Khordad 7 1399 - May 27 2020
The strategic implications of the brewing Iran arms embargo crisis

In the last few weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed a new initiative to extend the arms embargo on Iran. According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, United Nations restrictions on conventional arms sales to Iran would expire after five years, on October 18, 2020. Washington plans to claim that it legally remains a participant state in the JCPOA, which President Donald Trump officially withdrew from in May 2018... -Gawdat Bahgat, Responsible Statecraft 5/27/20

Iranian spending spree on arms unlikely if UN embargo expires

One of the most important outcomes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - signed in 2015 between the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Iran - is the planned expiration of a U.N. arms embargo imposed on the Islamic Republic. The first major sanctions on Iran were adopted by the U.N. Security Council in March 2007, and reinforced in June 2010 with a U.N. embargo on the export of most major conventional weapons to Iran. -Robert Czulda, Responsible Statecraft 5/25/20

Iran and the US 'meet' again over Afghanistan

In an administration short on diplomatic talent, Zalmay Khalilzad stands out. His title is US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and he is charged with extricating the United States' military presence in that country. Tangentially, Khalilzad's deep background as a multilingual former ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations-and his nature as an inveterate schmoozer-have put him in a position to revive US diplomatic engagement with Iran and to help de-escalate what had been a dangerous rise in tensions. -Barbara Slavin, Atlantic Council 5/22/20

Washington's Tall Tale of Iranian-Al Qaeda Alliance Based on Questionably Sourced Book, The Exile

The U.S. assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in January touched off a new wave of disinformation about Soleimani, with Trump administration allies branding him a global terrorist while painting Iran as the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. Much of the propaganda about Soleimani related to his alleged responsibility for the killing of American troops in Iraq, along with Iran's role in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. - Gareth Porter, Antiwar 5/20/20

Iran Quietly Lowers the Temperature With U.S.

After years of increasing tensions that nearly led to war, Iran has moderated its approach to the West, shifting from a policy of provocation to one of limited cooperation. The change reflects an effort to avoid direct confrontation with the United States that the Iranians say could benefit President Trump in the November election. -Alissa J. Rubin and Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times 5/20/20

US tells vessels in Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from its warships

The US Navy has warned vessels in the Persian Gulf to stay 100 meters away from American warships or risk "lawful defensive measures," in a move that appears to be aimed squarely at Iran. "Armed vessels approaching within 100 meters of a US naval vessel may be interpreted as a threat," according to the text of the notice issued on Tuesday. -Press TV 5/20/20

U.S. and Iran Need a Coronavirus Peace Plan

While Americans are rightly focused on handling the coronavirus at home, the government must also remain vigilant to threats around the world. Yet the Donald Trump administration's approach to Iran, in particular, increasingly lacks any clear policy or overarching strategy. The administration is at times threatening and at times conciliatory, giving Iran little sense of what actions the president will take. This could inadvertently lead us to war, and neither the U.S. nor Iran can afford to engage in hostilities that distract us from the pandemic. -Senator Dianne Feinstein, Bloomberg 5/15/20

Why isn't Arab literature popular in Iran?

One day during the war with Iran, an Iraqi Army newspaper editor receives a handwritten manuscript from a low-ranking soldier on the frontline. He is astonished by what he finds: a literary masterpiece. When he learns that the soldier was killed on the battlefield, the editor publishes the story under his own name. He wins praises from every corner of the world for it. But then, he begins to receive a torrent of extraordinary stories from the same soldier who was supposedly killed in the war... This is one of my favorite stories by the renowned Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim, from his collection of short stories, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq. -Farnaz Seifi, Middle East Institute 5/15/20

Iran's FM Zarif likens Trump's 'disinfectant' advice to nuclear deal argument

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has likened Washington's JCPOA argument to U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion to inject disinfectant to treat coronavirus patients. "Those who muse about injecting disinfectant to 'clean' the coronavirus, also argue that they are a 'participant' in a UN Security Council Resolution endorsing a deal that they long ago 'ceased participating' in," Zarif tweeted on Thursday. "Their own words. If only Kafka were around," he added. 5/15/20

A health crisis as an incentive to foster regional cooperation in the Persian Gulf?

Iran has been the Middle Eastern epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic Republic was hit early on into the global health crisis. While it is still unclear when and how Iran's 'patient zero' entered the country, it is fair to assume that he or she was part of one of the numerous delegations that kept on traveling between Iran and China even after weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Due to the encompassing US sanctions regime imposed on Iran, China has increasingly become an economic lifeline Tehran simply cannot afford to forego. It, thus, took Iran much longer compared to other states to halt flights to and from China. -Adnan Tabatabai, Responsible Statecraft 5/15/20

Afghan migrants: Unwanted in Iran and at home

Afghans routinely cross the border into Iran and are frequently caught and deported back into Afghanistan. They endure inhumane treatment from smugglers and often lose their savings in the process. In 2019, alone, a total of 451,073 Afghans returned from Iran-a big chunk of them forced through deportation. -Fatemeh Aman, Atlantic Council 5/15/20

Russia's UN Envoy Strongly Opposes U.S. Attempt To Extend Arms Embargo On Iran

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations says Moscow will oppose any attempts by the United States to extend the arms embargo on Iran and reimpose UN sanctions against Tehran. Vassily Nebenzia's comments on May 12 made clear that the United States will have difficulty extending the embargo past its expiration in October through the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power. 5/13/20

After Trump vetoed the Iran war powers resolution, Congress must continue to act

On April 22, President Trump took to Twitter and threatened to attack Iran, instructing the Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." The tweet was both alarming and cringeworthy - boats don't fly. But it was also commonplace. Trump has threatened to start a war with Iran so many times that it almost feels banal. -Erica Fein, Responsible Statecraft 5/12/20

How the Trump administration has blundered toward nuclear chaos

People who work on nuclear security and deterrence are divided, like most other people, between optimists and pessimists - or in other words, some people believe that nuclear weapons use and spread can be prevented, and others believe both are inevitable. It is understandable that there are likely many more nuclear pessimists than three years ago, since it seems that all of the nuclear challenges facing the United States are worse today than when President Trump took office, and all are moving in the wrong direction. -Jon Wolfsthal, Responsible Statecraft 5/12/20

May 8, 2018: A day that will live in acrimony

Two years ago, on May 8, 2018, the Trump administration withdrew unilaterally from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly called the Iran nuclear deal, and then imposed "maximum pressure" sanctions on Iran. As is well documented, the sanctions have succeeded in devastating the Iranian economy; the U.S. and Iran marched to the brink of war in early 2020, and just last month, the U.S. rejected a request from Tehran to suspend sanctions due to the coronavirus raging through the country. -George A. Lopez, Responsible Statecraft 5/11/20

Pressuring Iran is not the answer to the US's Middle East woes

The United States has for decades been reliant on Israel and a host of autocratic Arab regimes to solidify a U.S.-led security order in the Middle East. This order has proven to be unsustainable as key U.S. allies have weakened or been toppled in popular uprisings over the years. Meanwhile, U.S. efforts to transform the region through military intervention have spectacularly failed and opened the door for U.S. rivals to gain regional influence. -Sina Toossi, Responsible Statecraft 5/11/20

Can Iraq's new PM, and the region, escape Suleimani's long shadow?

In late February, six weeks after the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani was killed by a US drone, a candidate for Iraq's vacant premiership was nervously preparing for an interview that would secure him the role. Mustafa al-Kadhimi's rise from intelligence chief to the seat of national power had been unorthodox, as was the journey he had just made - from Baghdad, where high-stakes appointments like his had mostly been made over the past decade. -Martin Chulov, Guardian 5/11/20

Why is the US removing its Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia?

The U.S. is removing Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia as part of a broader drawdown of its military capacity placed there to counter Iran. While the military characterized the move as part of a planned withdrawal that reflects the view that Iran now poses less of a threat, the news has prompted debate over the timing of the decision. -Annelle Sheline, Responsible Statecraft 5/8/20

Iraq appoints new prime minister after months of protests and jockeying

The new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's intelligence chief and a former journalist, will head the new government. He will begin his term without a full cabinet, however, after several ministerial candidates were rejected. Iraqi officials have said Kadhimi is acceptable to both the United States and Iran, whose battle for influence over Iraq has boiled into open confrontation in the past year. -Reuters 5/7/20

Iran's launch of a military satellite sets the stage for star wars

In the midst of fighting a pandemic and dealing with US sanctions, Iran has launched a military satellite to showcase its technological advancement. On 22 April, the 41st anniversary of the founding of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC successfully launched a "military satellite" into space and simultaneously successfully launched us all into the latest chapter in the saga of the US-Iran battle. -Tallha Abdulrazaq, TRT 5/7/20

'The Blob' strikes back, and misses

In an age of war, debt, and plague, is America's foreign policy establishment, or "the Blob" as it has been dubbed, part of the problem? Or part of the answer? According to Hal Brands, Peter Feaver, and William Inboden, three sharp minds who served in government and the academy, America needs its specialist class of experts at the helm. What's more, to challenge the Blob's workings, record, and judgement is to be Trumpian, and hostile to "expertise" in general. -Patrick Porter, Responsible Statecraft 5/6/20

Iran Atomic Inspections Continued at a Record Pace Last Year

Iran's nuclear program received record scrutiny last year from international monitors who triggered snap inspections in the Islamic Republic. The International Atomic Energy Agency's 2019 Safeguards Implementation Report shows that monitors continued receiving wide access to Iranian nuclear sites even as new questions arose over the completeness of the country's declared atomic stockpile, according to the restricted document seen by Bloomberg. -Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg 5/6/20

Iran's Rouhani pledges 'crushing response' if U.S. extends arms embargo

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened a "crushing response" on Wednesday if the United States goes ahead with plans to extend an embargo on Iranian trade of conventional arms, which the United Nations is set to lift later this year. Under Iran's deal with world powers to accept limits to its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions, a U.N. weapons embargo is due to expire in October. -Reuters 5/6/20

Norms, not politics, should shape the European position on Iran's arms embargo

With a few months left before the expiration of the United Nations-mandated arms embargo against Iran, Washington is in full swing desperately trying to prolong it. Achieving this goal would require cooperation from other members of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), who (plus Germany) are also signatures of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA), which requires lifting the arms embargo in October 20202, after five years of its implementation. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 5/5/20

Trump's Threat to Iran Has a Hollow, Angsty Ring

A tweet by the U.S. President Donald Trump on April 22 said, "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." Trump seems to be talking the language of war while indulging in politics by other means. Like his ban on immigration, Trump is resorting to distractions to turn attention away from his incompetence in tackling the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. -M. K. BHADRAKUMAR, Counterpunch 5/5/20

The US and Iran are still perilously close to conflict

A dangerous encounter between the Iranian and US navies in the Persian Gulf last month, provoked by 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards' speedboats, and President Trump's threat one week later to shoot Iranian gunboats out of water if this happens again, are stark reminders of the short fuse between the two countries amid growing tensions. -Ali Vaez, Guardian 5/4/20

In tortured logic, Trump begs for a do-over on the Iran nuclear deal

Even the Trump administration seems to grudgingly have concluded that breaching the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) was a mistake. More than two years after the U.S. exit, the deal still stands while the Trump administration is running out of options to force a re-negotiation. It is now so desperate it is seeking to convince the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it never quit the deal in the first place. The lesson to the U.S. is clear: Diplomatic vandalism carries costs - even for a superpower. The lesson to a prospective President Joe Biden is more specific: Rejoin the nuclear deal, don't try to renegotiate it. -Tyler Cullis & Trita Parsi, Responsible Statecraft 5/1/20

Official linked to anti-Iran pressure group breaks ranks, says Iran should get all the help it needs to fight COVID-19

Norman Roule, a senior adviser to the anti-Iran group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which led a multi-year effort pressuring pharmaceutical and medical supply companies to cease legal trade with Iran even during the COVID-19 pandemic, appears to be distancing himself from UANI's work, effectively whitewashing his own role at the organization. "The international community should do everything it can to enable the Iranian people to obtain access to medical supplies and equipment," said Roule in a recent article in the Nation. -Eli Clifton, Responsible Statecraft 5/1/20

Iran to build houses on Persian Gulf islands

The Iranian islands of the Persian Gulf will be turned into residential areas, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy Chief Alireza Tangsiri announced on Wednesday. Tangsiri said the decision came according to an order issued by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The announcement was made as Iran marked the National Persian Gulf Day on Wednesday. 4/30/20

Right-Wing Think Tanks Are Using Covid-19 To Push War with Iran

Since the global Covid-19 pandemic began, a cluster of U.S. think tanks has been aggressively lobbying the Trump administration to escalate militarily toward Iran and tighten U.S. sanctions. This push has come despite warnings that such sanctions are worsening the death toll of Iran's outbreak, which is one of the worst in the world. -Sarah Lazare, In These Times 4/28/20

Iran satellite launch 'sends a message' on failed US pressure

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) surprised the world last week with a successful launch of its first military satellite dubbed Nour (light) into the Earth's orbit. The satellite was on board a previously unknown launch vehicle named Qased, or messenger, and was deployed from a military base in Semnan province, east of the capital, Tehran. -Maysam Bizaer, Al-Jazeera 4/28/20

Iran monitoring U.S. moves, but will never start a war: President Rohani

President Hassan Rohani said on Saturday that Iran is monitoring the United States' moves in the region, however, it will never start a war in the region. "The Islamic Republic of Iran monitors the United States' moves activity and accurately, however, it will never start a conflict and tension in the region," he told Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in a phone conversation. The Qatari Emir highlighted the need that all countries make efforts to prevent tension in the region. 4/27/20

To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument that the United States remains a participant in the Iran nuclear accord that President Trump has renounced, part of an intricate strategy to pressure the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Tehran or see far more stringent sanctions reimposed on the country. The strategy has been described in recent days by administration officials as they begin to circulate a new resolution in the Security Council that would bar countries from exporting conventional arms to Iran after the current ban expires in October. - David E. Sanger, New York Times 4/27/20

U.S. renews waiver for Iraq to import Iranian electricity, shortens time

The United States has renewed a waiver for Iraq to continue importing Iranian electricity, a State Department official said on Sunday, but this time for a shorter period of 30 days, adding that Washington would be reassessing whether to renew again once a "credible government" is formed in Iraq. -Reuters 4/27/20 4/27/20

Creating the enemies they need: US militarism's strange bedfellows

Listen to America's imperial proconsuls long enough and they often let slip something approaching truth - perhaps exceptionalist confession is more accurate. Take Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), with responsibility for all of Latin America. Just before the COVID-19 crisis shifted into full gear, on March 11 he testified before the House Armed Services Committee and admitted, "There will be an increase in the U.S. military presence in the hemisphere later this year." Naturally, admiral, but why? -Danny Sjursen, Responsible Statecraft 4/24/20

Trump Failed to Vanquish Coronavirus With Hot Air, Now Wants to "Shoot Down" Tiny Iranian Skiffs

What Trump was advising would be a war crime, since Iranian boats that haven't actually fired on or harmed US vessels have a right to be on the high seas, and interfering in that right to the point of termination with extreme prejudice is illegal. -Juan Cole, Common Dreams 4/24/20

How Trump's Foreign Policy Puts Troops at Risk of Covid-19

US sanctions on Iran have "badly crippled" its economy as well as its ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which endangers nearby US troops, according to a military intelligence brief obtained by The Nation. The document, dated April 3, says that Qatar-host to the largest US military base in the region-"has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, with over 800 confirmed." -Ken Klippenstein, Nation 4/24/20

How a misleading report on Iran from a hawkish 'think tank' made its way to Trump administration talking points

Whatever pain COVID-19 inflicts, it offers a golden opportunity for Washington lobbyists committed to tough sanctions against Iran. 'Regime change' or 'regime collapse', they say, is now within grasp if only the United States stands firm. United States sanctions have not just spawned a proliferating industry profiting lawyers, bureaucrats and "expert" consultants. They have created an opaque maze around which "bullet points" bounce from lobby groups and "think tanks" to the media to government, becoming "facts" through repetition and circular sourcing. -Gareth Smyth, Responsible Statecraft 4/23/20

Guards chief: U.S. warships will be destroyed if they threaten Iran in Gulf

Iran will destroy U.S. warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards told state TV on Thursday, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump warned Tehran over "harassment" of U.S. vessels. "I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran's military or non-military ships," Major General Hossein Salami said. "Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran's strategic priorities." -Reuters 4/23/20

IRGC shoots Iran's first military satellite into orbit

Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has successfully launched and placed the country's first military satellite into the orbit. The elite force fired the satellite - dubbed Nour (Light)-1 - aboard Qased (Carrier) satellite carrier during an operation that was staged in Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's sprawling central desert, on Wednesday, the Corps' Sepah News reported. The satellite was placed into the orbit 425 kilometers above Earth's surface. -Press TV 4/22/20

Trump on Twitter tells US Navy to 'shoot down and destroy' Iranian boats that harass US ships

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he has instructed the US Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats" that harass US ships. "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," Trump wrote. -CNN 4/22/20

Iran Accuses U.S. Of Giving 'False' Account Of Persian Gulf Encounter

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states' navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships. "We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories," the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19. 4/20/20

Iranian boats come 'dangerously' close to US navy warships

Iranian navy vessels came within 10 yards of American warships in the Persian Gulf in what the US navy described as a series of "dangerous and harassing approaches". The close encounters on Wednesday and the aggressive tactics pursued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) navy, visible from photos and video released by the US Fifth Fleet, represent a blow to the Trump administration's claims to have "restored deterrence" in its relations with Iran. -Julian Borger, Guardian 4/16/20

Mike Pompeo Warns Iran Stockpiling Tubes To Build Ventilator

Declaring that the coronavirus pandemic should not affect America's hardline stance against the Middle Eastern republic, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned Tuesday that he strongly suspected Iran of stockpiling tubes to build a ventilator. "Iran has repeatedly ignored our messages to refrain from building up a medical arsenal, and new intelligence shows that the regime could have a fully functional ventilator up and running in as little as a few weeks," said Pompeo -Satire by Onion 4/15/20

Regime Change Is Wrong

Eric Edeleman and Ray Takeyh dispense with the usual hawkish smokescreens and evasions and call for regime change in Iran: "Regime change" is a toxic phrase in Washington. It conjures up images of the Iraq war, with the United States trapped in a quagmire of its own making. That is why those who favor a coercive U.S. approach to Iran are routinely charged with secretly supporting regime change. In response, the accused almost always deny it. They don't want regime change, they insist: they just want the Islamic Republic's theocrats to change their behavior. -Daniel Larison, American Conservative 4/15/20

World oil demand forecast to suffer biggest drop ever

Global demand for oil will fall this year by the most ever due to the economic lockdowns enforced around the world to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday. An estimated drop in demand of 9.3 million barrels a day this year is equivalent to a decade's worth of growth. -AP 4/15/20

Iran, US heat up war of words on Iraq despite virus pandemic

Iran said Thursday it "only acts in self-defence" after President Donald Trump warned it against attacks on US troops in Iraq, as a new war of words heated up despite the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions between the arch-foes flared in Iraq where the United States deployed Patriot air defence missiles prompting neighbouring Iran to warn of consequences and demand a US withdrawal. -AFP 4/2/20

Scoop: Netanyahu shared fake video as proof of Iranian virus cover-up

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared with his Cabinet a video he claimed was evidence of Iran concealing coronavirus deaths by dropping bodies in garbage dumps, two Cabinet ministers tell me. Behind the scenes: Several hours later, Netanyahu's office realized the video had nothing to do with Iran, or with the coronavirus crisis. It was a clip from "Pandemic," a 2007 Hallmark Channel mini-series. -Axios 4/2/20

Afghanistan braces for coronavirus surge as migrants pour back from Iran

More than 130,000 Afghans have fled the coronavirus outbreak convulsing Iran to return home to Afghanistan amid fears they are bringing new infections with them to the conflict-ridden and impoverished country. The huge spike in Afghans crossing the porous border from Iran, in one of the biggest cross-border movements of the pandemic, has led to mounting fears in the humanitarian community over the potential impact of new infections carried from Iran, one of the countries worst affected by the virus. -Guardian 4/1/20

Beware of Trump Using the Coronavirus as a Cover for War With Iran

THE NEWS IS ALL coronavirus. Whether it's cable news, national newspapers, public radio, or even my own Intercept podcast, we can't get away from it. The pandemic has overwhelmed us all; we talk, think, dream of little else. But let me try and grab your attention for a few moments and point you in a different direction. How many of you noticed a rather disturbing New York Times story from Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt last week that was headlined, "Pentagon Order to Plan for Escalation in Iraq Meets Warning From Top Commander"? -Mehdi Hasan, Intercept 3/31/20

Pentagon Order to Plan for Escalation in Iraq Meets Warning From Top Commander

The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops. But the United States' top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran. -New York Times 3/29/20

US extends Iraq waivers but intensifies Iran sanctions as COVID-19 breaks records

The fresh US sanctions were imposed on the same day the novel coronavirus infected a record-high number of people in Iran. According to Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, 2,926 new cases of infection were confirmed in the 24 hours to Friday noon. He said 144 people also died in the 24-hour period, increasing the death toll to 2,378. The spokesman said the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 32,332. -Press TV 3/27/20

Collective punishment has always been the stated goal of Iran sanctions hawks

The coronavirus pandemic's impact in Iran, which already claimed over 1,800 lives and infected more than 23,000 people, is one of the world's more troubling examples of widespread infection, with insufficient medical resources to treat the victims and a staggering anticipated death toll. While public health experts and human rights advocates all point to the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" sanctions regime against Iran as contributing to the public health crisis, sanctions advocates in the Trump administration and at two ultra hawkish think tanks claim that the "humanitarian trade" sanctions exemption is sufficient to address Iran's medical needs. -Eli Cliftonn, Responsible Statecraft 3/24/20

Trump thinks Iran is on its knees. But COVID-19 may have given it an unprecedented path to the bomb

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes the coronavirus has made Iran ripe for some bombing. Weakened by both sanctions and the pandemic, a window of opportunity exists to strike it militarily, he reportedly told President Donald Trump. But paradoxically, the pandemic may also have given Tehran an opportunity it neither desired nor faced earlier on. Trump's sanctions have already begun to shift Tehran's nuclear calculus. 3/24/20

Trump's callous sanctions risk tipping Iran over the nuclear precipice

Displaying the sort of unthinking bellicosity that has characterised his tenure as US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo chose last week - a time of unprecedented global turmoil - to impose yet more unilateral sanctions on Iran. This was akin to pouring petrol on a burning building, then waiting to see how big an explosion ensues. -Simon Tisdall, Guardian 3/24/20

Iraq, Iran, and the spectre of US sanctions

The Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign now appears to have Iraq in its sights, aiming to increase the economic pain experienced by Iran. European capitals should be alarmed at this new US trajectory - not least given the fragility of the Iraqi government and its efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group (ISIS). -Ellie Geranmayeh, Sajad Jiyad, ECFR 3/20/20

At Saudi music festival, Iran rivalry takes the stage

Exile Iranian musicians critical of religious hardliners in Tehran converged this month to perform in the most unlikely locale: Saudi Arabia. Taking place amid heightened tensions between the regional enemies, the event was promoted as cultural dialogue but also allowed the kingdom a subtle dig at Tehran, with Saudi-owned MBC Persia airing the concerts for Iranian viewers. -Reuters 3/18/20

Amid Coronavirus Chaos, U.S. and Iran Edge Closer to War

IF YOU LISTENED closely this week, behind the terrifying clamor of Covid-19 sweeping across the planet, you might've heard the sound of war nearly breaking out again between the United States and Iran. On Wednesday, the birthday of assassinated Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a barrage of rockets slammed into the Camp Taji airbase north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The attack killed two Americans and a Briton, while wounding 14 others. -Murtaza Hussain, Intercept 3/15/20

How hawks are trying to shatter the Iran nuclear deal once and for all

If you visit the State Department's Iran page, you'll see an ominous clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the expiration of the United Nations arms embargo on Iran. The clock, and the embarrassing propagandistic script that accompanies it, reflects how far the State Department has fallen from the days when it laboriously worked to craft a deal to constrain Iran's nuclear program and open a window to resolve additional longstanding concerns with Iran's regional activities. -Ryan Costello, Responsible Statecraft 3/13/20

Biden's vision for U.S. Middle East policy - a view from Europe

Former Vice President Joe Biden's remarkable resurgence as the probable Democratic presidential nominee has invited fresh scrutiny of his foreign policy views - not only in the United States, but across the world, including in Europe. When Biden recently presented his foreign policy vision, there were encouraging ideas about a return to diplomacy as a first, not last, resort of statecraft. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 3/13/20

US Congress votes to limit Trump's war powers against Iran

The United States House of Representatives approved on Wednesday a War Powers Resolution aimed at limiting President Donald Trump's ability to wage war against Iran. The passage of the resolution was yet another rebuke of the president over his decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January amid escalating tensions with Tehran. -Al-Jazeera 3/12/20

The Iran nuclear deal is facing a new threat

A March 3 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is withholding access to two sites connected to its nuclear program and failing to cooperate fully to resolve questions relating to nuclear material has created a potentially problematic situation for states committed to preserving the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). -Peter Jenkins, Responsible 3/12/20

Q&A: What the US-Taliban agreement means for Afghanistan and why Iran should be involved

Now that some of the dust has settled from the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Fatemeh Aman, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, explains just what the deal means for the future of the Afghan government, what the regional implications are, and what the Iranians - despite being left out of the process - have to say about it. -Responsible Statecraft 3/11/20

How will Russia, China support Iran's military after UN arms ban ends?

When the UN arms embargo on Iran expires in October, in accordance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, it's unclear to what extent Russia and China will work to boost the Iranian military. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress that the United States "would appeal to the international community to extend" the arms embargo. Moscow, however, argues that the UN Security Council has no plans to consider extending it. -Anton Mardasov, Al-Monitor 3/10/20

How the Iran nuclear deal can be saved

Several parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) have engaged in actions that threaten to undermine the agreement. The Iranians have now undertaken a series of calculated breaches of their commitments. In response, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the European 3 or "E3") triggered the deal's dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) on 14 January 2020. The loss of trust between the three European states and Iran is very clear -Marc Finaud & Heinz Gartner, Responsible Statecraft 3/6/20

Iran to IAEA: Israeli fabrications no basis for cooperation

Iran says it will not allow Israeli allegations, which Tel Aviv claims are rooted in findings of a so-called secret operation, to form the basis of the Islamic Republic's cooperation with the United Nations nuclear agency. Iran's mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made the remarks in a statement dated Thursday after the watchdog demanded "complementary" access to two sites that are alleged by the Israeli regime to host diversionary nuclear activities. -Press TV 3/6/20

The future is bright for hardliners in Iran

Iran held its 11th parliamentary elections late last month, handing a resounding victory to hardline and conservative forces during perhaps Iran's most tumultuous few months since the 2009 Green Movement demonstrations. The elections were held after months of recession resulting from economic sanctions, the brutal November 2019 government crackdown that left hundreds dead, Iran moving to the brink of war following the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani, and the public outrage at the government's attempt to cover up its involvement in a civilian plane downing. -Shervin Ghaffari, Responsible Statecraft 3/5/20

Iran's Uranium Stockpile Grows, But Still Not a Weapons Risk

The latest IAEA report on Iran noted that the uranium stockpile was at 1,500 kg, which is roughly five times the "cap" under the P5+1 nuclear deal. Iran has been deliberately flouting the cap in a reversible way to try to encourage negotiation on sanctions relief, which was promised but never given to them. While this is being hyped today because of the report, it's not really new. -Jason Ditz, Antiwar 3/4/20

They Have the Watches, We Have the Time; US and Iran Hardliners Still Want War

When I was in Afghanistan, I often heard a Pashtun saying attributed to the Afghan Taliban strategy for war with the United States: "They have the watches, but we have the time". I do not know the provenance of this saying and I do not know if the saying exists in other Muslim or Asian societies, but it certainly has held true in warfare over the centuries whether you understand it in terms of the United States Revolution, the Vietnamese war for liberation against the French, Japanese and the US, or the decades long struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It is a saying that, if translated from Afghanistan's Pashto to Iran's Farsi, could be very applicable to Iran right now. -Matthew Hoh, counterpunch 3/4/20

Supreme Leader Urges Iranians To Support Battle Against Coronavirus As Death Toll Rises

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged Iranians to support the government in its battle against an outbreak of the coronavirus as the death toll rose to 77, the highest outside of China. "Don't violate the recommendations and instructions of the responsible authorities in terms of prevention, in terms of keeping hands, face, and living environment clean and not infecting these and preventing the infection of these," he said in a March 3 broadcast on state television. 3/3/20

Investment requests pile up for Iran's only oceanic port

As many as 53 companies have requested to invest in Chabahar, Iran's only oceanic port, a senior official says. Over the last 11 months, some 170 Iranian and foreign delegations have visited the port which Iran intends to develop by attracting private and public sector investments. 3/3/20

Iran's Coronavirus Deaths Mount, Including Senior Adviser To Iran's Supreme Leader

Latest coronavirus figures provided by Iran's Health Ministry put the number of deaths at 43. There is also a big spike of 205 in number of confirmed cases in the last 24 hours bringing the total to 593. According to Iranian officials, the cases are expected to peak in the next seven days. This has caused widespread concerns and worries in Iran as reflected in the coverage by the local media. 3/2/20

U.S. Signs Peace Deal With Taliban After Nearly 2 Decades Of War In Afghanistan

The U.S. and the Taliban have struck a deal that paves the way for eventual peace in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the militant Islamist group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed the potentially historic agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where the two sides spent months hashing out its details. -NPR 3/1/20

Coronavirus Death Toll In Iran Rises To 43

Iran's Health Ministry says nine people have died from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 43 amid 593 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Islamic republic. Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour gave the new figure on February 29. "We have had 205 new cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours", he said, while urging people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel. 2/29/20

Why Europe should disregard the Graham-Menendez plan on Iran

A new plan being hatched by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) two prominent Iran hawks, will supposedly kick-start the Iran diplomacy. Their plan foresees a path to a "new Iran deal" that would involve Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors permanently forswearing enrichment of uranium in exchange for safeguarding their right to a peaceful nuclear program and limited sanctions relief for Iran... After years of piling up sanctions and "maximum pressure," any talk of diplomacy with Iran coming from Washington is welcome in Europe. However, judging by what has transpired in the media so far, the Europeans should discard the Graham-Menendez plan as unrealistic at best and malicious at worst. -Eldar Mamedov, Responsible Statecraft 2/28/20

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