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Zarif on New Diplomacy with U.S.

January 25, 2021
Two days after President Biden’s inauguration, Foreign Minister Zarif called on the new Biden administration to take two major steps to renew diplomacy with Iran: remove all sanctions imposed during the Trump administration and reenter the 2015 nuclear deal “without altering its painstakingly…

Avril Haines on Iran

January 21, 2021
On January 19, Director of National Intelligence-designate Avril Haines reiterated President Biden’s pledge to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal but only if Iran first rolls back its violations of the agreement. “Frankly, we're a long ways from that,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee during…

Lloyd Austin on Iran

January 21, 2021
On January 19, Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin sketched out the Biden administration’s priorities for future diplomacy with Iran after reentering the 2015 nuclear deal. “I would hope that as we enter into that agreement, we could have this discussion about when things sunset and also take…

Antony Blinken on Iran

January 21, 2021
On January 19, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State-designate, pledged that the Biden administration would reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear if Tehran first rolls back its recent violations, but would then “seek a longer and stronger agreement” in collaboration with the other five major powers. New…

Iran Sanctions Trump, U.S. Officials

January 19, 2021
On January 19, Iran sanctioned Donald Trump and top U.S. officials on his last full day as president. The move was largely symbolic, given that the officials were leaving office and did not have assets in Iran. The foreign ministry accused the Trump administration of perpetrating “terrorist and…

U.S. Expands Metal Sanctions on Iran

January 19, 2021
On January 15, the State Department added 15 metals to its list of banned imports to Iran, including seven types of aluminum, six types of steel and two types of zirconium. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the metals were “used in connection with Iran’s nuclear, military or ballistic…

U.S. Sanctions Iran’s Defense, Shipping Industries

January 15, 2021
On January 15, the United States expanded sanctions on Iran’s defense and shipping industries during President Donald Trump’s last full week in office. The administration sanctioned three weapons manufacturers, seven international shipping companies and two Iranian business executives. The defense…

Biden & Iran: The Missile Program

January 15, 2021
Michael Elleman Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. (Israel has more capable ballistic missiles, but fewer in number and type.) Most were acquired from foreign sources, notably North Korea. The Islamic Republic is the only country to develop a 2,000-…

Biden & Iran: The Policy Debate

January 13, 2021
On January 13, three experts debated how the Biden admin will change U.S. policy on Iran. The event was moderated by Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition. The speakers were: James F. Jeffrey: Chair of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center; Former ambassador to Iraq and…

News Digest: Week of January 11

January 13, 2021
January 11 Diplomacy: Iran told South Korea that it had initiated legal proceedings to recoup Iranian funds frozen in Korean banks. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Korean diplomats visiting Tehran that freezing the funds was "illegal" and were the biggest impediment to improved…

Biden & Iran: The Nuclear Deal

January 13, 2021
Updated: January 19, 2021
Of all the pressing issues in the volatile Middle East, the most pressing for the Biden administration will be Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Joe Biden pledged to rejoin the landmark nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the six major world powers in 2015. “If Iran returns to strict…

Biden & Iran: On Human Rights

January 13, 2021
As president, Joe Biden has pledged to continue sanctions on Iranian state institutions and high-level officials for human rights abuses. He condemned the execution of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestler, in September 2020. In a letter and at his trial, Afkari alleged that he was repeatedly…

U.S. Sanctions Foundations Controlled by Supreme Leader

January 13, 2021
On January 13, the United States sanctioned two major foundations, along with their heads and subsidiaries, controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The two bonyads (charitable organizations), Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order and Astan Quds Razavi, have accumulated vast wealth through…

Biden & Iran: Regional Influence and Proxies

January 13, 2021
Iranian proxies sanctioned by the United States The Biden administration faces a major challenge containing Iran’s influence across the Middle East. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has built a network of proxies. At the beginning of 2021, Tehran had alliances with more than a dozen major militias…

Pompeo on Iran and al Qaeda

January 12, 2021
On January 12, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that al Qaeda has set up a “new operational headquarters” in Iran, although he provided little tangible evidence. He alleged that Tehran offered the Sunni jihadi movement logistical support, including identification cards and passports, to…

Pompeo Assesses Maximum Pressure Campaign

January 12, 2021
In his final full week in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined all that the Trump administration has done in its maximum pressure campaign against Iran. In a series of tweets, he highlighted the following accomplishments: The Trump administration sanctioned more than 1,500 individuals…

U.S. to Designate Houthis as Terrorists

January 12, 2021
On January 10, 2021, the Trump administration announced that it would designate the Houthis of Ansarallah (“Supporters of God”), Shiite rebels in Yemen supported by Iran, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Three Houthi leaders - Abdul Malik al Houthi, Abd al Khaliq Badr al Din al Houthi, and…

U.S. on Anniversary of Ukraine Airliner Shootdown

January 9, 2021
On January 9, 2021, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded accountability from Iran for the accidental downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 one year prior. He accused Iran of shielding the Revolutionary Guards from culpability. “Iran’s own investigation revealed that the Islamic…

IRGC Reveals Underground Missile Base

January 8, 2021
On December 8, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) unveiled an underground missile base at an undisclosed location on the Persian Gulf. Dozens of missiles, launchers and trucks were visible in photos released by Sepah News, an IRGC-linked news agency. “These missiles have ranges of…

U.S. Sanctions Iraqi Militia Leader Tied to Iran

January 8, 2021
On January 8, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Falih al Fayyadh, Chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Commission (PMC) and former National Security Advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, for human rights abuses. Fayyadh headed the PMC when its forces, including militias supported by Iran, allegedly…

Iran Officials, Media on Unrest in Washington

January 7, 2021
Updated: January 9, 2021
In Iran, the attempt to seize the Capitol in Washington on January 6 generated live television coverage, widespread commentary and denunciations by top officials. President Hassan Rouhani said that the unrest reflected the frailty of the American political system. “What we saw in the U.S. last…

Iran Responds to U.S. Deployments

January 6, 2021
In late 2020, Iran condemned President Donald Trump for deploying additional U.S. military warplanes and warships to the Persian Gulf during his final days in office. In November and December, the Pentagon ordered three flights of B-52 bombers, a nuclear-powered submarine and a carrier strike group…

News Digest: Week of January 4

January 6, 2021
January 4 Maritime: Iran seized a South Korean-flagged chemical tanker, the Hankuk Chemi, in the Persian Gulf. The ship’s 20-member crew, which included nationals from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, was detained at the Bandar Abbas port. Tehran denied that the crew were being held…

Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

January 6, 2021
Of all the pressing issues in the volatile Middle East—wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, unstable Iraq, imploding Lebanon, and the 10,000 ISIS fighters and other al-Qaida franchises still on the loose—the most pressing for President-elect Joe Biden will be Iran’s controversial nuclear program. He has…

U.S. Military Deployments Around Iran

January 5, 2021
Updated: January 19, 2021
In late 2020, the Pentagon ramped up aerial and naval deployments around Iran amid military tensions in the Persian Gulf. The new deployments began in late November and continued through January 2021. They included three flights of B-52 bombers, a nuclear-powered submarine and a carrier strike…

U.S. Sanctions Iran’s Metal Industry

January 5, 2021
On January 5, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 12 Iranian and four foreign-based companies as well as one Iranian man involved with steel production and sales. Concurrently, the State Department sanctioned an Iran-based shipping company involved in supplying graphite, a key element in steel production…

U.S. Sanctions Many Iran Proxies

January 5, 2021
Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, an Iraqi militia trained, armed and advised by Iran's Revolutionary GuardsSince the 1979 revolution, Iran has built a network of proxies across the Middle East. At the beginning of 2021, Tehran had allies among more than a dozen major militias, some with their own…

Iran Breaches Key Limit on Uranium Enrichment

January 4, 2021
Updated: January 6, 2021
On January 4, Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent at an underground nuclear facility, a major breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. The landmark agreement, negotiated between Iran and six major world powers, stipulated that Tehran could only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent. It also banned…

House Democrats Support Biden on Iran Deal

January 4, 2021
On December 23, 150 House Democrats sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden expressing support for renewed diplomacy with Iran to curb its nuclear program. “We are united in our support for swiftly taking the necessary diplomatic steps to restore constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and return…

Timeline: Iranian Fuel Shipments to Venezuela

December 21, 2020
Updated: January 8, 2021
In 2020, Iran began shipping fuel to Venezuela, its closest ally in Latin America. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. But years of government mismanagement and U.S. sanctions on its oil industry have left its refineries in disrepair. Caracas faced gas shortages and widespread blackouts…