Posts Tagged ‘France’

Nikki Haley Urges UN to Challenge Iranian Actions — “Iran must be judged in totality of its destructive and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise is foolish.”

October 19, 2017

Bloomberg

By Kambiz Foroohar

 
  • Other Security Council envoys focus on Israel-Palestine issues
  • Trump last week declined to certify nuclear accord with Iran
Nikki Haley Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council to consider a wide range of Iran’s “destabilizing” actions in the Middle East in an early test of whether President Donald Trump’s toughening position on the Islamic Republic is alienating allies and leaving the U.S. isolated internationally.

Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, used a Security Council meeting Wednesday on “the situation in the Middle East” to once again take on Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and its support for Hezbollah and Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad. But most of the other participants sought to focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues, especially Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

The meeting was the first public effort to gauge support for the U.S. position on Iran after Trump declined to certify the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, on Oct. 13. Trump, making a determination required under U.S. law every 90 days, said the agreement with Iran and five other nations wasn’t serving U.S. national security interests, though he stopped short of quitting the accord entirely.

“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley told the Security Council. “Iran must be judged in totality of its destructive and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise is foolish.”

Despite Trump’s criticisms, U.S. allies have said they continue to back the agreement, pointing to International Atomic Energy Agency assessments that Iran has met its requirements under the accord. The agreement, negotiated during the Obama administration, was intended to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Read a QuickTake Q&A on how Trump wants to build a new nuclear deal

Follow the Trump Administration’s Every Move

Europe’s position hasn’t changed since Trump’s speech, said Olof Skoog, Sweden’s ambassador to the UN. Skoog said the Middle East debate should focus on the peace process and not the nuclear deal.

“The nuclear agreement is underpinned by UN Security Council resolutions. It’s clear where we stand,” Skoog said. “The EU is determined to preserve the JCPOA as a key pillar of the international nonproliferation architecture.”

Representatives of Japan and the U.K. said Wednesday that they continued to support the Iran accord and that all of the participating nations should continue to abide by its provisions.

‘Confused’ Delegates

In a swipe at Haley, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said he wondered if “some delegates” were confused about the agenda item. “The fact that some delegations did not mention the word ‘Palestine’ saddens us,” he said.

The Security Council has maintained a critical stance toward Israel for years, and Arab nations, including U.S. allies, have resisted shifting that emphasis. Israel’s settlement policies are routinely criticized at the Security Council.

During her confirmation hearings in January, Haley said one of her main goals was to change the “anti-Israel bias” at the UN.

“Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” she said at the hearing. The U.S. envoy frequently criticizes Iran’s regional role, its testing of ballistic missiles and human rights violations. In July, she helped persuade France, Germany and the U.K. to sign a letter of protest to the Security Council about Iran’s “threatening and provocative” launch of a rocket that can carry a satellite into space.

But this time, France and the U.K. have signaled they will focus less on Iran and more on the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

“For some countries this is an opportunity to go beyond the peace process itself to describe the situation in region — some countries might do that,” François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN, said before Wednesday’s hearing. “For others it’s also a great opportunity to focus precisely on the peace process, what needs to be done, and settlement activity. As for France, we will focus on the Middle East peace process, but I cannot say I will not mention other issues as well.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-18/haley-to-press-un-security-council-on-iran-after-trump-decision

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Sahel poses new risks after jihadists ambush US forces in Niger

October 19, 2017

AFP

© STR / AFP | UN troops carry on a stretcher the body of one of the seven UN peacekeepers from Niger who were killed in an ambush, at the airport in Abidjan.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-19

The Islamic militants came on motorcycles toting rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing four American service members after shattering the windows of the unarmored US trucks.

In this remote corner of Niger where the Americans and their local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders, residents say the men who came to kill that day had never been seen there before.

“The attackers spoke Arabic and Tamashek, and were light-skinned,” Baringay Aghali, told The Associated Press by phone from the remote village of Tongo-Tongo.

Who were these men and how did they know the Americans would be there that day?

 No automatic alt text available.

No extremist group has claimed responsibility for the deadly ambush on Oct. 4 and the languages reportedly spoken by the jihadists are used throughout the Sahel including Tamashek, spoken by ethnic Tuaregs.

IS splinter group

The ambush of US troops in Niger has been the center of controversy in America because President Donald Trump has been criticized in some quarters, including by one grieving family directly, for the way he spoke to the wife of one of the soldiers slain in that operation.

The Niger attack appears to be the work of the Islamic State of the Sahel, a splinter group of extremists loyal to the Islamic State group who are based just across the border in Mali, according to interviews with US officials and authorities here in the vast Sahel region bordering the Sahara Desert. It is led by Adnan Abu Walid who built ties with various extremists before forming his own group.

Some officials believe Walid’s militants are also holding an American, Jeffery Woodke, who was abducted in Niger a year ago. A rebel leader approached by Niger authorities to conduct negotiations for his release confirmed that Walid’s group is holding Woodke, who had spent 25 years as an aid worker in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Now Walid’s group is suspected of the attack that killed four American soldiers this month.

The ambush in Niger highlights how extremist groups have shifted and rebranded since the 2013 French-led military operation ousted them from power in northern Mali. Those extremists lost Mali’s northern cities but regrouped in the desert, including the man suspected of ordering the attack on the Americans.

Walid, 38, also known in some circles as Adnan al-Sahrawi, descends from the Sahrawi people, who are found across southern Morocco, Mauritania and parts of Algeria. He has long been active with Islamic extremists in Mali, at one time serving as the spokesman of the Mali-based group known as MUJAO that controlled the major northern town of Gao during the jihadist occupation in 2012.

That group was loyal to the regional al-Qaida affiliate. But Walid parted ways and in October 2016 a video circulated on the internet in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

In the year since then he has called for attacks on foreign tourists in Morocco and the UN mission in Western Sahara, according to audio messages released in his name. It is not clear if Walid is receiving financial help from the Islamic State group or if the links are purely ideological.

Walid’s following now includes numerous members of the Peul ethnic group in the Mali-Niger border areas, who are active in the area near where the attack on the US soldiers took place. Before the attack on the US troops in Niger, Walid’s followers are believed to have staged a series of bloody attacks on military installations in Niger. In February, they were blamed for an assault in Tliwa where a dozen Niger soldiers were slain.

Walid’s Islamic State in the Sahel does not yet pose a threat as great as the al-Qaida militants in the region though that could shift with time, said Ibrahim Maiga with the Institute for Security Studies in Bamako. Walid clearly appears to have learned from his former colleagues on how to infiltrate and influence locals, he said.

“He has succeeded … in creating links with local people despite the fact that he is a stranger to the area,” he said.

A ‘continuous downward spiral’

The growing threat posed by Walid’s group comes as the international community is already facing an escalation in violence across the Sahel. A report by the UN chief obtained this week by AP warned that the security situation in the Sahel is in “a continuous downward spiral.”

For several years American and French forces have provided training and support to the militaries of Mali, Niger and other vulnerable countries in this corner of Africa where Islamic extremism has become increasingly entrenched over the past decade. Now the UN is urging the international community to finance a 5,000-strong regional force, with the head of the UN saying “the stability of the entire region, and beyond, is in jeopardy.”

The 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has become the most dangerous in the world as Islamic militants routinely attack UN convoys across the north.

And the future of the regional security force known as the G5 Sahel Multinational Force – made up of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – appears to be in jeopardy.

France, the former colonizer which has a 5,000-strong military operation to help stabilize the region – has been a major financial backer. Funding, though, has come up short.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in June welcoming the deployment, but at U.S. insistence it did not include any possibility of U.N. financing for the force. So far only one-quarter of the needed funds have been raised, throwing into doubt whether the regional forces will begin operations this month as scheduled.

Maiga, the Malian security expert, said winning the battle against extremism will not be only a question of firepower. If it were a conventional conflict with two armies respecting roughly the same rules, the G5 would come out stronger.

Jihadist groups, though, are infiltrating the population, exploiting the absence of government in some of these remote areas. That is how Walid’s group may have learned about the visit of the US troops to local communities. Within the communities where troops are attacked, someone is tipping off the extremists.

“The outcome of this battle will not depend solely on the size of the troops,” he said, “but also on the ability of states to regain the confidence of the population.”

(AP)

G7 to focus on foreign fighter fallout from rout of IS

October 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Ella IDE | A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) walks through a heavily damaged a street in Raqa, Syria on October 18, 2017

ISCHIA (ITALY) (AFP) – The threat of fresh attacks on the West by foreign fighters fleeing the fallen Islamic State stronghold of Raqa is set to dominate a G7 meeting of interior ministers in Italy.The two-day gathering, which kicks off Thursday on the Italian island of Ischia, comes just days after US-backed forces took full control of the jihadists’ de facto Syrian capital.

Most foreign fighters are believed to have fled over the past few months. Experts say those who stayed are now likely to head for Turkey in the hope of travelling on to Europe to seek revenge for the destruction of the “caliphate”.

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the group between 2014 and 2016, including extremists who then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

France, whose some 1,000 nationals were among the biggest contingent of overseas recruits to join IS, stated frankly this weekend that it would be “for the best” if jihadists die fighting.

While border crossings have since tightened making it more difficult for fighters to return, security experts have warned of renewed possibilities of strikes as the pressure on IS intensifies.

“With an Islamic military defeat in Iraq and Syria we could find ourselves facing a return diaspora of foreign fighters,” Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti told a parliamentary committee last week.

“There are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries. Some of them have been killed of course, but… it’s possible some of the others will try to return home, to northern Africa and Europe,” he said.

– Catching boats to Europe –

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said a group of 130-150 foreign fighters, including Europeans, had turned themselves in before the end of the battle in Raqa.

Other reports suggested a convoy of foreign fighters had been able to escape the city towards IS-held territory, a claim denied categorically by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials.

The SDF is expected to contact the home countries of any foreign fighters it holds, to discuss the possibility of turning them over to face prosecution.

But captured fighters could prove a legal headache, with questions raised over what evidence, collected by whom, would be used in a domestic court. Jihadists also become security risks in jails for their potential to radicalise.

French European lawmaker Arnaud Danjean said Wednesday there would be “negotiations with the countries concerned” over what to do with returners.

Minniti warned fighters could take advantage of the confusion and “use the human trafficking routes” to return home — raising the spectre of extremists embarking on the migrant boats which regularly head to Italy.

It meant controversial efforts currently spearheaded by Italy to close the land and sea trafficking routes which cross Africa into Libya and on across the central Mediterranean sea to Europe were “essential”, he added.

– Intelligence war –

The Seven, from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, will also tackle the hot issue of terrorism online, with analysts warning IS’s loss of territory will turn street-to-street fighting into an intelligence war.

The ministers are due to arrive Thursday afternoon at a medieval castle on the volcanic island off Naples, before retiring for an informal dinner and knuckling down to working sessions on Friday.

They are set to be joined by the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, European safety commissioner Julian King, and Juergen Stock, secretary general of the international police body Interpol.

In a G7 first, representatives from Internet giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter will also be taking part.

by Ella IDE
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‘Czech Trump’ fans eurosceptism two days before vote — “Czech Republic will not adopt the euro”

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Jan MARCHAL | Czech billionaire and leader of the ANO 2011 political movement Andrej Babis is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20-21 general election

PRAGUE (AFP) – A billionaire populist known as the “Czech Trump” wooed eurosceptic voters on Wednesday with promises of a “fair” deal from Europe if he wins this week’s general election as expected.

Andrej Babis, 63, who heads the ANO (Yes) movement, is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20 and 21 ballot where traditional pro-EU parties are forecast to take a thrashing.

Analysts say that already-strong eurosceptism in the EU member country could further intensify, echoing trends in neighbouring countries in the bloc.

Voters on Wednesday received a letter in the mail from Babis vowing that “the Czech Republic will not adopt the euro” should he take office.

But he insisted he is “all for a single Europe which plays fair and where nobody is a second-class member”.

– ‘Czexit’ chatter –

After Britain’s vote to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum, some have even started to talk about the prospect of “Czexit”.

Two-thirds of Czechs said the EU’s decisions were not in the interest of their country in an April survey by the independent CVVM pollsters.

“Some voters, politicians and journalists are inclined to present these elections as a kind of referendum on Babis, but what’s worse and more dangerous is that topics like the migrant crisis and criticism of the EU are gaining more ground,” Charles University analyst Josef Mlejnek told AFP.

Babis echoes other eastern EU leaders — especially in Hungary and Poland — who also oppose mandatory EU refugee quotas and various rules they see as attempts by Brussels to limit national sovereignty.

While Babis has ruled out “Czexit”, he does want changes to the bloc’s rules on free movement of capital, goods, labour and services.

– Far-right rise –

An openly far-right anti-EU party with links to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France is also set to gain ground, thanks in large part to its staunchly anti-migrant stance.

Led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur and lawmaker Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), has scored between 7.3 to 10.5-percent support in the polls, which would take is past the five-percent threshold needed to enter the 200-seat parliament.

In a recent poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, ANO scored 30.9 percent — more than the combined support for two traditional heavyweights in Czech politics, the Social Democrat CSSD and the rightwing ODS. They scored 13.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

– Corruption scandals –

ANO already held key posts in the current rocky centre-left coalition under Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, with Babis holding the finance portfolio between January 2014 and May this year.

The Slovak-born tycoon — ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest citizen — is riding high on “strong voter aversion to political parties tarnished by corruption scandals,” analyst Mlejnek told AFP.

So far, Babis’s popularity has not been touched by various scandals, including recent fraud charges over EU subsidies received by one of his companies.

Voter support for ANO has surged as he sticks to his promise to fight graft in public life and to “manage the state like a family business”.

“He offers the voters a populist alternative by presenting himself as someone capable of managing the state because he has already successfully managed his conglomerate,” Mlejnek said.

Heavily dependent on car production and exports to the eurozone, the Czech economy has fared well in recent years.

Unemployment stood at just 3.8 percent in September and economic growth is expected to pick up to 3.1 percent this year after 2.6 percent in 2016, according to the finance ministry.

– Anti-EU coalition? –

Babis insist he “can’t imagine” forging a governing coalition with anti-EU parties like Okamura’s far-right SPD or the far-left KSCM communist party, which scored up to 14.4 percent in recent polls.

But critics noted that the three parties joined forces in parliament on Monday to oppose granting an Australian company mining rights to a Czech lithium deposit.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that he “sees the seeds of a coalition between Babis, (communist head Vojtech) Filip and Okamura.”

Sobotka, who handed the leadership of his struggling CSSD Social Democrats to pro-European Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek during the elections, insists that any possible future coalition deal with ANO would not include Babis.

Three months after this week’s general election, Czechs will choose their new president in the second-ever direct presidential election.

Outspoken leftwinger Milos Zeman, a 73-year-old pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-immigration Babis supporter, will compete for his second five-year term in that vote.

by Jan MARCHAL
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Brexit talks will remain deadlocked unless Theresa May stands up to Boris Johnson, says key Merkel ally

October 17, 2017

‘Whatever she is offering, Boris Johnson is saying it’s too much’

By Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor

The Independent

boris-johnson-8.jpg

Boris Johnson is the obstacle to breaking the Brexit deadlock – in German eyes Getty

A key ally of Angela Merkel has warned the Brexit talks will remain deadlocked unless Theresa May is brave enough to stand up to Boris Johnson.

Michael Fuchs, the vice chairman of the German Chancellor’s party, blamed the Foreign Secretary for the impasse – because he was preventing the Prime Minister from making a proper financial offer.

“Theresa May has to come up with decent proposals,” Dr Fuchs said. “Whatever she is offering, Boris Johnson is saying it’s too much,”

Theresa May asked if Boris Johnson is unsackable

Arguing his influence was “pretty strong”, Dr Fuchs added: “Otherwise she would come up with other proposals. The problem is she has internal trouble in the Tories.”

He stopped short of suggesting Mr Johnson should be sacked, but added: “What he said was not a single cent to the EU – and that’s not, of course, acceptable.”

The comments, from such a powerful figure in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), offer fresh evidence that Ms Merkel is now Britain’s toughest opponent in the negotiations.

Senior figures in Brussels were mystified that Ms May’s last-gasp dash to try to revive the talks was to join a dinner with the European Commission chief and his negotiator.

In fact, only if Ms Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron budge, can the talks progress onto a future trading arrangement – and there is no sign they will.

Last night, a 90-minute dinner in the Belgian capital with Jean-Claude Juncker, and Michel Barnier, from the Commission, failed to achieve any breakthrough.

It produced only a bland statement, saying both sides “reviewed the progress made in the article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come”.

Downing Street stressed the Prime Minister had gone no further than her offer to plug any hole in the EU’s budget if it agrees a transition period, after Brexit Day in 2019, of “about two years”.

But this would cover only Britain’s “subs”, of about £9bn a year – without addressing liabilities, such as for EU programmes and pension costs.

Meanwhile, the latest leak of a draft statement from EU leaders, ahead of a crucial summit on Friday, toughened the language against the British position.

Following pressure from France and Germany, it demanded progress on all three “divorce issues” – including EU citizens’ rights and the Irish border – as well as money.

The carrot is that the EU will give Mr Barnier, the chief negotiator, a mandate to open talks on trade in December, if “sufficient progress” is made by then.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Fuchs insisted Germany did not want a hard Brexit – and, in fact, regretted Britain leaving the EU more than any other country

But he added: “If you choose this way, it’s going to be like this. It’s going to be very tough for your country I think. I’m pretty sure we have to find a better solution.”

No 10 was pleased that the Commission had agreed the talks “should accelerate” and an agreement that dinner “took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-talks-theresa-may-boris-johnson-angela-merkel-eu-germany-michael-fuchs-cdu-a8004366.html

Expect Israel To Feel Threatened By Austria’s New Far Right Leaders

October 17, 2017
BY HERB KEINON
 OCTOBER 17, 2017 05:20

Jerusalem will have to tread carefully as it calculates its reaction to the rise of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which holds views that are not supportive of the Jewish state.

Norbert Hofer (L) and Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) top candidate Heinz-Christian Strache attend the

Norbert Hofer (L) and Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) top candidate Heinz-Christian Strache attend their party’s final election campaign rally in Vienna, Austria, October 13, 2017. . (photo credit:MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS)

Israel has not yet reacted to Sunday’s elections in Austria that will likely catapult the far-right Freedom Party into the government, but this outcome poses a clear challenge to Jerusalem: Should it engage with European far-right parties if they become a part of a government? Jerusalem has avoided having to face the issue this year, thanks to the National Front’s loss in the French elections and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position of not including the AfD in her governing coalition.

Austria’s Freedom Party, however, will bring the issue to the fore.

Under Jorg Haider in 1999, Austria’s Freedom Party – a party formed in 1956 by former members of the Nazi party – became part of the Austrian ruling coalition. Israel responded by recalling its ambassador and downgrading its relations with Vienna for more than three years, until the coalition fell apart.

But that was then.

In 1999 Israel could boycott Austria’s government because there was little chance that by doing so it would lead to a need to boycott other governments joined by right-wing parties – because that prospect seemed remote. But that is no longer the case, as the European far-Right is on the rise.

In other words, it is one thing not to engage or to boycott parties in the opposition; it is quite another if those parties may soon be ruling various countries.

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Israel’s unstated but clear policy up until now has been to break up the European far-right parties into three distinct categories.

The first are the fascist and neo-Nazi parties, such as Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, and the NDP in Germany. These are parties with which Israel will not engage, even if they become members of the ruling governments.

The second category includes parties – like Austria’s Freedom Party – that have a Nazi or fascist past, and which currently have antisemitic and racist tendencies. Other parties in this category include the National Front in France, AfD in Germany – which did surprisingly well in that country’s elections last month – and the Swedish Democrats in Sweden.

Up until now, Israel’s formal policy has been to avoid contact with those parties and not to engage with them or their members at a diplomatic level. This means that neither the prime minister nor the foreign minister meet their leaders if they visit Israel, and that Israel’s ambassadors in those countries do not meet with the party heads.

At the same time, Jerusalem cannot do anything about errant ministers, MKs or politicians who do meet with members of these parties from time to time, as was the case when the Freedom Party’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache visited Israel last year.

In the third category are populist parties with some racist elements in them, such as Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, UKIP in Britain and the Vlaams Belang Party in Belgium. These parties, which are different from one another, do not have Nazi or fascist pasts. Israel’s policy toward them is generally not to boycott but, rather, to deal with each party according to the particular situation and each party’s merits.

For instance, Israel does engage with Wilders’s party, and has normal relations with UKIP.

This set of policies has emerged over the years amid a sense in Jerusalem that Israel – as the state of the Jewish people – has a unique standing on these matters, and that its position on these parties is carefully watched by many inside Europe. For example, that Strache has made efforts to distance himself from his party’s past and put forward strong pro-Israel positions has been interpreted in Jerusalem as an effort to get Israel’s “stamp of approval,” something that would help him gain legitimacy elsewhere.

Another element that has guided Israel in its policies toward these parties has been the position of the local Jewish communities, and these Jewish communities have – in all cases of those parties in the second category – come out against Israel engaging with them.

Jerusalem is not expected to comment on the Austrian elections until after a coalition is formed, and even then, it is unlikely to be among the first to comment or formulate a policy.

Rather, it will likely wait to see how countries like Germany, France and Britain respond.

Ironically, the candidate who won Austria’s election, 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, is considered in Jerusalem as pro-Israel. Jerusalem has no problem with him, but, rather, only with his potential coalition partner.

Even so, there are three reasons that Jerusalem is unlikely to boycott the Austrian government, as it did when the Freedom Party was a member from 1999 to 2003.

Firstly, the success of parties like the Freedom Party is a phenomenon increasingly evident throughout the European political system. Secondly, because Strache, as opposed to Haider, has professed pro-Israel positions.

And thirdly, because the party has – at least to a certain degree – tried to moderate itself.

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Israel Says Europeans Putting Their Heads in The Sand, Like Before World war II

October 16, 2017
BY GIL HOFFMAN
 OCTOBER 15, 2017 06:27

“The Europeans continue to put their heads in the sand, exactly like they did before World War II.”

Def. minister: 'Europeans putting heads in the sand' on Iran deal

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a party event, September 13, 2017. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Great Britain, France and Germany Saturday night for their opposition to the steps US President Donald Trump announced against the Iranian nuclear deal.

The leaders of the three European countries, whose companies have made massive business deals with Iran, issued a joint statement saying they “stand committed” to the deal and are concerned about the implications of Trump’s refusal to back it.

“The Europeans continue to put their heads in the sand, exactly like they did before World War II,” Liberman told Channel 2. “The leaders of Europe prefer to run away from reality.” Liberman praised Trump for sending the Iran deal back to Congress for reevaluation, calling it a “courageous and correct decision.” The defense minister added that “Israel must be ready to handle Iran by itself without the US.”

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said at a cultural event in Kiryat Ono on Saturday that Trump had made a mistake.

“The Iran deal is clearly bad because it enables the Islamic Republic to achieve a military nuclear capability,” he said. “But instead of arguing with the partners to the agreement, who oppose reopening it, it would have been better for the US to focus its efforts on pressuring the Iranian regime with sanctions due to its violations of UN Security Council decisions on terrorism, undermining regimes in the area, human rights violations and distributing weapons and missiles.”

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “waking up the world to the dangers of the Iranian threat,” and ridiculed the opposition for saying that Netanyahu’s party, Likud, was fear-mongering and using the issue for political gain.

Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page crediting himself for Trump’s move and mocking criticism of his efforts against the Iran deal by opposition heads Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, as well as by Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramovich.

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay said Netanyahu’s behavior on the Iranian issue had harmed Israel diplomatically.

“Those who burn bridges in the diplomatic game stop having influence,” Gabbay said in a speech at a cultural event in Beersheba on Saturday. “This is what happened to Netanyahu with the Iran deal. He is good at speeches but has failed at negotiating and, therefore, we had no impact on the agreement. I hope that this time Netanyahu will behave differently.”

Gabbay welcomed Trump’s decision to harm the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ terrorist operation financially and said the next step must be amending the agreement and lengthening it so Iran will not be able to return to enriching uranium.

Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev said he was glad Trump had not decided to cancel the agreement, because that could have enabled Iran to race forward to nuclear capability.

He said it was right of Trump to push for new sanctions against Iran due to its development of missiles and continued support of terrorism.

“Sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard could be a beneficial step to restraining Iranian support for terrorism, including Hezbollah and Hamas,” Bar-Lev said.

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Risk of Failure Is Enormous for Donald Trump’s Iran Strategy

October 14, 2017

Bloomberg

By Nick Wadhams Margaret Talev

  • Pathway to success is narrow while chance of failure is high
  • European allies “should be terrified,” Trump backers say
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Iran in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13.

 Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

The strategy that President Donald Trump has laid out to confront Iran and renegotiate a 2015 nuclear agreement requires a string of big bets to pay off in short order. The risk of failure is enormous.

A hostile Congress must agree to pass legislation to toughen the terms of the accord. European allies with little appetite to upend the meticulously constructed agreement will have to change their minds. And Iran, no friend of the U.S. for decades, needs to get on board.

The plan Trump announced Friday, worked out over the course of months by State Department and National Security Council officials with the help of outside advisers, will need all of those pieces to fall into place in just the right order. If they don’t and Trump carries out his threat to back out of the deal, the U.S. risks isolation from its allies and may lose critical leverage — verified international controls on Iran’s nuclear program.

The biggest challenge will be getting allies on board, said Michael Singh, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and an advocate of toughening the deal. “The diplomacy will be difficult,” he said.

With his speech Friday, Trump articulated an approach that’s been months in the making to reshape a deal he’d promised to shred. It’s in keeping with his belief that the nuclear agreement, worked out under his predecessor Barack Obama, was too narrow in its scope and only emboldened Iran to sponsor terrorist groups and pursue ballistic missiles.

Read More: Analysts Weigh In on How Far Iran Will Go in Repudiating Trump

The Trump administration argues that Iran, which says it has no intention of seeking a nuclear weapon, is in what the State Department calls “tactical compliance” with the accord but is only waiting for many of its terms to expire in the coming decades to develop a bomb.

“I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran’s continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” Trump said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

Trump’s first stop will be Congress. In refusing to certify that Iran is complying with 2015 legislation reviewing the accord, he’s asking lawmakers to consider tough new sanctions on Iran. Those measures would go into effect automatically if Iran fails to meet more stringent restrictions on its ballistic missile development, sponsorship of terrorism and uranium enrichment.

With that legislation in hand, the administration is betting it will be able to present a solid front to European allies, playing off their own unease about some weaker elements of the deal to threaten new economic isolation of Iran.

That’s despite a joint statement Friday by British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirming their commitment to the accord, which they called “a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes.”

Read More: Four Flashpoints That Define Trump’s Dispute With Iran

With the U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany all on one side of the table, the Trump team’s theory goes, Iran would feel sufficiently isolated and willing to make concessions it wasn’t prepared to stomach when the accord was negotiated. It’s a bet that U.S. economic and military might are too great to be ignored.

But domestically, Congress could simply fail to pass the bill Trump wants, or conservatives in Congress could push to reimpose sanctions without waiting. Internationally, the European allies could join Iran, Russia and China in pressing ahead with the accord regardless of the U.S.

In the worst case, there’s the threat of U.S. military force to take out Iran’s nuclear program — if that’s even possible. Or it may come down to economic warfare: European countries, along with China, Russia and other Iranian trading partners, would have to choose between doing business with Tehran or retaining access to the U.S. financial system.

Iran’s Response

If Iran backed out of the nuclear deal, it could blame Trump, and the U.S. would be left with less insight than it had previously into the country’s nuclear activity.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal, but if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions,” Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday in a letter to the Security Council.

It could also fracture relations with Germany, France and the U.K.

“This creates a giant wedge — it’s Iran and the rest of the world on one side and the U.S. on the other,” said John Glaser, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

Former officials who helped hammer out the nuclear deal were dispirited.

“It is indeed a very dangerous path that the president has set us on,” said Wendy Sherman, a former undersecretary of State who led the U.S. negotiating team. “I think it will make the allies incredibly anxious. The president again sees this as a negotiating tactic, but this is war and peace, and this kind of blackmail tactic does not get you where you want to go.”

Trump’s strategy for Iran balances the president’s hostility to the nuclear accord against his advisers’ wariness of abandoning it. Trump’s senior-most national security officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have advocated remaining in the agreement, as have even some hard-line conservatives in Congress.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who plans to introduce the legislation critical to Trump’s plan, said he was optimistic about winning passage in Congress.

“We have provided a route to overcome deficiencies and to keep the administration in the deal, and actually make it the kind of deal that should have been in the first place,” Corker told reporters.

Corker is pressing the legislation despite an ongoing feud with the president. After Corker said the White House had become an “adult day care center,” Trump lambasted him as “Liddle Bob Corker” and falsely claimed the senator backed the initial Iran deal.

Trump’s own advisers played down their prospects for success. Tillerson said the Congress plan isn’t a “slam dunk” and repeatedly raised the possibility that it might now work.

“We may be unsuccessful, we may not be able to fix it, and if we’re not, we may be out of the deal,” Tillerson told reporters. “I don’t want to suggest to you that we have a high chance of success.”

— With assistance by Kambiz Foroohar, and Ladane Nasseri

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-14/trump-walks-tightrope-with-strategy-to-toughen-iran-nuclear-deal

EU rejects Donald Trump’s attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal

October 14, 2017

The EU’s top diplomat says the US can’t terminate the Iran nuclear agreement because it’s not a “bilateral deal.” European leaders acknowledge Iran poses many problems, but insist they should be handled separately.

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European diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic, along with the Iran nuclear deal’s other signatories and many of the US president’s own advisers, have failed to convince Donald Trump not to pick apart the agreement.

In Brussels, European Union officials are clearly exasperated with the US leader’s insistence on mixing a myriad of complaints about Iranian behavior with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the six-party accord signed in 2015 which limits Tehran’s ability to enrich uranium to a weapons-grade level.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini did not mince words Friday when lambasting Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance, which she says has been full, and to ask the US Congress to examine ways to add sanctions on Tehran. Mogherini was officially the deal’s mediator when it was concluded in 2015.

“This deal is not a bilateral agreement, this is not an international treaty,” but part of a UN Security Council Resolution, she said tersely after the announcement, “so it is clearly not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort.”

“The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one,” she added.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later echoed Mogherini in a live televised address. “No president can revoke an international deal. … Iran will continue to honor its commitments under the deal,” Rouhani said. He also warned that “if one day our interests are not served, we will not hesitate even one moment and will respond.”

Germany, France and UK statement

Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May said in a joint statement: “We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

“We stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues in close cooperation with the US and all relevant partners,” they said. ”We look to Iran to engage in constructive dialogue to stop de-stabilising actions and work towards negotiated solutions.”

No deal-breaker

Mogherini and other European officials insist they will continue to observe the agreement, reminding Iran it must do the same.

A high-level EU official speaking on background ahead of the announcement said the bloc agrees with Trump about the dangers of ballistic missiles, terrorism, Iranian-backed militias and what they see as other bad behavior, and believes they should be dealt with, but separately from the nuclear deal.

Iran's Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini give a joint press conference (Getty Images/AFP/A. Kenare)Mogherini (left) says Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the nuclear deal she helped broker

At least with the current nuclear agreement, Tehran wouldn’t have the warheads for those missiles, the official pointed out.

Now lobbying attention turns to Congress, where European outreach efforts continue, according to the EU official.

“All the other issues of concern that may come up will not be better served if we undo the agreement,” the official explained, “because the agreement takes away a very dangerous risk, not only the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, but also of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, which is something we are now unfortunately seeing in North Korea.”

Lack of accord between US and EU 

European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Ellie Geranmayeh says this move “has really been seen in Europe as a terrible betrayal of European allies.” While Europeans are also very concerned about missile proliferation and regional meddling, they want to keep open the channel of diplomatic initiatives. “If this deal starts to unravel,” she told DW, “it’s more likely than not to provoke activities from Iran inside the region that add to the fragility of that region.”

Erik Brattberg, who heads the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program, says that although the EU’s reaction is obviously one of disappointment, the situation doesn’t need to be seen as “catastrophic.”

“While uncertainty about US intentions and its commitment to the JCPOA seem unavoidable in the short term,” Brattberg said, “it is at least preferable to a [complete] unilateral US withdrawal from the agreement from a European perspective.”

Sanctions aimed at Tehran may also sting EU

But things will get worse for European companies that have resumed doing business with Iran if Trump’s impulses are fulfilled. “I think there is a very good chance that US sanctions will be reapplied against Tehran,” predicts Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. Republicans will strongly support renewing the sanctions, he said, and some Democrats may join them.

“European companies should be nervous,” Gardiner told DW. “They are playing with fire by investing in Iran, and could be hit hard by US sanctions. If they wish to do business with the US they would have to comply with American sanctions if they are imposed.”

Geranmayeh warns Gardiner may be right. “My message to the Europeans is, now that Trump has decertified, you better start planning on that contingency much more vigorously than before,” she said, “whether it’s because of a review process by Congress or because, come January, the president decides that he’s not going to renew these waivers.”

 just decertified  -here is what Europe should do:start planning contingency to salvage http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_what_if_trump_decertifies_the_iran_deal 

Photo published for What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

European countries must coordinate a vigorous response to prevent Trump from derailing the nuclear accord.

ecfr.eu

With EU foreign ministers meeting Monday to discuss their strategy, she says even if the EU is united behind a position of continuing the agreement, they’d better start coordinating on how far they are willing to go to salvage the deal and how to safeguard their companies from the White House if all else fails.

Shada Islam, director of policy at Friends of Europe, could only shake her head about the developments. “This was a hard-fought deal,” she told DW, adding that its abolishment would be dangerous for the world. “This will empower all those in Iran who don’t want the nuclear agreement – is that what we want?”

Includes videos:

http://www.dw.com/en/eu-rejects-donald-trumps-attempt-to-dump-iran-nuclear-deal-saying-it-works/a-40948190

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Trump strikes blow at Iran nuclear deal in major U.S. policy shift

October 14, 2017

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress.

He singled out Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said.

Trump’s hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran’s arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies.

The move by Trump was part of his “America First” approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union – some of which have benefited economically from renewed trade with Iran.

Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,” he said. “Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.”

European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines U.S. credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord.

The chief of the U.N. atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime.”

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said, referring to the deal by its formal name.

U.S. Democrats expressed skepticism at Trump’s decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the president has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CONGRESS DECIDES

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker was working on amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act law to include “trigger points” that if crossed by Iran would automatically reimpose U.S. sanctions.

Slideshow (10 Images)

The trigger points would address strengthening nuclear inspections, Iran’s ballistic missile program and eliminate the deal’s “sunset clauses” under which some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over time.

Trump directed U.S. intelligence agencies to probe whether Iran might be working with North Korea on its weapons programs.

The president, who took office in January, had reluctantly certified the agreement twice before but has repeatedly blasted it as “the worst deal ever.” It was negotiated under his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”

“We’ll see what happens over the next short period of time and I can do that instantaneously,” he told reporters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.

The Trump administration designated the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps under an executive order targeting terrorists. The administration stopped short of labeling the group a Foreign Terrorist Organization, a list maintained by the State Department.

The Revolutionary Guard is the single most dominant player in Iran’s security, political, and economic systems and wields enormous influence in Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.

It had already previously been sanctioned by the United States under other authorities, and the immediate impact of Friday’s measure is likely to be symbolic.

The U.S. military said on Friday it was identifying new areas where it could work with allies to put pressure on Iran in support of Trump’s new strategy and was reviewing the positioning of U.S. forces.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said no changes in force posture had been made yet, and Iran had not responded to Trump’s announcement with any provocative acts so far.

Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; Additional reporting by James Oliphant, Phil Stewart, Makini Brice, Patricia Zengerle, Jonathan Landay, Justin Mitchell, Tim Ahmann and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, John Irish in Paris, Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Shadia Nasrallah in Vienna; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Alistair Bell and James Dalgleish

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