US participates in “constructive” JCPOA talks in Vienna
BBC News, The Independent, The Times and Reuters report on the Biden administration joining talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the JCPOA nuclear deal. Iran is refusing to join any direct talks with the US until it lifts sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, thus forcing European representatives to act as intermediaries in Vienna. A Russian diplomat said the initial talks were “successful,” adding that: “It will take some time. How long? Nobody knows. The most important thing … is that practical work towards achieving this goal has started.” The talks are aimed at setting out specific steps the US and Iran can take to return to the deal. Initial reports suggest that the talks were “constructive” with the two countries agreeing to take initial steps towards salvaging the JCPOA, which will outline a path for the US lifting sanctions and Iran returning to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
Frank Gardner writes for BBC News about how Saudi Arabia fits into the crisis in Jordan. He argues: “One of the most prominent figures arrested on Saturday was Bassem Awadallah, the former head of Jordan’s Royal Court and now an economic adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As surviving Sunni Arab monarchies in a part of the world rocked to its foundations by the Arab Spring uprisings, both countries’ rulers have a vested interest in supporting each other. It is certainly hard to see the logic behind either of Jordan’s most powerful neighbours – Saudi Arabia or Israel – wanting to destabilise this small, relatively impoverished kingdom.”
The Times reports that Jordan’s Prince Hamzah has declared his loyalty to King Abdullah II after being accused of plotting a coup against him. In a statement, Hamzah said: “The interests of the homeland must remain above every consideration. We must all stand behind the king in his efforts to protect Jordan and its national interests.”
BBC News outlines the key players in the crisis that hit Jordan over the weekend. The report notes: “The saga has brought Jordan’s royals to global attention. So, who are they, and who else was involved in this high-stakes family drama?”
Con Coughlin argues for The Telegraph why the West cannot afford a revolution in Jordan. He writes: “The country is a beacon of stability in a troubled region – which is why, a hundred years after creating Jordan – we need to support it. The eruption of simmering inter-family tensions in public should certainly serve as a reminder to Jordan’s key allies in the West, most notably Britain and the US, not to take this vital country for granted.”
Kim Sengupta reports for The Independent about how ISIS leader Sa’id Abd Al Rahman al-Mawla revealed secrets about the jihadist group while in captivity. Al-Mawla became known as the “canary caliph” because he was “singing like a bird” to his American interrogators.
The Guardian reports that Amnesty International has “serious concerns” over the UK’s increasingly hostile attitude towards upholding and preserving human rights legislation. The group has criticised the UK’s cut in foreign aid to Yemen while resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The Associated Press reports that the fighting in the city of Marib, in war-torn Yemen, is central to understanding wider tensions in the Middle East. The report notes: “The battle for Marib will likely determine the outline of any political settlement in Yemen’s second civil war since the 1990s. If seized by the Houthis, the rebels can press that advantage in negotiations and even continue further south. If Marib is held by Yemen’s internationally recognised government, it will save perhaps its only stronghold as secessionists challenge its authority elsewhere. The fight is also squeezing a pressure point on the most powerful of America’s Gulf Arab allies and ensnarling any U.S. return to Iran’s nuclear deal.”
The Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given the mandate to try and form a government by President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin gave Netanyahu the mandate despite “ethical considerations” stemming from Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
The Times reports that the European Union has agreed to give Turkey more money in exchange for the country preventing a migrant surge over its borders with Europe. The EU has agreed to extend the five-year-old deal which saw Turkey receive €6bn to stop the flow of Middle Eastern migrants to Greece.
In the Israeli media, most of the papers focus on the report in the New York Times about at alleged Israeli strike on an Iranian ship in the Red Sea. A US official told the New York Times that the ship was hit with a limpet mine above the sea line around 7:30 local time on Tuesday. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that an intelligence firm believed the ship was used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for surveillance and espionage purposes and was known to Western intelligence. The Iranian news agency Tanzim confirmed the ship was attacked by mines attached to it, claiming it was stationed in the Red Sea for the past few years to “support Iranian commandos sent on commercial vessel (anti-piracy) escort missions.” Both Israel and Iran have accused each other recently of attacking several merchant ships with explosives, as part of the naval dimension to what has become known in Israel as the “campaign between the wars” against Iranian retrenchment in Syria and the wider region.
Yediot Ahornot reports that Sudan’s Cabinet voted on Tuesday to repeal a 1958 law that outlawed diplomatic and business relations with Israel. The move is seen in Israel as a vital a step that could pave the way for official visits and further diplomatic ties. Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen welcomed the decision, saying: “This is an important and necessary step toward the signing of a peace accord between the countries.” Last year Sudan’s sovereign council, headed by military figure Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, agreed to move toward normalised relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords. Sudan’s civilian authorities maintain that the decision to initiate relations with Israel will be left to the yet-to-be-formed transitional parliament.
Maariv reports that the third day of Netanyahu’s trial has begun in the Jerusalem District Court. Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua is continuing his testimony. According to the report, this morning Yeshua told the court that at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, Shaul and Iris Elowitz approached him and said that “this is a sensitive period and they do not want to upset Netanyahu”. The state Prosecutor asked what he meant, and Yeshua replied: “If there is hostile coverage, it could cause Netanyahu not to sign and there will be millions of shekels in damage to Bezeq”.
Walla provides a run-down of the key points from Yeshua’s testimony yesterday. Yeshua described the time when Shaul and Iris Elowitz summoned him to a meeting at their home, where they told him about a common concern between them and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that an investigation would be opened against them regarding Netanyahu’s relationship with Bezeq. Yeshua told the court that the Elowitzes asked him to take the blame for the biased coverage in favour of the prime minister at Walla and present it as his own initiative “for ideological reasons” if questioned by investigators.
Kan Radio reports that Holocaust Remembrance Day services will begin this evening at 20:00 at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Holocaust survivors will light six torches to represent the six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Tomorrow morning at 10:00 there will be a two-minute memorial siren, and the March of the Living will take place remotely, paying tribute to the doctors and nurses who acted with outstanding bravery and dedication during the Holocaust. According to statistics released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Jews alive today is roughly equal to the number of Jews alive in 1925 -14.8 million. On the eve of the Second World War, in 1939, there were 16.6 million Jews.
Israel Hayom notes that the UAE’s Ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja, arrived in Israel yesterday on the inaugural flight by Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi. Upon his arrive, Ambassador Al Khaja said: “Since the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, our two countries have worked together to embark upon a new and dynamic era of cooperation.” On Monday, the UAE removed Israel from the list of countries whose visitors will need to quarantine upon arrive due to COVID-19.
The Jerusalem Post reports on statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud meeting yesterday about the current JCPOA nuclear talks in Vienna. Netanyahu told his fellow Likud colleagues that, “The danger that Iran will return – and this time with an international imprimatur – to a path that will allow it to develop a nuclear arsenal is on our doorstep on this very day”. The article also quotes Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, who told Iranian state television that the participants to the talks will continue to discuss ways to revive the JCPOA nuclear deal. “The talks in Vienna were constructive… our next meeting will be on Friday,” he said.