China and Iran, both subject to U.S. sanctions, signed a 25-year cooperation agreement in Tehran on Saturday.
Why it matters: China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran's economy over that time period in exchange for a steady and heavily discounted supply of oil from the country, according to a draft of the agreement obtained by the New York Times.
The Justice Department announced charges against 10 Iranian nationals on Friday for running a nearly 20-year-long scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on the government of Iran.
Why it matters: The DOJ said the defendants, who are believed to be outside the U.S., helped the country evade sanctions by disguising more than $300 million worth of transactions through front companies in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
In the first round of U.S.-Israel strategic talks on Iran last week, senior national security and foreign policy officials laid down all they know about Iran's nuclear program, three senior Israeli officials familiar with the talks tell me.
Why it matters: Amid President Biden’s push for diplomatic reengagement with Iran, the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue is intended to hash out differences in approach and coordinate on the path forward.
Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner praised the Biden administration for its Iran strategy, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Biden's refusal to remove sanctions before Iran returns to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal is a "smart diplomatic move."
Why it matters: Kushner led Middle East peace talks on behalf of the Trump administration. Former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal in 2018, and many Republicans have called on President Biden not to return to the agreement.
State Department Iran envoy Rob Malley tells Axios the U.S. and Israel want to avoid the sort of public confrontation over Iran that took place during the Obama administration.
Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly campaigned against Obama's attempts to reach an agreement with Iran between 2013 and 2015 — including in a highly controversial speech to Congress. This created a rift that scarred both sides.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.
Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.
France, Germany and the U.K. have backed off a plan to censure Iran for its lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the UN nuclear watchdog's quarterly meeting in Vienna, European diplomats tell me.
Why it matters: The U.S. and the three European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal (known as the E3) are attempting to revive diplomacy with Tehran, while also responding to Iran's continual breaches of the deal. But after the plan to censure Iran emerged, Iran reacted angrily and rejected a proposal for nuclear talks.
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.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that conditions are not ripe for informal nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.
Why it matters: The Biden administration had proposed the talks as part of its efforts to negotiate a path back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The White House expressed disappointment with Iran's response, but said it remained willing to engage with Tehran.
The southeastern region of Iran on Saturday reported internet disruptions following demonstrations against Monday's fatal border shootings, AP reports.
The big picture: Iran has a history of suppressing freedom of speech, association and assembly, according to Amnesty International. Internet blackouts are now common around the world when power hangs in the balance, Axios' Dave Lawler and Sara Fischer write.