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Tehran and Washington Signal Slow Going for Nuclear Deal

As Iran prepares to inaugurate a new president, the diplomacy seen during Hassan Rouhani’s term may be consigned to history.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gives a speech as President Hassan Rouhani listens
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gives a speech as President Hassan Rouhani listens in Tehran on Oct. 24, 2020. KHAMENEI.IR/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The United States mulls further Iran sanctions, Japan extends Tokyo state of emergency, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power to visit Ethiopia in humanitarian push.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The United States mulls further Iran sanctions, Japan extends Tokyo state of emergency, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power to visit Ethiopia in humanitarian push.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

U.S. and Iran Spar Over Nuclear Commitments

With summer dragging on, the United States and Iran seem far from reaching an agreement on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal as a more conservative president prepares to take office next week.

On Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly chastised President Hassan Rouhani, along with his cabinet, in a meeting broadcast on state television. “In this government, it was shown up that trust in the West does not work,” Khamenei said.

He went on to accuse the United States of nitpicking and duplicity in negotiations in Vienna, saying that U.S. negotiators insisted on including a sentence that would set the stage for talks on aspects not covered under the nuclear agreement.

“By putting this sentence, they want to provide an excuse for their further interventions on the principle of [the deal] and missile program and regional issues,” Khamenei said. “If Iran refuses to discuss them, they will say that you have violated the agreement and the agreement is over.”

After news of the meeting broke, the U.S. response was swift. The State Department accused Iran of “deflection,” saying it was ready to resume negotiations but that the “opportunity will not last forever.”

More sanctions. But as the United States preaches cooperation, it also plans to further harness the tools of coercion. A Wall Street Journal report on Thursday revealed the White House is planning to apply further sanctions on Iran in an effort to disrupt its drone and precision-missile production, which U.S. officials now see as a greater immediate threat than its long-range missiles or nuclear program.

Road map or smokescreen? Time will tell whether Khamenei’s words are mere bluster or a road map for incoming President Ebrahim Raisi. Regardless of whether Iran trusts the West, it still languishes under severe economic sanctions it is eager to see lifted. Giving up on Vienna would mean walking away from the opportunity of relief. Khamenei’s words, taken at face value, suggest that he sees the relief a new agreement would bring as only fleeting.

Water woes. Aside from international pressure, Iran’s leaders have their own domestic stresses to handle. Residents in Khuzestan province have protested for weeks over water shortages caused in part by diversion projects to facilitate oil drilling. Those protests have sparked lower-level demonstrations in cities across the country, as Amnesty International reports that security forces have killed at least eight demonstrators.

What We’re Following Today

U.S.-Cuba policy. U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes representatives of the Cuban American community to the White House today as the administration mulls further sanctions on the Cuban government following protests earlier this month. Biden’s team will also consider ways to bolster the island’s access to the internet to prevent outages that occurred around the July 11 protests and consider methods for Cuban Americans to send money to friends and family in Cuba. The administration has reportedly rejected the idea of restoring remittances outright.

Writing in Foreign Policy on Thursday, Richard Fontaine and Kara Frederick outlined why the United States should back plans to expand internet access to Cuba and other closed-off states.

Japan vs. COVID-19. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce the expansion of Tokyo’s state of emergency to include the cities of Osaka, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba. The decision comes as Tokyo has seen record daily COVID-19 cases for three days running. Speaking on Friday, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the increase in cases in Tokyo two weeks after a state of emergency was initially announced was an “alarming development that is different from anything we have seen before.” Overall, Japan reported 10,684 new cases on Thursday, its largest spike since the pandemic began.

Tigray’s food crisis. U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power will travel to Ethiopia next week as part of a U.S. campaign to ensure humanitarian access to the Tigray region and to encourage negotiations between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Power is set to meet with Ethiopia’s National Security Advisor Gedu Andargachew and could also meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a USAID official said. Power will also meet with United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who is also traveling to the country. The diplomatic push comes as the U.N. World Food Program warned that Tigray would run out of food as of today if an aid convoy was not allowed enter the region.

Keep an Eye On

Brazil’s election. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continued to cast doubt on the integrity of the country’s election system on Thursday as he shared videos online of alleged ballot fraud in previous elections. Bolsonaro has repeatedly called into question the reliability of electronic voting machines, allegations Brazil’s electoral authorities insist are unfounded. Bolsonaro—who is behind his rival former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2022 election polls—has pushed for a dual system whereby votes are recorded both electronically and physically.

Peru’s politics. Peru’s new President Pedro Castillo chose Guido Bellido, a congressman and fellow member of his Marxist Free Peru party, as his prime minister as part of a cabinet announcement on Thursday, setting up a tense confirmation battle with the country’s opposition-led Congress. Bellido courted controversy in a local media interview in April when he expressed sympathy for members of Shining Path—a Maoist guerrilla group that fought a bloody insurgency during the 1980s and 1990s. Although Castillo has named most of his cabinet, he has yet to nominate a finance minister.

Odds and Ends

A new study has singled out New Zealand as the best country in which to ride out a societal collapse, whether it be from a financial, climate, or health-based calamity. Researchers at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University ranked countries on criteria that included their ability to grow enough food to sustain their populations, easily enforce border measures, and maintain an electricity supply. New Zealand won out, researchers said, due to its low population density, renewable energy potential, and arable land.

If New Zealand is out of reach, the study also deemed the island nations of Iceland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom as suitable alternatives.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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