Archive for February 2, 2021

Iran asks Europe to help bridge impasse with US over return to nuclear deal

February 2, 2021


Zarif suggests EU could coordinate steps from Washington and Tehran, which are both currently insisting the other return to accords first

By AFP and TOI STAFFToday, 2:12 am  1

In this photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

WASHINGTON  — Iran’s foreign minister on Monday asked the European Union to coordinate a synchronized return of both Washington and Tehran into a nuclear deal, after a diplomatic standoff on who will act first.

US President Joe Biden has voiced support for returning to the accord, from which Donald Trump exited, but has insisted that Tehran first resume full compliance by reversing measures it took to protest the sweeping sanctions imposed by his predecessor.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has previously demanded an end to sanctions before Iran acts, offered a way forward during an interview on CNN International.

“You know clearly there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it, or coordinate what can be done,” he told interviewer Christiane Amanpour.In this photo released on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the organization, speaks with media while visiting Natanz enrichment facility, in central Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Zarif said that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell should play a role in his position of coordinator of the 2015 agreement — which also included Britain, France and Germany as well as Russia and China.

Borrell can “sort of choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran,” Zarif said.

“The United States needs to come back into compliance and Iran will be ready immediately to respond. The timing is not the issue.”

Trump walked out of the deal negotiated under former President Barack Obama, vowing instead to strangle Iran’s economy and reduce its clout around the region.

The Biden administration argues that Trump’s actions badly backfired, with Iran both moving away from the nuclear deal and only intensifying its opposition to US interests, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning in an interview broadcast Monday that Iran could now produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within “a few months.”

But Blinken again cautioned that a return to the nuclear accord would not be swift

.

Anthony Blinken speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, November 24, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“If it decides to come back into the agreement — that may take some time, then it’s gonna take us some time to assess whether they, in fact, had made good on their obligations,” Blinken told NBC News.

Zarif in his interview said that Iran could return to its previous commitments “in less than a day.”

“Some may take a few days or weeks, but it won’t take any longer that it would take the United States to implement executive orders that are necessary to put back Iran’s oil, banking, transportation and other areas that President Trump violated, back into operation,” Zarif said.

Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon, however last month, Tehran announced it was beginning to enrich uranium up to 20 percent — far beyond the 3.5 percent permitted under the nuclear deal, and a relatively small technical step away from the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran also said it was beginning research into uranium metal, a material that technically has civilian uses but is seen as another likely step toward a nuclear bomb.

Iran said last week it would also move to restrict short-notice inspections of suspect nuclear facilities from late February.

The Biden administration’s policy on Iran is expected to be a point of contention between the new US administration and Israel. Israeli officials have voiced strong objections to the US rejoining the nuclear deal, and have also issued threats against Iran in recent weeks.

Israel, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are all seeking to dissuade the Biden administration from returning to the Iran nuclear agreement in its original form. The Biden administration has pledged to consult with Israel and its other Middle East allies before making decisions regarding Iran.In this photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor’s secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site, near Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, December 23, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in an interview broadcast Sunday that Israel is still keeping open the possibility of taking action against Tehran’s nuclear project if necessary.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi issued a rare public criticism of the US plans on Tuesday and said that he had ordered the military to develop operational plans for striking Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian agents scouted Israeli, US, UAE embassies in East Africa for attack — TV

February 2, 2021


Attempted strike to avenge deaths of Iranian general, nuclear scientist was thwarted last month, Kan News claims, citing Western intelligence sources

By TOI STAFF1 February 2021, 11:46 pm  2

Worshipers in Iran chant slogans during Friday prayers ceremony by a banner showing slain Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani, left, and Iraqi Shiite senior militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone attack on January 3, and a banner which reads in Persian: 'Death To America,' at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Worshipers in Iran chant slogans during Friday prayers ceremony by a banner showing slain Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani, left, and Iraqi Shiite senior militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone attack on January 3, and a banner which reads in Persian: ‘Death To America,’ at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Several Iranian agents who scouted out the Israeli, American, and Emirati embassies in an unnamed East African country in preparation for a potential attack have been arrested, according to a Monday Israeli TV report.

The agents were sent by Iran to gather intelligence on the sites for a terror attack, Kan News reported, citing Western intelligence sources.

Some held dual European and Iranian citizenship, and some were arrested in the East African country, while others were apprehended in different countries. The attack was thwarted last month, according to the report.

The report said Iran intended to target one of the missions in retaliation for the killing of its top general Qassem Soleimani by the US last year and of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November. Iran blamed Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s killing and swore revenge.

On Friday, a blast rocked the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, India. The explosion damaged cars but did not cause injuries.

Israeli authorities are treating the explosion as a suspected terror attack aimed at the embassy, and have stepped up security precautions at missions around the world.Police cordon off an area near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

Israeli missions had already been on alert in the wake of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.

A handwritten note found at the scene of the bombing claimed responsibility for a previously unknown group identifying itself as “India Hezbollah.” It cited the killings Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh, according to Indian media reports on Saturday.

Unconfirmed Indian media reports Saturday claimed police had detained and questioned some Iranian nationals in New Delhi.

A police statement described the Friday explosion as caused by a “very low-intensity improvised device” that blew out the windows on three nearby cars and said a preliminary investigation “suggests a mischievous attempt to create a sensation.”

In 2012, the wife of Israel’s defense attaché to India was moderately injured after a motorcyclist attached a bomb to her car near Israel’s New Delhi embassy. Iran was suspected in the attack.

It was part of a series of attempted attacks against Israeli targets around the world attributed to Iran. The same day as the 2012 New Delhi blast, a bomb was discovered on an Israeli diplomat’s car in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The next day, three Iranians accidentally blew up their house in Thailand.

There was speculation that those incidents were in response to Israel’s alleged assassinations of multiple Iranian nuclear scientists as Jerusalem fought to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

In September, the Politico news site reported that Iran was plotting to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa for the killing of Soleimani. Iran dismissed the allegation.

Iran already retaliated for Soleimani’s killing in January, firing missiles at a US base in Iraq, to which the US did not respond.