Talos Regional Snapshot – 5 August 2022

Aug 5, 2022



Iran and US resume JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. In a surprise development, efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) resumed in Vienna on 5 August, following a sudden and unexpectedly successful initiative by EU officials this week. The resumption of the negotiations was confirmed by EU representative Enrique Mora in a statement on 3 August. The brief statement indicated current efforts would focus on implementing the full text of a draft agreement discussed on 20 July. US and Iranian officials also confirmed their participation in the talks, as did Russian representatives who have previously been accused by the West of sabotaging the negotiations.

In line with previous rhetoric, US officials downplayed expectations for any significant breakthrough. Speaking ahead of his departure, US Envoy Robert Malley said expectations were “in check” but that he welcomed the EU-led initiative which follows talks in Qatar held in July. For their part, Iranian officials maintained their commitment to the negotiations but continued to accuse the US of the delays in implementing the agreement. Addressing the UN Security Council this week, Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said the US failed to provide “assurances” that Iran will enjoy economic benefits from the agreement, echoing concerns repeatedly expressed by Iranian officials over the course of recent negotiations. As of 5 August, no significant progress was announced but the outcome of the talks will be discussed in later reporting.

The resumption of the talks understandably raise the outlook for statement-type attacks by Iran-aligned actors to put pressure on the negotiations in line with standing trends. So far, no significant hostile reactions have been observed directly linked with the JCPOA talks this week but associated threat considerations are worth monitoring.

Iran deploys additional centrifuges ahead of Vienna talks. On 1 August, a spokesperson of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it commenced gas supplies to IR-1 and more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, in a move set to accelerate the enrichment of uranium. Behrouz Kamalvadi added that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was informed of the move which is consistent with the 2020 ‘Strategic Action Plan’ passed by the Iranian parliament that authorized an acceleration of Iranian nuclear activities.

Meanwhile, IAEA Secretary General Raphael Grossi once again warned about the progress of the nuclear program, which is moving “very, very fast”. Grossi also reiterated calls for greater Iranian transparency following the destruction of monitoring equipment deemed essential to determine the progress of the uranium enrichment program.

US announce new sanctions on China and UAE-based entities. On 1 August, the US Treasury Department announced the imposition of additional sanctions targeting commercial entities linked to the Iranian oil industry. This included a total of six companies, including four based in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, and one in the UAE. The statement said that Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial – a large Iranian-state linked enterprise – used the mentioned firms to export oil to the Asian market, circumventing existing sanctions.


Annual inflation in Turkey rise to nearly 80%. On 3 August, the Turkish Statistical Institute announced that annual inflation reached 79.6% – a one percent increase from June and the highest recorded in the country in nearly 25 years. The rapid increase is set to further erode confidence in President Tayyip Recep Erdogan ahead of the 2023 national elections, with critics blaming the government’s unorthodox insistence on pressuring the central bank to reduce, rather than increase, interest rates. Thus far, wider economic effects have been offset by the unexpectedly strong growth of the Turkish economy yet support for Erdogan is likely to decrease should inflationary concerns continue to accelerate and the economy contract.

Erdogan and Putin set to meet in Sochi. President Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Sochi, Russia on 5 August – making Erdogan the first NATO leader to visit Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. The visit follows the previously discussed trilateral meeting between Erdogan, Putin and Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in Tehran for a tripartite discussion on the Astana Peace Process and other regional issues. The meeting also follows a recent agreement regarding Ukrainian grain exports brokered by Turkey, which is expected to be the focal point of the upcoming meeting. The dialogue is also expected to discuss continuous threats regarding another Turkish cross-border incursion into northern Syria.


Muqtada al-Sadr calls for dissolution of Parliament and early elections after hailing ‘liberation of the Green Zone’. In a televised speech on 3 August, Muqtada al-Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and for early elections to be held as Sadrist protesters continue to occupy the Iraqi Parliament building. Sadr called for the sit-in demonstration to continue following conflicting messages regarding a possible withdrawal the previous day, while firmly rejecting calls for negotiations with the rival Coordination Framework (CF). Earlier in the week, the political crisis escalated when Sadr’s praised the liberation of the GZ while calling for a change in the political system. Supporters inside Parliament also held an informal voting session to declare Sadr the new ‘ruler of Iraq’.

Protests by Coordination Framework and Sadrists unfold peacefully amidst concerns over escalation. Sadr’s statements were understandably viewed as an attempted political coup by the rival CF and on 1 August, supporters of the alliance – which includes various Iran-linked factions and Muqtada al-Sadr’s main rival Nuri al-Maliki – gathered near GZ. Following a brief confrontation with security forces, the protesters retreated after calls by CF leaders not to enter the GZ and a major escalation did not materialize amidst widespread concerns. Further details are provided in the full report.

Obscure militia faction warns of intent to target coalition bases in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. On 1 August, Ashab al-Kahf, an established front group for mainstream Iranian-backed militias, released a statement threatening diverse foreign actors in light of the above-discussed unrest.  The group stated to the effect that divisions between the two Shia sides were “forbidden,” attributing those perpetrating this “sedition” to being backed by diverse US-aligned international actors.  The group specifically blamed the British Embassy, US Embassy, the embassies of other NATO contributors, as well as the Israeli, Emirati, and Saudi governments.  Ashab al-Kahf stated that none of their sites “will remain safe if this situation continues,” with “clear targets” identified as “US and British bases” in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. See full report.

This statement corresponded with an increase in anti-US sentiments and accusations of ‘foreign interference’ on the sidelines of the spike in civil unrest.  Iranian-backed groups commonly issue allegations along these lines in an attempt to shift the narrative for divisions between competing Shia political actors, with US-aligned foreign government actors amounting to an attractive scapegoat. This is also consistent with assessed Iranian intent to bridge existing divisions within the CF and downplay narratives of intra-Shia disputes. See full report details Iranian reactions and assessed objectives.

Saudi Arabia

US approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Weeks after President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, the US approved the sale of advanced missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia and the UAE – an agreement reportedly worth $5 billion in total. The sale includes Patriot Air Defense batteries and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, both framed as ‘defensive weapons’ in line with the administration’s earlier pledge to ban the sale of ‘offensive’ weapons systems to these countries. The sales are understandably intent to shore up US’ commitment to existing regional partnerships, in line with the rhetoric employed during Biden’s visit in July.

Saudi Arabia welcomes killing of AQ-leader Zawahiri. The Saudi Foreign Ministry released a statement praising the assassination of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in a US UAV strike in Afghanistan on 1 August. The statement described the Egyptian-born Zawahiri, who succeeded Usama bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda in 2011, as responsible for the death of ‘thousands’ of civilians. Meanwhile, the US warned of potential retaliatory attacks by AQ-affiliated groups in the wake of the killing, with the State Department warning of “higher potential for anti-American violence” following the operation on 1 August. Further details were not provided and the warning appears primarily as a general precaution rather than a response to a specific threat.

OPEC+ agree on small increase in oil production. On 3 August, members of the OPEC+ agreed to increase oil production by 100 thousand barrels/day in September – significantly below the increase of 650 thousand barrels/day announced in June. The announcement followed a widely anticipated meeting weeks after President’s efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to a larger increase during his visit to the Middle East. The modest increase represents a marginal change to current production levels and falls well short of US expectations while reiterating Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to its informal oil alliance with Russia.


Yemen parties agree to extend truce. On 3 August, the main warring factions in Yemen agreed to extend the UN-brokered truce for another month. The truce, which was initially announced in April, has been extended on two occasions since, but the one-month extension falls short of more ambitious expectations for a more permanent and long-term agreement. Special Envoy Hans Grundberg said all sides agreed to “intensify negotiations” to expand the current arrangement, after initially pushing for a six-month extension. Diplomatic negotiations reportedly intensified in recent weeks following President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, however, the absence of more significant progress underscores the continued fragility and mistrust on both sides.

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