Posts Tagged ‘Nikki Haley’

“There Simply Is No Russia-U.S. Partnership. Time and Again We Find that the U.S. Cannot Trust Russia.”

November 18, 2017

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Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia votes against the UN resolution on extending the chemical weapons probe.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a CNN contributor and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN) — The limits of just what the United States and Russia can do together in Syria came into full view this Thursday. And it provided yet another reality check to those who say the United States and Russia can find common ground from which to push forward when it comes to ending the civil war in Syria.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

“Need all on the UN Security Council to vote to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria to ensure that Assad Regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again,” President Donald Trump tweeted just before his UN Ambassador Nikki Haley backed a resolution to renew a mechanism that would allow the UN to keep investigating chemical weapons atrocities in Syria.
At the afternoon’s end, it was clear the Trump tweet fell on disinterested ears, as Russia exercised a veto on Syria for the 10th time, this time to block investigators from continuing their work holding the Syrian regime and all other parties to the civil war accountable for using chemical weapons.
“By using the veto to kill a mechanism in Syria that holds users of chemical weapons accountable, Russia proves they cannot be trusted or credible as we work towards a political solution in Syria.” Haley tweeted afterward.
In reality there is not much the two sides have in common in their objectives in the Syrian civil war. And Thursday’s vote threw into plain view just how much the United States needs to get involved — diplomatically — to bring an end to the conflict in a way that doesn’t just result in cementing the status quo and leave the Syrian regime with the territory it has won, plus the terrain the US backed forces have gained.
Trump may be focused on finding ways to cooperate with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria. But the conscious uncoupling of Syria from all the other areas where the United States and Russia find themselves on opposite sides has a very real limit, as Thursday showed. And it is an idea that has always been more wishful thinking than on-the-ground reality.
The United Nations last week found the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad responsible for an April sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a town held by rebel forces. The attack killed more than 80 people and, for a moment, captured the world’s attention in the horror of seeing children and adults dying in the attack’s aftermath. President Trump responded quickly to the chemical weapons attack by launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase. The UN investigation into responsibility followed..
The Joint Investigative Mechanism matters. Holding the Syrian regime, ISIS and all others who may use chemical weapons accountable is important. Not just for Syria. But to show that those who deploy these weapons against mothers and fathers and little ones, wherever in the world they might be, will be held responsible for these atrocities. They must be investigated and held accountable: for leaving little ones gasping for air, for leaving parents without children and for rendering children orphans.
This is not about global politics, but about ground-level justice for little ones and their families.
Or, as UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said Thursday on Twitter, “Today the world can see that Russian policy is to protect #Syria, whatever the cost to Russia’s reputation.”
The United States will push forward when the Geneva talks on Syria’s future come next month. These talks about a political solution will test America’s diplomatic will as Russia continues to shape facts on the ground. And as Russia pushes to protect the Assad regime from accountability for using chemical weapons against its people, the limits of just where the United States and Russia can find common ground should be fresh in the minds of American policymakers. Front of mind should be the effort to help find a peaceful settlement for Syrian moms, dads and little ones caught in the crossfire of a hellish civil war for far too long.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley warns: ‘We should never trust Russia’
The Hill
UN Ambassador Haley warns: 'We should never trust Russia'
© Getty Images

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday said the United States should never trust Russia.

“Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia,” Haley told NBC News.

Haley’s comments contrast that of President Trump, who has suggested he is open to warmer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Justice Department on Wednesday charged two Russian security service officers in the 2014 hacking of the Yahoo network. Haley’s comments about the Kremlin followed the Justice Department’s announcement.In her first appearance in front of the U.N. last month, Haley condemned Russia for its annexation of Crimea.

“I consider it unfortunate that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia,” Haley said at the time.

“We do want to better our relations with Russia, however, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”


Russia blocks Syria gas attacks probe, again

November 18, 2017


© Timothy A. Clary, AFP file picture | The UN Security Council votes to extend investigations into who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria on October 24, 2017. Russia voted no


Latest update : 2017-11-18

Russia cast a second veto in as many days at the United Nations Security Council on Friday to block the renewal of a probe to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

A draft resolution put forward by Japan would have extended the UN-led Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for 30 days to allow time for negotiations on a wider compromise.

But Russia used its veto power to prevent adoption after 12 council members voted in favor of the measure, effectively ending the mission. China abstained, while Bolivia voted no.

It was the 11th time that Russia has used its veto power to stop council action targeting its ally Syria.

“Russia is wasting our time,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote. “Russia has no interest in finding ground with the rest of this council to save the JIM.”

“Russia will not agree to any mechanism that might shine a spotlight on the use of chemical weapons by its ally, the Syrian regime,” she said.

“It’s as simple and shameful as that.”

A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted at the council, but five countries — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — can block adoption with their veto power.

Japan put its proposal forward after Russia on Thursday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have allowed the expert investigators to continue their work for a year.

A separate Russian draft resolution that called for changes to the JIM failed to garner enough support, with just four votes in favor.

“Any extension of the JIM’s mandate for us is possible only provided fundamental flaws in its work are rectified,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

Fictitious investigation

The Russian ambassador accused the JIM’s leadership of having “disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation” of the sarin gas attack at the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun.

The panel “signed its name on baseless accusations against Syria,” he charged.

In a report last month, the JIM concluded that the Syrian air force had dropped the deadly nerve agent on Khan Sheikhun, leaving scores dead.

The April 4 attack triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide, prompting the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base days later.

After the veto, the council met behind closed doors at Sweden’s request to hear another appeal for a temporary extension, but Russia again refused, diplomats said.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said council members must “make sure that we are absolutely convinced that we have exhausted every avenue, every effort before the mandate of the JIM expires tonight.”

Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who holds the presidency, told reporters after the meeting that the council “will continue to work in the coming hours and days constructively to find a common position.”

The final efforts turned to finding some technical ruse that would have allowed the JIM to avoid shutting down and would not require a resolution, diplomats said. 

UN officials confirmed late Friday that the panel would end its work at midnight (0500 GMT Saturday) as there was no decision from the council to keep it in place.

The row over the chemical weapons inquiry came as the United Nations was preparing a new round of peace talks to open on November 28 in Geneva to try to end the six-year war.

The joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel was set up by Russia and the United States in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the council, which renewed its mandate last year.

Previous reports by the JIM have found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015, and that the Islamic State group used mustard gas in 2015.

Syria: Russia blocks extension of chemical attacks probe

November 17, 2017

BBC News

Men receive treatment after a gas attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun
Image captionA nerve gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April killed more than 80 people. Reuters photo

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended an international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

It is the 10th time Moscow has used its veto powers at the UN in support of its ally since the conflict began.

US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, accused Russia of undermining the organisation’s ability to deter future chemical attacks.

The Russian ambassador dismissed the criticism.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) was set up in 2015 to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks. It is the only official mission investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Moscow strongly criticised the inquiry when it blamed the Syrian government for a deadly nerve agent attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April. Syria denies using banned chemical weapons.

Mrs Haley described the latest Russian veto as “a deep blow”.

“Russia has killed the investigative mechanism which has overwhelming support of this council,” she said.

“By eliminating our ability to identify the attackers, Russia has undermined our ability to deter future attacks.”

What is the Joint Investigative Mechanism?

  • Created in 2015 with unanimous backing from the UN Security Council and renewed in 2016 for another year
  • Involves the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  • Has previously concluded that Syrian government forces used chlorine as a weapon at least three times between 2014 and 2015
  • It has also found that Islamic State militants used sulphur mustard in one attack.

The Security Council rejected a Russian-drafted resolution to extend the inquiry but with changes to membership of the panel. The draft also called for the panel’s findings on Khan Sheikhoun to be put aside.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was Western countries who had sabotaged the inquiry.

“Some council members refused to support our draft and now they have full responsibility for terminating the JIM,” he said.

“This just proves again that the anti-Damascus fever is the only real priority for them and that they have manipulated the JIM for their own purposes.”

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks against a Russian resolution at the UN in New York, November 16, 2017
US ambassador Nikki Haley accused Russia of undermining efforts to stop chemical attacks. Reuters photo

Japan later tabled a draft resolution that would extend the JIM for another 30 days, as opposed to the one-year extension in the US-written draft blocked by Russia. The council was due to vote on the new resolution later on Friday.

Russia, the UK, China, France and the US all have veto powers at the Security Council.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April left more than 80 people dead and prompted the US to launch missile strikes on a Syrian airbase.

Last month a UN Human Rights Council inquiry concluded a Syrian air force jet was responsible, dismissing statements from Russia that the jet had dropped conventional munitions that struck a rebel chemical weapons depot.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the incident in Khan Sheikhoun was a “fabrication”.

Abo Rabeea says he is still suffering from the suspected chemical weapons strike in Khan Sheikhoun

US urges UN action after Saudi blames Iran over missile

November 8, 2017

The United States has called on the United Nations to act against Iran after Saudi Arabia, a Washington ally, accused Tehran of “direct military aggression” through the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Amid an escalating war of words, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday pointed the figure to Iran for supplying a ballistic missile that was fired on Saturday from Houthi-held territory towards Riyadh’s international airport.

Saudi-led forces, which have been fighting the Houthis since March 2015, intercepted and destroyed the weapon before it reached its target.

Iran, which supports the Shia Houthi rebels but denies arming them, has dismissed the Saudi allegation as “contrary to reality”.

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Yemen’s Qaher-M2 Ballistic Missile

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, on Tuesday accused Iran of supplying a missile to the Houthis that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July, and also referred to Riyadh’s allegation that the weapon that was shot down over Riyadh on Saturday “may also be of Iranian origin”.


Saudi air strikes kill children in Yemen’s Hajjah area

“By providing these types of weapons to the Houthi militias in Yemen, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is violating two UN resolutions simultaneously,” Haley said.

Image result for ballistic missiles in Yemen, photos

SCUD Type ballistic missile

“We encourage the United Nations and international partners to take necessary action to hold the Iranian regime accountable for these violations.”

“Saudi Arabia’s announcement confirms once again the Iranian regime’s complete disregard for its international obligations. ” -Amb. Haley

‘Bring temperature down’

Tensions between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have surged in recent days, in a crisis that extends far beyond Yemen: the two countries have supported opposing sides in regional conflicts and disputes, and Riyadh has made clear it wants to curb Tehran’s influence not just in the Arabian Peninsula but across the region.

Federica Mogherini, Europe’s top diplomat, on Tuesday called for calm, warning that the mounting tension was “extremely dangerous”.

“Allow me to bring a little bit of wisdom as the European voice in a world that seems to go completely crazy here: It’s dangerous,” she told reporters in Washington.

“We need to calm down the situation. We need to bring down the temperature a bit rather than increasing the level of confrontation.”

Mogherini’s comments came as the Houthis warning that airports in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a Riyadh ally, could be their next firing targets.

‘Catastrophic’ humanitarian situation

A Saudi-led military coalition went to war with the Houthi rebels in March 2015 after they seized the capital, Sanaa.

In the wake of the missile incident, the Saudi-led alliance has intensified its Yemen embargo, announcing the “immediate” closure of all air, land and sea ports of the Arabian Peninsula country.

The decision could further limit access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen, which imports up to 90 per cent of its daily needs.

Image result for delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen, photos
Humanitarian aid in Yemen

On Tuesday, the UN called on the coalition to immediately lift the blockade, describing the current situation in the country as “catastrophic”.

“Humanitarian operations are being blocked as a result of the closure ordered by the Saudi-led coalition,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Geneva.

Laerke said the UN has received reports that fuel prices surged by 60 percent overnight and cooking gas up to 100 percent in some parts of Yemen as a result of the blockade.

“Long lines of cars are queuing at gas stations,” he added.

Laerke said humanitarian flights to and from Yemen were put on hold, adding that the Saudi-led coalition had asked UN staffto tell all ships arriving at the sea ports of Hodeidah and Saleef “to leave”.

According to the UN, some seven million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and were only being kept alive thanks to humanitarian operations.


US ‘will not turn blind eye’ as Iran supplies missiles

November 8, 2017
JEDDAH: The US accused Iran on Tuesday of breaking international law by supplying ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia, and said the US would “not turn a blind eye to these serious violations.”
“By providing these types of weapons to the Houthi militias in Yemen, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is violating two UN resolutions simultaneously,” said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.
“We encourage the UN and international partners to take the necessary action to hold the Iranian regime accountable.”
Iran supplied missiles fired at Makkah in July, and most recently at Riyadh last Saturday. Both were launched from Yemen. The Houthis boasted on Tuesday that they had ballistic missiles with a range of 1,500km and threatened to attack more cities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Col. Aziz Rashed, an army spokesman with a Houthi-allied unit, warned travelers to stay away from Saudi and UAE airports. “All airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance to Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be a direct target of our weapons,” a Houthi spokesman told reporters in Sanaa, according to The Associated Press.
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Haley has accused Iran in the past of illegal arms deals and military support in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria, and has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to take a tougher stance.
Under the UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved in advance by the Security Council.
A separate UN resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to militia chief Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, two Houthi commanders, Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, his son, and “those acting on their behalf or at their direction.”
Washington’s options now are to ask the Security Council’s 15-member Yemen sanctions committee to blacklist individuals or groups, or to seek a new Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Iran. The latter is likely to be vetoed by Russia, according to a Reuters report.
In a phone conversation on Monday night, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying Houthi militias with missiles “is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the Kingdom.”
Johnson condemned the missile launch against Riyadh last Saturday and the deliberate targeting of civilians, and said Britain stood with Saudi Arabia in confronting security threats.
The missile launch was “most likely a war crime,” Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, and was carried out by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said. “It was an Iranian missile launched by Hezbollah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” Al-Jubeir said in an interview with CNN on Monday.
In the US, Pentagon spokesman Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said Saudi Arabia had exposed Iran’s “malign role in Yemen” and its provision of dangerous missile systems to Houthi militants. “We continue to maintain strong defense ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and work together on common security priorities to include combat operations against violent extremist organizations, and neutralizing Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East region,” he said.
In Riyadh, Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak condemned the missile attack on the city. “This attack constitutes a serious escalation in the conflict and poses a growing risk to regional stability and security,” he said in a written statement to Arab News.
“The intentional targeting of civilians cannot be tolerated and Canada calls on the Houthi rebels and their supporters to refrain from such indiscriminate attacks against civilians in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said: “It is clear that the leadership in Tehran is shipping more advanced missiles to Houthi militias with the specific aim of targeting major Saudi cities, such as Riyadh.
“Iran is already banned from proliferating advanced missiles to regional terrorist organizations like Lebanese Hezbollah, but they continue to move these deadly weapon systems which are ultimately used as a terror weapon to target civilians. The Houthi militias are copying Hezbollah’s playbook. The only real solution is to neutralize the problem at its source — the missile shipping and manufacturing centers in Iran.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani “care little about UN Security Council Resolutions where they can count on the Russian veto,” Shahbandar said.
“The only language they truly understand is that of power and deterrence. They must be made to believe that they have crossed a red line and that any further strategic missile strikes will be met with a crippling response.”

Is Iran Fulfilling the Letter and Spirit of the Nuclear Deal?

November 7, 2017


 NOVEMBER 7, 2017 10:07

After President Trump decertified the Iran Nuclear Deal in October, a new focus has been placed on whether Tehran is in compliance and how that is monitored.

Iran rocket launch

Rocket launch in Iran. (photo credit:FARS)

Over two years have passed since the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran and six world powers, but officials continue to disagree over whether Tehran is in compliance with the accord.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared in September that Iran is in “technical compliance” with the nuclear deal. The same month, US General Joseph Dunford expressed his position in a written statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations.” In October, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told a hearing at the House of Representatives that Iran was abiding by its obligations under the deal.

Evidencing the divisions within the American administration, US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has accused the Islamic Republic of directly contravening the deal. The Iranians are “not just walking up to the line on the agreement,” he asserted, “they’re crossing the line at times.” Likewise, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley recent contended that Trump “has grounds” to declare that Iran is not complying with the JCPOA.

Indeed, Tehran has twice crossed that line, including surpassing the designated limit on heavy water, although some officials and experts have downplayed the violations. Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges is also seen as problematic, as per the accord’s stated restrictions.

Prof. Emily Landau, a Senior Research Fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, shared with The Media Line her belief that Iran is not complying with the deal and expressed particular reservations about the Procurement Working Group (PWG), which was set up to monitor Tehran’s nuclear-related purchases.

“While the PWG has in the past announced that Iran is complying with the deal, [the body] is not under the purview of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and therefore it is not their business to determine whether Iran is in compliance or not.” This, she emphasized, “is often misconstrued in the media.”

In this respect, Landau pointed to German intelligence reports detailing numerous attempts by the Islamic Republic to procure military technology that could be used to produce an atomic weapon.

Under a law called the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), passed by Congress during the Obama administration without consulting the Republican-controlled Senate, the US president must re-certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days.

In a controversial move, President Donald Trump chose to decertify the deal in October, but stopped short of scrapping it altogether. This left Congress with 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

Can the IAEA fulfill its mandate?

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, “One of the most serious compliance issues concerns the IAEA’s access to [Iranian] military sites and credible verification of Section T, which prohibits key nuclear weapons development activities.”

“Section T,” Landau explained, “relates to ensuring everything Iran does in the nuclear realm is for peaceful purposes. This would require going beyond inspections of nuclear sites to include military sites. But Iran doesn’t allow inspections of its military sites, leaving the IAEA unable to fulfill its mandate.”

Then-US president Barack Obama repeatedly pledged that the JCPOA would allow for broad oversight of Iran’s nuclear program. And in October, Director General of the IAEA Yukiya Amano said that “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime” while stressing that Tehran was implementing all of its commitments under the accord.

But the IAEA itself has demonstrated otherwise. Before the deal, the UN nuclear agency included in its reports details on Iran’s atomic-related activities along with the organization’s ability, or lack thereof, to access suspicious sites.

After the deal, however, the IAEA omitted such data on Iranian compliance.

The latest IAEA report released on August 31 “looks to be a politically motivated document to deflect discussion of problems in the JCPOA, possibly resulting from Iranian intimidation or a misplaced fear about the deal’s survival,” according to the Institute.

Amano has indeed seemingly contradicted himself in the past, conceding that he does not have the tools to carry out rigorous inspections and admitting that the IAEA has proven unable to verify Iran’s compliance with Section T of the nuclear deal.

“There is a gross lack of transparency in IAEA reports since the deal has been implemented,” said Landau. “In fact”, she noted, “the IAEA didn’t even ask Iran for inspections since they expected a refusal.”

By contrast, Dr. Sanam Vakil, an Associate Fellow for the Middle East and North Africa Program at London-based Chatham House, told The Media Line that “the IAEA has repeatedly verified compliance since the deal was signed and they have monitored Iran, ensuring they keep to the deal.

“There is uniform agreement that Iran has complied,” she elaborated. “It would have been brought up in the Joint Commission if there was any tangible evidence should Iran not be in compliance.”

Iran’s Ballistic Missile Threat

Iran’s continued development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) has generated concern. While the 2015 nuclear deal did not place restrictions on the program, United Nations resolution 2231 requires Tehran to grant full access to IAEA inspectors and discourages Iran from advancing its ballistic missile technology.

Iranian ballistic missile development had been prohibited in UNSC resolution 1929, but Tehran pushed hard to rescind the ban and the Obama administration relented, softening the language in UNSC resolution 2231, which replaced resolution 1929.

The new resolution’s ambiguous language essentially paves the way for Iran to develop its delivery system for nuclear payloads without violating the nuclear deal and without triggering any international response.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has insisted that his country is developing missiles for defensive purposes only. Perhaps to reinforce this image of compliance, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently restricted the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), according to an announcement by General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This is speculated to be an effort by Iran to differentiate its missile program from that of North Korea, which has escalated its threats against the United States.

Is Iran violating the spirit of the deal?

In addition to possibly violating the deal itself, Iran has also been accused of violating the spirit of the accord, which President Donald Trump defined as the Iranian regime’s support for terrorism and exportation of “violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East”.

While Dunford said he believes Iran is upholding the technical aspects of the deal, he emphasized that “Iran has not changed its malign activity in the region since the JCPOA was signed.”

When Iran test-launched missiles in March 2016, Jacqueline Shire, a former member of the UN Security Council panel responsible for overseeing UN sanctions against Iran said, “The missile launches are a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of [UN] resolution 2231.”

Last year, former UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council that Iran’s ballistic missile tests were “not consistent” with the spirit of the nuclear agreement signed with world powers.

And Tillerson also admitted that “perhaps the technical aspects have [been met], but in the broader context the aspiration has not.”

Vakil believes that the “spirit of the deal” is subject to interpretation. “President Obama hoped this would result in something transformational, but I do not believe countries change overnight. Whatever is inside the [JCPOA] document—that is the spirit of the deal.”

She suggested that all parties are perhaps guilty of violating the spirit of the deal and that includes Iran, Europe and the United States.

“It’s important to understand each side’s interpretation,” she concluded.


US pledges $60 million to Sahel counter-terrorism force

October 30, 2017


© Jim Watson, AFP | This file photo taken on October 4, 2017, shows US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson making a statement to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC.


Latest update : 2017-10-30

The United States will pledge $60 million to support the new G5 Sahel regional counter-terrorism force, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday, ahead of UN talks on the operation.

“This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission,” he said, describing G5 members Burkina FasoChadMaliMauritania and Niger as “regional partners.”

Washington has previously expressed support for the force, and has troops and drone operators in the region supporting operations against Islamist militants, but opposes United Nations involvement.

The UN Security Council was due to meet later Monday to look at ways of shoring up the G5 force, with France seeking a multilateral platform to provide assistance to its former colonies.

But US officials have been clear that, while they are ready to support the G5 members directly, they do not want the United Nations to authorize the force or take charge of its funding and logistics.

Tillerson’s statement does not appear to change that position, and he confirmed he would not be heading up to New York to join French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the UN meeting.

“I thank Foreign Minister Le Drian for his invitation, and commend France and all our other partners’ eagerness to win this fight,” he said.

Tillerson said he had asked the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, “to represent the United States and our full commitment to security in the Sahel region in my place.”

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Earlier this month, militants with suspected links to the Islamic State group ambushed and killed four US soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has lost 17 peacekeepers in attacks this year, one of the highest tolls from current peace operations.

Trump’s Iran Policy Is About More Than Nuclear Weapons

October 29, 2017
 OCTOBER 28, 2017 19:44

Iran sees its nuclear program as integral to the security of the Islamic Republic itself.

Diplomatic affairs: Trump's Iran shift is about more than nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON – In a major speech this month, President Donald Trump indulged in one of his favorite pastimes: distinguishing himself from Barack Obama. In this instance, Trump’s core policy disagreement with Obama was on Iran and the distinction he drew was dramatic.

Throughout much of his second term in office, Obama argued that Iran’s nuclear work had to be separated from its regional ambitions in order for the US to have any real chance at resolving the growing international crisis. On a basic level, Trump’s policy on Iran rejects the premise of former president Obama’s argument.

He in fact believes the reverse is true: that an international crisis will soon be upon us if the world does not address Iran’s nuclear program in the context of its greater ambitions.

This is the critical difference between the approaches of their administrations, and the consequences of a shift from one to the other are enormous. The success or failure of the Iran nuclear deal, and the fate of Iran’s future nuclear work, ultimately rests upon which of them is right.

Throughout two years of nuclear talks, the Obama team sought to decouple Iran’s nuclear work from the rest of its foreign policy. It believed that Iran would be emboldened in its efforts to influence regional capitals should it become a nuclear power.

Representatives pose after Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal, capping more than a decade of on-off negotiations, July 14, 2015 (Reuters)Representatives pose after Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal, capping more than a decade of on-off negotiations, July 14, 2015 (Reuters)

A mix of sanctions pressure and incentives might convince Iran to negotiate its nuclear program into irrelevancy, Obama’s team argued, if Iran’s domestic economic conditions reached a crisis point.

Republicans and Democrats agreed that sanctions pressure ultimately forced Iran to the negotiating table, but consensus ended there. Upon unveiling the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015, Obama said the benefits Iran would receive from the nuclear deal in furtherance of its regional power projection – sanctions relief and a degree of international credibility – would be dwarfed in comparison by the alternative: an Iran without a nuclear deal, pursuing a full-fledged nuclear weapons program unchecked by international powers.

“Contrary to the alarmists who claim that Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges,” Obama said in a speech that August at American University, after the deal had been formally announced.

“The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive. We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights. We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly. We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime,” he declared.

“But if we’re serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal,” he continued, adding that advocates of a deal resulting in Iran’s total diplomatic capitulation were untethered from reality: “Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.”

Obama sought a deal that would allow the US to continue sanctioning Iran over its ballistic missile activities, its human rights violations and its support for terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, al-Qaida and Hamas. But he believed these items could indeed be separated from the technical process of Iran’s nuclear work. Take care of the nuclear file on its own, and then confront Iran in other spheres, he said.

The Trump administration now argues that Obama’s decoupling strategy is impossible to achieve in practice – that Iran has used the JCPOA to hold the international community hostage in these other spheres. It is not a delegitimized, nuclear-ambitious Iran bucking international law that is emboldened in the region they argue, but rather a nuclear- threshold Iran legitimized by a flawed and temporary nuclear deal.

“The Iranian nuclear deal was designed to be too big to fail,” said Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute this September. “The deal drew an artificial line between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior. It said, ‘We’ve made this deal on the nuclear side, so none of the regime’s other bad behavior is important enough to threaten the nuclear agreement.’

“The result,” Haley added, “is that for advocates of the deal, everything in our relationship with the Iranian regime must now be subordinated to the preservation of the agreement.”

European allies say the Iran deal is working toward its intended purpose, to minimize Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle under watchful eyes. But regional allies – Israel and Arab powers in the Gulf – see things differently.

They argue that the reason Iran pursued a nuclear program in the first place was to deter outside powers from interfering in its strategic designs on the region.

They now believe this nuclear deal, brokered without their consultation, achieves for Iran precisely the strategic cover they were seeking when pursuing the bomb.

“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks,” Trump said in his October speech, announcing new sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and his decision not to certify Iran’s actions as “proportional” to US sanctions relief under US law.

“It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies.

It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military,” Trump enumerated.

“By its own terms, the Iran deal was supposed to contribute to ‘regional and international peace and security,’” he added. “And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

The worth of the Iran deal is measured not by whether it prevents Iran from obtaining a specific amount of fissile material in a set period of time, but whether it prevents Iran from using nuclear power as a strategic tool for its wider ambitions. This is the broad policy argument made on the Right.

Thought leaders on the Left cast this as a foolish, academic armchair exercise, arguing to the contrary that Iran has acquired all the technological knowledge and capacity to build nuclear weapons and that realpolitik demands we expect less than their total capitulation.

In making their arguments, both sides seem to agree that Iran’s nuclear program was and remains about more than national pride in technological advancement.

Iran sees this program as integral to the security of the Islamic Republic itself. The question before policy-makers now is whether the nuclear deal, as it stands, mitigates Iran’s regional activity or aggravates it – and what can be done about it without making matters worse.


France wants more U.S. support for UN counter-terrorism force for Africa’s Sahel

October 28, 2017


© AFP / by Carole LANDRY | UN Security Council ambassadors, pictured here meeting with Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, visited the Sahel region with a view to launching the anti-Jihadist G5 Sahel force

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – France is facing a tough diplomatic battle to convince the United States to lend UN support to a counter-terrorism force for Africa’s Sahel region, where insurgents have killed UN peacekeepers and US soldiers.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will lead a UN Security Council meeting on Monday that will look at ways of shoring up the G5 Sahel force set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

France wants donors to step up, but is also looking to the United Nations to offer logistic and financial support to the joint force — which is set to begin operations in the coming days.

The United States however is adamant that while it is ready to provide bilateral funding, there should be no UN support for the force.

“The US is committed to supporting the African-led and owned G5 Joint Force through bilateral security assistance, but we do not support UN funding, logistics, or authorization for the force,” said a spokesperson for the US mission.

“Our position on further UN involvement with respect to the G5 Sahel joint force is unchanged.”

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Earlier this month, militants linked to the Islamic State ambushed and killed four US soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has lost 17 peacekeepers in attacks this year, one of the highest tolls from current peace operations.

– Four options –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has come out in favor of multilateral backing, writing in a recent report that the establishment of the G5 force “represents an opportunity that cannot be missed.”

Guterres has laid out four options for UN support, from setting up a UN office for the Sahel to sharing resources from the large UN mission in Mali.

In response, US Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote to Guterres this month to reaffirm the US “no” to UN involvement, officials said. The United States is the UN’s biggest financial contributor.

The battle over UN backing for the Sahel force is shaping up as Haley is pushing for cost-saving measures after successfully negotiating a $600-million cut to the peacekeeping budget this year.

After leading a Security Council visit to the Sahel last week, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said most countries on the council want the United Nations to help.

“The key question now is not about the relevance of the G5 Sahel force, nor the need to support it, but it is about the best way to convey this support,” said Delattre.

A “mix of both multilateral and bilateral support” is needed, he said.

– A long list of gaps –

The price tag for the G5 force’s first year of operations is estimated at 423 million euros ($491 million), even though French officials say the budget can be brought down closer to 250 million euros.

So far, only 108 million euros have been raised, including $50 million from the five countries themselves. A donor conference will be held in Brussels on December 16.

“UN logistical support could make a big difference,” said Paul Williams, an expert on peacekeeping at George Washington University.

“To become fully operational, the force needs to fill a long list of logistical and equipment gaps,” he said — from funding for its headquarters to intelligence-sharing and medical evacuation capacities.

Williams said US reservations were not just about cost, but also about the mission’s operations, which Washington sees as ill-defined.

The G5 is “a relatively blunt military instrument for tackling the security challenges in this region, which stem from a combination of bad governance, underdevelopment and environmental change,” he explained.

“At best it might limit the damage done by some of the criminal networks and insurgents, but even then, its gains will not be sustainable without adequate funding.”

by Carole LANDRY

U.S. wants African Sahel force strategy before giving money — U.S. currently funds more than a quarter of the $7.3 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget.

October 28, 2017


KINSHASA (Reuters) – The United States strongly supports an African military force to combat extremist militants in the Sahel region, but needs to see a strategy for the operation before it considers funding, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations and the U.S. Africa commander said.

Washington is wary, however, of the 193-member United Nations funding the force – to be made up of troops from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania – according to Ambassador Nikki Haley and General Thomas Waldhauser.

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The United States currently funds more than a quarter of the $7.3 billion U.N. peacekeeping budget.

Haley said Washington wanted to know “what the strategy would be, how they see this playing out, what’s involved in it before we ever commit to U.N.-assessed funding.”

“Show us something, we’re open to it, we’re not saying no, but what we’re saying right now (is) there literally has been no information that has been given that gives us comfort that they know exactly how this is going to play out,” Haley told reporters on Friday.

The rise of jihadist groups – some linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State – in the arid Sahel has alarmed Western powers like France, which has deployed thousands of troops to the region in response.

The United States has also been targeting Islamic State in Libya and al-Shabaab in Somalia.


But U.S. involvement in counter-terrorism operations in Africa has been under the spotlight since four U.S. Special Forces troops were killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.

“In Africa with all the challenges of the youth bulge, poverty, the lack of governance, wide open spaces, these are areas where violent extremist organizations, like ISIS or like al Qaeda, thrive,” said Waldhauser, who oversees U.S. troops deployed in Africa.

He was speaking to a small group of reporters traveling with Haley on her first African tour as U.S. envoy to the United Nations, visiting Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


An Department of Defense handout shows U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black (top left), Sgt. La David Johnson (top right), Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, (bottom left), and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, (bottom right), the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces on Oct. 4.
An Department of Defense handout shows U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black (top left), Sgt. La David Johnson (top right), Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, (bottom left), and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, (bottom right), the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces on Oct. 4. PHOTO: DEOARTMENT OF DEFENSE/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

“United Nations forces don’t do counterterrorism, they do peacekeeping operations,” Waldhauser added, reflecting U.S. unease at the United Nations funding the prospective force.

The African counter-terrorism force, known as the G5 Sahel, plans to launch its first joint operations in the coming days.

“One of the hardest things to do in an organization like that is to try to synchronize the efforts of those five countries and have a coherent strategy as opposed to just a series of engagements in different locations,” Waldhauser said.


The United States supported a French-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution in June to give political backing to the G5 Sahel force, but refused to back a formal U.N. mandate.

The 15-member council is due to discuss the force on Monday.

Haley said the United States would continue its bilateral support for the G5 countries, but when asked how much Washington was prepared to contribute to the G5 Sahel force, she said: “You will hear about that, coming soon.”

Waldhauser said the United States currently makes a total of $51 million in bilateral defense contributions to the G5 countries.

File photo shows French Defence Minister Florence Parly delivering a speech
File photo shows French Defence Minister Florence Parly delivering a speech

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said last week that the United States must step up support for the planned Sahel force or it could fail, leaving French troops to carry the burden. [nL8N1MV58Z]

A report to the Security Council by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month said that the planned force budget of $490 million for the first year was only 25 percent funded.

Waldhauser said the G5 countries had discussed their planned counter-terrorism force with U.S. military officials in May at a U.S. organized defense conference in Germany.

“This is exactly what we want to have happen, we want partner nations who share the same overall strategic objectives that we do. We want to try to foster that type of behavior,” he said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Yara Bayoumy and G Crosse


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