Posts Tagged ‘U.S. sanctions’

Trump Faces Pivotal Decisions on Iran Sanctions

January 8, 2018

The president must choose whether to extend U.S. sanctions relief to Iran under the 2015 nuclear deal

WASHINGTON—The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement faces a potentially fateful week, with a series of deadlines awaiting President Donald Trump as Tehran reacts to recent antigovernment protests.

Mr. Trump is expected to again notify Congress he doesn’t believe the Iran deal is in the best interest of the U.S., restating a well-known position. More important, Mr. Trump will have several opportunities starting Wednesday to refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief to Iran under the deal, which would put Washington in breach of its terms.

To stay in the deal, Mr. Trump must periodically agree to waive penalties imposed under a variety of U.S. statutes. In exchange for sanctions relief from the U.S., the United Nations and other countries, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program.

The recent protests in Iran have added to the uncertainty, as Mr. Trump has backed protesters while denouncing the economic benefits he says the nuclear agreement has provided to Iran’s government.

While Mr. Trump could seize on the protests as a basis for rejecting the sanctions waivers, he could also sign the waivers while taking other steps to punish Iran.

Many of Mr. Trump’s advisers are critical of the nuclear deal but have urged Mr. Trump to remain a party to it while looking for additional ways to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are among advisers who have publicly taken that position.

Mr. Mattis declined on Friday to tell reporters at the Pentagon whether his advice had changed, but said, “I just don’t think the protests will have any influence over my advice to the president one way or another.”

Mr. Trump is likely to introduce additional sanctions unrelated to the nuclear accord next week as these deadlines come up, Mr. Tillerson said Friday. “They will be coming,” he said in an interview on CNN.

Other advisers said Mr. Trump appears on track to extend the sanctions relief, but cautioned that they don’t know what he is likely to do.

In October, Mr. Trump threatened to pull out of the accord unless Congress and European allies agreed on ways to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and to ensure restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities continue after provisions of the deal expire in future years.

Since then, the Trump administration has consulted with lawmakers and European officials on an amendment to a 2015 U.S. law that gives Congress oversight of the nuclear deal.

People familiar with the discussions said the goal would be for advisers to present Mr. Trump with legislation that will allow him to make good on a pledge to fix the deal.

The discussions have touched on ways to allow for U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and reduce the frequency with which the president must certify Iran’s compliance with the deal from quarterly to perhaps once or twice a year, along with other areas of concern.

Officials are also debating when and how sanctions could be reimposed if Tehran undertakes certain nuclear activities.

Several drafts of the legislation have circulated, but there is no final bill yet, the people familiar with the discussions said. Negotiations aren’t expected to wrap up before Mr. Trump must decide whether to extend sanctions waivers, officials said.

Key players in the negotiations include Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a close congressional adviser to Mr. Trump on foreign policy.

A Capitol Hill aide familiar with Mr. Cotton’s thinking said the legislation has a long way to go before he would sign on.

Mr. Corker and Mr. Cardin met with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the White House national security adviser, on Thursday to discuss the amended legislation.

Mr. Corker told reporters on Wednesday that it is important for Mr. Trump to know progress is being made on the legislation as he is weighing what to do about the deal.

European officials have said that they would continue to abide by the accord and stick with it, whether or not the U.S. continues to do so.

Yet any move by the U.S. to reimpose sanctions would mean European companies could face penalties for doing business in Iran.

“The real issue isn’t what diplomats in Paris, Berlin, Rome or Brussels do, it’s what would French, German, Italian or Belgian companies do in response to these moves,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a critic of the Iran deal who has advised the administration.

—Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.

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

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Tillerson: Trump Administration Looking for Fix to Keep U.S. in Iran Nuclear Deal

January 6, 2018

Next week Trump will again have to decide whether or not to certify Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear pact and continue granting its economy relief from U.S. sanctions

The Associated Press

The Trump administration is working with key lawmakers on a legislative fix that could enable the United States to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.

The changes to the U.S. law codifying America’s participation the 2015 agreement could come as early as next week or shortly thereafter, Tillerson said. President Donald Trump faces a series of deadlines in the coming days about how to proceed with an accord he describes as terrible and too soft on Iran. While the talks involving administration officials and members of Congress wouldn’t strengthen any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity, as Trump also wants, they could result in face-saving measures that would persuade him to stay in the deal.

“The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,” Tillerson told the AP as he sat in front of a fireplace in his State Department office suite. “We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.”

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a interview with the Associated Press at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 5, 2018.

In a wide-ranging interview, Tillerson also chastised the European Union for failing to voice support for protesters in Iran. On North Korea, the former Exxon Mobil CEO said rare talks next week between South Korea and the North about the Olympics could offer clues about Pyongyang’s willingness to discuss broader issues, including its nuclear weapons.

Trump hasn’t made a decision about what he’ll do on Iran next week, when he must decide yet again whether to certify Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear pact and continue granting its economy relief from years-old U.S. sanctions. In October, Trump declined to certify Iran’s compliance, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran’s concessions and that the agreement wasn’t in America’s national interests.

Nonetheless, Trump waived the sanctions for another three months. And he left the ultimate decision on staying in or quitting the deal for later while urging Congress to change the U.S. law concerning the certification. Trump’s aides have said the president loathes having to give a thumbs-up to Iran every three months.

Tillerson said the administration was speaking with congressional leaders “on a very active basis” about a fix. He suggested Trump might be inclined to preserve the deal by waiving sanctions again on Jan. 12 if there were signs Congress would act in short order.

“I don’t want to suggest we’re across the finish line on anything yet,” Tillerson said.

Getting agreement in Congress on such a short timeline would be extremely challenging. A congressional aide confirmed there has been significant progress in discussions between key lawmakers and the administration, but the aide said negotiations haven’t started on a specific text.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, the top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited the White House on Thursday to discuss the matter with national security adviser H.R. McMaster, an aide familiar with the meeting said. The aide wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the possible legislation and demanded anonymity.

One option lawmakers are discussing with the White House is removing the requirement that Trump certify Iranian compliance. Another possibility is changing the law so certification occurs far less often, officials said. Any changes would have to get significant support among Republicans, including many die-hard opponents of the nuclear deal, and some Democrats who largely support it.

It’s unclear if changing the so-called Iran Nuclear Review Act will be enough to prevent Trump from tearing up the “worst deal ever,” as he has time and again threatened. Tillerson said the administration’s approach has been to first fix the U.S. law that governs how the U.S. adheres to the deal, and then work with European allies that helped broker the accord to address its shortcomings. Those flaws, Trump says, include the fact that key nuclear restrictions on Iran expire after several years, and the lack of restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile testing.

Trump’s next Iran deadlines come as his administration is showing support for protesters in Iran demonstrating against government mismanagement, economic problems and corruption. Some individual European countries have joined the U.S. in backing the protesters, but Tillerson lamented a lack of similar support from the 28-nation EU.

“We’re a bit disappointed that the European Union has not taken a more definitive stance in supporting those voices in the country that are calling for reform,” he said.

Tillerson also was cautious about next week’s inter-Korean talks, the first such meeting in two years. He said the meeting could be a platform for the North to indicate interest in talks with the U.S.

Although next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea are the only item on the agenda, he said North Korea might raise other matters, including its nuclear weapons.

“Is this the beginning of something? I think it’s premature,” he said. “We’ll see if the North Koreans come with more than just wanting to talk about the Olympics.”

Tillerson, who sat in on Trump’s Thursday phone call with South Korea’s president, called the Koreas meeting a sign that the U.S.-led campaign to isolate North Korea is working. “It’s an indication the pressure campaign is causing the leadership, the regime in North Korea to begin to think about, ‘This can’t go on forever,'” he said.

The meeting could be a “vehicle through which they would like to tell us that they would like to have some discussions,” Tillerson said. “It could be meaningful, it could be important. It could be a meeting about the Olympics and nothing else happens.”

___

Reach Matthew Lee on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APDiploWriter and Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Pro-regime rallies due in Tehran as US imposes sanctions

January 5, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Eric Randolph | Iranians gather next to a replica of a Ghadr medium-range ballistic missile during a demonstration outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2017

Pro-regime rallies were due to reach Tehran Friday with authorities seeking to put the past week’s unrest to bed, as Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Iran and called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.

Iranian officials announced 40 rallies across the province of Tehran after Friday prayers, building on huge pro-government marches seen in many other cities over the previous two days.

The US imposed sanctions against five Iranian firms alleged to have been working on an illegal ballistic missile program, linking the move to the protests.

“These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, which the Iranian regime prioritises over the economic well-being of the Iranian people,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

On the streets of Tehran, a heavy police presence lingered though there were no reports of fresh protests overnight.

There were some reports of small anti-government demonstrations in provincial towns, but these could not be verified.

A total of 21 people died and hundreds were arrested in five days of unrest that began December 28 as protests over economic woes and quickly turned against the regime as a whole, with attacks on government buildings and police stations.

The UN Security Council was set to hold an emergency meeting on the issue later Friday at the request of the United States.

Russia criticised the United States for calling the meeting and it remained unclear if other council members would try to block it via a procedural vote.

– ‘Putting out the fire’ –

Iran’s political establishment has closed ranks against the unrest, with even reformists condemning the violence.

But many have also called on President Hassan Rouhani to address the economic issues that drove the initial protests and parliament has already moved to block unpopular budget measures announced last month, including fuel price hikes.

“The people’s main demand now is for the government and officials to deal with the economic problems,” Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told the semi-official ISNA news agency on Thursday.

The head of the army, General Abdolrahim Mousavi, thanked security forces for “putting out the fire of sedition”.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said 42,000 people had taken part in the unrest nationwide.

It was higher than a previous figure of 15,000 given by the head of the Revolutionary Guards, but still far below the hundreds of thousands that took to the streets during the last major protest movement in 2009.

A US State Department spokeswoman said those killed and detained “will not be forgotten”, after the White House warned it could impose sanctions on any officials it holds responsible.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad JavadZarif

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted his backing for the protesters, his most recent saying he has “such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted back: “Trump has an odd way of showing ‘such respect’.”

– Nuclear waivers –

“From labelling them a ‘terrorist nation’ and banning them from visiting the US, to petty insults on the name of the Persian Gulf,” he wrote, referring to Trump’s use of the term “Arabian Gulf”.

Russia jumped to Iran’s defence, with deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov telling state agency TASS: “Despite the many attempts to distort what is really going on (in Iran), I am sure that our neighbour, our friend, will overcome its current difficulties.”

The question now is whether Trump will continue to waive nuclear-related sanctions suspended under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Under the deal, Trump must actively lift certain sanctions every few months and the next deadline falls on January 12.

Iran — which has long accused the United States and Sunni Arab rivals led by Saudi Arabia of interference in its affairs — said external “enemies” were behind recent unrest.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and unemployment have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, which have seen years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit, while the jobless rate is close to 30 percent for young people.

by Eric Randolph

Venezuela: PDVSA makes payments on $233 million debt — debt restructuring agreement with Russia.

November 24, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | PVDSA’s bonds represent 30 percent of Venezuela’s external debt, estimated to be around $150 billion

CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA said Friday it has started to repay $233 million in interest on two bonds nearing default, days before the end of the 30-day grace period.Writing on Twitter, the company announced “the transfer process was started to pay the interest on the PDVSA 8,5% 2020 Bonds and the PDVSA 6% 2022 Bonds.”

The company also called on creditors to “trust” its “logistical, productive and financial capacity” — adding it had “fulfilled all of its commitments, even with the offensive sabotage of imperialism and its national lackeys,” referencing American sanctions.

“We confirm the solvency and soundness of our oil industry, in a fight against illegal sanctions,” it added.

PVDSA’s bonds represent 30 percent of Venezuela’s external debt — estimated to be around $150 billion.

The company was dealt a blow on November 16 when the New York-based International Swaps and Derivatives Association committee declared it in default following three missed payments — a decision which could worsen Caracas’s situation, despite a debt restructuring agreement with Russia.

That came after two major financial ratings agencies — S&P Global Ratings and Fitch — also declared both Venezuela and PDVSA in partial default.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has not yet addressed its failure to make a $237 million interest payment on bonds due in 2025 and 2026, which should have been made on Tuesday.

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China denounces new U.S. sanctions on North Korea

November 22, 2017
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Nov. 22, 2017 at 10:56 AM

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday Beijing does not welcome unilateral U.S. sanctions against Chinese firms. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

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Nov. 22 (UPI) — China voiced its opposition to new U.S. sanctions on Wednesday, a day after the United States Treasury announced a blacklist of North Korean and Chinese firms.

Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the Chinese government views “unilateral sanctions” as “misconduct.”

During the regular press briefing, Lu also defended Chinese efforts in curbing North Korea, South Korean news service EDaily reported.

“I would like to point out again China has consistently opposed the misconduct of other countries, or enforcing unilateral sanctions based on their own laws,” Lu said.

The U.S. Treasury includes an embargo against Chinese trading companies that the United States says have helped North Korea circumvent existing sanctions.

“These designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars. We are also sanctioning the shipping and transportation companies, and their vessels, that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive maneuvers,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said.

China’s foreign ministry said it has no issues with implementing international sanctions, and that the sanctions are being actively enforced.

“If Chinese citizens or businesses violate laws in Chinese territory, we will investigate them strictly according to law,” Lu said, suggesting the United States may be overstepping its boundaries in seeking out punitive measures against Chinese companies. “If other countries have information on these issues, we can share information and cooperate on pertinent problems.”

One individual, 13 entities and 20 vessels were included on the Treasury’s blacklist.

One of the Chinese companies under sanctions, Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co., is suspected of supplying North Korea with equipment and parts related to the development of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

China may be struggling with North Korea and efforts at diplomacy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s envoy to Pyongyang, Song Tao, met with top North Korean officials Choe Ryong Hae and Ri Su Yong.

But he may have not met with Kim Jong Un, the South China Morning Post reported.

Yoo Seung-min, a South Korean opposition party lawmaker, said Wednesday North Korea’s snub of China’s envoy is a sign Beijing should move in coordination with the United States, including on sanctions, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/11/22/China-denounces-new-US-sanctions-on-North-Korea/4431511365536/

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U.S. sanctions 13 Chinese and North Korean organizations

November 22, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions against 13 Chinese and North Korean organizations Washington accused of helping evade nuclear restrictions against Pyongyang and supporting the country through trade.

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The U.S. Treasury announced the action, one day after President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, on its website.

The new sanctions demonstrate the Trump administration’s focus on hurting trade between China and North Korea, which it has said is key to pressuring Pyongyang to back away from its ambition to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.

“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

The sanctions included blacklisting three Chinese companies, Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co., and Dandong Hongda Trade Co., which the Treasury Department said have done more than $750 million in combined trade with North Korea.

The sanctions also blacklisted Sun Sidong and his company Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co. In a June report, Washington think tank C4ADS said Sun Sidong’s firm was part of an interconnected network of Chinese companies that account for the vast proportion of trade with North Korea.

U.S. authorities have repeatedly targeted companies and individuals from the Chinese city of Dandong, which borders North Korea, for alleged business ties to North Korea.

Anthony Ruggiero, a North Korea expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said China doesn’t strictly enforce financial rules in the Dandong area. As a result, Dandong draws companies interested in making a profit by selling to North Korea, he said.

The new sanctions also hit several North Korean companies that send workers to countries such as Russia, Poland, Cambodia and China. United States authorities said they are seeking to cut off the money North Korea makes from the export of labor.

Along with targeting sources of weapons technology, the sanctions marked the first time the United States sought to directly attack North Korea’s everyday consumer trade, said Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security.

“We are sanctioning companies involved in ordinary trade,” Harrell said. “That’s the logical next step of the pressure campaign.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the sanctions were part of an effort to further isolate Pyongyang and said she did not think that the targeting of more Chinese firms would lessen Beijing’s cooperation in resolving the North Korean issue.

“I don’t think it jeopardizes anything. I think the world has come together on this issue,” she said. “We have a good relationship with China. That’s not going to change.”

Reporting by Joel Schectman; Editing by James Dalgleish

Venezuela: Is Maduro driving down bond prices to buy them back on the cheap?

November 8, 2017

Bloomberg

By Daniel Cancel

  • Maduro may be driving down price of bonds to buy them back
  • ‘Our own suspicions tend more towards a more brutal endgame’

As Venezuelan bond prices sink toward a mere 20 cents on the dollar, a pair of sovereign debt specialists are publicly asking questions that many people are wondering in private: Is President Nicolas Maduro fooling the bond market? Was last week’s debt restructuring announcement simply a ruse to spark a panic, push down prices and then buy them back on the cheap?

 Image result for maduro, photos

“Maduro drove the secondary market prices of the bonds off a cliff,” Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s Lee Buchheit and Duke University’s Mitu Gulati wrote Wednesday in an opinion piece in the Financial Times.

There’s been radio silence from Caracas since the unveiling of the plan last week — including when Bloomberg News called the Finance Ministry seeking comment on this theory — but such a move isn’t without precedent. A decade ago, Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador and a close ally of Maduro and his mentor Hugo Chavez, implemented a similar tactic, announcing he was defaulting on a series of foreign bonds and then scooped them up in the secondary market at depressed prices.

 

For Venezuela, the approach would be particularly attractive now. Mired in an unprecedented economic recession, the socialist country is in need of debt relief but is banned from cutting a deal with American investors by U.S. sanctions. A meeting that Vice President Tareck El Aissami — a man who the U.S. has labeled a drug kingpin — has called with creditors for Nov. 13 in Caracas is essentially a non-starter. Maduro “may be tempted to buy the bond back rather than slog through a debt restructuring exercise,” the academics concluded.

If that is indeed Maduro’s strategy, it’s working.

Ratings agencies are declaring state-oil company PDVSA non-compliant with a payment that was due Nov. 2, credit-default swaps are at record highs with prospects of payments being triggered in the coming days and Venezuelan bond prices have sank more than 40 percent in three trading sessions. The government’s bond due in 2027, its benchmark foreign security, is down to 22 cents on the dollar.

Buchheit and Gulati mentioned several other possible strategies that the government could be pursuing with the restructuring announcement, including drumming up nationalist support at home or nudging bondholders in the U.S. to push Congress for sanctions relief in order to re-negotiate the debt.

“Our own suspicions, however, tend more towards a more brutal endgame,” they said, in reference to the buy-them-back-on-the-cheap theory.

— With assistance by Fabiola Zerpa

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-08/is-venezuela-fooling-bond-traders-two-experts-raise-the-alarm

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.

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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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