Posts Tagged ‘nuclear deal’

Netanyahu Tells Macron: Trump Serious, Wanst To “Fix” Iran Nuclear deal — “Trump’s remarks should be taken seriously, and whoever wants to keep the nuclear deal would be wise to fix it.”

January 14, 2018
 JANUARY 14, 2018 02:35

Tehran vows retaliation against new sanctions by the United States.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris. (photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS)

PARIS – A day after President Donald Trump set an ultimatum to fix “disastrous flaws” in a deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that “Trump’s remarks should be taken seriously, and whoever wants to keep the nuclear deal would be wise to fix it.”

According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, he also told Macron the free world should “strongly condemn the five crimes of the Iranian regime,” listing “efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, developing ballistic missiles against UN Security Council resolutions, supporting terror, regional aggression,” and “the cruel repression of Iranian citizens.”

A senior US administration official said that Trump would not sign any more such waivers going forward – starting a 120-day clock for negotiations over what the White House describes as a supplemental accord with Europe that will impose new terms on Iran over its future nuclear work.

Russia – one of the parties to the Iran pact alongside the United States, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union – called Trump’s comments “extremely negative.”

While approving the waiver on US sanctions related to the nuclear deal, Washington announced other sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and people, including judiciary head Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran said on Saturday it would retaliate against new sanctions imposed by the United States Describing sanctions against Larijani as “hostile action,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the move “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community and is a violation of international law and will surely be answered by a serious reaction of the Islamic Republic,” state media reported.

It did not specify what any retaliation might involve.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier said on Twitter that the deal was “not renegotiable” and that Trump’s move “amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.”

Trump’s move creates a deadline on talks over a nuclear deal the European Union says is working, and that it will not touch. Should Trump fail to issue future waivers, European entities and businesses will bear the brunt of secondary sanctions, creating a crisis in US-EU relations, in addition to whatever actions Tehran might take in response.

The senior official said that Trump seeks a multilateral deal negotiated without Iran at the table, but with European nations willing to set “triggers” for additional sanctions on Tehran upon the expiration of critical provisions of the 2015 accord.

The president is seeking an agreement that “never expires,” and that “denies Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon forever – not for 10 years or any other shorter period of time,” the senior official said, referring to controversial “sunset” clauses within the nuclear accord.

“I do want to stress also that this would not entail direct negotiations with the Iranians, this would be something the United States works out with our European partners only,” the official added. “It would be an agreement amongst the United States and our European partners to reimpose multilateral sanctions should the Iranians surpass the new triggers that we would lay out.”

Trump had come under heavy pressure from European allies to issue the sanctions waiver.

The US administration also said it hopes for an amendment to congressional legislation that imposes triggers on Iran of its own – and that for the first time characterizes Tehran’s ballistic missile program as “inseparable” from its nuclear work, bringing with it harsh sanctions. The nuclear deal does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The US Treasury Department also announced 14 new sanctions designations on Iran, including against entities in its aviation sector, the Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber units and the head of Iran’s judiciary.

Trump in October chose not to certify the country’s 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.

In a written statement, Trump said the following: “Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal. This is a last chance. 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.

“No one should doubt my word. I said I would not certify the nuclear deal – and I did not. I will also follow through on this pledge. 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. If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran. Those who, for whatever reason, choose not to work with us will be siding with the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, and against the people of Iran and the peaceful nations of the world.”

Reuters contributed to this report.


What Israeli Intel Really Thinks About the Iran Protests

January 3, 2018

Tens of thousands of Iranians breached barriers of fear and have taken to the streets, but the regime hasn’t yet responded in full force

Amos Harel Jan 03, 2018 12:15 PM

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 /AP

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Six days into the wave of protests that is shaking Iran, Israeli and Western intelligence services are still hesitant to provide an answer to the main question that is keeping their political masters busy: Do these new circumstances present a window of opportunity for the first time since the failed Green Revolution in 2009 to bring down the Iranian regime?

The information coming out of Iran is still too fragmented to provide a clear picture. The government is disrupting access to the messaging app Telegram, which protestors used at the beginning to coordinate their moves. At the same time, internet traffic in Iran has been lagging, even though those opposed to the Islamic regime have managed to find ways to bypass this problem to a certain extent.

But as time goes by, a few aspects of the protests are becoming clearer according to Israeli and Western intelligence services’ analyses.

Tens of thousands of people have participated in the demonstrations. The numbers are still nowhere near the hundreds of thousands who took part in the Green Revolution protests, but those demonstrations were concentrated in Tehran and led by students and the middle class. This time, the protests began mostly with the lower classes and have spread throughout almost all of Iran to many distant towns that the regime now finds difficult to control. It seems that for a significant group of people, the barrier of fear has been breached – something that did not happen in the past and prevented similar action since the brutal repression of the protests nearly nine years ago.

The high cost of living may have been the original motivation for people to take to the streets, but it is far from the only one. The anger against rising prices has added to the accumulating despair of young people who are educated yet unemployed. In the background is a long-time bitterness for a large part of the Iranian public over the Islamic regime’s strict enforcement of religious laws. The most remarkable visual emblem of the protests so far – and their escalation will certainly bear other symbols – is the video clip in which a young woman removes her head covering in the middle of a demonstration and waves it in the air.

The Iranian government’s efforts to set in motion and finance the export of the Islamic revolution to other countries has created great anger among the public. In a few cases, protestors were filmed burning pictures of General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who has been lauded as a national hero after the defeat of the Islamic State and the successes of the Assad regime in the civil war in Syria. Raising the prices of eggs and gas at a time when Iran is providing billions of dollars in aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been the focus of the protesters’ anger.

As of Tuesday evening, the Iranian regime still has not used its full force to put down the protests. It appears that like the foreign intelligence agencies, the Iranian authorities had not predicted the timing of the breakout of public fury. Even though the regime responded violently in a number of cities, and about 20 people have been reported killed so far, it is far from the aggressive means used to quell the 2009 protests. It looks as if the regime is still in the containment stage and has yet to loosen the reins on its offensive forces.

This is also due to Iranian foreign policy: The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his circle are still very worried about U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to cancel the nuclear deal. To repulse Trump, the Iranians need the Europeans. The European Union may have remained silent so far in response to the killing of protesters – which is morally grating – but using more force could well lead to new complaints about human rights violations and complicate Iran’s situation vis-a-vis the Europeans.

The sanctions are still important. The ones imposed by the United States at the beginning of this decade hurt the Iranian economy and forced the leadership in Tehran to agree to the nuclear deal, which delayed the Iranian nuclear program. The accumulated damage from the sanctions can still be felt, and it is impeding the rebound capabilities of the Iranian economy.

For now, Trump has expressed his support for the protestors in an almost incidental manner in his tweets, between his fights with the media and his efforts to take credit – for instance, for commercial aviation safety since he took office. But a reconsideration of the sanctions because of Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and human rights violations could provide a real tailwind for the protesters.

There is even a bonus as far as Trump is concerned: This is exactly what the Obama administration did not do in 2009, when it watched somewhat apathetically from a distance as the Green Revolution collapsed. And for now, Israel is still not in the picture.

Amos Harel
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Iran hit by second day of anti-government protests

December 29, 2017

BBC News

Iranians protest against high prices in the city of Mashhad on 28 December 2017
The protests in Mashhad on Thursday led to 52 arrests

Anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets of Iran for a second day, with protests being held in a number of cities.

The protesters have been angered by rising prices and corruption.

Large numbers have reportedly gathered in the western city of Kermanshah, with a smaller demonstration in the southern city of Shiraz.

The biggest protest on Thursday was in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, where there were 52 arrests.

There have been calls on social media for protests up and down the country, despite warnings from the government against illegal gatherings.

The governor-general of the capital, Tehran, said no permits had been issued for public demonstrations.

He said such gatherings would be firmly dealt with by the police, who are out in force on main intersections.

Videos posted on social media purport to show clashes between security forces and some demonstrators in Kermanshah on Friday.

‘Harsh slogans’

A number of cities in north-eastern Iran held protests on Thursday. They started with anger at the inability of the government of President Hassan Rouhani to control prices – the cost of eggs has doubled in a week.

However, some developed into broader anti-government protests, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to police beatings.

Iran map showing Kermanshah in the west, Mashhad in the north-east and Shiraz in the south

There were also chants in Mashhad of “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign policy rather than domestic issues.

The arrests in Mashhad were for chanting “harsh slogans”, officials said.

‘Seething discontent’

Analysis by Kasra Naji, BBC Persian

The demonstrations have taken the Iranian authorities by surprise. Impromptu anti-government demonstrations are rare in a country where the Revolutionary Guard and numerous intelligence agencies have a strong grip on the population.

Predictably they are blaming anti-revolutionary elements and foreign agents. But the protests clearly stem from seething discontent in Iran, mainly because of the worsening economic conditions faced by ordinary Iranians.

A BBC Persian investigation has found that Iranians, on average, have become 30% poorer in the past ten years alone.

Many believe Iranian leaders are spending money that should be used to improve their lot on war efforts abroad. Billions are also being spent on spreading religious propaganda and Shia Islam around the world.

But it seems that the hardliners opposed to President Rouhani may have triggered the unrest by holding a demonstration that quickly grew out of control and spread to cities and towns across the country.

The head of Mashhad’s revolutionary court, Hossein Heidari, said: “We consider protest to be the people’s right but if some people want to abuse these emotions and ride this wave, we won’t wait and will confront them.”

President Rouhani promised that the deal he signed with world powers in 2015, which saw Iran limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of international sanctions, would boost economic growth.

The economy has risen out of recession and inflation has been reduced, but businesses are still struggling from a lack of investment and the official unemployment rate is 12.4%.

Hassan Rouhani, 10 December, Tehran
President Hassan Rouhani continues to be dogged by economic problems. AFP

Iran cleric urges tough action after price protests turn political — Anti-government protests in Iran — “Death to Rouhani”

December 29, 2017


Iranian cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda delivers speech during a conservatives campaign gathering in Tehran February 24, 2016. (Reuters)

DUBAI: A top cleric in Iran’s second largest city of Mashhad called for tough action by security forces after hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against high prices and shouted anti-government slogans, state news agency IRNA said on Friday.

Police arrested 52 people in Thursday’s protests, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a judicial official as saying in Mashhad, one of the holiest places in Shiite Islam.
Political protests are rare in Iran. But demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated bankrupt financial institutions.
“If the security and law enforcement agencies leave the rioters to themselves, enemies will publish films and pictures in their media and say that the Islamic Republic system has lost its revolutionary base in Mashhad,” IRNA quoted prominent conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda as saying.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting “Death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “Death to the dictator.” Protests were also held in at least two other northeastern cities.
Alamolhoda, the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday’s protests against rising prices to raise slogans against Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts.
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Some Iranians now say too much is spent on the military and in foreign exploits
“Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50, shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as ‘Let go of Palestine’, ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d give my life for Iran’,” Alamolhoda said.
Videos on social media also showed demonstrators chanting “Leave Syria, think about us”, criticizing Iran’s military and financial support for President Bashar Assad who is fighting opponents of the government in Syria’s six-year-old civil war.
Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a close Rouhani ally, suggested that hard-line opponents of the president may have started the protests.
“When a social and political movement is launched on the streets, those who started it will not necessarily be able to control it in the end,” IRNA quoted Jahangiri as saying. “Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers. They think they will hurt the government by doing so.”
Rouhani’s signature achievement, a deal in 2015 with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.
Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, up 1.4 percent from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.
Mashhad governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that “the demonstration was illegal but the police dealt with people with tolerance.”
Videos posted on social media showed riot police using water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds.
Norouzian was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA that the protests were organized by “enemies of the Islamic Republic” and “counter-revolutionaries.”
Political protests of national significance took place most recently in 2009 when Mahmoud Amadinejad’s re-election as president ignited an eight-month firestorm of street demonstrations. His pro-reform rivals said the vote was rigged.

Iranians March Against Corruption — Anti-corruption protests spread from Tehran to other Iranian cities — “Death to Rouhani”

December 28, 2017

Rallies against corruption in high places spread Thursday from Tehran to sweep up an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 more demonstrators in Mashhad, Urmia near the Turkish border and Arak between Tehran and Isfahan. DEBKAfile, reporting on the rising wave of Iranian popular protest, noted that they are becoming increasingly political. Placards were calling “Death to Rouhani” and groups shouted in chorus: “No to Syria! No to Lebanon! No to Gaza!” and “Corruption is everywhere!” In Mashhad, demonstrators gathered outside the residence of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s favorite for president, Ebrahim Raisi, who heads the Astan Quds Razavi, Khamenei’s personal financial organ.

The anti-corruption protests first erupted in the capital, Tehran, outside Khamenei’s residence, with the slogan on placards asking, “Where is the money?” It was a reference to the vast sums released to Iran by the Obama administration for signing the 2015 nuclear accord. The government clamped gag orders on the event and ordered the large numbers of Revolutionary Guards officers mobilized to act with restraint and refrain from making arrests. The protests then began spreading.


The Associated Press and Haaretz

‘Down with Rohani,’ protesters reportedly chant, marching in at least four cities across Iran; report claims internet and phones cut to Mashhad

Haaretz and The Associated Press Dec 28, 2017 8:14 PM
Two Iranian synagogues in Shiraz vandalized over 24 hours

Iranians angry over rising food prices and inflation protested in the country’s second-largest city and other areas Thursday, putting new pressure on President Hassan Rouhani as his signature nuclear deal with world powers remains in peril.

To really understand the Middle East – subscribe to Haaretz

The protests in Mashhad saw police make an unspecified number of arrests, local authorities said, though the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates did not intervene as they have in other unauthorized demonstrations since Iran’s disputed 2009 election.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people took part in Thursday’s protests, though social media posts suggest several thousand likely demonstrated at rallies across at least three other cities.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted the governor of the northeastern city of Mashhad, Mohammad Rahim Norouzian, as saying there was an illegal “No to high prices” gathering in the city. “Police gave them the necessary notifications and confronted them with great tolerance,” he said.


Videos from a channel on the encrypted Telegram app showed people in Mashhad even chanting “Death to Rouhani,” AFP reported, and Babek Taghvaee, an independent journalist, tweeted a video of protesters chanting the “Islamic revolution was our mistake.”

Taghvaee also reported that internet and telephone access to the area was also cut.

The prices of several staples, including eggs, have risen by up to 40 percent in recent days, with farmers blaming the hikes on higher prices for imported feed. Poultry is an important part of the diet of many of Iran’s 80 million people, and previous price increases have caused political problems for its leaders in the years since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

So has inflation, which Iran’s Central Bank says has returned to 10 percent. Youth unemployment remains high.

Tempers rose further after Rouhani submitted his 2018 budget to parliament, which raises departure taxes for those flying out of the country.

All this comes as the U.S. Congress weighs President Donald Trump’s refusal to re-certify the nuclear deal. Many Iranians now say they agree with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s repeated warnings the U.S. can’t be trusted.

Khamenei also has kept up his criticism of how Rouhani’s administration has handled the economy, which includes the supreme leader’s opposition to allowing foreign firms to fully enter Iran. The Revolutionary Guard, a hard-line paramilitary organization, has vast economic interests in the country.

The Guard did not mobilize its Basij volunteer forces to counter any of the protests Thursday. However, some protests saw criticism of Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war, in which the Guard has played a major role.

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Fracking Our Way to Mideast Peace

December 12, 2017

Low oil prices have so eroded Arab states’ power, they now see Israel as a protector.

Fracking Our Way to Mideast Peace

Whatever you think of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it points to the most important strategic reality in the Middle East: Arab power has collapsed in the face of low oil prices and competition from American frackers.

The devastating oil-price shocks of the 1970s, orchestrated by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, nearly wrecked the world economy. Ever since, the U.S. has looked for ways to break OPEC’s parasitic and rent-seeking grip on the oil market—and thereby to reduce America’s geopolitical vulnerability to events in the Middle East.

Victory did not come easily. Intense conservation efforts made the U.S. much more energy-efficient. New oil discoveries in Africa and elsewhere significantly broadened the available supply. Renewable energy sources added to the diversification. But the most decisive development was that decades of public and private research and investment unleashed an American oil-and-gas boom, leading to a revolution in energy markets that has sent geopolitical shocks through world affairs.

The consequences reverberate in the Middle East and beyond. Future oil revenues to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia and Iraq will fall trillions of dollars short of what once might have been expected. The shift in energy markets will benefit consumer economies like Japan, China, India and the nations of the European Union. The U.S. and similarly situated nations, like Australia and Canada, can look forward to faster growth and greater foreign investment, since they will capture much of the oil revenue that Russia and OPEC lose.

Low energy prices already have given the EU’s struggling southern countries a chance to return to growth. They have limited Russia’s prospects and forced Vladimir Putin onto a tight budget. They have largely offset the gains Iran had hoped to make from signing the nuclear deal and escaping Western sanctions.

But the greatest consequences are being felt in the Arab world, where the long-term decline in oil revenues threatens the stability of many states. It is not only the oil producers that will suffer; the prosperous Gulf economies have been a major source of opportunity for Egyptians, Pakistanis, Palestinians and many other Middle Easterners.

The shining cities that rise where the desert meets the Gulf may be in for harder times. The sheikhdoms’ glassy skyscrapers, gleaming malls and opulent apartment complexes were conceived for a world in which runaway energy demand and limited sources (remember “peak oil”?) led to inexorably rising prices. These fragile and artificial economies require hothouse conditions that a weakened OPEC can no longer provide. Now the great Gulf Bubble seems set to slowly deflate.

There’s more. The staggering affluence of the Gulf countries during the OPEC era concealed the Arab world’s failure to develop states and economies capable of competing effectively in the 21st century. As their dream of revival through oil riches fades, they are waking to a new era of weakness and dependency.

The Gulf states increasingly see Israel not as an insect to be crushed by resurgent Arab power, but as a lion that can defend them from Iran. Syria, once a citadel of Arab nationalism, now haplessly hosts Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish forces that the Assad dynasty can neither control nor evict.

Arab diplomats, lobbyists and financiers must brace for more bad news: As the declining long-term prospects of the OPEC states become apparent, their diplomatic and economic influence across the West can be expected to wane even further.

Many analysts look at the frustrations of America’s policy in the Middle East and conclude that the U.S. is in retreat and hegemonic decline. That misses the deeper truth. American diplomacy has had its share of failures, but the region is now being fundamentally reshaped by drillers in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere.

Even with OPEC’s hold broken, the Middle East will remain a problem for American policy. Moreover, not all the consequences of OPEC’s decline are good. In the short term, Russia and Iran are likely to double down on adventurous foreign policies as a way of distracting their populations from the tough challenges ahead. Instability in America’s key Gulf allies and in Egypt could create major headaches for the U.S.

Nevertheless, reducing OPEC’s ability to capture rents, while forcing more corrupt petrostate oligarchies to contemplate reform, is likely over time to reduce both the costs and the risks of American foreign policy. This is what winning looks like.

Mr. Mead is a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College.

Is There a Way To Get Tough on Iran Without Leaving The Nuclear Deal?

October 19, 2017
 OCTOBER 19, 2017 15:30
There are important elements in the administration’s new policy that may reverse some of the negative aspects of the JCPOA, and set the stage for pushing back on Iran’s regional provocations.

Getting tough on Iran without leaving the nuclear deal

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump speaks about Iran and the nuclear accord at the White House on Friday. (photo credit:REUTERS)

On October 13, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify the JCPOA, in contrast to his previous two decisions to certify the deal. Instead, he declared, the administration would work with Congress and US global and Middle East allies to address the flaws surrounding the deal, as well as other aspects of Iran’s behavior, widely perceived to be threatening and destabilizing. This position was reached following the administration’s policy review on Iran, underway over the past nine months, and outlines a new approach that began to emerge already with the statement in April 2017 by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – delivered the day after Trump certified the JCPOA for the first time – which sketched in broad strokes the direction of US policy on Iran.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the new policy is that it covers the entirety of Iran’s behavior that is viewed negatively by the US, beyond the nuclear program: Iran’s missile program, support for terror, and regional aspirations that threaten the national security interests of the US and its allies in the Middle East. In so doing, the administration has ended the approach of the Obama administration that sought to create a divide between the nuclear and regional manifestations of Iran’s conduct, claiming that the nuclear deal “was working,” and that it was never meant to address other issues. In contrast, the Trump administration has emphasized that the JCPOA did not achieve its objective of a non-nuclear Iran, and that the deal is only one component of overall US policy toward Iran. The message is that there is a connection between the different manifestations of Tehran’s nuclear and foreign policies, and that all must be dealt with in tandem in order to confront effectively the threats and regional challenges posed by Iran.

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Also of significance is that Trump signaled that the US administration will no longer refrain from pushing back against Iran’s aggressions and provocations for fear of Iran exiting the nuclear deal. In fact – in a somewhat surprising move – Trump included his own threat of leaving the deal. He stated that if in cooperation with Congress and US allies the administration cannot reach a satisfactory solution to the problems he delineated, he would cancel US participation in the deal. The specific context seems to direct the threat primarily to Congress and US allies in an effort to urge them to work with the administration to amend the deal. However, it is also clearly a message to Iran that the administration is no longer deterred by Iran’s threats of leaving the deal.

What are the main problems that Trump raised, and how will the administration attempt to fix them? The leading problems raised by the president have to do with the regime’s sponsorship of terrorism, continued regional aggression, and use of proxies, and the radical nature of the regime and its Supreme Leader. He mentioned Iran’s ballistic missile program, hostility to the US and Israel, and its threat to navigation in the Gulf. While the opening of Trump’s speech reviewed Iran’s deadly actions since 1979 and was unnecessarily detailed, this might have been aimed to underscore that Iran has targeted the US repeatedly, rendering dealing with Iran a clear US national security interest.

As for the nuclear deal, Trump warned that in a few years Iran will be able to “sprint” to nuclear weapons. What, he asked, is the purpose of a deal that at best only delays Iran’s nuclear plans? He noted multiple violations of the deal, although most points on his list were not violations per se, but rather problems with the deal. In addition to twice exceeding the limit on the stockpile of heavy water, he pointed out that Iran failed to meet US expectations with regard to research and development of advanced centrifuges. To be sure, the precise nature of Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges is an issue that independent analysts can only study from such official statements due to the problematic lack of transparency in IAEA reports since implementation of the deal, and the confidentiality that was granted to deliberations of the Joint Commission (that oversees the JCPOA). Trump also accused Iran of intimidating IAEA inspectors, and highlighted Iran’s repeated statements that it would refuse entry of IAEA inspectors into its military sites. Of particular note was Trump’s mention of suspicions regarding cooperation between Iran and North Korea; he said that he will instruct intelligence agencies to conduct a thorough analysis of these connections.

In dealing with these problems, Trump’s major constraint is lack of leverage to compel Iran to agree to a strengthened nuclear deal. The administration’s hands are tied given that it has partners to the JCPOA that are not on the same page, and that the biting sanctions that had pressured Iran to negotiate in the first place were lifted when implementation of the deal began. Clearly it will be difficult for the US to change matters directly related to the deal without the help of Congress and European allies, and Trump stated repeatedly that he will seek their cooperation.

In Europe there is fierce opposition to Trump’s decision not to certify the deal, and it is questionable whether and to what degree Europe will be willing to cooperate with the US. It is noteworthy, however, that before the speech was delivered, some European leaders – including France’s Macron – signaled a new willingness to address issues outside the JCPOA, in particular Iran’s missile program and regional aggression. Trump hopes they will go along with new sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There is currently no basis for expecting cooperation from Russia and China.

The administration is also pinning hopes on Congress. With decertification, decision making on the JCPOA moves to Congress, and this is where the Trump administration hopes to introduce changes. Tillerson has explained that the administration will not be asking Congress to move to sanctions at this stage, a step that could lead to the collapse of the deal. Rather, the hope is to pass new legislation that will amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The White House would like to establish a series of benchmarks that would automatically restore sanctions if Iran crosses one of the red lines – or “trigger points”; these would likely relate to Iran’s missile program and the sunset clauses in the JCPOA.

The area where the administration can most easily move forward on its own relates to its approach to the Iranian regime, particularly the regime’s support for terror and other destabilizing regional activities. This explains the strong emphasis in Trump’s speech – and in the document released in parallel entitled “President Donald J. Trump’s New Strategy on Iran” – on the IRGC, and on the need to confront it squarely for its support of terror, fanning of sectarianism, and perpetuation of regional conflict. Trump announced that he was authorizing the Treasury Department to sanction the IRGC as an entity, and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.

Overall, there are important elements in the administration’s new policy that have the potential to reverse some of the negative aspects of the JCPOA, and set the stage for pushing back on Iran’s regional provocations and aggression. Much will depend on the ability to cooperate with allies and with Congress in advancing these goals. Tillerson’s clarifications were important in explaining that contrary to much media analysis, Trump is not seeking to do away with the deal, at least in the short term, or to go to war. The stated aim is to strengthen the deal, and restore US deterrence vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and the IRGC. The outcome, however, is far from guaranteed. This is due to inherent constraints, and the fact that while the policy makes sense, it is nevertheless a huge undertaking for a very controversial administration, and this in turn can further weaken Trump’s hand.

The author is a senior research fellow at INSS and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. This article first appeared in INSS Insight.


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Donald Trump’s expected withdrawal from Iran deal threatens world peace: experts

October 12, 2017

Most analysts expect US President Donald Trump to abandon the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran this week. Will he really do it? And if he does, what will it mean for Europe? Max Hofmann reports from Brussels.

An Iranian woman holds a placard showing a caricature of US President Donald Trump (Getty Images/AFP/A. Kenare)

In recent days, it has seemed as if President Donald Trump was ready to challenge Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ contest. Perhaps Trump should extend the same challenge to the EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini. Who would win?

“That’s easy,” said Middle East expert Koert Debeuf, with a smile on his face. But such a victory wouldn’t be much comfort for Mogherini if the US ends up abandoning the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. Trump would essentially be killing the art of diplomacy in favor of nuclear saber-rattling. Thus, the great expertise Europe has shown in negotiating compromises would be of no use to anyone.

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 Trump says Tehran not living up to ‘spirit’ of agreement

– What are Trump’s objections to the Iran nuclear deal?

To put it in the words of an EU diplomat who didn’t want to be named: “The message would be: ‘Do not negotiate! Especially not with the West, which doesn’t keep its promises anyway.'”

The West no longer exists

Europeans want to save the deal, no matter what the US does.

“The nuclear deal doesn’t belong to one country, it belongs to the international community,” said Mogherini after a highly unpleasant conversation with US representatives on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month.

If Trump’s government withdraws from the deal and imposes new sanctions on Iran while Europe preserves the agreement, then an important aspect of the post-war world order would be lost: the unity of the West. Debeuf, director of the Brussels office of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, believes the EU should by no means give in to the US, as it has until now.

“Europe should invest more in Iran. This is important for Europe’s credibility and the reform forces in Iran,” he told DW. Of course, pressure from Trump can be expected, probably in the form of US sanctions against European companies doing business in Iran.

A stronger, weaker Europe

Politiker- DEBEUF Koert (ALDE)‘Europe should invest more in Iran’: Debeuf

Here’s something to think about: If the US withdraws from one of the greatest diplomatic successes of the past decades — a nuclear disarmament agreement that works — no one is likely to take the nation seriously any longer. Europeans, on the other hand, would end up being the only ones able to guarantee stability, integrity and credibility, and would surely be applauded for this around the world.

But harsh reality would eventually catch up. “Behind closed doors in Iran, no one believes that the Europeans can make a difference without US involvement,” said Jamsheed Faroughi, head of DW’s Farsi department.

Without the US and its military muscle, the value of Europe’s negotiating skills would drop considerably. The US and Europe work in tandem with each other. Europeans could gain more respect, but they would probably lose their influence.

Read more: Iran deal: Trump has Europe concerned

Mogherini’s greatest achievement at risk

At a press conference after the meeting on Iran during the UN General Assembly, Mogherini’s gestures revealed her underlying anger. Her team, however, chose to call it “determination.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Federica Mogherini (picture-alliance/dpa/Y.Pingfan)Mogherini (right) worked closely with former US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) to secure the Iran deal

The EU’s highest-ranking diplomat is by no means the only one responsible for the 12 years of negotiations that led to the successful Iran deal, but she is nonetheless very proud of it. If her reputation is damaged, then the EU may no longer be perceived as a unified entity on the international stage.

“To put it quite simply, Europeans are currently the good guys and Americans are the bad guys,” said Faroughi, referring to the prevailing image of Europe in Iran.

However, if EU diplomacy fails, individual member states could rise to prominence once again.

No good neighbors

Flanked by Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the east, the Syrian conflict to the southeast and Libya to the south across the Mediterranean Sea, Europe has not been blessed with particularly pleasant neighbors in recent times. If Iran no longer feels obligated to abide by the nuclear agreement because the US is walking away from it, then the situation will become even more unpleasant.

As a consequence, the Iran deal would suddenly no longer be the blueprint for possible negotiations with North Korea. “What North Korea does is also a model for the Iranian government,” said Faroughi. In other words, nuclear disarmament would be replaced by rearmament and thus, be followed by further destabilization in the entire region. And not just Europe would be affected.

“This is about world peace,” said Debeuf, with a sigh. “We must take Iran very seriously and communicate with Tehran.” A message that doesn’t appear to have reached the US president.


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Explaining the Iran nuclear deal 01:21

Iran tests new missile defying US warnings

September 23, 2017


© afp/AFP | Iran displays a new multiple-warhead medium-range missile dubbed the Khoramshahr at a military parade in Tehran on September 22, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said on Saturday that it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile in defiance of warnings from Washington that it was ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday.

It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone.

The broadcaster gave no date for the test although officials had said on Friday that it would be tested “soon”.

Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

President Donald Trump has threatened to bin the agreement over the issue, saying that Iran’s missile programme could give it the technical knowhow for a delivery system for a nuclear warhead when a sunset clause in the deal expires in 2025.

He is due to report to Congress on October 15 on whether or not he believes Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal.

If he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement.

Trump said on Wednesday he had made his decision but was not yet ready to reveal it.



Iran Unveils New Long-Range Ballistic Missile with Multiple Warheads

Iran Unveils New Long-Range Ballistic Missile with Multiple Warheads

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran on Friday unveiled a new home-made long-range Multiple Independently Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV), named ‘Khorramshahr’, during the nationwide military parades.

Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters that the new missile has been designed and manufactured by the defense ministry.

“The 2,000-km-range missile can carry the warhead 1,800km away,” he told reporters in Tehran today.

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Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh

“The specification of this missile is that it can carry several warheads instead of one to hit several targets,” General Hajizadeh said, adding that the missile has been manufactured in a smaller and more tactical size and will be put into operation in the near future.

Various units of the Islamic Republic Army, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Law Enforcement Police and Basij (volunteer) forces staged nationwide parades in Tehran and other cities across the country on Friday morning.

In Tehran, the ceremony took place at the mausoleum of the Founder of the Islamic Republic, the Late Imam Khomeini, South of the capital.

The parades marked the start of the Sacred Defense Week, commemorating Iranians’ sacrifices during the 8 years of the Iraqi imposed war on Iran in 1980s.

Different units of Iran’s military forces marched in uniform before top Army and IRGC commanders in a show of military might and defensive power.

The ceremony was participated by senior military and government officials, including Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, President Hassan Rouhani as well as foreign diplomats, military attaches and reporters.

Typical units of the Islamic Republic Army, the IRGC, Basij forces and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Law Enforcement Police were present in the parades.

Foreign delegates as well as military and civilian officials were also present in the ceremony.

The latest military and defense achievements and missiles manufactured by Iranian experts were put on display at the parades.

Iran, China stress resolve for deepening ties

September 19, 2017

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EHRAN, Sep. 18 (MNA) – Iran’s Ali Akbar Velayati and head of China Institute of Middle Eastern Studies met Mon. in Tehran and called for expansion of strategic relations between the two sides.

Ali Akbar Velayati, the Head of Strategic Research Center at Iran’s Expediency Council, held a meeting with the head of China Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Tehran, during which he highlighted the relations between the two countries as strategic.

“Gradually, the focus of international politics has been leaning towards Asia, and China in the East and Iran in West Asia are both major contributors to continental and international developments,” Velayati said at the meeting.

Responding to the Chinese official’s enquiry about his assessment of the two countries’ relations in the wake of Chinese President’s visit to Tehran, Velayati said “Iran is just as keen as China in developing strategic ties between the two sides. Tehran and Beijing have reached valuable agreements. There exist some obstacles however that need collective efforts to be overcome.”

Velayati underscored the significance of expanding international relations, adding “the Silk Road project is one of the important areas of cooperation between Iran and China which requires further talks and closer interactions.”

The Chinese side, for his part, maintained that some strategic memorandums were signed between Iran and China during President Xi Jinping visit to Tehran in January 2016, during which he vowed to boost bilateral trade to $600 billion within a decade.

He further welcomed expansion of relations and cooperation with Iranian organizations and researchers, adding “research centers in both countries can play a role in deepening relations between the two sides.”

The meeting came as a Chinese state-owned investment firm (CITIC) has recently provided a $10 billion credit line for Iranian banks. The deal, signed on Sep. 14, marks the first major contract signed with China in the era after the nuclear deal, according to ran’s deputy economy minister Mohammad Khazaei.



Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei


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