Posts Tagged ‘nuclear weapons’

Iran’s Guards say missile program will accelerate despite pressure

October 19, 2017

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that the country’s ballistic missile program would accelerate despite pressure from the United States and European Union to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

In a major U.S. policy shift, President Donald Trump last Friday refused to certify Tehran’s compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, signaling he would take a more aggressive approach to Iran over its ballistic missile program.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organization (the Guards),” the Guards said in a statement published by Tasnim.

The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions targeting Iran’s missile activity. It has called on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans.

Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism.

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Qassem Soleimani talking to Iran’s President Rouhani

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Crippled by sanctions, North Korea may not last a year, defector says

October 18, 2017

‘Desperate’ need to force diplomatic opening with US driving North Korea’s provocative behaviour, defector Ri Jong-ho says

By Robert Delaney
South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 11:17pm

A former North Korean government official who defected to the US says North Korea is struggling against tough sanctions – and doubts the hermit state can last a year.

“Never before has the country faced such tough sanctions. I don’t know if North Korea will survive a year with these sanctions. People will die.”

North Korea’s provocative behaviour is a result of Pyongyang’s “desperate” need to force a diplomatic opening with the US, Ri told an Asia Society event in New York, adding that one of the government’s priorities is to sever Washington’s ties with South Korea.

“Right now the leadership of North Korea have deployed missiles aimed at the US and are doing these provocations, but they desperately want relations with the US,” he said.

“The North Korean leader wants to stay in power for a long time. He believes he must have friendly relations with the US to do that. They didn’t want South Korea involved in the talks.

“They just wanted two-way talks. What the North Korean leadership wants is to know how to warm relations with the US.”

“One can interpret recent actions and declarations regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing in two ways.

“It should either be taken at face value or seen as an effort to extract maximum concessions should there be arms control negotiations in the future,” Paul Stares, a senior fellow for conflict prevention and director of the Centre for Preventive Action at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, told the South China Morning Post.

“What should be clear by now, however, it that any such negotiation would be about the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal, not its existence. They are not going to give it up. Period.”

Ri also said North Korea’s relations with China had soured because of Kim Jong-un’s purge of his uncle Jang Song-thaek and other officials close to Beijing.

Kim’s hatred of Beijing intensified after China’s President Xi Jinping visited Seoul before Pyongyang on his first trip to the Korean peninsula.

Xi’s decision was prompted by the deaths of “thousands” allied with Jang and, by extension, China, Ri said.

Kim Jong-un took Xi’s decision as an insult and in July 2014 convened a meeting of high-ranking officials where the North Korean leader “called president Xi a ‘son of a bitch’ and called the Chinese people ‘sons of bitches’”, Ri said.

“Now China has blocked trade, which has never happened before, so this is the very worst point of their relationship.”

Ri’s comments were in stark contrast to the scepticism he had previously cast on United Nations sanctions meant to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. Since defecting last year, Risaid that Pyongyang had managed to circumvent most of the restrictions – often with help from Chinese entities.

“I can see the North Korean economy like it’s in the palm of my hands,” Ri said.

“[North Korea] has to buy the raw materials in order for them to produce [their weapons] and they have to export products [to support this programme]. They are in a very difficult position, so they need to resolve that.”

While in Dalian, Ri served as head of the Korea Daehung Trading Corporation, which is managed by Office 39, a clandestine organisation under direct control of Kim’s family.

 North Korea circumvented United Nations sanctions by having China-stationed North Korean officials hand-deliver bags of US dollars in cash to captains of North Korean vessels heading back to home ports from China, former North Korean official Ri Jong-ho has said. Ri defected to the US last year. Photo: SCMP

Office 39 is responsible for procuring for the Kim government hard currency that is critical to support the economy and ensure the loyalty of party elites.

In July, Ri told The Washington Post that he oversaw the implementation of tactics North Korea used to bypass UN sanctions. Some of the circumvention methods included having China-stationed North Korean officials like Ri hand-deliver bags filled with millions of US dollars in cash to captains of North Korean vessels heading back to home ports from China, Ri told the newspaper. Another tactic was changing the names of companies targeted by UN sanctions, Ri said.

UN sanctions have been piling up on North Korea since 2006, after six-nation talks involving North Korea, China, the US, Japan, South Korea and Russia broke down. The most recent sanctions, passed in August and September, effectively cut all trade with North Korea except for humanitarian deliveries and limited quantities of oil.

Prompted by North Korea’s most recent nuclear detonation, on September 3, the UN Security Council unanimously passed less than a week later the latest resolution put forward by the US.

That resolution aims to cut North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products by 55 per cent and ban the supply of natural gas and natural gas derivatives to ensure they aren’t used as substitutes.

Moreover, banning North Korea’s textile exports and remittances by overseas North Korean workers to Pyongyang, the resolution would cut US$1.3 billion in revenues annually.

The US agreed to allow some oil shipments to keep flowing to North Korea to secure China’s approval.

Previous UN sanctions on North Korea stopped short of controls on oil and fuel, also at China’s behest, owing to concerns that such moves might destabilise the country and leave Beijing with a refugee problem. China shares a 1,400km border with North Korea along the Yalu River.

Ri defected in 2014 from his last posting, in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian, travelling with his family to South Korea.

A North Korean official reaffirmed Pyongyang’s commitment to developing a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching “all the way to the east coast of the mainland US,” on Monday, telling CNN that the rogue nation was currently not interested in diplomacy with the US until it achieved that goal.

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Iran move won’t weaken US hand with NKorea: Tillerson — “Diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

October 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied President Trump’s un-diplomatic style is undermining his efforts to rein in North Korea

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Sunday denied that Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the Iran nuclear deal had weakened America’s chance of reining in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile drive through diplomacy.

By calling into question the landmark deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, worried allies fear the US president has sent a message to Pyongyang that America’s word cannot be trusted.

In a virulent speech Friday, Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal, kicking its fate to Congress, which he told to address its “many serious flaws.”

“I think what North Korea should take away from this decision is that the United States will expect a very demanding agreement with North Korea,” Tillerson said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“One that is very binding and achieves the objectives not just of the United States but the policy objectives of China and other neighbors in the region, a denuclearized Korean peninsula.”

“If we achieve that, there will be nothing to walk away from because the objective will be achieved.”

The US top diplomat’s efforts to rein in North Korea have been overshadowed by Trump’s un-diplomatic style and his streams of taunting tweets stirring international tensions.

Earlier this month, as Tillerson flew home from meeting with top Chinese officials, Trump tweeted that his envoy was “wasting his time” in trying to probe North Korea’s willingness to talk.

But Tillerson pushed back at claims that Trump has undermined his efforts, after outspoken Republican senator and Trump critic Bob Corker said the president was seeking to “castrate” his top diplomat.

“No, sir. He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts,” Tillerson said. “Those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”

“The president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically,” he added. “He’s not seeking to go to war.”

The Secretary of State was forced this month to deny claims of a serious rift with Trump, after it was reported he had called the president a “moron.”

Tillerson has refused to outright deny the report, which he once more dismissed on CNN as “petty stuff.”

But he had a quick comeback at the ready when asked about Corker’s claim that Trump was trying to “castrate” him on the world stage: “I checked. I’m fully intact.”

Iran to Trump: Our ballistic missile program will grow, no matter what

October 14, 2017

By Bob Fredericks
New York Post

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Hassan Rouhani. EPA

Iran will remain committed to a multinational nuclear deal as long as it serves the country’s national interests — and its ballistic missile program will expand despite pressure from the US, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday.

Responding to President Trump’s speech earlier Friday in which he said he would not continue to certify the multinational agreement, Rouhani said in a live television address that it was full of “insults and fake accusations” against Iran, Reuters reported.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure … Iran and the deal are stronger than ever … Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps will continue its fight against regional terrorists,” Rouhani said.

He added that Trump’s decision to decertify the deal would isolate the US as other signatories of the accord remained committed to it. The deal was not renegotiable, he said.

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

October 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Germany, France and UK statement

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

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

No deal-breaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lack of accord between US and EU 

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

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

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

Sanctions aimed at Tehran may also sting EU

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

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

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

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

Photo published for What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

What if Trump decertifies the Iran deal?

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

ecfr.eu

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

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

Includes videos:

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

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

October 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONGRESS DECIDES

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

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

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

Slideshow (10 Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President Trump Refuses to Certify Iran Nuclear Deal; Asks Congress For Action — Revolutionary Guard named as a terror ​organization

October 14, 2017

President says he won’t certify that ‘rogue regime’ in Tehran is complying with nuclear agreement

Iranians walk past medium-range ballistic missiles displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September.
Iranians walk past medium-range ballistic missiles displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump took aim Friday at the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, vowing to end U.S. participation in the landmark deal unless Congress and U.S. allies are able to deliver on punitive measures targeting Tehran’s missile program, its support for regional militant groups, and any future nuclear activities.

As a first step, Mr. Trump refused to certify to Congress under a U.S. law that Iran was complying with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, charging that the country had violated the terms of the deal. Going further, Mr. Trump said if efforts to address his concerns fall short, he would terminate the accord.

“It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time,” he said.

As U.S. president, Mr. Trump has wide, long-term latitude over the fate of the agreement, but lacks the ability under the accord’s complicated terms to immediately abolish it.

Mr. Trump, reiterating his fierce opposition to the terms of the deal, announced his decision after issuing a lengthy denunciation of what he called a “rogue regime” run by radicals.

“Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime,” Mr. Trump said in a speech at the White House, adding it has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.”

Trump Denounces Iran as a ‘Rogue Regime’
President Donald Trump announced plans on Friday to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, reinforcing his commitment to cancel the agreement if congress doesn’t act on whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Photo: Getty Images

Detailing grievances against Iran going back to 1979, the year of the country’s Islamic revolution, Mr. Trump broadly condemned the country’s rulers.

“Iranian aggression continues to this day,” he said. “The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

In his threat, the president applied a well-practiced tactic of pressing for changes in pre-existing arrangements and abandoning them if he doesn’t succeed. He has taken a similar approach to the Paris climate accord and the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as to domestic programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Mr. Trump’s move on Friday touches off high-pressure negotiations in Washington and European capitals over the future of the accord, and his action drew intensive world-wide attention. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani denounced Mr. Trump’s comments in a televised speech, saying: “The Iranian people will not bend down before a dictator.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Trump’s move to deny Iran’s compliance with the deal courageous, saying the U.S. leader had “boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime.” ​

Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni Muslim power and Shiite-majority Iran’s main rival in the Middle East, also threw its support behind Mr. Trump’s stance.

European officials pushed back, however, on his threat to scuttle the deal if his terms can’t be satisfied.

“It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate,” the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told reporters. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose countries are parties to the accord, said in a joint statement they remained committed to the agreement “and its full implementation by all sides.”

China, another party to the deal, has also signaled its desire to keep it intact, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying Tuesday it was in the interest of all sides to continue its implementation.

A law passed in 2015 to give Congress oversight of the nuclear deal requires the president to tell Congress every 90 days whether Iran is complying. If the president doesn’t do so, it triggers a 60-day process for lawmakers to weigh whether to reimpose sanctions under expedited consideration.

However, Mr. Trump didn’t call on Congress to reimpose sanctions immediately, and instead said he supported efforts of Republicans in Congress to craft legislation that would amend the 2015 U.S. oversight bill to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it violates enhanced and existing restrictions on its nuclear program.

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on amending the oversight law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, known in Washington as INARA. Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) have also been involved in crafting the amended legislation.

Mr. Corker, despite a public feud with Mr. Trump that has spilled into Twitter posts, said on Friday that he expects to introduce the legislation in the next week or two.

What Is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal?
Iran reached a historic agreement with major world powers over its nuclear program in 2015. Under the deal, what did Iran give up and how is it benefiting? WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains.

Mr. Trump highlighted concerns with “sunset clauses” in the nuclear deal that allow nuclear restrictions to expire. Mr. Tillerson, briefing reporters, said the U.S. envisions a “successor deal” to address those concerns.

A current draft of the bill also would change the frequency of presidential certification required from every quarter to twice a year.

The legislative process is likely to require time and painstaking negotiations. Mr. Tillerson said he hoped Congress would amend the legislation before Mr. Trump next faces another certification deadline in January, but admitted the process won’t be a “slam dunk.”

Mr. Rubio said he backed Mr. Trump’s move to withhold support for the deal and said he thought the U.S. should leave the accord and reimpose sanctions. “I have serious doubts about whether it is even possible to fix such a dangerously flawed agreement,” he said.

However, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he disagreed with Mr. Trump’s “reckless political decision and his subsequent threat to Congress.” Mr. Cardin voted against the deal in 2015 but said Friday he backed staying in it and rigorously enforcing it.

Mr. Corker’s measure would contain what Mr. Tillerson called “trigger points” that would reimpose sanctions, for example, if Iran violates restrictions spelled out in the legislation. The legislation would set stricter limits than those contained in the nuclear accord. Mr. Corker’s office said the bill would be “effectively ridding the JCPOA of its sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions.” It will also bolster the verification powers of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog and limiting Iran’s centrifuge program.

As it works to toughen the U.S. law, the administration also will seek talks with European partners to address key concerns, Mr. Tillerson said.

Asked if the EU would be interested in negotiating a “successor” agreement, Ms. Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said “the agreement is working, has been implemented, continues to be implemented…I would expect all sides to stick to it.”

European officials and former U.S. officials involved in negotiating the deal are concerned that by reimposing sanctions for reasons not covered by the original nuclear deal, the U.S. stands to be in breach of the international agreement, setting in motion a sequence of events that could lead to the deal’s collapse.

Mr. Trump has the power to unilaterally end U.S. participation in the deal by halting the U.S. sanctions relief that Iran was promised under the accord. Doing so, however, wouldn’t necessarily abolish the agreement, as other countries and Iran could choose to continue to follow it.

Reinstating U.S. sanctions also could lead Iran to halt its commitments under the deal if Tehran doesn’t receive the economic relief it expected. Iran’s withdrawal and return to now-banned nuclear activities would effectively nullify the agreement.

Mr. Trump has other options under the complex deal. He could say that Iran has committed a material breach of the terms and initiate a dispute resolution process ​that could lead to a vote in the U.N. Security Council. In such a vote, the U.S.’s veto could result in the resumption of broad, punitive international sanctions. However, the appearances of a U.S. move to force a vote that way would be challenging, former officials involved in the negotiations said.

Among other steps outlined by Mr. Trump, the U.S. will target the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military branch, which Mr. Trump said has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy.

The IRGC won’t be classified formally as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. laws that would expose it to more punitive action, officials said. Instead, the Treasury Department announced on Friday that it is designating the group under as a terror ​organization under an executive order that was created after Sept. 11, 2001 to target terrorist financing.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that even though large parts of the IRGC has already been sanctioned under past executive orders, the latest designation could inflict economic damage.

“This is a major course correction” by Washington, Mr. Ben Taleblu said. Besides expanding the sanctions to the entire IRGC, the administration is also issuing the order under a terrorism designation, which ratchets up the stigma for firms and individuals thinking about doing business with the group or any of its affiliates.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Threatens to End Iran Deal.’

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What you need to know about Trump and the Iran deal

October 12, 2017

By Al Jazeera

US President Donald Trump is expected to refuse to certify Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, an agreement between world powers and Tehran aimed at limiting the latter’s nuclear programme to non-military purposes.

The move comes despite thinly-veiled criticisms from US allies in Europe who have developed burgeoning commercial and political ties with Iran.

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Why do Trump’s threats on the Iran nuclear deal matter?

Trump’s withdrawal of endorsement means US lawmakers can vote to introduce new sanctions against Iran, which Iranian leaders say could lead to their country’s partial or complete withdrawal from the deal.

Al Jazeera answers some of the most important questions regarding the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and Trump’s expected decision.

What is JCPOA?

Often abbreviated to “the Iran deal” or “Iran nuclear deal”, JCPOA is an agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU to ensure its nuclear programme is limited to civilian use.

The deal, which was signed in October 2015 and implemented at the start of 2016, followed years of negotiation between the US, represented by then-Secretary of State John Kerry, and Iran, represented by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

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Trump threats over nuclear deal muffle Iran reformists

The agreement requires Iran to completely eliminate stockpiles of medium-enriched uranium and drastically reduce reserves of low-enriched uranium.

The material in its high-enriched form is required to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies that it has ever had the aim of producing a nuclear weapon.

Iran also agreed to reduce the number of centrifuges capable of enriching uranium.

In return, UN sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme were lifted, as were some EU sanctions.

The US ended some secondary sanctions against non-US businesses and individuals who engaged in commercial activity with Iran.

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Rouhani: World will condemn US if it quits nuclear deal

Frozen Iranian assets, valued at over $100bn, were also released back to Tehran.

Who ensures Iran abides by its side of the deal?

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Why does Trump need to certify Iran’s compliance with JCPOA?

The Obama administration faced heavy criticism from Republicans, as well as from some members of his own Democratic Party for signing up to the deal, which they saw as excessively compromising.

Opponents of the then-US president passed legislation requiring US presidents to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal every 90 days.

The Trump administration declared that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal in May and July, but threatened more sanctions for breaching the “spirit’ of the agreement.

The deadline for certification is October 15, but it is believed that Trump will announce his decision sooner.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said this week that the president “has reached a decision on an overall Iran strategy”.

Trump has repeatedly called the agreement the “worst deal ever” and had promised to tear it up even before he was elected.

What will happen if Trump refuses to certify the Iran nuclear deal? 

Trump has called the Iran deal ‘the worst deal ever’ [Michael Conroy/AP Photo]

If Trump refuses to certify, the issue goes to Congress.

Lawmakers will have a non-binding 60 day period to debate the deal.

Congress can decide to introduce or restore sanctions.

It remains to be seen whether that will actually happen as several prominent Republicans are undecided on the issue or do not want the deal to unravel.

Would Trump be violating the nuclear deal?

Not certifying the deal would not be a violation of JCPOA in itself, however, it does pave the way for Congress to introduce new sanctions, which could be in breach of US commitments under the agreement.

The onus on breaching the deal would, therefore, be with US lawmakers.

Would it be easy to introduce new sanctions?

While opposition to the Iran deal as it stands is strong, any attempt to scrap it would face resistance from members of the minority Democratic Party, as well as some Republicans, such as Senator Lindsay Graham, who has called on Trump to renegotiate parts of the agreement instead of scrapping it entirely.

How has Iran reacted?

Foreign Minister Zarif has threatened to partially or fully withdraw from the deal in the event of new US sanctions on Tehran.

Analysts say hardliners in Iran will be empowered by any US violation of the deal and would use it as an opportunity to block any further rapprochement with Washington.

“If anything Iran has gone out of its way to show it is compliant with the nuclear deal but what it will do is put pressure on the European countries to stand up for the deal for them to keep up with their part of the bargain,” Durham University’s Professor Anoush Ehteshami told Al Jazeera.

Iran reduced its enriched Uranium stockpiles and centrifuges as part of the deal [Mehr News Agency/AP Photo]

How have US allies reacted?

European leaders have taken the unusual step of publicly calling on the US to abide by the deal and have affirmed that Iran is upholding its commitments under JCPOA.

On Friday, the British embassy in Washington, DC took the unusual step of posting an animation on Twitter showing how Iran was complying with the deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has told the US that not honouring its side of the deal could push Iran into producing a nuclear weapon in the future.

European states have enjoyed burgeoning trade ties with Iran since the deal came into force and experts say US breaches of the deal would damage its reputation as a reliable partner.

“Europe and the rest of the world would perceive the US as an international troublemaker and unreliable partner,” Arshin Adib-Moghaddam of the School of African and Oriental Studies said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/trump-iran-deal-171011140146595.html

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Explaining the Iran nuclear deal 01:21

Trump poised to walk away from Iran nuclear deal

October 11, 2017

President unlikely to certify pact this week, triggering complex battle in Congress and Europe over ultimate fate of agreement

By  in Washington and  in London
The Guardian

Wednesday 11 October 2017 

 Image result for iranian flag flying, photos

If Donald Trump decides this week to withdraw his endorsement of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, its fate and the potential for a major conflict will be determined by a complex battle in Congress.

No one is able to predict whether that struggle will lead to a reimposition of US sanctions, the collapse of the agreement and the rapid scaling-up of Iran’s nuclear programme. It could result in a compromise that leaves the deal alive but opens the way for a more combative policy towards Tehran on other fronts.

“We are on a tightrope. We don’t know what will happen,” a western diplomat said.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/11/trump-walk-away-us-iran-nuclear-deal

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Trump is expected to refuse to recertify the Iran nuclear deal

By Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times

Any day now, President Trump is expected to take steps that have potential to unravel one of the most important nuclear anti-proliferation deals of the century.

Trump has indicated he will declare that the agreement the Obama administration and five other world powers reached with Iran in 2015 to suspend its nuclear program is not sufficiently strong to benefit “U.S. national security interests.” Iran should no longer be seen as in compliance with the accord, Trump is expected to say.

His judgment is shared by a number of conservative organizations and members of Congress. Many others, including several of his top Cabinet officials, most European diplomats and the United Nations, disagree with him and say the deal is working.

What impact would refusal to certify have?

Refusing to certify is not the same as withdrawing completely from the deal. It would not automatically reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. That is because the requirement to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal every 90 days is written into U.S. law and is not part of the international agreement.

With two tracks, Trump can do both: continue to attack the deal without officially voiding it.

The refusal to certify kicks the issue to Congress, opening a 60-day period for debate. The official deadline for certification is Oct. 15, although some White House sources have suggested Trump would act before that. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had “reached a decision on an overall Iran strategy” but declined to say when the announcement would come.

What would Congress do?

When the deal was being negotiated, a majority in Congress opposed it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unprecedented appearance before a joint meeting of Congress to denounce the deal and what he described as the dangers posed by Iran, going around the White House to oppose one of President Obama’s top priorities.

Nonetheless, Congress allowed the deal to take effect, approving a compromise that included the certification requirement.

Today, opinion is more divided. Even among some lawmakers who have criticized the deal in the past, such as Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, there is a feeling that sticking with it, however flawed, is far better than blowing it up. The deal at least sustains control over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, they argue, at a time when tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea are at a fever pitch.

Backers of the deal worry that hard-line opponents could use the 60-day period to “snap back” into place nuclear-deal economic sanctions on Iran that were removed as part of the agreement.

Others, however, say that refusal to certify (often incorrectly described as “decertification”) would be the first step in strengthening the agreement and putting greater controls on Tehran.

Image may contain: one or more people and stripes

Iranian protesters burn representations of US and Israeli flags in their annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 23, 2017. AP photo

What did the Iran deal do?

In exchange for getting rid of most of its centrifuges, disabling its plutonium-producing heavy water reactor at Arak and agreeing to regular inspections, Iran received considerable sanctions relief: readmittance to the international banking system, permission to trade on the oil market and the unfreezing of billions of dollars in overseas assets.

How do we know the deal is working?

We don’t, with total certainty.

However, the U.N. watchdog charged with monitoring Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has repeatedly said the country is complying with the technical aspects of the deal. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano reiterated that assessment again this week.

Most parties to the deal — Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, as well as the European Union — accept that judgment.

Why does the Trump administration say Iran is in violation?

Regardless of its technical compliance with the terms of the agreement, few would disagree that Iran is guilty of other behavior in the region that the U.S. labels as destabilizing, including the testing of ballistic missiles and support for militant groups in several countries.

Those sorts of acts, which don’t involve nuclear development, were not covered by the agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has supported sticking with the deal, has said he believes Tehran violates its “spirit” by continuing to promote destabilizing actions in the region.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., goes further than Tillerson. She has said she believes Iran has continued to secretly move ahead with efforts to develop nuclear capability. She contends that numerous Iranian military sites are hidden from U.N. inspections.

Some Obama-era officials had hoped the nuclear deal would give a boost to so-called pragmatists in Tehran over more hard-line factions. President Hassan Rouhani, who supported the agreement, won easy reelection in May.

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Hassan Rouhani — AP photo

But the rhetoric from the Trump administration seems to have unified Iran’s factions, and there has been no discernible decrease in Iranian support for armed militants in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

What do U.S. allies say?

European diplomats in Washington and here at the United Nations in New York have been lobbying the administration vigorously to try to save the agreement, warning that U.S. credibility and trustworthiness are also at stake.

Going back on the deal with Iran would discourage other countries, like North Korea, from trusting any agreement the U.S. might negotiate, some allies warn.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement that she had called Trump and “reaffirmed the UK’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security.”

How would Iran react if the U.S. reimposed sanctions?

Reinstating sanctions, even if the U.S. could to do so without its European, Russian and Chinese partners, would anger Iran and perhaps cause Tehran to quit the deal.

“Over the long term, I think the Trump administration would not mind if it could goad Iran into violating terms of the deal,” Jon Wolfsthal, a senior nonproliferation official in the Obama administration, said in a recent forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

The U.S. would likely lose much of its leverage with Iran if it snaps the sanctions back in place.

Doing so also might be an unnecessary provocation. Washington can impose sanctions on Iran without using those associated with the nuclear program. For example, in July, Congress approved new economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea (and on Russia, which made Trump reluctant to sign the bill).

“I’m very concerned they will let it die by a thousand cuts,” Wolfsthal said.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-fg-trump-iran-questions-20171010-story.html

© KHAMENEI.IR/AFP/File | Iran will not give in to US “bullying” as Washington attempts to undermine Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said

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Explaining the Iran nuclear deal 01:21

Jimmy Carter Willing to Travel To North Korea for Peace Talks

October 10, 2017

In an intervention likely to irritate Donald Trump, former US president says he is willing to travel to  to discuss a treaty

By Justin McCurry
The Guardian

Jimmy Carter on a visit to Pyongyang in 2010 to try to win the release of a jailed American. Photograph: KCNA/Reuters

Jimmy Carter has reportedly said he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a bid to defuse tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes, and bring “permanent peace” to the Korean peninsula.

In an intervention that is likely to irritate Donald Trump, the 93-year-old former president told a South Korean academic that he was willing to travel to the North Korean capital if it meant preventing war.

“Should former president Carter be able to visit North Korea, he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss a peace treaty between the United States and the North, and a complete denuclearisation of North Korea,” Park Han-shik, a professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, told South Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper.

Park said Carter told him during a meeting at his home in Georgia at the end of September that he wanted to “contribute toward establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

“He wants to employ his experience visiting North Korea to prevent a second Korean war,” he added.

Carter’s recent comments on North Korea have angered the White House, which last month reportedly asked him not to speak publicly about the crisis amid fears he was undermining Trump, who refuses to entertain any form of rapprochement with the regime.

Media reports said a senior US state department official had visited Carter at his home to pass on Trump’s request.

Carter’s conciliatory stance sits uneasily with attempts by the Trump administration to intensify sanctions against Pyongyang and threats to use military force if the US or its allies are threatened by the regime.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/10/jimmy-carter-offers-to-talk-peace-with-north-koreas-kim-says-academic#img-1