November 4, 2021

Vienna Talks to Resume on November 29

Week of November 1st, 2021 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council

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Vienna Nuclear Negotiations to Resume on November 29

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri said in a tweet that the Vienna nuclear negotiations would resume on November 29th. Bagheri framed it in a tweet as Iran agreeing to “start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna.”

The EU, which has coordinated the Vienna negotiations, confirmed this date in a statement. The statement read in part: “Participants will continue the discussions on the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides.”

The Vienna negotiations to restore the JCPOA made significant progress in six rounds earlier this year and ended in June. Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a deal was “at hand” but the “opportunity was taken from his administration” to finalize it by domestic forces.

The U.S. State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price said in response to the date announcement: “Special Envoy Malley will, again, lead U.S. participation in these talks. We’ve said this many times before, but we believe it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by closing the relatively small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of June when the 6th round concluded.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian gave an interview to a newspaper where he was critical of the Biden administration. Abdollahian said if the U.S. “really” wanted to return to the JCPOA, President Biden could have issued an executive order returning to the deal and there was no need for negotiations.

Abdollahian said Iran’s foreign ministry is still reviewing whether to continue the Vienna talks from where they left off in June or not.

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U.S. & Iran Give Different Accounts of Gulf of Oman Confrontation

The IRGC’s press office in a statement claimed its forces repelled an attempt by the U.S. navy to commandeer a ship carrying Iranian oil in the Gulf of Oman. According to the narrative in Iranian media, U.S. forces captured an oil tanker carrying Iranian oil meant for export, then transferred this oil to another ship to take to an unknown location.

The IRGC says it carried out a military operation to take control of the ship carrying the Iranian oil and bring it to Iranian waters. The IRGC says the U.S. military with helicopters and navy ships tried to prevent this IRGC operation but failed to do so.

The IRGC released a video showing IRGC naval forces descending from a helicopter on the deck of the tanker. In the video, U.S. helicopters and naval ships are seen approaching the tanker, including the U.S.S. Murphy and the U.S.S. Sullivan. Then, according to the narrative of the video, IRGC ships take a “military formation,” the U.S. ships and helicopters back off, and the tanker is taken into Iranian waters.

According to Iranian media, this incident happened on October 25th.

The Pentagon has rejected Iran’s claims about the incident in the Gulf of Oman. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby called them “”absolutely, totally false and untrue.”

Kirby added: “There was no such effort by US naval assets to seize anything. What this refers to is back on the 24th of October, US Navy assets did monitor Iranian forces illegally boarding and seizing a merchant vessel in international waters in the Gulf of Oman.” He went on: “At no time were US forces attempting to retake or otherwise engage in the situation.”

Another U.S. official, speaking anonymously to AFP, said “two US vessels, together with aerial support, only watched the operation by IRGC forces.”

On November 4th, Vietnam announced it was in talks with Iran to secure the release of its tanker seized by Iran. This is the same tanker the Iranians seized and claimed Iranian oil was transferred to it. According to the Washington Post, the IRGC “on Oct. 24 took control of the MV Southys, a vessel that analysts suspect of trying to transfer sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Asia, at gunpoint.” Vietnam said it is engaging in “close cooperation” with Iran to have its tanker released.

Amwaj Media says Iran’s seizure of the Vietnamese tanker may be “retaliation for the 2020 US seizure of an Iranian oil cargo.” The vessel and crew seized were involved in that earlier incident and reportedly cooperated with the U.S. to take Iran’s oil and then sell it for $40 million.

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Hackers Leak Documents from Evin Prison

A group of hackers known as “Ali’s Justice” have leaked classified documents from Tehran’s Evin prison. The same group released videos showing abuses of prisoners at Evin earlier this year.

This new set of documents was sent to BBC Persian, which says it has not been able to independently verify them. Many of the documents are from November 2019, when protests broke out across Iran after the government abruptly increased the price of gasoline. According to Amnesty International, at least 311 people were killed during these protests, which the government violently cracked down upon.

The documents show prison officials calling for measures to increase security measures for detention centers, especially those imprisoning political prisoners. The documents also authorize the use of “hot weapons,” but only as a last resort when other measures have failed.

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