The United States will today declare an end to combat operations in Iraq, asserting that the fight against Islamic State can be led by local forces.
The announcement will be part of a deal signed with Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is in Washington and will meet President Biden.
It will state formally that US combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq and the forces that remain will perform only training and advisory roles. Its aim is to help Kadhimi to argue that he is no longer beholden to western military interests, and that attacks by pro-Iran militias on US targets, often bases shared with Iraqi troops, are illegitimate.
The public rationale is the defeat of Islamic State, whose surge across half the country
Washington told Beijing earlier this year its main aim was to revive compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and, assuming a timely return, there was no need to punish Chinese firms violating US sanctions by buying Iranian crude, the official said.
That stance is evolving given uncertainty about when Iran may resume indirect talks in Vienna and whether incoming Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi is willing to pick up where the talks ended on June 20 or demands a fresh start.
The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iran – which has said it will not resume talks until Raisi takes over – has been “very murky” about its intentions.
“If we are back in the JCPOA, then there’s no reason to sanction companies that are importing Iranian oil,” the official told Reuters this week, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.
“If we are in a world in which the prospect of an imminent return to the JCPOA seems to be vanishing, then that posture will have to adjust,” the official added.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Washington was considering tightening enforcement of its Iran sanctions, notably against China.
Reuters reported on Thursday that the Chinese logistics firm China Concord Petroleum Co has emerged as a central player in the supply of sanctioned oil from Iran and Venezuela.
That US officials are hinting at a possible crackdown may be a veiled threat that Washington has ways to exact a price from Tehran, said Brookings Institution analyst Robert Einhorn.
“It’s probably to send a signal to Raisi that if the Iranians are not serious about coming back to the JCPOA, the US has options and there will be costs,” Einhorn said.
How Beijing, whose relations with Washington are strained over issues from human rights to the South China Sea, might react will depend on whether it blames Iran or the United States for the impasse in the talks, Einhorn said.
One Iranian official said it was up to Iran’s supreme leader when talks resume, suggesting this could happen when Raisi takes over on Aug. 5 or a few weeks later. He also said it was unclear if Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, would remain.
“We should wait for the new president to take office and decide whether he wants to change the nuclear team or not. It seems that Dr. Araqchi will not be changed, at least during the handover period,” this official said on condition of anonymity.
“They want their own terms and conditions and they have more demands like keeping the 60% enrichment or chain of advanced centrifuges and not dismantling them as demanded by Washington,” the second Iranian official said.
The uncertainty is forcing the United States to examine new approaches, even though US and European officials have said there are no good options to reviving the JCPOA.
“If … we were to conclude that the talks are dragging on for too long and we don’t have a sense of whether they are going to reach a positive outcome, then of course we would have to take a fresh look at our sanctions enforcement, including on Chinese entities that were purchasing Iranian oil,” the US official said, declining to predict the timing of any decision.
“It’s not … black and white,” he said. “We’ll make it based on the time it’s taking for Iran to come back and the posture they will take if and when they do come back
Biden to press Iraqi leader to help stop Iran’s drone strikes on U.S. troops
By Jeff Mordock
President Biden is expected to use his meeting Monday with the Iraqi prime minister to press him to take a stronger role in curtailing Iranian-backed drone attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq in Syria.
But Mr. Biden may not have enough leverage to overcome Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s fears of retaliation from Iran, analysts say.
“Iraq is not going to take a hard line against things that are not in the interest of Iraq,” said Robert Rabil, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, who has written books on the region.
“The prime minister is pro-U.S., but he is also a nationalist and pro-Iraq. He knows he can’t make an enemy out of Iran.”
Since President Biden took office in January, at least eight drone attacks and 17 rocket attacks have targeted U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. An attack earlier this month on an Iraqi airbase hosting U.S. forces wounded two American service members.
The U.S. blamed the attacks on Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq and Syria. The militias make up a large part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of roughly 40 mostly Shia Muslim paramilitary groups.
In response to the attacks, Mr. Biden has twice ordered airstrikes against the militia groups operating inside Syria, including a strike near the Iraqi border.
The president is going to need to sell Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi on taking a harder and more public line against the drone attacks if he expects to make progress in the region, analysts say.
So far, Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been reluctant to take a stronger approach, fearing not only retaliation but blowback in his own country, Mr. Rabil said.
“To go against Iran, he will not do,” Mr. Rabil said of the prime minister. “Iraq does not have a political party so he needs to work in consensus. He wants to improve Iraq but has been faced with a lot of challenges. Using Iraq to settle the score between the U.S. and Iran won’t help.”
Complicating matters is the tense relationship between Iraq and the U.S. that has lingered since the Trump administration.
Former President Trump last year ordered a drone strike that killed Iran military leader Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The strike took place at the Baghdad International Airport.
Mr. Biden has sought a fresh start in U.S.-Iraqi relations and Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi appears to be on board. The visit to the White House is a sign of warming relationships.
Even if the prime minister won’t use harsher rhetoric against the drone strikes, there are still things he can do to assist the U.S.
First, he can share information with the U.S. about what Iraqi intelligence is gathering on the ground about the militias and drone strokes.
Mr. al Kadhimi can also work in the region to assist Mr. Biden in overcoming obstacles to reviving the Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran. There are signs that Iran is looking to curb the attacks on the U.S. military to reengage on a nuclear deal.
Mr. Rabil said the drone strikes appear to be structured to send a message to the United States but cause enough chaos to scuttle negotiations. For example, while the attacks have wounded service members, the U.S. has not sustained any casualties.
“If you look at the attacks, they are not aimed in a way to demand a strong retaliation,” he said. “They want to be able to say that we handled the United States on our terms, but not provoke a strong response.”
The current, bumpy negotiations aimed at preventing the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons are among the Biden administration’s highest priorities. The administration liftedsanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials in June, a move that Iranian officials viewed as a victory.
Iran even claimed that 1,000 more sanctions will soon be lifted, which the US State Department spokesman denied. Days later, it was reported that the Biden administration might remove what it considers symbolic sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
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This all comes as Iran faces new internal pressures. Severe water shortages have triggered six days of massive anti-government protests, including chants of “Death to [Ayatollah] Khamenei.”
As diplomacy continues, Iran is not relenting in pursuing its violent objectives. US troops in Syria were shelled by Iranian rocket fire following US airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. While US forces responded to the attacks, it was not enough to stop six reprisal attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria this month alone. “President Biden must put forward a real strategy for deterring and ending these attacks, rather than continuing his bare-minimum, tit-for-tat approach that is failing to deter Iran or its militias and puts American lives at increased risk.” said US Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday rejected a new draft nuclear agreement because it was incompatible with legislation passed by Iran’s parliament last December. That law prohibits the country from dropping below 20 percent enriched uranium, which would not be allowed in any negotiated nuclear deal.
In 2015, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany. This lifted some sanctions on the Iranian government in exchange for restricting the amount of enriched uranium stockpiles Iran could maintain.
Since then, Iran has ratcheted up its expansionist plans in the Middle East, underwriting terrorist groups and even assassinating dissidents in Western countries.
Those aggressive international terrorist operations continue. Four Iranian nationals were charged in New York on July 14 with attempting to kidnapAmerican journalist Masih Alinejad and take her to Iran. The plot began in 2018, the indictment says.
The 2015 JCPOA clearly benefited Iran, freeing up money to expand its Middle East hegemony. In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to use force to expand its influence on the state politics. Backed by $700 million in annual Iranian financing, Hezbollah has become Lebanon’s most influential political player.
In Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, which was allegedly formed to curb ISIS’ rapid expansion in 2014, has become an Iranian proxy, committing atrocities and assassinating citizens. Iraqi authorities arrested PMF commander Qasem Muslah in May, charging him in connection with the assassinations of pro-democracy activists.
Since winning election as Iran’s new president last month, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi has said that he will not negotiate over Iran’s missile program or meet with Biden, even if both sides agreed on terms to revive the JCPOA. No one has proposed such a meeting, but it is a sign that Iran’s hard-line policies are not going to change.
While Iran’s economy struggles, its support for terrorist groups continues. Despite May’s Gaza war, Hamas has enough Iranian money to continue its operations, said Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar. “All the thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which never spared any expenses on us or other Palestinian factions, Sinwar said in a May 30 news conference. “They provided us with money, arms and expertise.” Hamas will “scorch the earth,” he threatened, if Gaza’s problems are not solved.
Threats of Israel’s annihilation are consistent with Hamas’ founding charter. But they also match Iran’s repeated goal. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Israel in 2005 as “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the face of the earth.”
In 2017, Iranian authorities installed a doomsday clock, ticking toward 2040, the year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predicted Israel would be destroyed. But in a sign of Iran’s misplaced priorities, the clock stopped working earlier this month due to power shortages in the country.
For the past six months, the Biden administration has been sendingmessages that it intends to deescalate the situation with Iran, but Iranian officials interpret that as a sign of weakness. Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence chief Hussein Taeb last week urged an escalation in attacks against US forces in Iraq.
“History has repeatedly proven that appeasement will only embolden and empower a rogue state. But the Biden administration and the EU appear determined to pursue this dangerous policy with a regime that is a top state sponsor of terrorism, according to the US State Department, and a leading human rights violator,” wrote Iranian-American political scientist Majid Rafizadeh in the Arab News.
Iran is technically capable of enriching uranium to weapons-grade should it choose so, said outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. After six rounds of talks in Vienna, an agreement still seems far away.
In spite of President Biden’s declarationthat Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on his watch, it is becoming clearer that the current US administration has no tangible plan to counter or deal with the Iranian threat to the Middle East and US interests there, and is simply improvising. Accordingly, if the Iranian regime is capable of creating all the above mentioned havoc while still under US sanctions, how much worse will it behave when sanctions are lifted?
International monitors are watching Iran’s fast-expanding nuclear program with growing alarm as Tehran refuses to extend an expired inspections pact and insists the experts must trust that it’s accurately documenting uranium-enrichment activities.
Iran claims it’s still preserving data captured by International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring equipment, the agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro. But officials won’t give his investigators access to it until Iran concludes stalled talks with world powers to restore a broader 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions.
“It’s a rather uncomfortable situation for us because this assurance is informal in nature and we don’t know whether this is the case or not,” Grossi said on Monday. “But we do not have a choice.”
The deal struck six years ago this month restricted Iran’s nuclear activities, but it has crumbled since then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. After Trump reimposed sanctions, Iran started breaking caps on its nuclear work, and it has now stockpiled nearly enough highly-enriched uranium to build a warhead.
“We need to verify that all this material at those higher grades is going to remain in peaceful uses,” Grossi said. “The only way to do that is to cooperate with the IAEA. If they don’t do it, they are outlaws.”
While the Biden administration, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., have been trying to revive the 2015 accord since April, diplomats are expected to reconvene only next month after new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric, is installed in office.
The discussions are being closely watched by energy markets anticipating a surge in Iranian oil and gas exports if sanctions on the country’s sales are lifted.
Grossi spoke amid reports that policymakers in Washington could start raising the pressure on Iran if talks to revive their agreement fail. Dow Jones reported that the U.S. might target Iran’s oil sales to China, which have surged since President Joe Biden entered the White House, if the talks break down.
That’s simply one among a number of alternative scenarios the U.S. is thinking about if there’s no return to the multinational nuclear accord, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. China is where Iran exports most of its oil today, and the U.S. has conveyed the possibility of new sanctions to China, the official said.
Iran has more than tripled its stockpile of uranium enriched to 60% to 19.6 pounds (8.9 kilograms) from 5.3 pounds (2.4 kilograms) verified by international inspectors in a June report, according to a tweet from Iran’s foreign minister last week. That purity of uranium is technically indistinguishable from the material needed to make nuclear weapons, with as little as 10 to 15 kilograms of the highly-enriched metal needed to manufacture a crude nuclear device.
Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is for civilian uses, but concern in Western capitals and Israel over the potential for bombmaking helped prompt the original agreement.
“We will have to see what the new government decides in terms of returning to the format,” said Grossi, whose agency isn’t represented at the talks but plays a key role enforcing the deal’s nuclear covenants.
Grossi said that his inspectors continue having a presence inside Iran but that their visits are restricted to declared nuclear sites. The IAEA’s probe into trace amounts of decades-old uranium found at several locations and linked to Israeli revelations remains at a standstill.
“That is basically stopped,” Grossi said. “We have exchanged a few letters, but there is no real engagement.”
The failure to clarify the source of the material opens another potential pathway for the U.S. to mount pressure on Iran. Washington’s IAEA envoy Louis Bono has suggested the Islamic Republic could face formal censure if progress isn’t made in the investigation before September.
European officials offered a new three-pronged approach for Iran that included lengthening its “breakout time,” but Tehran has rejected it, The Wall Street Journal said in a report.
The breakout time refers to the time period required to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.
“In addition to keeping advanced centrifuges in storage and under seal, they (European officials) want Iran to rip out the electronic infrastructure it is currently using to run machines banned under the deal and reduce Iran’s capacity for producing new centrifuges at its assembly plants,” the newspaper said.
The newspaper did not specify whether the European offer was made to the Iranian side in the context of the Vienna talks.
Iran started producing highly advanced uranium silicide fuel for its Tehran research reactor earlier this month amid soaring tensions with the United States fueled by a deadlock over the 2015 nuclear deal.
The country’s envoy to the United Nations nuclear agency, Kazem Gharibabadi, said the agency had been “informed” of Iran’s move, which he said is intended to produce high-quality radiopharmaceuticals.
It instantly drew criticism from the U.S. and three European powers engaged in marathon talks with Iran in Vienna to salvage the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned in May 2018.
They warned that it would complicate or even torpedo the ongoing talks, which have been effectively put on the back burner after six rounds lasting three months.
While the U.K., France and Germany expressed “grave concern” about the measure, the U.S. termed it an “unfortunate step backwards,” but emphasized that the window for diplomacy remains open.
The Wall Street Journal said Western diplomats think Iran is using the slow pace of the talks to acquire “irreversible technical knowledge on uranium metal, centrifuges and production of higher-grade enriched uranium.
”In June, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Iran’s breakout time could be in a matter of weeks if not stopped.”
It remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do come back into compliance,” Blinken said.
“Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward. … The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down … it’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks.”
BAGHDAD: At least one Katyusha rocket fell close to the perimeter of a military base that hosts US troops in northern Iraq on Sunday, Iraq’s military said. The rocket fell near the sprawling Ain al-Asad air base in western Anbar province but did not explode, the military said in a statement. There was no significant damage, the statement said. An Iraqi security official said a fence at the perimeter of the base was minimally damaged. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. An investigation by security forces found the projectile had been launched from the nearby al-Baghdadi area. The attack is the latest targeting the American presence in Iraq. Rockets and, more recently, drones have targeted military bases hosting US troops and the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. The regular assaults have been described as disruptive by US contractors working on military bases. Recently, Lockheed Martin relocated its F-16 maintenance teams, citing security concerns. The US and Iraq are negotiating a timeline for foreign troops to withdraw from the country. Talks began under the former administration of Donald Trump and resumed after President Joe Biden assumed office.
Over the past year, Iran has made significant advances in its ability to amass enriched uranium, complicating the Biden administration’s effort to revive a 2015 deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
Washington has sought to restart the accord, which was abandoned by President Donald Trump in 2018. After a delay of several weeks, Iran on Wednesday signaled that it would be ready to return to the negotiating table next month after the country’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, takes office.
American and European officials estimate that Iran could now gather enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two to three months.
U.S. officials say that, at least for now, they are confident a return to the terms of the 2015 accord will lengthen that so-called breakout time to around a year—the same as it was in January 2016, when the pact agreed to by the U.S., Iran and five other global powers went into effect.
“There will come a point—but we’re not there yet…where if Iran continues to advance its program and there’s no deal, then it will be very hard, if not impossible, to recapture the nonproliferation benefits” of the original deal, U.S. special Iran envoy Rob Malley told CNN on Wednesday. Mr. Malley said to avoid that, a deal needs to be concluded “in the foreseeable future.”
Assessments of Iran’s potential breakout time vary, depending on assumptions made about the equipment Iran has, its ability to use it and how quickly it can expand its capacity.
Some European officials involved in the talks say they believe Iran’s breakout time, if the pact were revived quickly, could already be less than a year and worry the time cushion could fall further if Tehran continues its nuclear work as talks drag on.
Iran had more than a thousand IR-2M machines in 2016, but was barred from using them under the deal. Western diplomats at the time believed Iran’s expertise was too basic for Tehran to deploy them effectively to race to a nuclear weapon. That has now changed, several senior Western diplomats say.
Over the past year, Iran has deployed most of its IR-2M machines—which are three to four times faster than the centrifuges Iran is permitted under the accord to use—and has done so more speedily and successfully than many observers expected.
In addition to limiting the type of centrifuge Iran could use, the 2015 agreement required the removal of two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges. It also capped the amount of enriched uranium that Iran was allowed to possess at 300 kilograms. The level of permitted enrichment was limited to 3.67%. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90%.
Iran’s breakout time was supposed to remain at one year at least until 2026.
After Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord and imposed economic sanctions on Iran, Tehran began moving step-by-step to expand its nuclear activities.
Iran is now producing near-weapons-grade 60% enriched uranium. Last week, the United Nations’ atomic agency reported that Iran had moved forward with plans to produce enriched uranium metal, a material used in the core of a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is producing the metal for peaceful use.
Tehran has also restricted international inspectors’ access to its main Natanz nuclear facility and declined to extend an agreement with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to hand over camera footage and other monitoring material to the IAEA.
Iran says its nuclear work is entirely for peaceful purposes.
Given Iran’s progress on centrifuges, machines which spin uranium into higher purities, European officials have proposed a new three-pronged approach to lengthen Iran’s breakout time. In addition to keeping advanced centrifuges in storage and under seal, they want Iran to rip out the electronic infrastructure it is currently using to run machines banned under the deal and reduce Iran’s capacity for producing new centrifuges at its assembly plants.
Negotiators were close to agreeing that Iran’s uranium stockpile would be sent to Russia. Iran has insisted it won’t allow any of its more advanced centrifuges to be destroyed, say several people involved in talks.
Western diplomats are split into two broad camps on Iran’s strategy for the talks. Some say they believe Tehran wants to restore the 2015 deal but is delaying in the belief that the Biden administration’s eagerness to defuse a potential nuclear crisis could drive Washington to make concessions. Talks, which broke off June 20, may not restart until the second half of August, a senior European official said.
Meanwhile, Iran is using the slow pace of the talks to gain irreversible technical knowledge on uranium metal, centrifuges and production of higher-grade enriched uranium, Western officials say.
Other officials believe there is a real debate in Tehran over whether to return to the deal and, if so, what to seek in return.
Iran’s new president, Mr. Raisi, supported reviving the nuclear deal during his election campaign, but said immediately after that his team would first review in depth the results of the negotiations so far.
Iranian differences of opinion over conditions for returning to the deal have at times flashed into public view. Earlier this week, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who spearheaded the 2015 deal, criticized the country’s leadership for not allowing negotiations to be concluded after they resumed in April.
Hard-line politicians and media have long opposed the nuclear deal. The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes the key decisions on strategic issues like the nuclear program.
“They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government,” Mr. Rouhani was quoted saying in Iranian media.
Iran has so far insisted that the U.S. must first drop all Trump-era sanctions, including those on human-rights and terror grounds, offer compensation for that decision and guarantee it won’t exit an agreement again before it would return to the accord.
U.S. and European officials say those demands won’t be accepted.
“We have repeatedly stressed that time is on no one’s side. With its latest steps, Iran is threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks despite the progress achieved in six rounds of negotiations to date,” the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany said last week.
—Michael R. Gordon in Washington contributed to this article
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text)
President Hassan Rouhani’s remark is his second such public comment this year about 90% enrichment — a level suitable for a nuclear bomb — underlining Iran’s resolve to keep breaching the deal in the absence of any accord to revive it. read more
The biggest obstacle to producing nuclear weapons is obtaining enough fissile material – weapons-grade highly enriched uranium or plutonium – for the bomb’s core.
Iran says it has never sought nuclear weapons.
“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation can enrich uranium by 20% and 60% and if one day our reactors need it, it can enrich uranium to 90% purity,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting, Iranian state media reported.
The nuclear deal caps the fissile purity to which Tehran can refine uranium at 3.67%, well under the 20% achieved before the pact and far below the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon.
Iran has been breaching the deal in several ways after the United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018, including by producing 20% and 60% enriched uranium.
Rouhani, who will hand over the presidency to hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi on Aug. 5, implicitly criticised Iran’s top decision makers for “not allowing” his government to reinstate the nuclear deal during its term in office.1/2
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council In Yerevan, Armenia October 1, 2019. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
“They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government. We deeply regret missing this opportunity,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all state matters such as nuclear policy.
Like Khamenei, Raisi has backed indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at bringing back the arch foes into full compliance with the accord. Former U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal three years ago, saying it was biased in favour of Iran, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran.
The sixth round of nuclear talks in Vienna adjourned on June 20. The next round of the talks has yet to be scheduled, and Iranian and Western officials have said that significant gaps still remain to be resolved.
Two senior Iranian officials told Reuters that president-elect Raisi planned to adopt “a harder line” in the talks after taking office, adding that the next round might resume in late September or early October.
One of the officials said many members of Iran’s nuclear team might be replaced with hardline officials, but top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi would stay “at least for a while”.
The second official said Raisi planned to show “less flexibility and demand more concessions” from Washington such as keeping a chain of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in place and insisting on the removal of human rights and terrorism related U.S. sanctions.
Trump blacklisted dozens of institutions vital to Iran’s economy using laws designed to punish foreign actors for supporting terrorism or weapons proliferation.
Removing oil and financial sanctions is essential if Iran is to export its oil, the top prize for Tehran for complying with the nuclear agreement and reining in its atomic program.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Jason Neely, William Maclean
DUBAI: The speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Sunday Tehran will never hand over images from inside of some Iranian nuclear sites to the UN nuclear watchdog as a monitoring agreement with the agency had expired, Iranian state media reported. “The agreement has expired … any of the information recorded will never be given to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the data and images will remain in the possession of Iran,” said Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. The announcement could further complicate talks between Iran and six major powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. Three years ago then US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran; Iran reacted by violating many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear program. A spokesman for parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee warned that “Iran will also turn off the IAEA cameras if the United States fails to remove all sanctions,” the state-run Tehran Times newspaper’s website reported. The IAEA and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its cooperation with the agency, and it allowed monitoring of some activities that would otherwise have been axed to continue. Under that agreement, which on May 24 was extended by a month, data continues to be collected in a black-box-type arrangement, with the IAEA only able to access it at a later date. On Friday, the IAEA demanded an immediate reply from Iran on whether it would extend the monitoring agreement, prompting an Iranian envoy to respond that Tehran was under no obligation to provide an answer. Iran said on Wednesday the country’s Supreme National Security Council would decide whether to renew the monitoring agreement only after it expires. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that any failure by Tehran to extend the monitoring agreement would be a “serious concern” for broader negotiations. Parties involved in the talks on reviving the deal, which began in April in Vienna, have said there are major issues still to be resolved before the nuclear deal can be reinstated.