Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Iran's cool response to the Biden administration's push for diplomatic engagement, along with rising tensions in the region, makes clear that salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal may be far more difficult than many had anticipated.

The state of play: Both the U.S. and Iran have entered the diplomatic dance, but it seems to be moving in circles.

The U.S. announced it was ready to hold direct nuclear talks and took symbolic steps to build goodwill, including removing limitations on the movement of Iranian diplomats at the UN and withdrawing the Trump administration's request for snapback sanctions at the Security Council.

  • The U.S. is not prepared to meet Iran's primary request: unilaterally removing sanctions.

The Iranians have continued to take a tough line, most notably by moving forward with a law that curtails the access of UN inspectors to several nuclear sites.

  • But the Iranians did signal that they want to leave open the window for diplomacy by reaching a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to allow the inspectors to continue the bulk of their work for another three months.

The U.S. and its European allies drew up a resolution to censure Iran over its move on inspections when the IAEA board of governors convenes this week in Vienna.

  • The Iranians reacted angrily, threatening to abandon the recent deal with the IAEA if the U.S. and Europeans follow through with the move to censure Iran.
  • The Iranians also rejected a proposal for an informal meeting of the deal's signatories, after previously expressing openness to such a gathering, saying the time isn’t right for talks.

Between the lines: Iran has accused President Biden of "buying time" by focusing on censuring Iran rather than removing sanctions. The Biden administration, meanwhile, contends that Iran has an opportunity to negotiate and isn't taking it.

Driving the news: As the diplomatic difficulties have grown, the U.S. and its allies have also been exchanging kinetic punches in recent days with Iran and its proxies.

  • The U.S. retaliated against the Iran-backed Shiite militia rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq with an airstrike on a militia base across the border in Syria.
  • After an Israeli ship was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, Israel retaliated by striking Iranian targets in Syria. Minister of Defense Benny Gantz claimed Iran had attacked the ship in an attempt to improve its bargaining position in nuclear talks.
  • Meanwhile, Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched three attacks against Saudi Arabia this week, including the firing of a missile on the Saudi capital Riyadh, which was intercepted.

What they're saying: Speaking to Hillary Clinton on her podcast, Secretary of State Tony Blinken acknowledged the difficulties of reengaging with Iran, but stressed the importance of doing so alongside European allies:

“They’re also prepared to join us in taking strong action as necessary against some of the other things Iran does that we don’t like. We’re a long way from getting back to where we were. We don’t know what Iran will do or won’t do."

What’s next: The next stage of the diplomatic standoff will come at the IAEA meeting in Vienna, over whether a resolution condemning Iran will pass.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 3, 2021 - World

U.S. contractor dies of "cardiac episode" after rockets hit Iraq airbase

One U.S. contractor died of a "cardiac episode" after least 10 rockets hit the Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq hosting U.S.-led coalition troops, a Pentagon spokesperson said Wednesday.

The big picture: It's the first rocket attack since the U.S. launched an airstrike against facilities in Syria associated with an Iran-backed militia group last week, citing recent assaults and "ongoing threats to American and coalition personnel in Iraq.

Updated 25 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: Unvaccinated kids must wear masks in school this fall — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level amid surge in cases — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.