, holed up in two separate luxury hotels on opposite sides of a tree-lined boulevard in the Austrian capital.

Their hope is to agree to a road map that would lift U.S. sanctions imposed under Trump and recommit Tehran to its agreements under the accord, including limits on uranium enrichment.

Iran and signatories to the deal — excluding the United States — held formal meetings on Friday that “took stock of the discussions held at various levels” over the past days, the European Union said in a statement……….

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/iran-nuclear-talks-vienna-south-korea/2021/04/09/910fd23a-985e-11eb-8f0a-3384cf4fb399_story.html

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

It’s getting too late for an effective missile deal with Iran.

The window for an Iran missile deal is already closing, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By John Krzyzaniak | April 7, 2021 Calls to limit Iran’s missile program have become all the rage in Washington. In early March, a bipartisan group of 140 US lawmakers urged the Biden administration to pursue a more “comprehensive” deal with Iran that goes beyond the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to include not just Iran’s nuclear program but also its ballistic missile program and its support for non-state groups in the Middle East. Despite this and similar appeals, the prospects for even a modest missile deal with Iran are looking slimmer by the day. While the more ambitious proposals were unrealistic to begin with, the most feasible option—to lock in a 2,000-kilometer range limit on Iran’s ballistic missiles—may soon slip out of reach too.

Proposals for a missile agreement. Despite the heightened interest in constraining Iran’s missile capabilities, there have been few concrete proposals to accomplish that goal, and even fewer that are remotely plausible. 

On the more fanciful side, one proposal involves demanding that Iran give up any and all missiles capable of delivering a 500 kilogram (kg) payload to a range of 300 kilometers (km) or more, on the thesis that such missiles are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons. After all, the prospect of Iran’s missiles serving as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons (if Iran ever decides to build them) is what most worries Western policymakers. Avner Golov and Emily B. Landau advocate for a deal to eliminate Iranian missiles that exceed the 500 kg–300 km threshold in a February 2018 article in Foreign Policy.

Setting aside that the definition of what constitutes a “nuclear-capable” missile is contested, there are three additional problems that make this proposal unworkable. First, depending on how different systems are counted, Iran has at least eight missile types that would be covered by such an agreement, and it would have to give them all up. Second, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates also have missiles that exceed the 500 kg–300 km threshold, and Iran would demand that those countries adhere to the same arrangement. Third, verification of such a deal would present a Herculean task involving an extensive, on-the-ground inspection presence.

None of these conditions seems remotely possible given the current political environment. In fact, Golov and Landau themselves admit that getting Iran to agree to a ban on missiles above the 500 kg–300 km threshold would be “extremely unlikely.”

On the more modest side is the recommendation to lock in a 2,000-km range limit on Iran’s ballistic missiles, including by banning the flight testing of missiles that exceed that range, made by Michael Elleman and Mark Fitzpatrick in a 2018 article in Foreign Policy. Robert Einhorn and Vann Van Diepen also include this among their recommendations in a 2019 report for Brookings…………

 if Western policymakers want to seize this modest but worthwhile option, they will need to act quickly, as recent events suggest that Iran may be preparing to throw off the self-imposed range limit. If Iran blows past 2,000-km ranges with its missiles, it won’t be easy to put the genie back in the bottle.

Why the window may be closing. The first and most glaring reason why a missile deal focused on capping Iran’s missiles at 2,000 km—or any missile deal for that matter—may be beyond reach is that there has been no revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Since the deal was agreed, Iranian officials including the supreme leader have signaled that the nuclear deal would be an important test in determining whether Western countries were good-faith negotiating partners or not. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hammered home this point in an interview published in Politico on March 17, when he said, “if the US passes the test of [the nuclear deal] … then we can consider other issues.”

Fast forward six years, and Iranians—both government officials and the broader public—have been embittered by the experience of the 2015 agreement. In Zarif’s eyes, the United States has “miserably failed” the aforementioned test. Even if the deal is revived and the Biden administration lifts sanctions, convincing Iran to negotiate on its ballistic missiles in particular, which Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted are non-negotiable, would be a hard sell.

But it is Iran’s technological progress that is beginning to erode the 2,000-km range limit, increasing the probability that, as time goes by, Iran will officially cast it off……..Fast forward six years, and Iranians—both government officials and the broader public—have been embittered by the experience of the 2015 agreement. In Zarif’s eyes, the United States has “miserably failed” the aforementioned test. Even if the deal is revived and the Biden administration lifts sanctions, convincing Iran to negotiate on its ballistic missiles in particular, which Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted are non-negotiable, would be a hard sell.

But it is Iran’s technological progress that is beginning to erode the 2,000-km range limit, increasing the probability that, as time goes by, Iran will officially cast it off………………https://thebulletin.org/2021/04/the-window-for-an-iran-missile-deal-is-already-closing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter04082021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_IranDealWindow_04072021

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Iran, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment