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Iran Crisis - February 2021

On 07 Feb 2021 U.S. President Joe Biden said he will not lift economic sanctions against Iran unless Tehran first cuts its uranium enrichment back to the level it agreed to in the 2015 international treaty aimed at restraining its development of nuclear weapons.

Israel's state-owned Kan television quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying Iran had "crossed a red line" in connection with an explosion on 25 February 2021 that struck the MV Helios Ray. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on February 27 that Iran was probably behind the explosion that struck the Israeli-owned vehicle carrier above the water line as it was traveling from the Saudi port of Dammam to Singapore. The explosion did not cause any casualties but left two 1.5-meter-diameter holes in the side of the vessel.

The explosion occurred around the same time as U.S. air strikes on February 25 targeted Iran-backed militia groups in eastern Syria believed to be behind a spate of recent rocket attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq. U.S. President Joe Biden said the air strike against an Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria should be seen by Tehran as a warning against any further aggressive actions. "You can't act with impunity," he told reporters on February 26 when asked what the message was from the air strikes announced a day earlier. "Be careful," he added during a stop in Houston as part of a tour to inspect relief efforts in the storm-ravaged state of Texas.

The Pentagon said two F-15E warplanes dropped seven precision-guided munitions on sites in eastern Syria used by the militias believed to be behind the rocket attacks on U.S. and other troops. The Pentagon said the strikes, the first military action undertaken by Biden's administration since he was sworn into office last month, hit "multiple facilities" at a control point on the Syria-Iraq border used by several Iran-backed militias, including the Iraqi Shi'ite groups Kataib Hizballah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. "This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity," spokesman John Kirby said, describing the site as a "compound" that previously had been used by the Islamic State (IS) terror group when it controlled the area.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said 28 February 2021 the present juncture is not a suitable time for holding an unofficial meeting with European Union and American officials on the landmark nuclear deal that Iran clinched with world powers in 2015, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Saeed Khatibzadeh said, "In view of the recent stances and measures taken by the United States and the three European countries [who are signatories to the JCPOA], the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that this is not a good time for holding an unofficial meeting on the accord as proposed by the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell."

Khatibzadeh's remarks followed an earlier report by The Wall Street Journal, which quoted senior diplomats as saying that Iran has rejected a European Union offer to arrange direct nuclear talks with the US. According to The Wall Street Journal, two senior Western diplomats said Iran has ruled out attending a meeting in Europe for now, saying it wanted a guarantee first that the US would lift some sanctions after the meeting.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:38:42 ZULU