Iran targets US consulate: Tehran claims a secret Israeli base

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:

  • Iran fires missiles at Erbil US consulate; Tehran: ‘Secret Israeli bases’ targeted
  • Several missiles fired toward building in Iraqi Kurdistan; local TV station damaged; Iran media claims without evidence that Israel operating sites there and they were targets
  • An unnamed Iraqi official said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without elaborating. He said the projectiles were the Iranian-made Fateh-110, likely fired in retaliation for the two Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria last week in an alleged Israeli strike.
  • Iraqi security officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties from the attack.
  • The attack comes as negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause” over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow over its war on Ukraine.

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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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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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Iranian and Russian officials strike positive tone on nuclear talks

(Reuters) – Iran and Russia both gave upbeat views on Tuesday about talks that kicked off this week to salvage Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with global powers, although Western nations have said the negotiations are going too slowly.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said a deal was possible in the near future if other parties showed “good faith” while Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said a working group was making “indisputable progress” in the eighth round of talks.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States resumed on Monday in Vienna, with Tehran focused on getting U.S. sanctions lifted again, as they were under the original bargain, despite scant progress on reining in its atomic activities.

The seventh round of talks, the first under Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, ended 11 days ago after some new Iranian demands were added to a working text.

Iran insists all U.S. sanctions must be lifted before steps are taken on the nuclear side, while Western negotiators say nuclear and sanctions steps must be balanced in the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

“The Vienna talks are headed in a good direction,” Iranian Minister Amirabdollahian said in comments to reporters broadcast by state media. “We believe that if other parties continue the round of talks which just started with good faith, reaching a good agreement for all parties is possible.”

France, Germany and the United Kingdom said in a statement on Tuesday that technical progress had been made in the last round and the parties now needed to fully focus on the key outstanding issues, particularly nuclear and sanctions.

They said while they were not setting an artificial deadline, there were weeks not months left to strike a deal.

“We are clear that we are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program will have completely hollowed out the JCPoA,” they said.

“The negotiation is urgent – and our teams are here to work swiftly and in good faith towards getting a deal.”

ISRAEL WANTS FIRMER POSITION

The original agreement lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities but Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, a year after he became U.S president. Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.

The parties to the deal besides the United States – Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union – kicked off the new round of talks on Monday.

Iran refuses to meet U.S. officials directly, meaning other parties must shuttle between the two sides.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy, said on Tuesday that a working group was making progress. “Sanctions lifting is being actively discussed in informal settings,” he wrote on Twitter.

The 2015 deal extended the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb – if it chose to – to at least a year from about two to three months. Most experts say that time is now less than before the deal, although Iran says it only wants to master nuclear technology for civil uses.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel would not automatically oppose a nuclear deal but world powers must take a firmer position.

Israel says it will never allow Iran to get nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table. Israeli leaders have said that a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.

“We are not the bear who said ‘No’,” Bennett said in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, referring to a popular naysaying character from children’s literature.

“For sure there can be a good agreement. For sure. We know the parameters. Is that expected to happen now in the current dynamics? No. Because there needs to be a much firmer position.”

Bennett declined to comment on Israel’s military strike capabilities against Iran, saying he preferred the approach of “speak little and do a lot.”

(Reporting by Miranda Murray in Berlin, Jeffrey Heller, Dan Williams and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem, and Dubai newsroom; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by David Clarke)

Iran nuclear talks resume with Tehran focused on sanctions relief

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) -Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed on Monday with Tehran focused on one side of the original bargain, lifting sanctions against it, despite scant progress on reining in its atomic activities.

The seventh round of talks, the first under Iran’s new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, ended 10 days ago after adding some new Iranian demands to a working text. Western powers said progress was too slow and negotiators had “weeks not months” left before the 2015 deal becomes meaningless.

Little remains of that deal, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities. Then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of it in 2018, re-imposing U.S. sanctions, and Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.

“If we work hard in the days and weeks ahead we should have a positive result…. It’s going to be very difficult, it’s going to be very hard. Difficult political decisions have to be taken both in Tehran and in Washington,” the talks’ coordinator, European Union envoy Enrique Mora, told a news conference.

He was speaking shortly after a meeting of the remaining parties to the deal – Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union – formally kicked off the round on Monday evening.

“There is a sense of urgency in all delegations that this negotiation has to be finished in a relatively reasonable period of time. Again, I wouldn’t put limits but we are talking about weeks, not about months,” Mora said.

Iran refuses to meet directly with U.S. officials, meaning that other parties must shuttle between the two sides. The United States has repeatedly expressed frustration at this format, saying it slows down the process, and Western officials still suspect Iran is simply playing for time.

The 2015 deal extended the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from around two to three months. Most experts say that time is now less than before the deal, though Iran says it only wants to master nuclear technology for civil uses.

END OF THE ROAD

“The most important issue for us is to reach a point where, firstly, Iranian oil can be sold easily and without hindrance,” Iranian media quoted Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as saying.

Mora, however, said both the lifting of sanctions and Iran’s nuclear restrictions would be discussed.

Iran insists all U.S. sanctions must be lifted before steps are taken on the nuclear side, while Western negotiators say nuclear and sanctions steps must be balanced.

U.S. sanctions have slashed Iran’s oil exports, its main revenue source. Tehran does not disclose data, but assessments based on shipping and other sources suggest a fall from about 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to as low as 200,000 bpd. One survey put exports at 600,000 bpd in June.

Mora said he decided to reconvene the talks during many officials’ holidays between Christmas and the New Year so as not to lose time, but he added that talks would stop for three days as of Friday “because the facilities will not be available”, referring to the luxury hotel hosting most meetings.

When the seventh round wrapped up, incorporating some Iranian demands, negotiators from France, Britain and Germany said in a statement: “This only takes us back nearer to where the talks stood in June”, when the previous round ended.

“We are rapidly reaching the end of the road for this negotiation,” they added.

(Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie, David Goodman, Philippa Fletcher and Alison Williams)

 

Iran nuclear talks break, Europe dismayed by Tehran demands

By Parisa Hafezi, Francois Murphy and John Irish

VIENNA (Reuters) – Indirect U.S.-Iranian talks on saving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal broke off until next week as European officials voiced dismay on Friday at the demands of Iran’s new, hardline administration.

The seventh round of talks in Vienna is the first with delegates sent by Iran’s anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi on how to resuscitate the agreement under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

Raisi’s election in June caused a five-month hiatus in the talks, heightening suspicions among U.S. and European officials that Iran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear program.

Diplomats said the Iranian delegation had proposed sweeping changes to a text that was painstakingly negotiated in previous rounds and that European officials had said was 70-80% finished.

“Over five months ago, Iran interrupted negotiations. Since then, Iran has fast-forwarded its nuclear program. This week, it has back-tracked on diplomatic progress made,” senior officials from France, Britain and Germany said in a statement, adding that Iran was demanding “major changes” to the text.

It is “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic time frame”, they added.

The three European powers expressed “disappointment and concern” at Iran’s demands, some of which they said were incompatible with the deal’s terms or went beyond them.

The 2015 agreement imposed strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, extending the time it would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from around two to three months. Most experts say that period is now shorter than before the deal.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In exchange for the nuclear restrictions, the deal lifted U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

After more than two years of Iranian adherence to the core curbs, however, then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, calling it too soft on Tehran, and reimposed painful U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran.

Tehran retaliated from 2019 by breaching many of the deal’s limits on enrichment and other restrictions, and advancing well beyond them. With the deal’s nuclear benefits now badly eroded, some Western officials say there is little time left before the foundation of the deal is damaged beyond repair.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he thought it likely the current round of talks would not succeed and appeared to look beyond them, hinting at involving more nations, such as Gulf Arab states, in a wider discussion if the Vienna talks fail.

“I think it’s very difficult to find an agreement if the Gulf countries, Israel, all those whose security is directly affected, don’t take part,” he told reporters in Dubai.

FIRM STANCE

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani’s uncompromising stance is that since Washington left the deal, it should make the first move by lifting all sanctions imposed on Tehran since then, even those unrelated to Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Bagheri Kani told Reuters on Monday the United States and its Western allies also should offer guarantees to Iran that no new sanctions would be imposed on it in future.

However, he left the door ajar for more talks by saying European nations could propose their own drafts for discussion, Iranian state media reported.

Western negotiators take a return to the original deal as their base line, meaning if Iran wants sanctions relief beyond it, Tehran should accept more nuclear restrictions.

This week’s talks ended with a meeting of the remaining parties to the deal: Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Officials said the talks, in which others shuttle between U.S. and Iranian diplomats because Iran refuses to meet directly with U.S. officials, will resume mid-week.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Francois Murphy in Vienna and John Irish in Dubai; Writing by Francois Murphy, Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Daniel Wallis)

 

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)

 

Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran

LONDON (Reuters) – Israel urged world leaders to keep up pressure on Iran and not lift sanctions as part of nuclear negotiations that were set to resume in Vienna on Monday, saying that tighter supervision of Tehran was needed.

Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the United States under then-President Donald Trump, who then reimposed sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran. That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.

Israel has warned that Iran, its arch-enemy, will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerating enrichment of uranium.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking in London alongside his British counterpart Liz Truss, said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money.

“This is what they have done in the past. And this is what they will do this time as well. The intelligence is clear, it leaves no doubt,” he told reporters after signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade, technology and defense with Britain.

“A nuclear Iran will thrust the entire Middle East into a nuclear arms race; we will find ourselves in a new Cold War. But this time the bomb will be in the hands of religious fanatics who are engaged in terrorism as a way of life,” Lapid said.

“The world must prevent this and it can prevent this: tighter sanctions, tighter supervision, conduct any talks from a position of strength.”

In Jerusalem earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cautioned world powers to beware of what he described as Iranian “nuclear blackmail.”

Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for civil uses.

Truss said Britain was “absolutely determined” to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.

“As far as I am concerned, these talks are the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table and agree the JCPOA…,” she said, referring to the 2015 deal. “We will look at all options if that doesn’t happen.”

(Reporting by Paul Sandle in London and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

U.S. considers ‘all options’ on Iran in seemingly tougher stance

By Arshad Mohammed, John Irish and Parisa Hafezi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is ready to consider “all options” if Iran is unwilling to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley said on Wednesday in what may reflect a tougher stance toward Tehran’s new government.

In addition to using the phrase “all options,” which is typically intended to include the possibility – however remote – of military action, Malley also said the United States and Israel were united in opposing Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Beyond citing U.S. consultation with Israel, which has previously struck nuclear sites in Iraq and Syria, Malley also said he would soon travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to coordinate with the U.S. Gulf allies.

“We will be prepared to adjust to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran’s nuclear program if it’s not prepared to come back into the constraints” of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, he said in a virtual appearance at a Washington think tank.

Taken together, the comments suggested a more coercive rhetorical stance toward Tehran if it were unwilling to resume compliance with the deal, under which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program – which is a possible pathway to fissile material for a weapon – in return for sanctions relief.

Malley stressed it was still Washington’s preference for the United States, which abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 during the Trump administration, and Iran, which began violating its nuclear limits about a year later, to both resume compliance.

Iran struck the deal, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015 with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“There is every possibility that Iran will choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and other partners in the region. I will be traveling to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar in just a matter of days to talk about efforts to come back to (JCPOA) and what options we have to control Iran’s nuclear program if we can’t achieve that goal,” Malley said.

He said the two sides had made headway in their first six rounds of indirect talks in Vienna about reviving the deal, but he suggested the new Iranian government under President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August, may adopt a different stance.

Raisi’s aides have said Iran will return to Vienna “soon” but not set a date.

The European Union coordinator on Iran, Enrique Mora, plans to hold talks in Tehran on Thursday, a visit that comes at a critical time in efforts to revive nuclear talks with world powers and cannot be considered as “business as usual” given the worsening nuclear situation on the ground, E3 diplomats said.

“We do not see this visit as ‘business as usual,’ but rather as a crucial visit in the crisis,” diplomats from Britain, Germany and France said in a note on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Macfie)

At U.N., Israeli PM Bennett says Iran has crossed all nuclear “red lines”

By Michelle Nichols, Matt Spetalnick and Stephen Farrell

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that Iran had crossed “all red lines” in its nuclear program and vowed that Israel would not allow Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Bennett said Iran sought to dominate the Middle East under a “nuclear umbrella” and urged a more concerted international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.

But he also hinted at the potential for Israel to act on its own against Iran, something it has repeatedly threatened in the past.

“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance,” Bennett said. “Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.”

Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister in June, wants U.S. President Joe Biden to harden his stance against Iran, Israel’s regional arch-foe. He opposes the new U.S. administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Biden’s White House predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018.

Indirect U.S.-Iran talks in Vienna have stalled as Washington awaits the next move by Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi.

Bennett struck a less combative tone before the United Nations than Netanyahu, who often relied on props and visual aids to dramatize his accusations against Iran, an approach that critics derided as political stunts.

But Bennett has been just as adamant as Netanyahu was in pledging to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran, which Israel views as an existential threat, from building a nuclear weapon. Iran consistently denies it is seeking a bomb.

“Iran’s nuclear weapons program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed, inspections ignored,” Bennett said. “They’re getting away with it.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UN, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Stephen Farrell in London, additional reporting by Zainah El-Haroun and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Alex Richardson)