Posts Tagged ‘Hassan Rouhani’

John Kerry says chances of war on the rise as US sanctions Iran

October 5, 2018

Former secretary of state John Kerry voiced fear Friday of conflict with Iran after the United States pulled out of a denuclearization deal, saying regional leaders had privately pressed him for military strikes.

Kerry spearheaded diplomacy that led to the 2015 agreement in which Iran promised Western powers, Russia and China to scale back its nuclear program drastically in return for sanctions relief.

By pulling out of the accord, President Donald Trump has “made it more likely that there will be conflict in the region because there are people there who would love to have the United States of America bomb Iran,” the former senator and presidential candidate told the Council on Foreign Relations as he promotes his memoir, “Every Day is Extra.”

© AFP/File | Kerry spearheaded diplomacy that led to the 2015 agreement in which Iran promised Western powers, Russia and China to scale back its nuclear program drastically in return for sanctions relief

Kerry said that Saudi Arabia’s late king Abdullah and Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak had both told him that the United States should attack Iran, even while they would not take the position publicly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an outspoken critic of the Iran deal, had also asked then US president Barack Obama for the green light to bomb Iran, Kerry said.

While UN inspectors found that Iran was complying with the accord, Trump declared the deal to be a disaster for not addressing other US concerns with Iran including threats to Israel, support for Islamist militant moves such as Hezbollah and Tehran’s missile program.

But Kerry said the United States was “actually getting them to do things, quietly,” including on easing the conflict in war-ravaged Yemen, and believed that President Hassan Rouhani was “trying to move the country in a different direction.”

“What Trump has done is now empower the guys in Iran who said don’t deal with the United States, they’ll burn you,” Kerry said.

“He has made it more likely that if there is an implosion in Iran internally through pressure or otherwise, it will not be an unknown Jeffersonian democrat who is going to appear and take over, it will be the IRGC or another Ahmadinejad, and we will be worse off and the people of Iran will be worse off,” he said, referring to the hardline Revolutionary Guards and former firebrand president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Trump has lashed out at Kerry for meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif since leaving office, accusing him of violating an obscure US law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating on disputes with foreign governments.

Kerry said Trump was seeking to distract from his own scandal related to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and said it was normal for former officials to maintain communication with foreign counterparts.



Iran fires missiles at Syria ‘terrorists’ after deadly parade attack

October 1, 2018


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Monday they launched a missile strike against a “terrorist” headquarters in Syria in retaliation for an attack that killed 24 people in the Iranian city of Ahvaz.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had vowed a “crushing” response to last month’s assault — claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group — on a military parade commemorating the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

“The headquarters of those responsible for the terrorist crime in Ahvaz was attacked a few minutes ago east of the Euphrates by several ballistic missiles fired by the aerospace branch of the Revolutionary Guards,” the Guards said on their website.

© IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS WEBSITE/AFP | This handout photo provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard official website via SEPAH News shows missiles being launched from an undisclosed location to target militants in eastern Syria early on October 1, 2018

“Based on preliminary reports, many takfiri terrorists and the leaders responsible for the terrorist crime in Ahvaz have been killed or wounded in this missile attack,” they added. The term “takfiri” refers to Sunni Muslim extremists.

The Guards released pictures of what appeared to be missiles lighting up the night sky, leaving trails of smoke as they soared above a desert region with a rugged mountain in the background.

Iran’s Fars news agency said the Guards fired “a number of medium-range” Zolfaghar and Qiam missiles, with a range of 750 kilometres and 800 kilometres (465 and 500 miles), respectively.


The agency said the missiles hit the Syrian desert border town of Albu Kamal on the west of the Euphrates River, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

“On at least one of the missiles was written ‘death to America’, ‘death to Israel’ and ‘death to Al Saud’,” it said, a reference to the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, “heavy explosions took place at dawn (Monday) in the last pocket under IS control near Albu Kamal”.

Albu Kamal itself, located on the border with Iraq, is held by regime forces and allied regional militiamen who seized it from IS in 2007.

– ‘Jihadist separatists’ –

Twenty-four people were shot dead in the attack by five gunmen on a military parade in the mainly ethnic Arab city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran on September 22.

Ahvaz is the provincial capital of Khuzestan, a border region which was a major battleground of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, and which also saw ethnic unrest in 2005 and 2011.

Iranian officials initially blamed Arab separatists backed by Gulf Arab allies of the United States for the attack.

But on Monday supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to link the perpetrators to jihadists operating in Iraq and Syria, where IS once had major strongholds.

“This cowardly act was the work of those very individuals who are rescued by the Americans whenever they are in trouble in Iraq and Syria and who are funded by the Saudis and the (United) Arab Emirates,” Khamenei was quoted by his official website as saying.

The next day Iran’s intelligence ministry published photos of five men it said carried out the Ahvaz assault, identifying them as “jihadist separatists”.

IS, a Sunni Muslim extremist group which Iran and its Damascus allies are fighting in Syria, has claimed responsibility for the attack and said all five assailants were Iranian, including four from Ahvaz.

It also threatened to carry out new attacks in Iran.

IS had already claimed responsibility for twin attacks in June 2017 on the parliament and the tomb of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran that killed 17 people.

After that assault the Guards said they had fired missiles into Syria that had successfully hit IS targets.



Iran, US in tense wait for world court sanctions ruling

October 1, 2018

The International Court of Justice will hand down an eagerly awaited decision this week on Iran’s demand for the suspension of debilitating nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the United States.

Accusing Washington of “strangling” its economy, Tehran has asked the court in The Hague to order Washington to lift the measures, reimposed after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a multilateral 2015 accord.

Despite its long enmity with the United States, Iran brought the case under a 1955 “friendship treaty” that predates the country’s Islamic Revolution.

Washington has forcefully told the court, which rules on disputes between United Nations member states, that it has no jurisdiction to rule on the case as it concerns a matter of national security.

The ruling on Wednesday at 0800 GMT — in the grand surroundings of the 1913-built Peace Palace in the Dutch city — follows four days of hearings at the end of August.

Rulings by the ICJ are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no way to enforce its decisions.

© ANP/AFP/File | The Peace Palace in The Hague, which houses the International Court of Justice

“If the court orders measures, they should be respected,” Eric De Brabandere, a professor of international law at the University of Leiden, told AFP.

If the court decides it has jurisdiction, it will likely “declare that the parties should refrain from aggravating the dispute”, but any steps beyond this remain to be seen, he said.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran agree to limit its nuclear programme and let in international inspectors in return for an end to years of sanctions by the West.

But Trump pulled out of the deal in May, to the dismay of European allies, arguing that funds from the lifting of sanctions under the pact had been used to support terrorism and build nuclear-capable missiles.

– ‘Economic warfare’ –

At the United Nations General Assembly last week, Trump denounced the deal as “horrible” and “one-sided”.

During the ICJ hearings, Iran said the sanctions reintroduced in September are causing economic suffering for its citizens. US lawyers retorted that economic mismanagement was at the root of Iran’s woes.

A second wave of US measures is due to hit Iran in early November, targeting its vital oil exports.

Experts said the Iran-US case was an important opportunity for the ICJ to rule on the issue of “economic warfare” — not currently designated as a use of force.

The case “may offer the court sufficient legal basis to indicate a limit under international law to coercion by the US,” Geoff Gordon, an international law expert at the Asser Institute in The Hague, told AFP.

“International law, for reasons to do with power politics, has never formally recognised economic warfare to be a use of force as prohibited by the UN Charter, though economic sanctions can have the same effects and worse as guns and bombs.”

But he warned that “the decision is likely to be occasion for escalating tensions.”

Relations have plunged to a new low since Trump’s election, even as the US president reaches out to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his nuclear programme.

Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani faced off at the UN last week, with Rouhani denouncing leaders with “xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition.”

Despite their 1955 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations, Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since 1980.

The ICJ was set up in 1946, after the carnage of World War II, to rule in disputes between countries.


Iran’s Terms to Reopen Nuclear Talks? Trump Has to Back Down Image

September 25, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, visiting the United States for the first time since President Trump exited the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, said Monday that the only way his country would consider new talks with Washington is for Mr. Trump to reverse himself and honor the agreement.

Speaking to a group of two dozen academics, former government officials and journalists, Mr. Rouhani argued that going back “six months ago is much easier than going back six years,” when the first efforts to negotiate an agreement were first broached.

While he declared that Mr. Trump’s strategy of trying to crush the Iranian economy with sanctions would fail, he expressed no anger and portrayed his government as the one that was abiding by international agreements that the United States had tossed aside.

But when pressed on how long Iran planned to play a military role in Syria, Mr. Rouhani was unrelenting. “We will be in Syria until terrorism is completely eradicated,” he said, and as long as Iran remained invited there by the Syrian government.

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran after speaking Monday at a peace summit honoring Nelson Mandela during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  Credit Carlo Allegri/Reuters

“The U.S. sees a right for itself to have a presence in the region,” he said, referring to the Middle East. But it “does not recognize the right for Iran.”

Despite his relentless optimism in his appearances on Monday, Mr. Rouhani arrives at a perilous moment for his government. As sanctions have begun to bite, the Iranian economy is once again under tremendous pressure, its currency plummeting, its oil sales jeopardized. His enemies in the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military unit that also oversaw the nuclear program, have been in the ascent, arguing that the United States was an untrustworthy negotiating partner, and that Mr. Rouhani was naïve to have entered the agreement.

On Monday evening, Mr. Rouhani got a boost from the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear accord. They issued a defiant statement, reaffirming their commitment to the deal and vowing to find ways to circumvent Trump administration sanctions to continue to do business with Iran.

“The participants recognized that Iran has continued to fully and effectively implement its nuclear related commitments as confirmed by 12 consecutive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” said the statement, which was signed by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran.

The statement was read first in English by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, and then in Farsi by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders in New York.

As part of their effort to save the Iran deal, the ministers agreed to create a special vehicle that would facilitate legal financial transactions with Iran and protect companies doing business with the country from American reprisals. Exactly how the vehicle will function will be worked out in future meetings, the statement said.

In his session Monday evening, Mr. Rouhani deflected questions about Iran’s repression of dissent, its imprisonment of Americans and other Westerners on thin charges of plotting against his government and its support of terrorism. Instead, he noted divisions inside the Trump administration, saying he did not know whether to believe Mr. Trump, who has said he would meet with Mr. Rouhani at any time, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has laid out a list of conditions from ceasing missile tests to stopping support of terrorism.

But Mr. Rouhani, sitting beside Mr. Zarif, his foreign minister and chief negotiator on the nuclear deal, insisted he had “no regrets” about striking the deal with the Obama administration three years ago. He described it as an accord that briefly “built trust,” and described Mr. Trump’s efforts to dismantle it as self-destructive. Picking a single example, he said that cutting off sales of airplane parts “didn’t help Boeing,” endangered Iranian air passengers and ultimately harmed the United States.

He argued that Iran did not exit the Iran deal after the United States did, saying that he did not want to play into Mr. Trump’s designs.

“We have a great deal of patience,” he said, seeming to suggest that he would wait out the Trump administration. But he said Iran could exit the deal “at will” if it determined it was in its interests.

Though Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Trump will be moving through some of the same rooms at the United Nation this week, there appears to be little chance they will meet or talk.

But Mr. Rouhani, on his first day in New York for the annual opening of the General Assembly, went on a public relations blitz, speaking for hours to editors and reporters, appearing on NBC’s evening news, and talking optimistically about future dealings with Europe, China and Russia. He dismissed the effects of new American sanctions scheduled for November, when the United States plans to tell companies around the world that if they want to deal with Iran, they cannot do business with the United States.

“The United States is not capable of bringing our oil exports to zero,” Mr. Rouhani told Lester Holt of NBC. “It’s a threat that is empty of credibility. Perhaps on this path, we will sustain certain pressures but certainly the United States will not reach its objective.”

Iran points finger at Arab separatists for deadly attack

September 23, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday appeared to blame Arab separatists for a deadly attack on a military parade, accusing an unnamed US-backed Gulf state of supporting them.

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Tehran also summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain for allegedly hosting members of the group suspected of links to Saturday’s attack near the Iraqi border, which left at least 29 people dead.

Four militants attacked a parade commemorating the beginning of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, launched by Baghdad, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan Province.

Officials and an eyewitness said the gunmen were dressed in Iranian military uniforms and sprayed the crowd with gunfire using weapons they had stashed in a nearby park.

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The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the rare assault.

But from early on, Iranian officials saw an Arab separatist movement, the Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front (ADPF) or Al-Ahwazi, as the main suspect.

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“It is absolutely clear to us who has done this, which group it is and to whom they are affiliated,” Rouhani said on state television on Sunday, shortly before leaving Tehran for the UN General Assembly in New York.

“Those who have caused this catastrophe … were Saddam’s mercenaries as long as he was alive and then changed masters,” he said, referring to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“One of the countries in the south of the Persian Gulf took care of their financial, weaponry and political needs.”

“All these little mercenary countries we see in this region are backed by America. It is the Americans who incite them,” he said.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack had been carried out by “terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime”.

London-based opposition channel Iran International TV on Saturday aired an interview with Yaqoub Hor Altostari, presented as a spokesman for ADPF, indirectly claiming responsibility for the attack and calling it “resistance against legitimate targets”.

Iran military parade attack aftermath. AFP photo

– Diplomats summoned –

Iran in response summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain to complain about them “hosting some members of the terrorist group” and “double standards in fighting terrorism,” the foreign affairs ministry said.

The British charge d’affaires “was told that it is not acceptable that the spokesman for the mercenary Al-Ahwazi group be allowed to claim responsiblity for this terrorist act through a London-based TV network,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi.

“It is expected that (the Danish and Dutch) governments hand over the perpetrators of this attack and anyone related to them to Iran for a fair trial,” he added.

State television gave a toll of 29 dead and 57 wounded, while official news agency IRNA said those killed included women and children who were spectators at the parade.

Three attackers were killed at the scene and the fourth died later of his injuries, said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

IS had claimed the attack via its propaganda mouthpiece Amaq and, according to intelligence monitor SITE, said the attack was in response to Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region.

The Revolutionary Guards accused Shiite-dominated Iran’s Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia of funding the attackers, while Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also blamed Iran’s pro-US rivals.

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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Khuzestan was a major battleground of the 1980s war with Iraq and it saw unrest in 2005 and 2011, but has since been largely quiet.

Kurdish rebels frequently attack military patrols on the border further north, but attacks on government targets in major cities are rare.

On June 7, 2017 in Tehran, 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in simultaneous attacks on the parliament and on the tomb of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — the first inside Iran claimed by IS.


Iran vows ‘crushing response’ over deadly parade attack, blames ‘foreign regime’

September 23, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed a “crushing” response after assailants sprayed a crowd with gunfire, shooting dead at least 25 people including women and children Saturday at a military parade near the Iraqi border.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the rare assault in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, while Iranian officials blamed “a foreign regime” backed by the United States.

A local journalist who witnessed the attack said shots rang out for 10 to 15 minutes and that at least one of the assailants, armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, wore the uniform of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“We realised it was a terrorist attack as bodyguards (of officials) started shooting,” Behrad Ghasemi told AFP. “Everything went haywire and soldiers started running.”

© AFP | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the annual military parade in Tehran on September 22, 2018

“The terrorists had no particular target and didn’t really seem to care as they shot anyone they could with rapid gunfire.”

Ahvaz lies in Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community and has seen separatist violence in the past that Iran has blamed on its regional rivals.

Iran summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain over their “hosting of some members of the terrorist group” which carried out the attack, state media said Sunday.

“It is not acceptable that the European Union does not blacklist members of these terrorist groups as long as they do not perpetrate a crime on… European soil,” official news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.

After addressing a similar parade in Tehran to commemorate the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Rouhani warned that “the response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the smallest threat will be crushing”.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack was carried out by “terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime”.

“Iran holds regional terror sponsors and their US masters accountable for such attacks,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘Bloody crime’

IS claimed the attack via its propaganda mouthpiece Amaq and, according to intelligence monitor SITE, said the attack was in response to Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region.

State television gave a toll of 29 dead and 57 wounded, while IRNA said those killed included women and children who were spectators at the parade.

Three attackers were killed at the scene and the fourth died later of his injuries, said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

The Revolutionary Guards accused Shiite-dominated Iran’s Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia of funding the attackers, while Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also blamed Iran’s pro-US rivals.

Tehran-backed Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah condemned the “terrorist” attack, saying that “repulsive Satanic hands” were behind it.

“This operation was a continuation of the other forms of war the United States and its allies are waging, directly or indirectly,” it said.

In a message to Russia’s close regional ally, President Vladimir Putin said he was “appalled by this bloody crime”, while Syria, another ally, neighbouring Turkey and France also expressed condolences.

Khuzestan was a major battleground of the 1980s war with Iraq and the province saw unrest in 2005 and 2011, but has since been largely quiet.

Kurdish rebels frequently attack military patrols on the border further north, but attacks on regime targets in major cities are rare.

On June 7, 2017 in Tehran, 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in simultaneous attacks on the parliament and on the tomb of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — the first inside Iran claimed by IS.

In April, 26 alleged members of the Sunni extremist group went on trial in connection with the attacks.

Rouhani defiant

The attack in Ahvaz came as Rouhani and other dignitaries attended the main anniversary parade in Tehran.

In a keynote speech, he vowed to boost Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities, despite Western concerns that were cited by his US counterpart Donald Trump in May when he abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran.

“We will never decrease our defensive capabilities… we will increase them day by day,” Rouhani said.

“The fact that the missiles anger (the West) shows they are our most effective weapons.”

The United States reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran last month, and another round of even harsher sanctions targeting Iran’s vital oil sector is set to go back into effect on November 5.

Washington has said it is ready to open talks on a new agreement to replace the July 2015 accord, but Tehran has repeatedly said it cannot negotiate under pressure from sanctions.

Rouhani leaves Sunday for New York to attend next week’s United Nations General Assembly along with Trump, but Iran has repeatedly ruled out any meeting.


India, Iran and Afghanistan hold tripartite meeting to consolidate cooperation; Chabahar Port, US sanctions discussed

September 12, 2018

India, Iran and Afghanistan held their first tripartite meeting on Tuesday in Kabul during which implementation of the Chabahar port project and a host of other issues including ways to deepen counter-terror cooperation were discussed, officials said. The Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale while the Iranian team was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai chaired the meeting.

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Iran’s president Rouhani at Chabahar port

“The meeting focused on consolidating economic cooperation, including Chabahar, as well as enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and continuing support to the peace and reconciliation process that is led and owned by Afghanistan,” the three countries said in a joint-statement. It said the three sides agreed to hold the next round of consultation at an appropriate time in India in 2019. Sources said the possible impact of the US sanctions on the Chabahar port project also figured in the meeting. The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on Iran’s southern coast is being developed by India and Iran are also coming under the US sanctions on Iran.

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During the two-plus-two talks in Delhi last week with the US, India apprised the American delegation about the strategic importance of Chabahar, particularly for enhancing trade with war-ravaged Afghanistan. The port is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar. The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in December.

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File Photo: Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani and Hamid Karzai. AP

According to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri, a series of discussions have been held over the past few months with Iranian and Indian officials regarding the possibility of a waiver on a section of Chabahar Port. In the second phase of sanctions, scheduled to come into effect in November, Iran’s ports and crude oil exports will be affected. Both the countries will also draw hope from the fact that the US last month granted a waiver for the Azerbaijan natural gas pipeline, DNA reported.

The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi. Under an agreement signed between India and Iran in May 2016, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.

The discussions come against the backdrop of proposed US sanctions on investments in Iran following Washington’s pull-out from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of South and Central Asian affairs had said in Washington on Monday that the US would continue discussions on the Iran sanctions with India, Mint reported.

“An informational conversation was held during the 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi last week on Chabahar and the US has taken it under advisement. Talks on the matter between the two sides were ongoing and no decision had been taken on the matter,” Wells said, according to the report. The sanctions put into effect from 4 November were designed to bring Tehran to book and not penalize India, she clarified.

According to Indian officials, India was also looking at Iran handing over the Shahid Beheshti port to it for operation in the coming weeks. India is also looking at supporting the development of Chabahar- Zahedan Rail line that will aid the transport of goods to the Afghan border. India plans to use the port as a gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor.

Meanwhile, earlier on Monday, India and Afghanistan agreed to enhance cooperation under the New Development Partnership as part of which New Delhi had announced taking up 116 “high impact community developmental projects” in the war-torn country. The decision to scale up cooperation and collaborate on infrastructure and high impact community development projects was taken at the third meeting of the Joint Working Group on Political and Security Cooperation (JWGPSC) between India and Afghanistan in Kabul, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.

India had announced taking up 116 “high-impact community developmental projects” in 31 provinces of Afghanistan after a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Ghani in New York in September 2017. The outcome of the first and second meetings of the were also reviewed and assessed positively on Monday at the meeting co-chaired by Karzai and Gokhale.

“Both sides stressed the need to continue working together towards a stable, peaceful and prosperous region that is free from terrorism and extremism,” the statement said. Both sides discussed Indian assistance to Afghanistan and regional issues of mutual interest, and agreed that bilateral cooperation strengthens political and economic stability in the region. India and Afghanistan also agreed to strengthen security cooperation and the Indian side reiterated its support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, the statement said.

The two sides also expressed satisfaction over the successful completion of several development projects such as the Afghan Parliament building, Storay Palace, and Afghan-India Friendship Dam. It was also decided that the fourth meeting of the JWGPSC would be held in New Delhi on mutually convenient dates in 2019.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 12, 2018 12:03 PM

Iran The Victim of “economic, psychological and propaganda war”, from U.S. and Israel, Rouhani says — “We see your brutish actions.”

September 8, 2018

The United States constantly sends messages to Iran to begin negotiations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday in a speech broadcast on state television.

The United States constantly sends messages to Iran to begin negotiations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said. (AFP/HO/Iranian presidency)

Tensions ramped up between Iran and the United States after President Donald Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic last month.
Trump has said he would meet Iran’s leaders.

“From one side they try to pressure the people of Iran, on another side they send us messages every day through various methods that we should come and negotiate together,” Rouhani said.

He added, “[They say] we should negotiate here, we should negotiate there. We want to resolve the issues… should we see your message?.. or should we see your brutish actions?”

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector are scheduled to be reimposed in November.

Iran is facing an “economic, psychological and propaganda war”, Rouhani said Saturday, pointing to America and Israel as the Islamic Republic’s main enemies.


Iran worried about its survival, says Trump, leaving door open for talks

September 6, 2018

US President says Tehran is in ‘turmoil’ and meeting with Rouhani at UN General Assembly is ‘possible’

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP)

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 5, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP)

US President Donald Trump left the door open Wednesday to meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, while saying the Islamic Republic is worried about its very survival.

“It’s possible, anything is possible,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked about the possibility of a face-to-face with Rouhani during the gathering later this month.

“We’ll see what happens with Iran. Whether they want to talk or not, that’s up to them, not up to me,” said the US leader, who decided in May to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

“Iran is a much different place than when I took over the presidency,” Trump added, describing the country as “in turmoil.”

“When I took office it was just a question of how long until they took over the entire Middle East. Now they are just worrying about their own survival as a country.”

Trump is due to lead September 26 meeting of heads of state of the UN Security Council, with the goal of ramping up pressure on Tehran over its alleged violations of council resolutions.

The US is seeking to renegotiate a stricter nuclear deal with Iran after Washington in May withdrew from a 2015 international agreement saying it failed to do enough to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons and stop its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the Iranian Parliament in the capital Tehran on August 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

With the United States now holding the presidency of the Security Council, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday said the aim was to put further pressure on Tehran.

But Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Wednesday hit out at the US plan.

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“There’s only one UNSC resolution on Iran…@realDonaldTrump is violating it & bullying others to do same,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Washington has sought to build up international pressure on Iran after reimposing tough, unilateral sanctions on August 7 and setting a November 5 deadline for halting Iran’s oil exports.

Iran’s economy has been battered as countries wrap up trade ties in fear of violating the US sanctions which Washington said would be strictly imposed.


Iran’s Khamenei says ready to abandon nuclear deal if needed

August 29, 2018

Iran’s supreme leader warned Wednesday the country could abandon its nuclear deal with world powers if it no longer served its interests, even as economic and political pressure mounted on the government.

“Naturally, if we reach the conclusion that (the nuclear deal) is no longer maintaining our national interests, we will put it aside,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with the cabinet, according to his website.

He said Iran must not “pin its hopes” on Europe, despite European efforts to salvage the nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States.

© KHAMENEI.IR/AFP | Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting in Tehran on August 29, 2018

The government of President Hassan Rouhani has been battered by the return of US sanctions, which has triggered a rapid departure of foreign firms and ended his hopes of attracting large-scale investment.

His political enemies are circling, with parliament announcing that two more of his ministers could be impeached in the coming days.

The labour and economy ministers have already been sacked by parliament this month and motions have been accepted to vote on impeaching his industries and education ministers in the coming days.

Khamenei insisted the political tumult was a sign of the strength of Iran’s democracy.

He praised the tough questioning Rouhani received in parliament on Tuesday as “a glorious show of the power of the Islamic republic and the self-confidence of officials.”

Differences between officials are “natural”, he added, though he said they should not be covered by the media “because the people would become worried”.

Tuesday’s grilling in parliament was the first for Rouhani in five years as president, and lawmakers slammed his handling of five economic issues, ranging from unemployment to the collapsing value of the currency.

In voting at the end of the session, they declared they were unsatisfied with four of his responses.

– ‘Day and night’ –

Under parliamentary rules, the issues could then have been referred for judicial review, but parliament speaker Ali Larijani — a close ally of Rouhani — said on Wednesday there were no legal grounds for doing so.

Parliament can theoretically impeach Rouhani, but he has the protection of Khamenei, who has previously said removing the president would “play into the hands of the enemy”.

Instead, Khamenei called on officials to work together “day and night” to resolve the country’s economic problems.

Iran’s currency has lost around half its value since the US announced it was withdrawing from the nuclear deal in May, and further pain is expected when sanctions on its crucial oil sector are reimposed in November.

Conservative opponents of Rouhani, who have long opposed his outreach to the West, are smelling blood.

Next in their sights is his minister of industry, mines and business, Mohammad Shariatmadari, who is accused of failing to prevent high inflation, particularly in the car industry.

A motion was also filed on Wednesday to vote on the impeachment of Education Minister Mohammad Bathaei, over a series of issues linked to school budgets, the curriculum and alleged mismanagement.