Posts Tagged ‘Rouhani’

With Trump strategy unclear, U.S. allies turn to Moscow to secure their interests in Syria

July 15, 2018

As President Trump began a six-day trip to Europe, due to culminate Monday in a meeting with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Putin was having some meetings of his own.

In Moscow on Wednesday, he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a frequent visitor, who said he wanted to talk to the Russian leader “without intermediaries.” Hours later, Putin sat down with Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader.

The main subject of the meetings was Syria, also a top item on Trump’s agenda.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting Wednesday, July 11, at the Kremlin to discuss Syria.

“Of course I’m going to bring that up” with Putin, Trump said Friday during a stop in Britain. “I’m not going in with high expectations,” he said, “but we may come out with some surprising things.”

By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post

As Trump and Putin prepare to meet in Helsinki, both allies and adversaries in the Middle East are turning to Putin for reassurance and understanding of how such surprises might affect them. For Iran, which has partnered with Russia to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power and decimate his U.S.-backed opposition, keeping Moscow close is a no-brainer.

But for many of America’s allies in the region, who say they have little understanding of Trump’s long-term strategy in Syria, there is growing anxiety about what he is prepared to offer Putin in exchange for help in attaining what he says is his primary goal of expelling Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hands with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, stands at right, at Novo-Ograyovo outside in Moscow on July 12, 2018. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Among the possibilities raised by senior officials in a number of regional governments, some of which also concern administration officials, are that Trump will agree to a partial or complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria — as both Syria and Russia have demanded — or even to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and drop U.S. sanctions.

Trump signed Wednesday’s NATO communique declaring that it would never accept Russia’s “illegal and illegitimate” takeover of Crimea. If he breaks ranks, it would be his most direct slap yet at the alliance, at a moment when NATO unity already hangs in the balance.

Removing the 2,200-strong U.S. military contingent in Syria, however, is seen as a more realistic possibility. Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria “very soon,” widely interpreted to mean six months, continues to create confusion within the U.S. military as well as among Washington’s regional partners.

U.S. military officials see the changing dynamics in southwest Syria, as Assad strengthens his control over remaining rebel-held areas, as disconnected from their ongoing campaign against the Islamic State. But they also see the situation as a signal of Syria’s new reality — one in which Assad will remain in power, aided by Russia and Iran. Although the officials said Friday that they have seen no plans to begin to remove troops, they said they are bracing for such a decision.

Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others, according to senior Middle Eastern officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity of name and country to avoid publicly questioning Trump, agree that such a step would be disastrous, eliminating whatever leverage the United States still has to push for an acceptable outcome in Syria.

In the lead-up to the Trump-Putin summit, Russia has continued to defend Iran’s presence in Syria and demand complete U.S. withdrawal, charging that its military deployments are a sham.

“Let me remind you that they talked about defeating ISIL at first, [and] declared the prevention of ISIL’s rebirth as their goal later,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told an Italian newspaper on Thursday, using an acronym for the Islamic State. Now, he said, the Americans “say [their] presence in Syria should continue to deter the hypothetical ‘Iranian influence.’ ”

President Vladimir Putin with the French leader Emmanuel Macron in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May.CreditPool photo by Dmitri Lovetsky. MAcron is meeting with Putin on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

“If our American colleagues are pursuing any course of action in Syria, it is too contradictory to be called a strategy,” Shoigu said.

U.S. regional allies share the objective of preventing Iran from establishing an unhindered corridor through Syria from Tehran to Beirut. But they worry that Trump may be too willing to accept guarantees that Putin has neither the desire nor ability to deliver.

Security officials in several countries in the region are skeptical that the Russians could force an Iranian withdrawal, even if they wanted to. “Assad owes everything to Iran, and he’s playing a game between the Russians and Iranians,” said one official in the region.

At the same time, another senior official from the region said, “the Russians play good chess. Putin wouldn’t make a move without thinking 10 moves ahead.”

Confused by apparently conflicting administration messages, and doubtful that the United States has a plan for achieving its own long-term goals in Syria, regional allies have reached out to Russia. “For years, there has been a growing disappointment with the U.S. posture in the region,” a third official said. “Countries are beginning to make their own calculations.”

Assad’s recent offensive in southwestern Syria, bordered by Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is a case in point. The area had been largely peaceful since last summer, when Putin and Trump endorsed a cease-fire deal that froze Russian-backed Syrian government forces and U.S.-backed opposition fighters in place along a demarcation line patrolled by Russian police.

Late last month, however, Assad’s forces, aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-directed militias, began heading south from Damascus for an announced takeover of the area. As the offensive got underway, the administration publicly denounced Russia for violating the cease-fire agreement, even as it privately told regional allies that it would not oppose the move and messaged opposition forces that they would get no assistance and were better off giving up.

The administration apparently asked Russia for nothing in return. As refugees from ground attacks and Russian bombing fled to nearby borders, and humanitarian organizations warned of catastrophe, Israel and Jordan turned to Moscow to ensure that their interests would be protected.

For Jordan, whose foreign minister traveled there shortly after hearing the news from Washington, Russia came through. Early this week at the Naseeb border crossing into Jordan, where days earlier tens of thousands of refugees were crowded in dire conditions against the closed border, only several hundred remained under the watch of Syrian soldiers who had arrived with a small Russian-flagged convoy.

While the Russians kept a discreet presence at the border, their impact has been palpable, and Jordan, despite its not-so-secret support for the rebel groups in the past, welcomed the outcome. “Now, I believe that even within a week, most of the [rebel] groups will agree on terms, and some will be integrated back into their communities,” Brig. Gen. Khaled Massaid, the head of Jordan’s northern military district, said in an interview at his command center a few dozen yards from the crossing.

As Syria’s civil conflict has dragged on for years, Jordan’s economy has come under increasing strain, including the costs of coping with an estimated 1.3 million refugees. “The Naseeb border has reopened, and the regime is in charge again,” Massaid said. “It is better for Jordan if Syria is able to control its own border.”

While Israel, like the United States, continues to demand Iran’s complete withdrawal from Syria, its immediate concern is keeping the Iranians at least 50 miles or more away from its border. Netanyahu left Moscow last week — his third visit in recent months — with what the Israeli media reported was a deal with Russia, both to keep Iran and its militias away from the border area and to continue turning a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria — the latest of which occurred last week.

“It’s very clear that Russia and Israel are cooperating on Syria. The Saudis and Russia are cooperating,” said a senior international diplomat closely involved in the conflict, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and described those contacts as a “good thing” to the extent that they “helped cool things down.”

“The Americans,” the diplomat said, now consider “Syria . . . a Russian thing.”

But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong proponent of keeping U.S. troops in Syria and a skeptic of Russia, tweeted a warning to Netanyahu. “To our friends in Israel,” he wrote, “be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria.”

Warrick reported from the Naseeb border crossing in Jordan. Missy Ryan in Washington contributed
to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/with-trump-strategy-unclear-us-allies-turn-to-moscow-to-secure-their-interests-in-syria/2018/07/14/0a2a3b34-8551-11e8-8f6c-46cb43e3f306_story.html?utm_term=.c0d2c32e48ea

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Western globalist elite fears “peace could break out between Russia and the United States”

July 14, 2018

The announced meeting between Trump and Putin has already produced a good result by revealing the hypocrisy of the media and politicians. The meeting has been branded as the greatest danger to humanity, according to the Western globalist elite, because of the danger that “peace could break out between Russia and the United States”.

By Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

No, one of the most authoritative and respected broadsheets in the world is fearful of the prospect of peace! The Times is afraid that the heads of two nuclear-armed superpowers are able to talk to each other. The Times fears that Putin and Trump will be able to come to some kind of agreement that can help avert the danger of a global catastrophe. These are the times in which we live. And this is the type of media we deal with. The problem with The Times is that it forms public opinion in the worst possible way, confusing, deceiving, and disorienting its readers. It is not by accident the world in which we live is increasingly divorced from logic and rationality.

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Even if the outcome of this meeting does not see any substantial progress, the most important thing to be achieved will be the dialogue between the two leaders and the opening of negotiation channels for both sides.

In The Times article, it is assumed that Trump and Putin want to reach an agreement regarding Europe. The insinuation is that Putin is manipulating Trump in order to destabilize Europe. For years now we have been inundated with such fabrications by the media on behalf of their editors and shareholders, all part of the deep state conglomerate. Facts have in fact proven that Putin has always desired a strong and united Europe, looking to integrate Europe into the Eurasian dream. Putin and Xi Jinping would like to see a European Union more resistant to American pressure and able to gain greater independence. The combination of mass migration and sanctions against Russia and Iran, which end up hurting Europeans, opens the way for alternative parties that are not necessarily willing to Washington’s marching orders.

Trump’s focus for the meeting will be to convince Putin to put even more pressure on Europe and Iran, perhaps in exchange for the recognition of Crimea and the ending of sanctions. For Putin and for Russia it is a strategic issue. While sanctions are bad, the top priority for Moscow remains the alliance with Iran, the need to further strengthen relations with European countries, and to defeat terrorism in Syria. Perhaps only a revision of the ABM treaty and the withdrawal of these weapons from Europe would be an interesting offer for Putin. However, reality shows us that the ABM treaty is a pillar of Washington’s military-industrial complex, and that it is also Eastern European countries that want such offensive and defensive systems in their own countries, seeing them as a deterrents against Russia. Are they victims of their own propaganda, or are billions of dollars pouring into their pockets? Either way, it does not really matter. The most important point for Moscow will be the withdrawal of the Aegis Ashore ABM systems as well as military ships with the same Aegis system. But this is not something that Trump will be able to negotiate with his military leaders. For the military-industrial complex, the ABM system, thanks to maintenance, innovation and direct or indirect commissions, is a gravy train that too many interests intend to keep riding.

From the Kremlin’s point of view, the removal of sanctions remains necessary for the restoration of normal relations with the West.But this would be difficult to achieve, given that Moscow would have little to offer Washington in exchange. The strategists at the Pentagon demand a withdrawal from Syria, an end to support for Donbass, and a cessation of relations with Iran. There is simply too much divergence to reach a common position. Moreover, Europe’s sanctions against Russia benefit Washington, as they hurt the Europeans and thereby undermine what is a major trading competitor to the US. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) can be looked at in the same light, blocking US allies from doing business with Iran.

Putin will keep faith with his commitments to Syria and with his allies, unwilling to betray his word even for the recognition of Crimea. On the other hand, as already mentioned, the priority remains the removal of the ABM; and while Crimea is already under the control of the Russian Federation, Syria remains an unstable territory that risks propelling Islamist terrorism to Russia’s soft underbelly in the Caucasus. For Moscow, involvement in Syria has always been a matter of national security, and this certainly remains the same now, even with Donald Trump’s unrealistic offers.

It should be kept in mind that Putin is aiming for a medium- to long-term strategy in the Middle East, where Iran, Syria and the entire Shiite arc serves to counter Saudi and Israeli aggression and hegemony. This strange alliance has emerged as the only way to deter war and dial down the heat in the region, because the crazy actions from Netanyahu or Mohammad bin Salman are deterred by a strong Iranian military. Preventing a confrontation between Iran and Saudis/Israelis also means not making Tehran appear weak or isolated. Such considerations seem beyond the strategists in Washington, let alone in Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

While it is difficult to achieve a positive outcome from the meeting between Trump and Putin, it is important that there is a meeting in the first place, contrary to what The Times thinks. The media and the conglomerate of power that revolves around the US deep state fear diplomacy in particular. The same narrative that was proclaimed weeks before and after the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un is being repeated with regard to Trump’s meeting with Putin.

Washington bases its power on force, both economic and military. But this power also rests on the posture assumed and image projected. The United States and its deep state considers negotiating with opponents to be wrong and counterproductive. They consider dialogue to be synonymous with weakness, and any concession is interpreted as surrender. This is the result of 70 years of American exceptionalism and 30 years of Unipolarity, has allowed the US the ability to decide unilaterally the fate of others.

Today, in a multipolar world, the dynamics are different and therefore more complex. You cannot always employ a zero-sum mentality, as The Times does. The rest of the world recognizes that a dialogue between Putin and Trump is something positive, but we must not forget that, as in Korea, if diplomacy does not bring significant progress, then the hawks surrounding Trump will again be in the ascendant. The tasks for Rouhani, Putin and Kim Jong-un are complex and quite different from each other, but they share in common the belief that dialogue is the only way to avoid a catastrophic war. But apparently, peace is not the best possible result for everyone.

Zero Hedge

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-13/globalist-elite-fears-peace-wants-war

Iran says EU economic proposal to save nuclear deal not enough

July 6, 2018

With US sanctions looming, European powers are looking to persuade Iran to remain in the 2015 agreement. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a compromise before November appeared unlikely.

    
Federica Mogherini and Javad Zarif (picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/A. Shcherbak)

Foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia are meeting in Vienna on Friday with their Iranian counterpart, to discuss an economic plan that could save the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and took 12 years to negotiate.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chairs the meeting, hopes to persuade Iran to remain in the JCPOA with a package of incentives that includes European Investment Bank lending, a special measure to protect EU companies from US sanctions and encouraging EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank.

“We are here to listen to practical solutions, rather than slogans,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in the Austrian capital, signaling a willingness to study the options presented.

In May, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the signature accord that his predecessor Barack Obama had signed, calling it “horrible” and “defective at its core.”

The White House’s retreat from the deal dismayed the remaining five countries, who swiftly signaled their continued support for the accord. But Washington reintroduced sanctions on Iran and threatened the remaining signatories with punitive measures if they engaged in trade and investment with Iran.

The Iranian government has strongly denied planning to build a nuclear bomb and has threatened to resume uranium enrichment for civilian purposes if the deal completely collapses.

Read more: Can Europe rescue Iran as Trump’s sanctions loom?

Rouhani: Current deal not good enough

In the wake of the US withdrawal, Iran’s rial currency has fallen, prices have risen and the country has been hit by street protests and strikes.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who signed the nuclear deal in 2015, has been under pressure at home from ultra-conservatives, who denounced his willingness to talk to the West and blamed him for the country’s ailing economy.

The Iranian president spoke to European leaders this week in support of saving the deal. But Rouhani told French President Emmanuel Macron that the current economic measures offered by Europe did not meet all of Tehran’s demands to salvage the nuclear deal, Iran’s IRNA state news agency reported.

Read more: Opinion: Khamenei’s empty threats over the Iran nuclear deal

Deal before November unlikely

Prior to heading to Vienna, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio that he thinks it unlikely that European powers would be able to put together a successful economic package to save the deal before November and asked Tehran to be more cooperative.

“They must stop permanently threatening to break their commitments to the nuclear deal,” Le Drian said.

“They must stop the threats so that we can find the solutions so that Iran can have the necessary economic compensations,” the foreign minister added.

Le Drian noted that Russia and China were working closely with the European signatories to find a suitable financial solution to US sanctions.

“We are trying to do it before sanctions are imposed at the start of August and then another set of sanctions in November. For the start August it seems a bit short, but we are trying to do it by November,” Le Drian said.

Read more: Opinion: Trump’s Iran nuclear deal exit dangerous for the world

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas lowered Iranian expectations prior to the Vienna meeting, saying that the five signatories would not be able to mitigate all the problems created by sanctions, but said that abandoning the deal would cause Tehran more harm to its economy.

“We will not be able completely counterbalance the effect of companies that are withdrawing from Iran because their US business is threatened by sanctions,” Maas said.

“We want to make it clear to Iran today that it will continue to  benefit economically from this agreement,” Maas told reporters

jcg/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

 

Israel chides Europe for Iran nuke deal talks after alleged Paris attack plot

July 4, 2018

In mocking speech at US Embassy party, Netanyahu urges Europeans to ‘stop appeasing’ Tehran as foiled plan to bomb opposition rally casts shadow over Vienna talks by Rouhani, Zarif

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an American Independence Day celebration at Avenue in Airport City, on July 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an American Independence Day celebration at Avenue in Airport City, on July 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged European countries to call off planned talks with Iran over preserving the nuclear deal, after officials alleged they uncovered a plot backed by Tehran to attack an event by an Iranian exile group in Paris.

Adopting a mocking tone, Netanyahu expressed incredulity that other nations would still try to deal with Iran, and praised US President Donald Trump for pulling out of the landmark 2015 accord.

“Stop funding the very regime that is sponsoring terrorism against you and against so many others. Stop appeasing Iran,” he said at an American Independence Day celebration hosted by US Ambassador David Friedman at an event hall near Ben-Gurion airport.

“President Trump decided to leave this bad deal and he did the greatest thing for the security of the world and for the security of Israel,” he said.

From left, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, his wife Tammy Friedman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu drink a toast at an American Independence Day celebration at Avenue in Airport City, on July 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The withdrawal has paved the way for new US sanctions against Tehran and foreign companies that trade or invest with it, causing several major businesses to stop activity in the country.

Swiss President Alain Berset, left, walks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as he reviews an honor guard after his arrival at an airport in Kloten – Zurich Canton – on July 2, 2018, at the start of a two day official visit to Switzerland. (AFP/ RUBEN SPRICH)

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is slated to meet in Vienna with top envoys from the five powers still party to the nuclear deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — for the first time since Washington’s withdrawal, according to Iranian state media.

Ahead of that meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is holding talks with leaders in Switzerland and Austria aimed at keeping European business in Iran despite the threats of US sanctions.

Rouhani’s visit and the P4+1 meeting have been overshadowed by the arrest of six people arrested in Belgium, France and Germany over an alleged plot against Saturday’s rally in a Paris suburb, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The rally was also attended by leading US figures, including close allies of President Donald Trump.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani delivers a speech during the “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative” event organized by an Iranian opposition group on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

Among those arrested were a diplomat attached to the Iranian embassy in Vienna.

On Tuesday, the Austrian foreign ministry summoned the Iranian envoy to request that Tehran “lift the (diplomat’s) immunity.”

Ministry spokesman Matthias Forenbacher said the unnamed diplomat a would be “deprived of his diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant” against him.

Federal prosecutors in Brussels first revealed the arrests, charging a husband and wife they described as Belgian nationals “of Iranian origin.”

People attend the “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative” event on June 30, 2018 in Villepinte, north of Paris during the Iranian resistance national council (NCRI) annual meeting. (AFP/ Zakaria ABDELKAFI)

The couple were carrying 500 grams (about one pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonator  when angroup elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels, authorities say.

They said the Iranian diplomat in Vienna was believed to be a contact of the couple.

On Wednesday, Rouhani is due in Vienna, where the 2015 nuclear deal was signed, to meet Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen.

Zarif has dismissed the alleged plot as a “false flag ploy” designed to tar Rouhani’s tour.

“How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested,” he tweeted Monday.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its “plotters” arrested. Iran unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (top- L) and Swiss President Alain Berset (top-R) clap as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Swiss Economic Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann shakes hands after signing an agreement in Bern on July 3, 2018. (AFP Photo/Ruben Sprich)

But the plot has reawakened fears of Iranian terror on European soil. One of Israel’s largest complaint with the nuclear deal was that it failed to address Iranian sponsorship for terror around the world.

On Tuesday, the popular German tabloid Bild urged Kurz to cancel the meeting, calling Iran the “world’s largest state terror sponsor.”

After arriving in Switzerland on Monday, the Iranian president held talks with his counterpart Alain Berset on Tuesday in a meeting Tehran said was of “crucial importance” for cooperation between the Islamic Republic and Europe.

On Tuesday, the US State Department said it would dispatch Acting Under Secretary for Political Affairs Stephen Mull to Belgium and Austria for talks ahead of the Iran meeting. Mull was in charge of the implementing the Iran nuclear deal under the Barack Obama administration.

Department of State

@StateDept

.@Statedeptspox announces Acting Under Secretary for Political Affairs Stephen Mull’s travel to , Belgium and , Austria on July 3-5 for meetings with his counterparts at the @eu_eeas and with the EU’s political directors.

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Rouhani warns of ‘consequences’ to US push against buying Iranian oil

July 3, 2018

As State Department official says Washington working to reduce Tehran’s crude-oil revenue, Islamic Republic’s president says regional oil supply could be jeopardized

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, arrives at the Zurich airport, in Kloten, Switzerland, July 2, 2018. (KEYSTONE/Walter Bieri via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, arrives at the Zurich airport, in Kloten, Switzerland, July 2, 2018. (KEYSTONE/Walter Bieri via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that regional oil supply could be jeopardized if the United States manages to convince its allies to
stop buying Tehran’s oil.

Rouhani spoke to Iranian expatriates in Switzerland during his visit there on Monday. He said the US has threatened not to allow Iran to continue exporting its oil. Iranian state TV broadcast his remarks.

“It would be meaningless that Iran cannot export its oil while others in the region can. Do this if you can and see the consequences,” he said according to an English-language report of his statements provided by Iran’s Press TV.

Rouhani didn’t elaborate but when pressured in the past, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which one third of the world’s oil supply passes.

Iran is OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter with more than 2 million barrels a day.

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Washington has been pushing allies to cut oil imports from the Islamic Republic altogether by November.

An Iranian navy vessel during a drill in the Strait of Hormuz (YouTube screenshot)

Rouhani asserted that Iran will not buckle under US pressure and urged dialogue to resolve the differences between the nations.

“Iran’s logic has not changed, one party without logic has left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the goal of putting pressure on the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said.

“We told all our foreign parties that if they speak to the Iranian nation with the language of logic and respect, then we can get problems solved… and that threats, pressure and humiliation will never work against the people of Iran,” he said.

Also Monday, a senior Iranian military commander said that Iran will respond to any threat against the nation. Speaking at a meeting of senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders in Tehran, Major General Gholam Ali Rashid urged social and political unity in facing up to the United States, Press TV reported.

Rouhani’s comments came after the Trump administration vowed Monday to stick with its pressure campaign against Iran, affirming its strategy to change Tehran’s behavior by gutting its oil revenue and isolating the country globally.

“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude-oil sales,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, at a briefing with reporters.

He also suggested, however, that there would be some legroom with other countries that import Iranian oil from avoiding immediate sanctions, once they are set to be re-imposed come November 4.

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis, but as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses,” Hook said, in comments that were seen as a softening of the United States’ prior demands.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press after announcing his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran during a speech from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House on May 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

These moves follow US President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which removed sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

The accord, forged during the Obama administration, is still being honored by the other signatories — Russia, Germany, France, the UK and China.

Despite the space Washington is prepared to grant these and other nations working with Iran, Hook insisted the Trump administration would not provide exemptions and was intent with fully charging forward with its current plan.

Notable countries that import Iranian crude include Turkey, India, China and South Korea.

Since a US State Department official first told reporters on June 26 that the US was preparing to ask allies to cut their oil imports from Iran, the US market took a hit, with US crude jumping more than 8 percent.

Trump subsequently expressed concern about oil prices last week, announcing in a tweet that he and King Salman of Saudi Arabia had agreed to raise daily oil production by 2 million barrels.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference…Prices to high! He has agreed!

“Prices [too] high!” he said. “He has agreed!” It is not clear when that agreement will begin implementation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/rouhani-warns-of-consequences-to-us-push-against-buying-iranian-oil/

READ MORE:

Iranian president flies to Europe to rally support — Mullahs in a Muddle over economy, Donald Trump, sanctions

July 2, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani departed Iran on Monday for a trip to Europe billed as of “prime importance” after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Rouhani was set to visit Switzerland and Austria as part of Tehran’s ongoing efforts to secure Europe’s continued support for the landmark agreement.

Image result for rouhani, xi jinping, photos

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani with Xi Jinping of China.

The Iranian president left Tehran on an early afternoon flight and was due to land in Zurich in the mid-afternoon, Iranian state media reported.

His delegation will travel on to Vienna Wednesday, according to authorities in Austria, where the historic nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

The trip will be an “opportunity to talk about the future of the (nuclear) agreement,” Rouhani told reporters at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport before boarding his flight, state television showed.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is also scheduled to hold talks with Swiss officials in Bern.

Image result for Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, photos, with lavrov

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov

The visit comes nearly two months after US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the agreement, to the ire of the other signatories — China, France, Germany, Britain and Russia — which along with the European Union have continued to back the accord.

Rouhani’s European trip will be of “prime importance” as it could “provide a more precise picture of cooperation between Iran and Europe,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said in comments carried by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Saturday.

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Austria on Sunday took over the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency, while Switzerland represents US interests in Iran owing to the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran.

Vienna, where the deal was signed, is also the home of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, which monitors Iran’s compliance with the accord.

The nuclear deal has been the cornerstone of Rouhani’s policy of greater openness with the West, and the US departure has seen him severely criticised by ultra-conservatives at home.

Even before Trump’s decision, Iranians had long complained that the hoped-for uptick in foreign investment after the deal had not materialised.

Washington’s decision paves the way for new US sanctions against Tehran, which will encompass businesses from third countries that continue to operate in Iran.

A number of foreign firms have already announced they would cease their Iranian activities in light of the looming imposition of sanctions.

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– Failure ‘very dangerous’ –

While in Switzerland officials are due to sign agreements on economic cooperation, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Rouhani will meet with the Swiss president, Alain Berset, and his two-day visit will coincide with a bilateral economic forum on health and nutrition, although it was not clear whether he will attend in person.

There will be a similar focus on finances in Vienna, where the Iranian president is expected to sign memorandums on economic cooperation according to Austrian media.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he will speak plainly with Rouhani about Iran’s role in the Middle East, as Tehran continues to deny accusations it is destabilising the region.

Kurz will also find “clear words” to discuss the human rights situation in Iran, the chancellor told Austrian news agency APA.

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The European tour is part of a broader diplomatic effort by Tehran to rally support in the wake of Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Last month Rouhani visited China, where he discussed the future of the nuclear deal with his Chinese and Russian counterparts on the margins of a security summit.

Zarif meanwhile embarked on a tour of Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

The foreign minister on June 24 warned that failing to save the nuclear deal would be “very dangerous” for Tehran.

But the Iranian government has also said it will not continue to abide by the agreement if doing so goes against its economic interests.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has demanded Europe provide a number of economic guarantees in order for Tehran to continue its commitment.

Increasing the pressure on Iran’s European partners, he ordered preparations be made to quickly restart nuclear activities in case talks collapse.

AFP

Turkey: Erdogan Wanted an Empire but Must Settle for an Unloved Country

July 1, 2018

Turkey’s alliance with Iran, Qatar and Russia, and its incursion in northern Syria versus the Kurds are just some of the moves that ruined its ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and officials at an opening ceremony for a mosque at a military school in Ankara, June 29, 2018.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and officials at an opening ceremony for a mosque at a military school in Ankara, June 29, 2018. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Reuters

The Sheraton Hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha was lit up in the colors of the Turkish flag Sunday. Qatar’s ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was one of the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his electoral victory and that of his party.

Erdogan and the emir are close friends. Turkey was the first country to offer assistance to Qatar a year ago when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a brutal economic boycott on it. Turkey lambasted the boycott, rushed goods to Qatar and beefed up its military presence in the emirate to warn the other Gulf states not to attack it. Ankara also pressured Washington to mediate between Qatar and the Gulf states.

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The economic benefits of Turkey’s ties with Qatar aren’t substantial for a country whose gross domestic product is almost $900 billion. But its close relationship with Doha, an Iranian ally, is an important element of Erdogan’s effort to boost Turkey’s status as an influential power in the Middle East.

Turkey’s strategy of seeking to shape, or at least be party to shaping, a new Mideast order wasn’t born with Erdogan’s election as president. Its ties with Qatar are part of a network of relationships Ankara has been working on for almost eight years since the Syrian civil war began.

Before the war, Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy was supposed to turn it into a bridge between East and West, between Europe, America and the Middle East, and thereby into a country capable of leading moves in the region. But the war taught it the limitations of this strategy.

Erdogan’s severance of his personal ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his new policy of trying to oust the Assad regime due to its massacre of its own people symbolized the revolution in Erdogan’s approach. It also put Turkey in opposition to Iran.

Yet the expected rift between Turkey and Iran was avoided, mainly due to shared economic interests. Iran, at that time still under harsh international sanctions, needed an ally like Turkey, which skirted the sanctions by buying oil from Iran and paying it in gold via the UAE. Both countries also had a long-standing interest in blocking Kurdish aspirations for independence and agreed on the need to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.

.The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, May 2018.

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, May 2018.AP

Nevertheless, Erdogan’s ties with Tehran created a dilemma for him. In 2015, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman formed a “Sunni coalition” against Iran and embarked on a war in Yemen, led by his son Mohammed. Salman then recruited Turkey into the coalition, giving it, for the first time, the status of a partner in the Arab Middle East, which had traditionally seen Turkey as alien at best and hostile at worst. The common denominator between the secular Turkish republic and the Wahhabi kingdom was loathing for Assad and a desire to oust him.

Saudi and Egyptian enmity

But Turkey never agreed to serve as a brake on Iran, it didn’t join the war in Yemen, and Salman soon realized that their partnership empowered Turkey without making any real contribution to advancing his own interests. The Saudi media began “reconsidering” the alliance with Turkey and describing Erdogan as an authoritarian ruler. Recently, a UAE ambassador even declared Turkey a threat to the region and said the Americans didn’t understand the gravity of this threat.

Arab hostility to Turkey was led by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Shortly after taking over the presidency in July 2013, Sissi not only began persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood, but also imposed an economic boycott on Turkey, which refused to accept his rule as legitimate. Erdogan said Sissi had taken power in a military coup and demanded the restoration of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government. Sissi canceled Egypt’s trade agreements with Turkey, urged Egyptians not to travel to Turkey or fly with Turkish airlines, and blew up Turkey’s hopes of using Egypt as a commercial bridge to Africa.

Not much was left of the “zero problems with neighbors” policy created and led by a political science professor, Ahmet Davutoglu, who served as Erdogan’s foreign minister and then, after Erdogan became president in 2014, as his prime minister. Turkey’s rift with Syria and Egypt, its chilly relations with the Gulf states and its hostile relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which stemmed from its support for Hamas, all distanced Erdogan’s dream of becoming a pivotal country, if they didn’t utterly destroy it.

It’s simplistic to say Erdogan aspired to reestablish the Ottoman Empire and make himself sultan. Still, Turkey’s poor relationships with other countries in the region, its declining influence on regional conflicts, its alliance with Iran, Qatar and Russia – which at least for now are considered the nemeses of the Arab Middle East – and its takeover of land in northern Syria in its battle against the Kurds have all made Arab states increase their efforts to thwart Ankara. Thus no new Ottoman Empire will ever be born of Erdogan’s dream; his “sultanate” will end at Turkey’s borders.

But it’s not only Mideast leaders who loathe Erdogan. He has also been engaged in a bitter feud with the United States that has descended into mutual threats. In fact, “duel” would be a better word than “relationship” to describe the ties.

.Celebrants in Istanbul after the election victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, June 24, 2018.

Celebrants in Istanbul after the election victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, June 24, 2018.Aris Messinis / AFP

Turkey’s list of grievances starts with the refusal of both the Obama and Trump administrations to extradite preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of plotting the failed coup against him in July 2016. Next, Erdogan assailed the American legal system and the U.S. administration over a court ruling convicting the vice president of Turkey’s state bank of circumventing sanctions on Iran. And finally, Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there drove Erdogan wild.

Russian missiles for Turkey

But the heart of Erdogan’s spat with Washington is the assistance America gave the Syrian Kurds in the war against the Islamic State. Erdogan sees this close relationship as a plot to abet Kurdish terror against Turkey.

He could make a similar accusation against Russia, which also sees the Kurds as essential allies in any diplomatic process to end the Syrian civil war. But having been burned by the economic boycott Russia imposed on Ankara after Turkey downed a Russian plane near the Turkish-Syrian border three years ago, Erdogan has been very careful not to antagonize Moscow. To reconcile with Russia, he had to withdraw his adamant opposition to Assad remaining in power and join the coalition Moscow formed with Tehran to launch a diplomatic process in Syria.

Washington, which didn’t get too upset over Erdogan’s suppression of intellectuals and political rivals or his massive violations of human rights, was furious when Turkey signed an agreement to buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system. A battle is now being waged on Capitol Hill to prevent Turkey from buying the F-35 fighter jet in order to punish Ankara for the S-400 purchase, which Turkey’s American opponents say will undermine NATO’s defense coordination.

The one ray of light in Turkey’s relations with Washington in recent weeks was a deal over control of the Syrian city and province of Manbij, which had previously been controlled by the Kurds. Under this agreement, Turkish and American forces will conduct joint patrols of the city and the province once the Kurds, whose presence was the reason Turkey threatened to capture the city, have withdrawn.

The city and province of Afrin, however, are still under Turkish control, and Turkey even opened a branch of Harran University there, staffed by Turkish and Syrian faculty. The Kurds had to accept the American dictate, but they found a way to even the balance. With Russia’s support, they began direct negotiations with the Assad regime over their future in Syria. One likely result is that the Kurdish minority, acting in cooperation with the Syrian government, will deprive Turkey of its pretext for being in Syria.

Turkey’s intervention in Syria has also enraged Iran, which rejected Ankara’s request for cooperation in its war against the PKK in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains. “Military action against the territory of another state is illegal,” Iran said in a statement, hinting broadly that it also considers Turkey’s military presence in Syria unacceptable.

Thus Erdogan’s electoral victory won’t help him conduct a foreign policy that could extricate him safely from the thicket of regional interests that has entangled him. For now, Turkey’s international relevance rests on its role in the Syrian war and on the European Union’s dependence on an agreement with Ankara that largely blocked the flow of Syrian refugees to its member states.

Yet even Europe is sick of Turkey. “Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement after a recent meeting in Brussels. “Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill,” and “no further work … is foreseen.”

Iran’s leaders seek ways to defend economy from US sanctions

June 30, 2018

Iran is studying ways to keep exporting oil and other measures to counter U.S. economic sanctions, state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.

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FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. EPA-EFE

Since last month, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear which lifted most sanctions in 2015, the rial currency has dropped up to 40 percent in value, prompting angry protests by bazaar traders usually loyal to the Islamist rulers.

Speaking after three days of protests, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. sanctions were aimed at turning Iranians against their government.

“They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six U.S. presidents before him (Trump) tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei said on his website Khamenei.ir.

With the return of U.S. sanctions likely to make it increasingly difficult to access the global financial system, President Hassan Rouhani has met with the head of parliament and the judiciary to discuss counter-measures.

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President Hassan Rouhani

“Various scenarios of threats to the Iranian economy by the U.S. government were examined and appropriate measures were taken to prepare for any probable U.S. sanctions, and to prevent their negative impact,” IRNA said.

One such measure was seeking self-sufficiency in gasoline production, the report added.

The government and parliament have also set up a committee to study potential buyers of oil and ways of repatriating the income after U.S. sanctions take effect, Fereydoun Hassanvand, head of the parliament’s energy committee, was quoted as saying by IRNA.

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“Due to the possibility of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the committee will study the competence of buyers and how to obtain proceeds from the sale of oil, safe sale alternatives which are consistent with international law and do not lead to corruption and profiteering,” Hassanvand said.

The United States has told allies to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.

Khamenei said the United States was acting together with Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states that regard Shi’ite Muslim Iran as their main regional foe of trying to destabilize the government in Tehran.

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“If America was able to act against Iran, it would not need to form coalitions with notorious and reactionary states in the region and ask their help in fomenting unrest and instability,” Khamenei told graduating Revolutionary Guards officers, in remarks carried by state TV.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Reuters

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Iran’s supreme leader says US sanctions aim to turn people against government

June 30, 2018

‘Six previous US presidents made efforts against Iran but failed at their vicious goals,’ the Iranian leader tweeted

 

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader on April 30, 2018, shows Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waving to the crowd as he delivers a speech during Labor Day. (AFP PHOTO / Iranian Supreme Leader's Website / HO)

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader on April 30, 2018, shows Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waving to the crowd as he delivers a speech during Labor Day. (AFP PHOTO / Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website / HO)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday accused the United States and its allies of fomenting the recent economic protests that many Iranians are blaming on their own government’s foreign policies.

Khamenei later tweeted that the US has formed a coalition with other “disgraceful states” in the region as it is unable to defeat Iran alone.

The Iranian leader didn’t name any specific nations in the so-called coalition but alleged it was imposing economic pressure on Iran to “separate the nation from the system.”

“If the US was able to overpower the Islamic system, it would not have needed to form a coalition with notorious countries of the region to create chaos, unrest, and insecurity in Iran,” he said.

“Six previous US presidents made efforts against Iran but failed at their vicious goals,” the Iranian leader tweeted. “Today, after losing hope in other methods, the enemy’s plot is to create a rift between establishment and nation; that’s foolish: they don’t understand that establishment entirely represents nation.”

Earlier in the day Khamenei tweeted a picture from an officers training ceremony in Iran with an image of the al-Aqsa mosque and the caption “#Palestine will definitely be freed.”

Iran is once again under economic sanctions and has faced mounting economic woes since US President Donald Trump in May pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal with world powers that imposed controls on Tehran’s nuclear program, in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

But the slogans chanted by the crowds in the recent economic protests, which have leaked out to the world via social media, show that many Iranians blame their own government’s foreign policies for the downturn.

 A gas flare on an Iranian oil-production platform in Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf.
A gas flare on an Iranian oil-production platform in Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf. PHOTO: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS

The protests have seen unusual scenes of demonstrators chanting against continued Iranian spending of billions of dollars on regional proxy wars and support for terrorist groups, which many say has meant less investment in the struggling economy at home.

In recent years, Iran has provided financial aid to Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Shiite militias in Iraq. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Tehran has poured a reported $6 billion into propping up president Bashar Assad’s government.

This week’s protests in Tehran and around the country — including economically hard-hit cities like Kermanshah in western Iran — included shouts of “Death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon,” and “Leave Syria and think of us.” Chants of “We don’t want the ayatollahs” and “Death to the dictator” were also heard at some rallies.

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Reuters file

The protests signaled growing domestic unease in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and restore sanctions on the country.

In the last six months, Iran’s currency has lost almost 50 percent of its value, with the US dollar now buying around 85,000 rials on the open market.

Iranians have been hit by rising prices, and record levels of unemployment have left a third of under-30s out of work.

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President Rouhani — who signed the nuclear deal with the previous US administration — was re-elected in May 2017 on the promise of boosting the economy and implementing social reforms. He faces increased political scrutiny from ultra-conservatives, who have denounced his willingness to talk to the West, and have accused him of hurting the economy.

Earlier this week, Rouhani sought to calm the growing discontent by assuring Iranians they would be able to withstand the new US sanctions. He blamed the spontaneous demonstrations that erupted across the country earlier that week on “foreign media propaganda,” and accused the US of waging “an economic war” against Tehran.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/irans-supreme-leader-says-us-sanctions-aim-to-turn-people-against-government/

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An Iranian made ballistic missile is launched from Yemen by Houti rebels into Saudi Arabia — Reuters file photo
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Iran’s anaemic economy is pushing people over the edge

June 29, 2018

The government is struggling with rising prices and a plummeting currency

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SIX months after the last round of protests over their country’s anaemic economy, Iranians are at it again. But unlike the demonstrations in December, which began in the provinces, the latest unrest erupted in Tehran’s bazaar on June 25th and spread from there. Anger is growing over rising prices, the plunging value of the Iranian rial (see chart) and the cost of foreign adventurism.

The regime looks worried. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse crowds that gathered at parliament’s gates. Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the conservative head of the judicial system, threatened those “who disturb the Islamic economy” with execution.

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President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, seems stumped. Instead of the bountiful foreign investment he promised would come from compromising with America, he is reeling from what he calls President Donald Trump’s “economic war”. The value of the rial on the black market has fallen by over half since Mr Trump took office in January 2017, particularly since May, when America withdrew from the deal it and five other powers signed with Iran in 2015. It had lifted sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme. In August America will reimpose curbs on Iran’s purchase of dollars and sale of gold; it also wants a full ban on oil sales.

Mr Rouhani won an election last year, but he is challenged by hardline clerics and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime’s military arm. Members of parliament seek his impeachment. While protesters cry for the restoration of the monarchy, regime insiders mull a military takeover. In its 40th year, Iran’s theocracy looks in poor health.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline”Rial problems”

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https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/06/30/irans-anaemic-economy-is-pushing-people-over-the-edge