Defense Minister warns Iran is weeks away from enough fissile material to create a bomb

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Gantz: Iran ‘weeks from enough fissile material for bomb,’ adding 1,000 centrifuges
  • Iran is just a “few weeks” from accumulating sufficient fissile material for a bomb. It is also working to finish the production and installation of 1,000 advanced centrifuges enriching uranium, including at a new underground site at the Natanz nuclear facility, he said.
  • Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. There is concern that Iran could be closer to being able to construct an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.
  • Speaking on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gantz said Israel was in the right place “ethically and strategically,” adding that he supports transferring additional defensive equipment to Ukraine.

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Time is Running out on JCPOA. Israel says Iran has enough uranium for a bomb

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Israel says Iran has nearly enough uranium for a bomb, as talks remain stuck
  • While Iran is not yet enriching uranium to weapons-grade, 90% purity, larger quantities of uranium enriched to a lower purity can be enough for a bomb. Jerusalem’s assessment is that Iran is close to having a significant quantity of uranium enriched to 60%.
  • Negotiations for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ended weeks ago, with Iran making a demand outside of the nuclear agreement, for its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
  • Israel opposed the original deal its revival, pointing out that most of its limitations on Iran’s nuclear activities expire at the end of 2025, and that the agreement does not restrict Iran’s malign actions in the region or its ballistic missile program while lifting sanctions would lead to a major cash influx for terrorism, proxy warfare and weapons.
  • In recent months, the US, EU and E3 – Britain, France and Germany – have warned that little time remains before the deal’s nonproliferation benefits will become irrelevant, as Iran continues to violate the JCPOA.

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New Iran Deal Coming Soon. Russia is Key in Negotiations

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘This Deal Is Illegal’: Critics Warn New Iranian Nuclear Deal Will Pave Way to Atomic Bomb
  • The new or renegotiated Iranian nuclear deal is reportedly close to signing and critics are concerned this version is worse than the original.
  • After 11 months of negotiations, Israel’s chief takeaway is alarm.
  • Russia, a key player in these negotiations, wanted written guarantees that sanctions from its war on Ukraine will not stop its trade with Iran.
  • The deal would also reportedly provide billions in sanctions relief to Iran.
  • “There are no restrictions in this deal in how this money can be spent and fueled to Iran’s proxies So, we can expect that a lot is going to go to Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis
  • That power represents an existential threat to Israel.

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Russian Official Announces Iran Deal Could be Made in 24-48 Hours

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Russians Announce US-Iran Deal as Tanks Roll Across Europe
  • A senior Russian official announced on Thursday that a new nuclear deal with Iran will be announced within 24 to 48 hours, signaling the Biden administration’s continued reliance on and cooperation with Moscow even as it wages a full-scale war in Ukraine.
  • The terms of the deal remain unknown as the Biden administration has sought to cut Congress out of the deal and prevent it from performing its legally mandated oversight. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, Congress must give its approval of any new agreement with Iran.
  • Mostafa Khoshcheshm, one of the Iran negotiating team’s advisers, told the country’s state-controlled press on Thursday that “the U.S. has accepted Iran’s conditions to reach an agreement.”
  • Khoshcheshm claimed that the Ukraine conflict has forced the Biden administration to “retreat” from its tough negotiation stance.

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The White House is Running Out of Time on Nuclear Deal

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Important Takeaways:

  • 4 reasons why returning to Iran nuclear deal is bad idea
  • Ukraine isn’t the only foreign policy crisis the U.S. is facing.
  • After months of negotiations, the Biden administration may be on the verge of restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka the Iran nuclear deal), with no chance of replacing it with a “longer and stronger” deal, as the administration promised.
    • Sunset provisions: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action didn’t end Tehran’s nuclear program. It only slowed it down. The pact was more of a speed bump than a stop sign.
    • Ballistic missiles: The Iran nuclear deal also didn’t capture Tehran’s determined development of ballistic missiles — which are, by the way, a perfect delivery vehicle for a nuclear weapon.
    • Inspection regime: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action strangely doesn’t allow for “anytime, anywhere” inspections. Essentially, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors aren’t allowed to visit undeclared facilities without permission.
    • Possible military dimensions: As part of the nuclear deal, Iran was supposed to reveal to the International Atomic Energy Agency all military aspects of its earlier nuclear weapons work in order to facilitate oversight of the pact.
  • Not surprisingly, Tehran hasn’t cooperated on this issue.

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Evidence of Iranian support of Houthi Terrorists could impact a nuclear deal with Iran

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Important Takeaways:

  • New Evidence Reveals Extent of Iranian Support for Houthi Terrorists
  • “There has been mounting evidence of deepening cooperation between Iran and the Houthis, especially in terms of Iran supplying the Houthis with sophisticated weapons, such as missiles and drones,” a senior Western security official told the author. “The meetings that took place in January prior to the attacks on the UAE suggest the cooperation between Iran and the Houthis has increased dramatically.”
  • Following last month’s attacks, senior UAE officials renewed calls for the Biden administration to reimpose Washington’s terrorist designation against the Houthis, which was lifted soon after US President Joe Biden took office last year as a goodwill gesture to Iran.
  • Evidence that Iran is training and arming the Houthis, which have been designated a terrorist organization by many countries
  • Now details have emerged indicating that the weapons used in the UAE attacks were Iranian-made.
  • In November 2019, the U.S. seized a ship attempting to smuggle weapons from Iran to Yemen, including missiles produced in Iran meant for the Houthi rebels.
  • The increased tensions caused by the recent upsurge in Houthi terrorist activity also raise questions about the future prospects of a nuclear deal being concluded between Iran and the world’s major powers over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

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Iran allegedly launches rocket

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Iranian state TV says Tehran launched rocket into space
  • The state TV report, as well as others by Iran’s semiofficial news agencies, did not say when the launch was conducted nor what devices the carrier brought with it. However, the launch comes amid difficult negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal.
  • Iran’s TV aired footage of the white rocket emblazoned with the words, “Simorgh satellite carrier” and the slogan “We can”
  • However, officials were silent on whether the launched objects had actually reached orbit.
  • Iran has now abandoned all limitations under the agreement, and has ramped up uranium enrichment from under 4% purity to 60% — a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels. International inspectors face challenges in monitoring Tehran’s advances.

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U.S. and Iran voice pessimism about reviving nuclear deal

By Parisa Hafezi and Humeyra Pamuk

VIENNA/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -The United States and Iran both sounded pessimistic on Thursday about the chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Washington saying it had little cause for optimism and Tehran questioning the determination of U.S. and European negotiators.

“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for … optimism,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Stockholm, saying he could judge in a day or so if Iran would engage in good faith.

Blinken made the comments after Iran provided the European powers who are shuttling between U.S. and Iranian officials in Vienna with drafts on sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, as world powers and Tehran seek to reinstate the tattered pact.

“We went to Vienna with serious determination, but we are not optimistic about the will and the intention of ⁧‫the United States ⁩and the three European parties to the deal,” Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was quoted by Iranian media as saying in a telephone conversation with his Japanese counterpart.

While Blinken said “it is not too late for Iran to reverse course and engage meaningfully,” it appeared as if both sides might be seeking to avoid the blame if the talks break down.

The comments came on the fourth day of indirect U.S.-Iran talks on bringing both nations fully back into the deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., European Union and U.N. economic sanctions.

The talks resumed on Monday after a five-month hiatus prompted by Iran’s election of an anti-Western hardliner as president.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday that Iran has started producing enriched uranium with advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, further eroding the nuclear deal during talks with the West on saving it.

“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That will not happen,” Blinken told reporters in Stockholm in a possible reference to that development.

It was unclear whether Blinken had been briefed on the latest proposals by the Iranians when he made his comments.

“We have delivered two proposed drafts to them … Of course they need to check the texts that we have provided to them. If they are ready to continue the talks, we are in Vienna to continue the talks,” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told reporters in the Austrian capital.

A European diplomat in Vienna confirmed draft documents had been handed over.

Under the pact, Tehran limited its uranium enrichment program, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons though Iran says it seeks only civilian atomic energy, in exchange for relief from the economic sanctions.

But in 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, calling it too soft on Iran, and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, spurring Tehran to breach nuclear limits in the pact.

“We want all sanctions to be lifted at once,” Bagheri told reporters. He said an Iranian proposal regarding how to verify the removal of sanctions – Tehran’s overriding priority in the talks – would be handed over to the European parties later.

A senior European diplomat estimated on Tuesday that 70-80% of a draft deal on salvaging the 2015 accord was completed when Iran and world powers last met in June, though it remained unclear if Tehran would resume talks where they left off.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Vienna and Humeyra Pamuk in Stockholm; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich, Marguerita Choy and Daniel Wallis)

 

Syria condemns ‘cowardly’ U.S. air strikes on Iran-backed militias

By John Davison and Maha El Dahan

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Syria condemned U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias in the east of the country on Friday as a cowardly act and urged President Joe Biden not to follow “the law of the jungle”.

An Iraqi militia official close to Iran said the strikes killed one fighter and wounded four, but U.S. officials said they were limited in scope to show Biden’s administration will act firmly while trying to avoid a big regional escalation.

Washington and Tehran are seeking maximum leverage in attempts to return to the Iran nuclear deal.

“Syria condemns in the strongest terms the U.S. cowardly attack on areas in Deir al-Zor near the Syrian-Iraqi border,” the Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“It (the U.S. administration) is supposed to stick to international legitimacy, not to the law of the jungle as (did) the previous administration.”

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, also criticized the strikes and called for “unconditional respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

“What has happened is very dangerous and could lead to an escalation in the whole region,” a Russian parliamentarian, Vladimir Dzhabarov, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

The strikes, early on Friday Middle Eastern time, targeted militia sites on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian border, where groups backed by Iran control an important crossing for weapons, personnel and goods.

Western officials and some Iraqi officials accuse Iran-backed groups of involvement in deadly rocket attacks against U.S. sites and personnel in Iraq in the last month.

ATTACKS ON U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ

The Iraqi militia official close to Iran said Friday’s air strikes had hit positions of the Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group along the border.

Local sources and a medical source in eastern Syria told Reuters at least 17 people had been killed, but gave no further details. That toll could not be confirmed.

In recent attacks, a non-American contractor was killed at a U.S. military based at Erbil International Airport in Kurdish-run northern Iraq on Feb. 15 and, in the days that followed, rockets were fired at a base hosting U.S. forces, and near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq gives Iraq’s government breathing room as it investigates the Erbil attack, which also wounded Americans.

Kataib Hezbollah has denied involvement in recent attacks against U.S. interests. Iran denies involvement in attacks on U.S. sites.

Several attacks, including the one on Erbil airport, have been claimed by little-known groups which some Iraqi and Western officials say are a front for established Iran-backed groups such as Kataib Hezbollah.

LIMITED RESPONSE

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Thursday that U.S. forces had conducted air strikes against infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militant groups.

“President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” Kirby said.

He said the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision to carry out the strikes was meant to signal that, while the United States wanted to punish the militias, it did not want the situation to spiral into a bigger conflict.

The Iraqi military issued a statement saying it had not exchanged information with the United States over the targeting of locations in Syria, and that cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was limited to fighting Islamic State.

It was not clear how, or whether, the U.S. strikes might affect efforts to coax Iran back into negotiations about both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

(Reporting by John Davison, Amina Ismail, Baghdad newsroom, Maha El Dahan in Beirut, Kinda Makieh in Damascus, and Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart in Washington, and by Thomas Balmforth and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow, editing by Timothy Heritage)

Merkel tells Rouhani Iran should return to nuclear deal

BERLIN (Reuters) – Iran should send positive signals to increase the chances of a return to the 2015 nuclear deal and defuse a standoff with western powers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call on Wednesday.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German leader told Rouhani she was concerned that Iran was continuing to breach its commitments under the deal, which U.S. President Joe Biden wants to restore should Iran halt nuclear activities.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Madeline Chambers)