Thursday, February 2, 2017

Eye on Iran: Trump Puts Iran 'on Notice' after Ballistic Missile Test

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President Donald Trump said Thursday his administration has put Iran "on notice," echoing comments from his top national security adviser that the U.S. will act against Iran unless it stops testing ballistic missiles and supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Trump and his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, didn't elaborate on what retaliatory actions the U.S. could pursue. Trump tweeted, "Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion." He also tweeted, "Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!" Flynn on Wednesday forcefully denounced Iran's behavior in his first public remarks since Trump took office. He accused Iran of threatening U.S. allies and spreading instability throughout the Middle East while faulting the Obama administration for doing too little to stop the Islamic Republic. "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice," Flynn said from the White House podium... Senior Trump administration officials said they were actively considering a "range of options" including economic measures and increased support for Iran's regional adversaries.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, predicts a "sea change" for US policy toward Iran, but hopes that President Donald Trump doesn't rip up the deal entirely. Lieberman, who is the head of an advocacy group called United Against Nuclear Iran that opposes the deal, said Trump's presidency might be a good opportunity for the US to renegotiate the 2015 agreement with Iran that places restrictions on its nuclear program for a period of time in exchange for sanctions relief. "When it comes to Iran and relations with the United States, the Trump election represents a sea change from the Obama administration, which negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement, did everything it could to defend it and protect it, did everything it could to really encourage a certain number of banks and others to do business in Iran, to a new president who's castigated this agreement as a terrible agreement, has even threatened to tear it up," Lieberman, who spent 24 years in the Senate and chaired the Homeland Security Committee, told Business Insider in an interview last week. Lieberman would like to see the deal renegotiated.

Iran has tested a cruise missile called "Sumar" that is capable of carrying nuclear weapons in addition to test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday, German newspaper Die Welt reported Thursday, citing unspecified intelligence sources... The newspaper said the Sumar cruise missile was built in Iran and traveled around 600 km in its first known successful test. The missile is believed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and may have a range of 2,000 to 3,000 km, the paper said, citing intelligence sources. Cruise missiles are harder to counter than ballistic missiles since they fly at lower altitudes and can evade enemy radar, confounding missile defense missiles and hitting targets deep inside an opponent's territory But the biggest advantage from Iran's point of view, a security expert told Die Welt, was that cruise missiles are not mentioned in any United Nations resolutions that ban work on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.


A U.S. advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran, said international businesses are confused and uncertain about Iran's behavior and the American government's reaction. David Ibsen, UANI's president, said it has discouraged its contacts from trying to establish new deals with Iran. In an interview with VOA Persian, Ibsen said companies are asking whether Iranian missile tests will result in a re-imposition of financial sanctions on Tehran. "They also ask, if a company has dual-national citizens (in Iran), will they be kidnapped or held incommunicado by the Iranian regime? Will they be doing business with front entities for the regime or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? All these risks are very real, and companies have taken our warnings to heart," Ibsen said.


A ballistic missile launched by Iran on Sunday was North Korean in construction or design, according to the Pentagon. The missile test, which ended in failure, was not a violation of 2015's Iranian nuclear deal, but arguably was in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution... As pointed out by arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis on Twitter, the Pentagon identified the July 2016 missile as a locally produced version of the Musudan, a North Korean intermediate-range missile. Also known as the Hwasong-10, the missile is allegedly derived from an obsolete Soviet Cold War missile, the R-27 Zyb.


A top aide to Iran's supreme leader blamed the "inexperienced" Trump administration for apparent U.S. threats and vowed his country would continue testing ballistic missiles. Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign affairs, said that Iran had not breached a nuclear deal reached with six major powers in 2015 or a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the accord... "This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran," Velayati said. "Iran is the strongest power in the region and has a lot of political, economic and military power .. America should be careful about making empty threats to Iran." He added: "Iran will continue to test its capabilities in ballistic missiles and Iran will not ask any country for permission in defending itself."


A year after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) went into effect and just a week and a half into Donald Trump's presidency, a bipartisan pair of top US Congressmen on Wednesday called for more stringent enforcement of the nuclear deal with Iran. Taking part in a panel discussion on Capitol Hill organized by The Israel Project (TIP), Republican Ed Royce of California and Democrat Eliot Engel of New York laid out their views of what US policy toward the Islamic Republic should be moving forward. Royce, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the Trump administration should have the Treasury Department issue a warning that if Iran continues to misbehave - with acts such as this past weekend's ballistic missile test - the US will bar global banks from conducting dollar transactions with their Iranian counterparts. "We have to put them on notice," Royce said.


Reports coming out of Iran suggest that Apple has allegedly started removing iOS apps originating from the country's startups and developers. Prior to this, Apple had, in a limited manner, opened up its App Store to Iranians in September 2016 and appeared to be gradually lifting some of the limitations, periodically, since then. According to credible tech news site Techrasa, the biggest Iranian e-commerce service, Digikala, which has millions of users, had its app removed from the App Store just a few days ago. While there is no official App Store available for the territory of Iran, many companies registered their apps as being outside of Iran to be able to get onto the store.


Leading Iranian vehicle manufacturer Iran Khodro Company (IKCO) and PSA Peugeot accomplished one-fifth of a 2016 deal by so far investing €100 million ($106.9 million) in a joint company in Iran, said an official. Each of the two companies has invested €50 million ($53.4 million) in the factory whose first product, Peugeot 2008 will be out by March, Hashem Yekke Zare, CEO of IKCO, was quoted as saying in an Iran Daily News report, citing Fars News Agency. The two companies from Iran and France signed a contract on June 21, 2016, to launch a joint company in Iran to produce Peugeot cars, it said. Zare further noted that Iran's share of the parts that will be used will initially be 40 per cent and increase to 70 or 80 per cent in two years.

The production line of a newly formed joint venture between Volkswagen and the Iranian automotive company Mammut Khodro will be launched by the end of the current Iranian fiscal year that ends in March, according to the company's director. The CEO and owner of Mammut Group,  Mehrzad Ferdos told reporters, "A deal has been concluded between Mammut and the German automaker Volkswagen," a local automotive website reported at the weekend. "The two company's first joint production line will be launched by the end of the current Iranian year." Several VW models will be produced through the JV, he said but he did not name any models.

SAIPA Diesel a subsidiary of SAIPA, Iran's second largest automaker, will start production of three new models of Volvo FM trucks in the coming months. The company has been producing several models of Volvo trucks in recent years. But according to the local automotive website, Persian Khodro, production of the FM series was halted five years ago.

Iran Khodro (IKCO) CEO Hashem Yekehzare announced that his company as the biggest car manufacturer in the Middle East has finalized five contracts with German automaker Mercedes Benz. "Iran Khodro and Mercedes-Benz have signed three contracts and two other contracts have been fully finalized," Yekehzare told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Tehran on Saturday. He said that the details of the contracts between Iran Khodro and the German carmaker will be publicized soon.

Iran has signed billions of dollars in contracts since the easing of sanctions in January 2016 to develop its electricity generation infrastructure, a top energy official says. "We have signed around €10 billion ($10.7 billion) worth of agreements with German, Russian, Chinese, South Korean and Turkish companies for the construction of new power plants," Alireza Daemi, the deputy energy minister for planning and economic affairs, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency. The official described the preliminary agreement with Turkish energy and construction company Unit International as one of the biggest of its kind after the international restrictions were eased and hoped the ministry will finalize the deal before the end of the Iranian fiscal year in March... "The deal with Unit International is an agreement in principle ... it is expected to be approved as a full and final contract by the yearend," the deputy minister said. He also sought to allay concerns over the role of domestic contractors in future energy projects. "The ministry will ensure that at least 50% of operations in all new power plant contracts, including with Unit International, will be carried out by domestic companies," he said, underlining the transfer of knowhow as a key requirement on the part of multinationals wanting to work in Iran.


The United Arab Emirates said Thursday it summoned the Iranian envoy to protest Tehran's alleged arming of Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, including providing drones, in their fight against the government. The foreign ministry handed the charge d'affaires a "protesting memorandum concerning Iran's illegal arming" of Huthi rebels, according to state news agency WAM. It said that "Iranian weapons, including unmanned drones targeted recently by the Arab coalition, represent a flagrant violation" of UN Security Council resolutions.


As rescue workers searched for people trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed Plasco trade centre in Tehran, the mayor endured a storm of criticism. The tragedy last month, which killed 16 firefighters, shocked Iranians from all walks of life. But supporters of Iran's pro-reform factions were particularly vocal, accusing Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf of mismanagement and calling for his resignation. Now regime hardliners believe Mr Qalibaf's critics had an ulterior motive related to the upcoming presidential election. The mayor came second to Hassan Rouhani, the centrist president, in 2013 elections, and there has been speculation that he could challenge him again at the May vote as a candidate for hardliners. Mr Qalibaf told parliament this week the criticism directed at him was part of "politically motivated sabotage", Iranian media reported... The attacks and counter-attacks underline how power struggles between reformers backing Mr Rouhani and hardliners trying to unseat him are becoming increasingly ugly in the lead up to the poll.


As a candidate, Donald Trump said he would "tear up" the Iran nuclear deal once elected. Many of us in the Senate strongly opposed this deal on substance - it provides the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism a pathway toward to nuclear weapons inside of a decade - and also on process. The Obama administration sought the approval of the U.N. Security Council, but essentially ignored the constitutional role of the Senate in seeking to finalize the deal as an executive agreement, not a treaty. As a result, President Trump would be within his rights and authority to undo the deal through executive action, particularly as Iran continued to show that it has no intention of abiding by the deal by launching yet another ballistic missile on Sunday. But there is a potentially better alternative than unilaterally disavowing the deal: Let it fail on its own by vigorously enforcing it.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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