Posts Tagged ‘IAEA’

Moscow accuses Washington of ‘blackmailing’ Europeans into altering Iran nuclear deal — Russia, China and Iran are together on this…

January 25, 2018

Russia Today (RT)

January 25, 2018

Protestor demonstrates outside the White House wearing a Donald Trump mask © Jim Bourg / Reuters

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Washington is essentially “blackmailing” European signatories to Iran’s nuclear deal to amend its conditions, Russia’s envoy to EU said, urging the parties to preserve the status quo created by the landmark agreement.

Following Donald Trump’s repeated bashing of the historic 2015 deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on Monday that the US is dispatching a diplomatic team to Europe to work out a joint initiative aimed at amending the P5+1 agreement. France, Germany and the UK, who earlier repeatedly urged the US to honor the deal, seemingly expressed some readiness to cooperate with the US administration’s demands.

“It is difficult to consider Trump’s recent statements as anything other than an attempt to blackmail the European participants in the deal,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told TASS on Wednesday.

Image result for Russia’s Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, photos

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov

However, despite Washington’s incitement, so far “there are no clear signs that the European members of the six-party group have changed their position,” the Russian envoy said, adding that all the signatories continue to “actively consult” with each other and the Iranians.

Donald Trump’s attacks against Iran have intensified this year. The US president began 2018 by accusing the previous administration of basically funding terrorism by signing the landmark nuclear accord with Tehran. While certifying – for the “last” time – on Iran’s compliance with Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump explicitly warned that the US would pull out of the agreement unless “terrible flaws” of the agreement were fixed. Tillerson is now on the mission that might kill the main foreign policy achievement of the Obama era.

The deal, sealed by the US, UK, Russia, France, China and Germany, places limitations on Iran’s controversial nuclear energy program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. The agreement among the P5+1 does not have any binding restrictions on Iran’s ballistic-missile program, which has since become the focus of growing criticism. Iran repeatedly stated that its missile program is not up for negotiation.

Considering the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) repeatedly certified Iran’s full compliance with the deal, Russia and China relentlessly warned the US against unilaterally revising the agreement, which they argue would hurt global security. Chizhov has once again urged the signatories to preserve the document in its current form, insisting there was absolutely no basis for altering it.

https://www.rt.com/news/416915-us-blackmail-europe-iran-deal/

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US lawmakers aim to tighten terms of Iran nuclear deal

January 19, 2018

Following Trump’s call to fix P5+1 agreement’s ‘disastrous flaws,’ Republicans introduce House bill that would require tougher inspections, ban on ballistic missile development

AFP

President Donald Trump gives his pen to Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, third from left, after signing one of various bills in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump gives his pen to Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, third from left, after signing one of various bills in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Thursday aimed at tightening the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, despite Tehran’s rejection of changes to the accord.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, which was signed under his predecessor Barack Obama’s administration.

The “Iran Freedom Policy and Sanctions Act” was introduced by Peter Roskam and backed by Liz Cheney, two Republicans in the US House of Representatives.

The proposed legislation “makes clear what any effective agreement would have to contain,” Cheney said in a statement.

A deal with Iran would need to “at a minimum, authorize anywhere, anytime inspections including inspections of military facilities; disclosure of all past and present, military and civilian nuclear activity; a ban on weapons-grade enrichment; and a restriction on ballistic missile development,” said Cheney.

The legislation “will ensure that sanctions on Iran will only be relaxed if Iran meets these crucial requirements,” Cheney added, criticizing the current agreement for allegedly delivering “sanctions relief and cash payments to the Iranian regime in exchange for unverifiable promises.”

A parallel bill aimed at toughening the nuclear deal is under consideration in the Senate.

Trump again waived nuclear-related sanctions last week — as required every few months to stay in the P5+1 agreement — but demanded European partners work with Washington to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”

Iran’s foreign ministry has said it “will not accept any amendments in this agreement” — and the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed Tehran’s compliance with the current agreement.

The other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — have all said it is working and that Iran is complying fully with its commitments.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-lawmakers-aim-to-tighten-terms-of-iran-nuclear-deal/

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Trump’s new sanctions ‘a blow and a warning to Iranian regime’

January 14, 2018

A man looks at Iranian-made missiles at Defense Museum in Tehran on Sept. 23, 2015. (Reuters)
JEDDAH: Tough new sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump on 14 Iranian individuals and organizations are a political blow and a warning to the regime in Tehran, a leading analyst told Arab News on Saturday.
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Among those targeted are the powerful politician Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary and a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Groups facing sanctions include the cyber unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
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The US move is a significant move and “a critical victory for human rights defenders and the Iranian people,” said Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.
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The sanctions on the IRGC cyber unit were also a step toward peace and stability by combating the Iranian regime’s attempts to hack other governments’ systems and organizations, he said.
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Announcing the new action on Friday, Trump said he would continue the suspension of US sanctions on Iran under the 2015 nuclear deal — but only for 120 days. In the intervening time, he has demanded a separate agreement to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is not explicitly covered by the nuclear deal, and to make the 10-year curb on Iran’s nuclear program permanent. If he sees no progress on such an agreement, the president will withdraw from the nuclear deal.
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Trump was sending a message that the Iranian regime “will be monitored not only for its nuclear defiance, development, research and proliferation, but also for its human rights violations,” Rafizadeh said.
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Trump, who has sharply criticized the deal reached under Barack Obama’s presidency, had chafed at once again having to waive sanctions on a country he sees as a threat in the Middle East.
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“Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal,” he said on Friday. The options were to fix “the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw. This is a last chance.”
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Contrary to the view of his critics, Rafizadeh said, Trump had used diplomacy to address the loopholes in the nuclear deal. “This will give the administration a more robust platform to persuade the EU nations to fix the nuclear agreement or to abandon it.
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“If other parties do not take necessary and adequate action to address the shortcomings of the nuclear agreement, Trump has buttressed his position and laid out the groundwork to reimpose sanctions, as well as withdrawing from the deal.”
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Trump is also giving the US Congress additional time to work on legislation to fix loopholes in the deal, such as requiring Iran to allow its military sites be inspected for nuclear development, research, weaponization and proliferation, Rafizadeh said.
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“Iran is not adhering to the spirit of the nuclear deal due to its heightened interventionist and expansionist policies in the Arab world and to its human rights violations domestically.”
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Rafizadeh said the deal had empowered the IRGC and its militias in the region through sanctions relief. This, he said, had further radicalized, militarized and destabilized the region. “Iran continues to ratchet up its antagonistic policy toward Arab nations, the US, and the West.”
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Iran’s Foreign Ministry said sanctions on Larijani were “hostile action” that “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community and a violation of international law, and will surely be answered by a serious reaction of the Islamic Republic.”
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Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the nuclear deal was “not renegotiable” and Trump’s move “amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.”
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James Jeffrey, distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former US ambassador to Iraq, told Arab News: “Ignore the rhetoric. Zarif is simply reflecting the truth about Iran’s refusal to change the nuclear deal, and all other parties including Europeans agree. But what Trump and his advisers, in background talks with me, seem to be looking for is an agreement with France, Germany and the UK to deal with the problems Trump cites — long-range missiles, inspection flaws and Iranian enrichment breakout after 10 years, without necessarily new negotiations.
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“These are real problems that, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron has cited, and do not necessarily require modifying the agreement which, as Zarif says, understandably Iran rejects.
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“Missiles and sanctions related to them are not part of the agreement, but a separate Security Council resolution that Iran did not formally agree to.
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“Inspection problems involve a mix of the International Atomic Energy Agency not using powers the agreement gives it, and inspection procedures and deals outside of the agreement.
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“Unchecked enrichment after 10 years is a serious problem, but could be dealt with through European/US carrots and sticks and cooperation by a future Iranian government, without changing the agreement.”
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Speaking by phone to Arab News, Aaron David Miller, vice president for New Initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former senior US peace negotiator, said that the Trump administration will face “great odds” convincing European signatories of the JCPOA to agree to change the “internal architecture’ of the agreement.
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Miller also maintained that despite the strong rhetoric from the Trump administration, he does not see its policy on Iran as fundamentally different from that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
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Nevertheless, when asked whether he had expected the JCPOA to compel Iran to moderate its behavior in the region or whether he expected it to be emboldened, Miller said the JCPOA was not meant to be “transformational. It was transactional.”

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Trump issues ultimatum to ‘fix’ Iran nuclear deal — “Either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”

January 13, 2018

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump gave the Iran nuclear deal a final reprieve on Friday but warned European allies and Congress they had to work with him to fix ”the disastrous flaws” in the pact or face a U.S. exit.

Trump said he would waive sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the international deal for the last time unless his conditions were met.

The ultimatum puts pressure on Europeans – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program – to satisfy Trump, who wants the pact strengthened with a separate agreement within 120 days.

“Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement. “Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Twitter that the deal was not renegotiable and that Trump’s stance “amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.”

Trump, who has sharply criticized the deal reached during Democrat Barack Obama’s presidency, had privately chafed at having to once again waive sanctions on a country he sees as a rising threat in the Middle East.

“This is a last chance,” Trump said, pushing for a separate agreement. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”

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Donald Trump with senior national security team including H.R. McMaster

The EU said in a statement it had taken note of Trump’s decision and would assess its implications.

Underscoring the difficulty now facing Europeans, a European diplomat, speaking under condition of anonymity, said: “It’s going to be complicated to save the deal after this.”

While Trump approved the sanctions waiver, the Treasury Department announced new, targeted sanctions against 14 entities and people, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Trump now will work with European partners on a follow-on agreement that enshrines certain triggers that the Iranian regime cannot exceed related to ballistic missiles, said senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision.

One senior administration official said Trump would be open to remaining in a modified deal if it were made permanent.

“I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people,” Trump said in the statement.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said “significant progress” had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to “address the flaws in the agreement without violating U.S. commitments.”

SEVERAL CONDITIONS

Trump laid out several conditions to keep the United States in the deal. Iran must allow “immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors,” he said, and “sunset” provisions imposing limits on Iran’s nuclear program must not expire. Trump said U.S. law must tie long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs together, making any missile testing by Iran subject to “severe sanctions.”

The president wants Congress to modify a law that reviews U.S. participation in the nuclear deal to include “trigger points” that, if violated, would lead to the United States reimposing its sanctions, the official said.

This would not entail negotiations with Iran, the official said, but rather would be the result of talks between the United States and its European allies. Work already has begun on this front, the official said.

Analyst Richard Nephew said whether Trump’s conditions could be met depended on whether he wants a face-saving way to live with the nuclear deal with the political cover of tough-sounding U.S. legislation, or whether he really wants the deal rewritten.

Nephew, a former White House and State Department Iran sanctions expert, said legislation could be drafted that might appear to assuage Trump’s concerns, but that getting Iran to agree to allow unfettered international inspections or to no time limits on the nuclear deal’s restrictions was impossible.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump has argued behind the scenes that the nuclear deal makes the United States look weak, a senior U.S. official said.

A decision to withhold a waiver would have effectively ended the deal between Iran, the United States, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union. The other parties to the agreement would have been unlikely to join the United States in reimposing sanctions.

Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal lifted economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program but Trump has argued that Obama negotiated a bad deal.

PRESSURE FROM EUROPE

Britain, France and Germany called on Trump on Thursday to uphold the pact.

Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes and that it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.

Two EU diplomats said EU foreign ministers will discuss what to do now at their next regular meeting, scheduled for Jan. 22 in Brussels.

The U.S. Congress requires the president to decide periodically whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal and issue a waiver to allow U.S sanctions to remain suspended.

Trump in October chose not to certify compliance and warned he might ultimately terminate the accord. He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement even though the International Atomic Energy Agency says Tehran is complying.

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Hard-liners on Iran in the U.S. Congress have called for the reimposition of the suspended sanctions and an end to the nuclear deal, while some liberal Democrats want to pass legislation that would make it harder for Trump to pull Washington out without congressional consent.

Trump and his top advisers have been negotiating with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill to try to change sanctions legislation so that Trump does not face a deadline on whether to recertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days.

Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Doina Chiacu, David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Robin Emmott in Brussels, John Irish in Paris and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Writing by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Bill Trott and Leslie Adler

Iran: Nuclear deal ‘depends on full compliance’ from US

January 11, 2018

Iran’s foreign minister said Iran’s agreement to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance from the US, following talks in Brussels. The talks took place ahead of the United States’ sanctions decision due Friday.

Boris Johnson speaking at a news conference in Brussels (Reuters/F.Lenoir)

Britain, France, Germany and the European Union called for the United States to uphold the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, following a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his German, French and British counterparts, before the United States makes a decision on sanctions tomorrow.

After the meeting, Zarif said Iran’s promise to curb its nuclear program under the deal signed with six world powers was “conditioned on full compliance” from the US.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the unity of the international community was essential to preserving the Iran nuclear agreement. She said the deal “was working” and “delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance.”

Strong consensus in Brussels today: 1)Iran is complying with , 2)Iranian people have every right to all its dividends, 3)any move that undermines JCPOA is unacceptable. E3 and EU fully aware that Iran’s continued compliance conditioned on full compliance by the US.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Despite EU support for the nuclear deal, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Europe was not seeking to hide other issues with Iran, including its ballistic weapons program. He called on all parties to uphold the agreement, emphasizing that “our American allies should respect it as well. There is no particular reason for any rupture.”

US President Donald Trump will decide on Friday whether to renew his country’s waiver on nuclear-related sanctions, as well as make a decision on Saturday regarding renewing his certification of the 2015 Iran deal.

No ‘better alternative’

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that no better option had been put forward to prevent Iran from constructing nuclear weapons. “I don’t think anybody has so far produced a better alternative … as a way of preventing the Iranians from going ahead with the acquisition of their military nuclear capability,” he said.

Read more: Iran: We will stick to nuclear deal if Europe does

Trump has repeatedly called into question the 2015 nuclear deal and described it as “one of the worst” transactions ever entered into by the US. This criticism was redoubled amid rare street protests in several Iranian cities in recent weeks.

Senior officials told AFP they expect Trump to extend waivers on sanctions against Iran on Friday to keep the US in line with the 2015 deal.

Meanwhile, the European Union has pushed for continued implementation of the nuclear deal, which aims to prevent Iran from constructing nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Read more: EU rejects Donald Trump’s attempt to dump Iran nuclear deal, saying it works

Gabriel defends deal, but cites other ‘serious problems’

Ahead of the meeting on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel described the accord as one of the “core elements of global [nuclear] non-proliferation” efforts. He said that Berlin wanted to work with its EU partners to uphold and implement the deal, saying the motivation for Europe to do so was “overwhelming.”

Gabriel’s British counterpart, Boris Johnson, described the accord as “a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.”

Read more: Iran nuclear deal: What’s next?

But Gabriel said this did not mean that there were not “serious problems separate [from the nuclear deal] that we need to seriously address.”

Despite being outspoken in his criticism of US foreign policy since President Donald Trump took office a year ago, Gabriel has also said the United States was right to address concerns about Iran’s strategy in the Middle East.

Zarif hopes for back-up

In October, Zarif said that Iran would adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal so long as European signatories also remained committed to the agreement.

“The resistance of the Europeans [against the US] will show whether the nuclear agreement can be carried forward or not,” Zarif said.

Read more: Israelis watch closely as Iran protests

Protests began on December 28 over economic issues, Tehran’s Middle East policies and the country’s religious establishment. Eighteen demonstrators were killed and up to 3,700 people have been arrested.

Critics have accused the European Union of failing to condemn Tehran’s response to the recent protests quickly and unequivocally, claiming that this was a bid to avoid undermining the nuclear deal.

In a video message earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “many European governments watch in silence as heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets.”

“Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades.”

law/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/iran-nuclear-deal-depends-on-full-compliance-from-us/a-42105341

Europe, Iran to back nuclear deal as Trump decision looms

January 11, 2018

 

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini. (AP)

BRUSSELS: Europe and Iran are to put on a united front in support of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal at talks in Brussels Thursday as Washington mulls reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

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The European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France will unite to defend the accord, which curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for the relaxing of punishing sanctions but which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized and threatened to leave.
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While EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini wants to keep the nuclear issue separate from other contentious issues with Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will also face tough questions about recent anti-government protests which left 21 people dead.
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Trump, who in October refused to certify Iran was complying with the deal but stopped short of withdrawing from it, is expected to decide on Friday whether to extend waivers on nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.
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The EU and other world powers have repeatedly warned it would be a mistake to abandon the deal, thrashed out with Iran over 12 years by the US, Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia.
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British foreign minister Boris Johnson called the deal “a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.”
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“It is vital that we continue to work with our European partners to preserve the Iran deal, and with it the security and prosperity it is bringing to the people of Iran and the world,” he said.According to two US sources, Trump had not made a decision by Wednesday, while Johnson told the British parliament on Tuesday that London was urging “our friends in the White House not to throw it away.”
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Iran, which on Monday warned the world to get ready for Washington abandoning the deal, has said if the US walks away from the agreement it is ready to give an “appropriate and heavy response.”
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Zarif, who traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to seek Russian support, criticized what he called Washington’s “destructive policy.”
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“The United States must understand the unity of the international community over the nuclear deal and change their position as a result,” Zarif said, urging world powers to “resist the hostile actions” of the Trump administration.
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly said Iran is keeping up its side of the agreement, most recently in November.
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after talks in Moscow on Wednesday Zarif tweeted a warning.
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“Everyone agrees it is imperative that ALL live up to their obligations under JCPOA. IAEA has verified Iran’s full compliance, but continuation will depend on full US compliance,” he wrote. JCPOA is the official name for the deal.Mogherini, who played an important role in crafting the nuclear accord, has vowed to preserve the deal and has lobbied US lawmakers in Washington.
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US Congress is working on a way to punish Iran for its continuing ballistic missile program and meddling in Middle East conflicts such as Yemen and Syria.
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Johnson said these issues would be “an important part of our conversation” in Brussels on Thursday — along with the recent unrest in Iran.
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“I will be making it clear to Foreign Minister Zarif, on the subject of the recent protests in Iran, that the right to peaceful demonstration within the law is central to any truly thriving society,” Johnson said.
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The 28-member EU has condemned the “unacceptable loss of human lives” in the protests and stressed that peaceful protest and freedom of expression are “fundamental rights.”

US security experts back Iran nuclear deal, as Trump faces deadlines

January 8, 2018

US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran deal from the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House in Washington, DC. Trump announced he will not certify the Iran nuclear deal and warned that the US could leave the Iran deal ‘at any time.’ (AFP)

WASHINGTON: Retired US military officers, members of Congress and former US ambassadors were among 52 US national security experts who signed a letter released on Monday urging President Donald Trump’s administration not to jeopardize the international nuclear deal with Iran.

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Trump faces deadlines related to the deal starting late this week, including deciding whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the 2015 agreement. He will make the decision as Iran’s government deals with protests over economic hardships and corruption.
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Signers of the letter, organized by the National Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon, included Richard Lugar, a former Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Paul O’Neill, who served as Treasury secretary under Republican President George W. Bush; Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, and Admiral Eric Olson, former commander of Special Forces.
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“We support the rights of Iranian citizens to free speech and peaceful protest and we condemn the use of force against peaceful demonstrations,” the letter said.
“In responding to developments in Iran, now and in the future, the US should be careful not to take any steps that might undermine the JCPOA (nuclear agreement) which remains vital to US national security,” it said.

Iran says it might reconsider cooperation with U.N. nuclear watchdog

January 8, 2018

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday it might reconsider its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog if the United States failed to respect its commitments in the nuclear deal Tehran struck with world powers in 2015.

U.S. President Donald Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports under the terms of the nuclear pact that eased economic pressure on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Image result for Ali Akbar Salehi,, photos

Ali Akbar Salehi

In October, Trump refused to certify that Iran was complying with the deal, also known by its acronym JCPOA, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was.

“If the United States does not meet its commitment in the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic of Iran would take decisions that might affect its current cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, was quoted as telling IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in a phone call.

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The IAEA is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and is scrutinizing Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

Supporters of the deal insist that strong international monitoring will prevent Iran from developing nuclear bombs. Iran has denied that it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Monday that Tehran “would not prejudge the decision that America would take on January 13,” but said it was ready for all possible outcomes and “all options were on the table”.

IAEA Director General YukiyaAmano

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said world powers should be ready for a possible U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

“The international community might come to this conclusion that the United States will withdraw from the JCPOA in the next few days,” Araghchi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

“The international community must be ready for this development,” Araghchi added, warning that such a decision would affect stability in the region.

Trump is weighing whether the pact serves U.S. security interests, while the other world powers that negotiated it – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – still strongly support it.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in September that the United States should consider staying in the Iran deal unless it were proven that Tehran was not abiding by the agreement or that it was not in the U.S. national interest to do so.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, William Maclean

Russian Nuclear Plant Stokes Europe’s Fears of a Power Play

December 24, 2017

Lithuanians say Moscow could use project in Belarus to induce panic; Russia calls claim ‘patently bogus’

BRUSSELS—Power politics between Russia and the rest of Europe are once again raising a question that dogged strategists throughout the Cold War: Where is the line between prudence and paranoia?

Russia, which for years has used its vast supply of natural gas as a political lever with energy-hungry Europe, is building a nuclear power plant in Moscow-friendly Belarus. Neighboring Lithuania and Poland are so determined to escape Russia’s clutch that they refused to buy electricity from the plant.

Still, the $11 billion Ostrovets nuclear-power project, 30 miles from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, is fueling fears in the Baltic republic. Lithuanians say they don’t think Moscow would actually trigger a nuclear accident but they do worry about a panic-inducing warning of a leak—real or not.

“Even a fake message about the disaster could trigger a lot of damage to our country,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė. “We treat this as a national security threat.”

Evacuating Vilnius would be massively disruptive, lower the country’s defenses, and increase its vulnerability to potential covert action by Russia. Lithuania, occupied by the Soviet Union until 1991, has briefed fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, arguing Moscow has demonstrated it can effectively use nontraditional military techniques to destabilize its neighbors.

Belarusian authorities didn’t respond to requests for comment, while Russian officials referred questions to Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear monopoly. A spokesman for the Moscow-based company dismissed Lithuanian warnings that the Belarus nuclear plant represents a hybrid threat as “a patently bogus claim which doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.”

“The project meets the highest safety standards,” the Rosatom spokesman said.

Lithuanian officials, however, are ringing alarm bells against the backdrop of Russia’s assertiveness across the globe. Washington and its European allies have accused Russia of interfering in elections, deploying social media to spread false allegations and using other unorthodox methods to sow divisions among Western democracies. Allied officials say Russia uses a range of tactics to pressure their neighbors, seeking to loosen their ties to the West.

Infrastructure projects are seen as potential weapons in other parts of the world. South Korea so fears North Korea will use its Imnam hydroelectric dam to try to flood Seoul that it spent $429 million building its own dam in defense. China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea are seen by the U.S. and its allies as permanent aircraft carriers.

Which non-traditional threats should prompt reaction is a tough call. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, few foresaw commercial planes being used as suicide weapons.

European officials are divided over the potential threat from the Ostrovets plant. Rosatom has projects around Europe, including nuclear power plants under construction in Hungary and Finland. Accidents are bad for business, even false alarms, say energy experts.

“They’re not building a ticking time bomb,” a European official said. “But, you will never satisfy the Lithuanians, they simply don’t want the project.”

But the European Union and NATO officials see a different kind of threat from the plant. They say the project is an attempt by Moscow to maintain its neighbors’ energy dependence on Russia.

The EU is trying to help Poland and the Baltic states cut ties to Russia’s energy grid. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, recently pledged to advance a plan to integrate the four countries into the European energy network by May.

Conventional nuclear risks such as radioactive contamination also feed Lithuanian fears. Some 75% of its capital region’s drinkable water comes from the Neris River that runs by the Ostrovets plant and through Vilnius. One-third of the country’s 2.9 million people live within a 100-kilometer (62 mile) radius that would be heavily affected by an incident, according to Lithuania. In recent years, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have distributed iodine tablets to residents within 100 kilometers of nuclear power plants, in line with International Atomic Energy Agency emergency guidelines.

Adding to Lithuania’s wariness is the safety record of Russian nuclear power. Memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster resurfaced in November when scientists tracked a cloud of radioactive isotopes that appeared to originate from Russia. Rosatom has denied responsibility for the recent radioactive cloud, which was centered around a facility run by the company.

“They simply cannot afford to behave in any kind of gross political, non-market way,” said an Ostrovets project supporter, who is familiar with the discussions. Unlike PAO Gazprom—the Russian state-run natural-gas giant that enjoys stable, high demand from Europe and has on occasion cut off supplies amid political spats—the nuclear enterprise is operating in a highly competitive global market that would severely punish any mishap, the person said.

Belarusian and Russian officials and their supporters argue that Russia’s interest in European energy is about economics, not threats. The IAEA has said Belarus has shown a strong commitment to safety standards.

Officials from the EU and its members have said the bloc can do little beyond demanding strict adherence to international agreements and regulations. Belarus has agreed to cooperate with the EU and the IAEA. The bloc will review Belarus’s stress-test, visiting Ostrovets in March and unveiling its findings in June, an EU official said.

Nonetheless, some allied officials warn against dismissing Lithuanian national-security concerns. In February, as German troops deployed to Lithuania under a NATO mandate, false reports spread that a German national had raped a Lithuanian girl. Some Western officials said the misinformation likely came from Russia, seeking to undermine support for NATO. Russian officials have said such claims are a NATO propaganda campaign to justify its military presence in the Baltic states.

In April, lawmakers in Vilnius adopted a law against importing electricity from “unsafe” power plants and in June Lithuania’s parliament declared the Belarusian nuclear plant a national-security threat.

“The plant is not economically viable,” said Ms. Grybauskaitė. “If they go ahead, it not economic goals they are pursing.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

Europe Scolds Trump on Iran, Jerusalem in Tillerson Meeting

December 6, 2017

Bloomberg

By Nikos Chrysoloras and Jonathan Stearns

 Updated on 
  • EU foreign policy chief Mogherini warns against unilateralism
  • Bloc’s foreign ministers meet Tillerson in Brussels on Tuesday

A joint press conference by the European Union’s foreign-policy chief and the U.S. Secretary of State descended into a thinly veiled exchange of rebukes, adding to signs of increased strain in the world’s most powerful alliance.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a key strategic priority for European security but also for regional and global security,” the EU’s Federica Mogherini told reporters on Tuesday, emphasizing that the agreement only dealt with nuclear issues. “Dismantling an agreement on nuclear issues that is working — as the International Energy Agency has certified nine times — would not put us in a better position to discuss all the rest on the country.”

That conflicts with U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to pull the plug out of the Iran nuclear deal, which has drawn sharp criticism from the EU. The bloc has been lobbying Congress to overrule the president’s decision, saying that scrapping the accord would endanger stability in the wider region.

 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, looks on next to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini during a joint press conference at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday. (AFP)

“Iran is carrying out a number of destabilizing actions in the region and we’ve seen this recently with ballistic missiles being fired from Yemen, which is our belief are sourced from Iran,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after Mogherini’s comments. Even though the EU says that any such concerns shouldn’t lead to the dismantling of the nuclear accord, Tillerson said that “these issues and activities of Iran cannot be ignored and cannot go unanswered and we intend to continue to take action to ensure Iran understands this.”

Capital of Israel

The quarrel adds to a long list of disputes that have come between the U.S. and the EU — from trade protectionism to environmental policies, and from Trump’s apparent endorsement of far-right groups in Europe to his threat of unilateral military action against North Korea.

The latest episode in the saga is over the possibility that the U.S. might unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “A way must be found, through negotiations, to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” Mogherini said in her joint press statement with Tillerson. “We believe that any action that would undermine this effort must absolutely be avoided.”

Germany’s acting foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said unilateral U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would inflame Middle East tensions.

“That would be a very dangerous development,” Gabriel told reporters on Tuesday at a meeting of foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

After his bilateral meeting with Mogherini, Tillerson was due to meet his EU counterparts, ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Mogherini and Tillerson didn’t accept questions after the briefing.

— With assistance by Richard Bravo, and Zoe Schneeweiss

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