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Joe Biden wants to erase the last four years. In the Mideast, that won’t be easy

A dramatic new political reality has dawned in Washington. But back in the Middle East, a distracted US president won’t have much room to maneuver on Iran and the Palestinians

Joe Biden’s cousin Joe Blewitt speaks to the media underneath his mural painted on a wall in Ballina, Ireland, January 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

There’s a new president in the White House who has already shown himself to be a radical departure from the last one. In his first hours in office, Joe Biden signed executive orders freezing or reversing some of his predecessor Donald Trump’s signature policies: the Mexico border wall, the ban on travel from several Muslim nations, the American withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and so on.

In the Middle East, Israelis, Saudis, Iranians, Palestinians, and many others are bracing for a similar dramatic pivot in America’s policies toward the region. The painful sanctions imposed by Trump on Iran, Trump’s freeze of aid to the Palestinians and recognition of Israel’s West Bank settlements, the backing for Israeli-Arab normalization agreements and the boosting of the Israeli-Saudi alliance to contain Iranian ambitions throughout the Arab world — these policies and others have helped reshape the geopolitics of the region over the past four years, and all could now be up for reconsideration by the new administration.

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Yadlin: Iranian nuclear program crossed ‘red line’

Former military intelligence head: Tehran needs to make decision about nuclear program following Iranian presidential elections.

Yadlin INSS 311
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz

Iran has crossed the nuclear red line set by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin announced on Tuesday.

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies, which he heads, Yadlin later clarified the remarks, saying, “If Iran continues to enrich uranium at its current rate, toward the end of the year it will cross the red line in a clear manner.”

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Iran’s Rouhani hopes Biden will return to Obama-era nuclear deal as he dubs Trump a ‘tyrant’

By Ramin Mostaghim and James Griffiths, CNN

Updated 3:23 AM ET, Wed January 20, 2021

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has called on United States President-elect, Joe Biden, to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions imposed on Tehran by Donald Trump’s administration.

Speaking at a televised cabinet meeting Wednesday, Rouhani said the ball was “in the US court now.” “If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact,” he said, adding in reference to Trump that “a tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign.”
 
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TV: Israel warns ‘nothing to discuss’ with Biden if returns to Iran deal as is

But some in defense establishment said to disagree with Netanyahu’s more confrontational approach to US plans; premier to hold talks with security chiefs in coming days

Left: US President-elect Joe Biden on January 14, 2021, in Wilmington, Delaware (AP Photo/Matt Slocum); Right: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 9, 2020. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Israeli television on Wednesday reported that Jerusalem is warning an American return to the former terms of the nuclear deal with Iran under President Joe Biden could lead the countries to a crisis in relations.

Channel 12 news cited “a very senior Israeli official” as saying: “If Biden adopts Obama’s plan, we will have nothing to talk about with him.” The official was referencing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by former president Barack Obama in 2015.

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Congratulating Biden, Netanyahu urges him to build on peace deals, confront Iran

Unlike after his election victory, Israeli leaders waste no time in welcoming new US president; PM also tweets thanks to Trump ‘for all the great things you have done for Israel’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris following their inauguration, January 20, 2021 (video screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th US president on Wednesday and urged him to build on the series of peace deals the Trump administration brokered between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors.

Netanyahu, in a video message, also highlighted an area on which the leaders appear to be headed for confrontation, urging the new president to work with Israel to confront “the threat posed by Iran.” Biden has said he intends to reenter the 2015 Iran deal, which Netanyahu bitterly opposed and successfully lobbied president Donald Trump to abandon.

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Guided by domestic concerns, Biden aims to reenter Iran deal as ‘first step’

Despite objections by Israel, other countries, and many US lawmakers, president-elect wants to avoid escalation in Middle East so he can focus on America’s challenges

AP — A lot of the characters are the same for US President-elect Joe Biden as they were in 2015, but the scene is far starker, as he reassembles a team of veteran negotiators to get back into the nuclear deal with Iran.

US President Donald Trump worked to blow up the multinational deal to contain Iran’s nuclear program during his four years in office, gutting the diplomatic achievement of predecessor Barack Obama in favor of what Trump called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran.

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Qatar’s FM wants Gulf Arab nations to talk with Iran – report

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Bloomberg that Qatar has urged Gulf Arab nations to enter a dialog with Iran and that it was the right time for Doha to broker negotiations.
“This is also a desire that’s shared by other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries,” he told Bloomberg TV in an interview.
The Qatari foreign minister added that his government was supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard early this month.
Commenting separately on potential US-Iran talks, he said that Qatar will facilitate the discussions if asked and will support whoever is chosen to do so.
“We want the accomplishment, we want to see the deal happening,” he said of potential talks between Washington and Tehran.

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Lavrov: Israel should inform Moscow of Iranian threats in Syria, not bomb them

Russian FM says if his government were given intel, it would take action so IDF wouldn’t have to, following recent reports of major strikes on Iran-linked sites in eastern Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke out against Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked sites in Syria on Monday, saying Jerusalem should instead provide Moscow with intelligence about such threats so that it can “neutralize” them.

“If Israel is really forced to respond to threats to the Israeli security coming from the Syrian territory, we have told our Israeli colleagues many times: if you see such threats please give us the information,” Lavrov said at a press conference, according to the Kremlin’s Sputnik news site.

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Massive Iran missile drill is message to US, Gulf and Israel – analysis

Footage from Iran shows the missiles and precision strikes.

A missile unveiled by Iran is launched in an unknown location in Iran in this picture received by Reuters on August 20, 2020
(photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
A massive Iranian missile drill showcasing long range missiles, drones and other weapons is taking place this weekend and serves as a message to Gulf countries, the US and Israel.
 
It comes a year after Iran launched ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq and follows Tehran’s sending of missile technology to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen in recent years.
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Pompeo hits Iran, China, Cuba in last-minute sanctions push

Days before leaving office, US punishes Chinese steel company and UAE-based building materials firm for working with Iran Shipping Lines

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes part in a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday imposed sanctions on three of his primary targets — China, Iran and Cuba — in a last-minute push aimed in part at boxing in President-elect Joe Biden.

Five days before he turns in his keys at the State Department, Pompeo vowed to punish China over its clampdown in Hong Kong — a stance backed by Biden — but moved further away from Biden’s goal of easing tensions with Iran and Cuba.

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