All Eyes on Iran #96

Deepnews Digest #96

All Eyes on Iran

Not a year after the killing of Qasem Soleimani in January, this last week saw the assassination of another Iranian official, nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran’s leaders have vowed revenge for an action that complicates an already tangled web of relations in the Middle East. There are angles involving Europe and the U.S. as well, which all showed up as we set the Deepnews Scoring Model to look for quality, in-depth articles about everything related to Iran.

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Published every Friday

TIME

Iran’s Move to Speed Up Its Nuclear Program Complicates Biden’s Plan to Resume Diplomacy

Iran’s senior political body has ratified a bill to enrich uranium to 20%, a jump that if implemented would give Iran the capacity to convert its stockpile into weapons-grade fissile material within six months. The bill put forward by the Guardian Council throws down a gauntlet to President-elect Joe Biden and U.S. allies: ease sanctions within two months, or Iran will block access to international inspectors.

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Reuters

Special Report: Iran expands shrines and influence in Iraq

Iran is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing Shi’ite shrines in Iraq. In doing so it is binding its neighbour closer.

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The Globe and Mail

Iran treads cautiously after assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

In one sense, the year is ending the same way it began: with the world waiting to see how Iran responds to the assassination of one of its top officials.

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Asia Times

Iran cranking up its nukes to honor slain scientist

New backlash legislation requires government to stockpile highly enriched uranium and halt cooperation with UN’s IAEA

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South China Morning Post

Iran’s enemies are spoiling for a fight, so how will it respond to top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s assassination?

From cyberattacks to missile strikes to full-blown proxy warfare, Tehran‘s retaliation for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh could take many forms

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The Nation

Will Biden Condemn the Assassination of an Iranian Scientist?

The murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist presents a unique challenge to the president-elect.

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Commentary Magazine

Joe Biden’s Dream of a Worse Iran Nuclear Deal

This hasn’t been anyone’s year. But for the theocratic Iranian regime, it couldn’t have gone any worse.

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The Guardian

Europeans urged to quickly set out roadmap on Iran nuclear deal

France, Germany and the UK must move quickly to set out a roadmap for Iran and the incoming Biden administration in the US to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal, some of Europe’s leading diplomats have said.

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Pew Research

Iran widely criticized in 14 advanced economies

Iran once again has become a top focus of international tensions, with heightened concerns about its nuclear intentions coming on top of years of hostilities over its geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East. This also comes at a time when President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear pact brokered under the Obama administration and from which President Trump withdrew two years ago. But that may be complicated by the Nov. 27 assassination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed outside Tehran – for which Iranians have blamed Israel – as well as the killing of another top official, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. airstrike earlier this year.

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Editor’s Note:

Part of international relations is of course public perceptions. Here our model highlighted Pew looking over the results from surveys in countries around the world as interesting context for this week. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

New York Times

Killer robot? Assassination of Iranian scientist feeds conflicting accounts

Humiliated by the killing of a top nuclear scientist, Iranian officials sought this week to rewrite the attack as an episode of science fiction: Israel had executed him entirely by remote control, spraying bullets from an automated machine gun propped up in a parked Nissan without a single assassin on the scene.

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The Diplomat

Can Arms Control Make a 21st-Century Comeback?

The international arms control system has seen better days. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while leaving the last remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms accord, New START, dangling by a thread. Meanwhile, Trump’s sole major arms control initiative, personal negotiations with Kim Jong Un, generated no meaningful progress. The incoming Biden administration has signaled that it intends to reverse many of Trump’s withdrawals, but at least some of them are functionally irreversible.

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Middle East Eye

EXCLUSIVE: Iran tells MBZ it will hit UAE in response to a US attack

Threat given to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed directly hours before Emirati statement condemning assassination of nuclear scientist

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Slate

Biden’s Middle East Plans Just Got a Lot More Complicated

The assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist probably won’t trigger a war, but it will make it harder for President-elect Joe Biden to fashion some sort of peace in the region—and that may have been the intent.

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Bloomberg

OPEC+ clinches compromise on gradual easing of output cuts

The group will add 500,000 barrels a day of production to the market in January, and ministers will then hold monthly consultations to decide on the next steps.

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Times of Israel

Ex-Israeli intel chief: Slain Iranian nuke scientist near impossible to replace

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was as central to regime’s strategic efforts as Imad Mughniyeh and Qassem Soleimani, says Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF military intelligence

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Rest of World

How Iran’s biggest taxi app survived U.S. sanctions and app ban

Earlier this year, Apple removed RadickRadio from its App Store. It looked like a music app, like Spotify, and streamed a range of genres and artists. But once users with an Iranian IP address opened it, the true face of RadickRadio revealed itself — as Snapp, Iran’s first ride-hailing app.

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Editor’s Note:

One of the major tools in ongoing disputes over Iran’s nuclear program is international sanctions. Here our algorithm highlighted a piece from Rest of World, which tries to spotlight stories missed in major US and European outlets, on what the response has been for ridesharing in Tehran. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Responsible Statecraft

How US media manipulates Iran’s nuclear program into a sinister myth

Experts, media elites, and other Iran observers lit into New York Times national security reporter David Sanger this week for his sloppy — and perhaps “Judith Miller-level bad” — reporting on Iran’s nuclear program following the assassination of one of the country’s top nuclear scientists last week.

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New York Times

Biden: ‘We’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first’

Exactly how much he will get done will depend to a large degree on two things, Biden notes. One is how Republicans in the Senate and the US House of Representatives behave once Trump is truly gone from power. And the other is how McConnell behaves if he continues to control the Senate.

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POLITICO

Donald Trump pulling dozens of diplomats out of Iraq

The Trump administration is pulling out as many as half of America’s diplomats from the US embassy in Baghdad as tensions spike with Iran ahead of the first anniversary of the US killing of a top Iranian general.

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Haaretz

Killing Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Chief Was Justified. But It Wasn’t Wise

When Israel weighed up the targeted killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, there are ten criteria it should have considered. Instead it appears that Netanyahu chose a strike of marginal tactical importance over far bigger strategic gains

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Caixin

Biden Administration Could Offer Opening for a China Century in Middle East

The global implications of the United States electing a new president are always huge. This time around, with the replacement of Donald Trump by Joe Biden, the Middle East is one of the regions where the changing of the guard may be felt most powerfully.

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The Daily Beast

Trump Tells Pompeo: Go Wild on Iran, Just Don’t Risk ‘World War III’

The world passed the grim milestone of 1.5 million global coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as several nations planned to deliver much hoped-for vaccines early next year to break the cycle of lockdowns and restrictions.

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Reuters

Exclusive: European allies pushed back when Trump sanctioned Iran’s banks

Germany, France and Britain urged the Trump administration in late October to reconsider broad, new sanctions against Iran’s banks, arguing that the move would deter legitimate humanitarian trade and hurt the allies’ common interests, diplomatic correspondence shows.

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Foreign Policy

Biden Needs to Move Fast if He Wants a New Deal With Iran

Although President-elect Joe Biden had promised before this year’s U.S. election that he would return to the nuclear deal with Iran, doing so will be very difficult for him and for all those who hope that the 2015 agreement will be revived with U.S. support.

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Editor’s Note:

One of the shifting puzzle pieces is the incoming US administration. This piece from Foreign Policy and the one below from Bloomberg take different viewpoints on how Biden should act as he develops his own foreign policy after Trump. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Bloomberg

Biden Must Not Rush to Nuclear Diplomacy With Iran

He should bide his time, and rebuild the international consensus Trump destroyed.

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