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News Digest: Week of February 1

February 3, 2021
February 1 Health: The government warned that most Iranians would have to wait until February or March 2022 to be vaccinated. Vaccinations for the elderly, health workers, people with disabilities and war veterans would begin in spring 2021. Space: Iran successfully tested a new space rocket, the…

Iran's Missiles: Transfer to Proxies

February 3, 2021
Updated: February 17, 2021
Since the early 2000s, Iran has supplied cruise and ballistic missiles to its proxies in at least three countries—Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Tehran’s transfer of missiles—which range from 120 km to 1,200 km, or 77 miles to 745 miles—allows its proxies to hit targets at further range and with greater…

Robert Malley on Iran

February 2, 2021
Updated: July 14, 2021
Before his appointment as Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley criticized the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran as ineffective. “Sanctions devastated Iran’s economy but achieved little else,” he wrote in Foreign Policy in December 2020. “Throughout Trump’s presidency…

News Digest: Week of January 25

January 27, 2021
January 25 Maritime: Tehran claimed that the seizure of an Iranian-flagged tanker by Indonesia on January 24 was due to a routine "technical issue." The Indonesian coast guard had seized an Iranian-flagged tanker suspected of illegal oil transfers in its territorial waters. The tankers were…

Brett McGurk on Iran

January 27, 2021
Before he was appointed to the National Security Council, Brett McGurk criticized the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran as counterproductive to U.S. interests. “Iran is now behaving more provocatively, not less,” despite extensive U.S. sanctions, he wrote in Foreign…

Colin Kahl on Iran

January 27, 2021
Before being nominated as Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl pushed for renewed diplomacy with Tehran. “It would be wise for the administration to dial back the rhetoric, open high-level channels with Tehran, and signal a willingness to reenter the nuclear deal as a starting point…

Jonathan Finer on Iran

January 27, 2021
In 2020, before he was appointed Deputy National Security Advisor, Jonathan Finer charged that the Trump administration’s policy on Iran had failed.  “Iran’s behavior in the region, if anything, has gotten worse since maximum pressure began, and its nuclear program has moved closer to the danger…

Bill Burns on Iran

January 27, 2021
Before he was nominated as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns called for diplomacy with Iran to end the wars in Afghanistan and Yemen. “We should have no illusions that they will engage productively on all our concerns,” he wrote in May 2019, in an article with Jake Sullivan…

Wendy Sherman on Iran

January 26, 2021
Updated: March 8, 2021
Before she was appointed Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman had pushed for a swift return to the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). She urged the Biden administration to immediately begin consultations with Europe, Russia and China on…

Jake Sullivan on Iran

January 26, 2021
Updated: June 21, 2021
Before he was appointed National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan repeatedly said that the Biden administration would return to the 2015 nuclear deal—if Iran came back into compliance first. Any new diplomacy with Iran would seek to extend the deal’s restrictions, including the timelines that limit…

Iranian Media on Biden Inauguration, Trump’s Exit

January 25, 2021
The Iranian media—normally divided between reformist and hardline views in their editorial focus—covered the U.S. transition of power from widely diverse angles. Some focused on the drama of Trump’s exit before the inauguration. Others highlighted the beginning of a new political era in the United…

Zarif on New Diplomacy with U.S.

January 25, 2021
Updated: February 11, 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
Updated: March 8, 2021
Before he was confirmed as Secretary of Defense, 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…

Antony Blinken on Iran

January 21, 2021
Updated: June 25, 2021
On January 19, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State-designate, pledged that the Biden administration would reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal 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.…

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…

Iran's Missiles: Evolution and Arsenal

January 15, 2021
Michael Elleman is Director of Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former U.N. weapons inspector, is the principal author of “Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment.” Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic…

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: July 14, 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. Revokes Houthi Terrorist Designation

January 12, 2021
Updated: February 12, 2021
On February 12, 2021, the Biden administration announced that the terrorist designation of the Houthis, also known as Ansarallah (“Supporters of God”), would be revoked on February 16. The Houthis are Shiite rebels in Yemen allegedly supported by Iran. In January, the Trump administration had…

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…