Latest Developments

European governments are reportedly pressuring the Biden administration to revive efforts to reach a new nuclear deal with Iran despite a deepening of Iranian-Russian strategic relations and ongoing protests throughout Iran. Russia’s deputy prime minister is expected to visit Iran on May 16 to meet with the Central Bank of Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum. Meanwhile, Kyiv reported shooting down four Iranian-made kamikaze drones overnight. Senior Biden administration officials are expected to brief U.S. senators on Iran on May 16 following Washington’s May 12 announcement that America will be increasing its naval presence near the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of Iran’s seizure of a U.S.-bound oil tanker.

Expert Analysis

“Russia sees the regime in Iran as an invaluable ally in its war against Ukraine — not just for drones and potentially missiles but for economic sanctions evasion. Lifting sanctions on Tehran as part of a nuclear deal would be a massive boon to Moscow’s efforts to circumvent Western sanctions and provide it the money to fund its continued slaughter of Ukrainians.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Given Iran’s ongoing military and economic support to Russia, its sponsorship of terrorism, and the continued plight of Iranian women, making the case on Capitol Hill for a nuclear deal involving U.S. sanctions relief will prove extraordinarily challenging. That means the Biden administration still needs a Plan B for dealing with Iranian escalation both in the nuclear and conventional domains — a plan based on pressure and deterrence, not carrots and more carrots.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“America’s allies and partners across the Atlantic are in an awkward position, simultaneously seeking to offset Russia’s Iranian-aided offensives in Ukraine while beseeching Washington to get back into an accord that would underwrite more Iranian drone sales, potential missile transfers, and increased Russo-Iranian coordination on sanctions evasion.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Russia-Iran Ties Continue

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak will reportedly meet with Iran’s oil minister and central bank governor during a two-day stay in Tehran starting May 16. Russia and Iran have previously announced efforts to evade U.S. energy sanctions, including recent Russian fuel deliveries to Iran by rail, a claimed oil product swap agreement, and a linking of the two countries’ banking systems. Iran continues a steady supply of drones to Russia, while Moscow may reportedly supply Iran with sanctioned missile fuel. Iranian media last week reported a first shipment of Russian Su-35 jet fighters may soon arrive.

What Could a Nuclear Deal Look Like?

Last year, the Biden administration offered to provide Iran upfront, non-statutory sanctions relief in exchange for Iran halting its enrichment of uranium to 60 percent purity, which is close to weapons-grade. Washington also proposed lifting sanctions imposed by executive order on Iran’s petrochemical, automotive, construction, iron, steel, aluminum, copper, mining, manufacturing, and textiles sectors while also removing 17 Iranian banks from the U.S. sanctions list. Many of these sectors are tied to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. FDD previously estimated that rescinding these executive orders could provide Iran with sanctions-free access to least $30 billion in annual export revenue.

Related Analysis

Iran Deal Would Help Putin, Undermine Ukraine,” FDD Flash Brief

Less for More Is the Worst Deal of All,” by Jacob Nagel and Mark Dubowitz

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