Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Eye on Iran: Senate To Vote On New Iran Sanctions

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is turning the Senate toward passing tougher Iran sanctions, potentially renewing a fight over financial penalties against Russia. The Kentucky Republican teed up a procedural vote for Wednesday on the Iran Destabilizing Activities Act. If lawmakers drag out debate on the legislation, a final vote could take place as late as Thursday evening. The Iran legislation has broad bipartisan support after months of negotiations and easily cleared the Foreign Relations Committee in late May. It would expand sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile development, support for terrorism any transfer of weapons and human rights violations. But the bill could restart a stalled battle over imposing new financial penalties on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election, as well as ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday night teed up a vote this week to take up a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, which also sets up potential battles over sanctioning Russia and blocking some of President Donald Trump's proposed weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The Iran sanctions bill was crafted as a response to Tehran's human rights abuses and its backing of terrorist-designated groups.Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the committee's top Democrat, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, have agreed to pursue legislation punishing Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election without the use of sanctions, but senators in both parties have vowed to push a debate on sanctioning Moscow regardless - particularly given Thursday's hotly anticipated testimony from former FBI Director James Comey about Trump's efforts to shut down the bureau's Russia investigation.

For many, the whereabouts and machinations of al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks until his death remain shrouded in mystery. The terror mastermind had been on the run, trying to evade U.S. forces, while al-Qaida itself was in a period of disarray. Yet even as U.S. Navy SEALs burst into bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 and killed him, things already had begun to change with the help of officials in Iran and Pakistan. There have been some prior insights into bin Laden and al-Qaida during his years on the run, including the release by U.S. intelligence of three tranches of documents recovered from the Abbottabad complex. But many more remain classified.


National security experts are warning that the diplomatic split between Qatar and other Arab nations in the region may negatively affect the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced Monday that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. The decision closes all land, air and sea borders with the country within 24 hours, a decision they say is based on its support for extremist groups and its relations with Iran. Yemen, the Maldives and Libya's eastern-based government joined later the diplomatic break with Qatar, which also backs the Al-Jazeera network, later in the day. U.S. officials have downplayed the dispute, but outside observers say the breakdown in diplomacy in and of itself could push Qatar, home to a large U.S. military presence, closer to Iran.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the Iran nuclear deal could hold even if President Donald Trump pulls out but he warned that imposing new economic sanctions against Tehran could be dangerous. Kerry said new sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program could send a message to the Iranian people that there is no gain for them in the 2015 nuclear deal. The landmark agreement eased economic sanctions in return for a freeze on Iranian nuclear development. "If we become super provocative in ways that show the Iranian people there has been no advantage to this, that there is no gain, and our bellicosity is pushing them into a corner, that's dangerous and that could bring a very different result," Kerry said.


Over the past several years there has been a significant shift in how Iranians purchase new cars with the beginnings of broader range of cars and the flurry of financial incentives to support further growth. Years of stagnation has hampered the domestic auto market. To understand where the market currently stands, one should analyze several factors that are involved in the pricing of cars which vastly differ from locally produced models to imported vehicles from the Far East and Europe. For those looking from the outside, Iran's car market is at once both affordable for locally built vehicles but also incredibly overpriced - largely for imports that have tariffs of up to 100%. For those struggling to understand why the Iranian automotive market is the way it is, they need to first review the years of punitive tariffs on imports that were meant to protect the local car manufactures. Secondly, the lack of foreign investment - until very recently - hampered competitiveness that led to conditions in which the local producers ruled supreme with their low quality and relatively expensive models.


Iran called on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to resolve disputes through diplomacy and said any heightened tension would not help to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, state TV said on Monday. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have severed their ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world. "To resolve regional disputes and the current dispute, they should adopt peaceful methods, transparent dialogue and diplomacy," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said. "No country in the region will benefit from the heightened tension."


The coalition between Iranian moderates and Reformists appears to have been emboldened with the re-election of two prominent lawmakers as deputy parliamentary speakers. In an internal ballot on May 31, lawmakers re-elected moderate conservative Ali Larijani as parliamentary speaker while outspoken member of parliament Ali Motahari and Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian were again chosen to serve as the first and second deputy of the speaker, respectively. Ahead of the vote, rumors were spreading about Larijani having forged a deal with hard-liners to prevent Motahari, who has come under fire from conservatives on the far right about his outspokenness, from being re-elected as deputy speaker. As the rumors and conservative criticisms of Motahari heightened, some Reformist members of parliament claimed that the Rouhani administration had secretly agreed to remove Motahari from his deputy post.

After Iranians' vote for reform, a bigger question looms: Who will be the next supreme leader? | Los Angeles Times

After President Hassan Rouhani's decisive reelection, talk in Iran has turned to the future of an even larger political figure: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Although the topic is taboo in Iran, the question of who will succeed Khamenei, who is 77 and ailing, reportedly from prostate cancer, loomed over the May 19 election. Rouhani, a relative moderate, won 57% of the vote in a four-man field, demonstrating strong public support for his policies of economic pragmatism, international engagement and expanding social freedoms. But in Iran's theocracy, one vote matters most: that of the supreme leader.Khamenei and the hard-line "principlist" faction that is close to him have indicated impatience with Rouhani's economic policies and outreach to the West - especially the 2015 nuclear agreement.


With the United States boosting "combat power" in southern Syria and bolstering measures with the Kurds in the north in preparation for a major assault on the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa, word is in the air about a confrontation in the making between the US and Iran in the Middle East, with Syria acting as a launch site. Does this piece intend to promote war against Iran? Absolutely not. While some do argue this would play into the Iranian regime's hands and provide pretext for the clerics to rally fighters to take on the "World Arrogance" or "Great Satan," as Tehran describes Washington, there is no basis to go that far. Most importantly is the sheer fact that the regime lacks such a social base. Recall how former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said this regime represents four percent of Iran's society. And yet the increase in US military presence in the Middle East should be considered a welcome measure, certainly so after the Obama administration disastrously created a dangerous void by prematurely pulling out US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

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 press@uani.com.

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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