Monday, July 24, 2017

Eye on Iran: EU Urges U.S. To Stick To Iran Nuclear Deal After Trump's Criticism

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The European Union on Friday pressed the U.S. to stick to the full implementation of sanctions relief spelled out in the July 2015 Iranian nuclear deal amid growing doubts about the Trump's administration's plans for the agreement. The statement came after the latest meeting among senior officials in Vienna of the body that oversees compliance of the agreement, which wound back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting most international sanctions. Iran and the six powers that negotiated the agreement are represented on the so-called Joint Commission. With the Trump administration reviewing its Iran policy and accusing Tehran of destabilizing the region, Iranian officials vented frustration about increased U.S. sanctions, including actions targeting Tehran's elite military unit and ballistic missile program, according to people at the meeting. The Iranians also complained about criticism of the agreement by President Donald Trump and U.S. efforts to persuade other governments to steer clear of doing business with Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned that Iran would face "new and serious consequences" unless all unjustly detained American citizens were released and returned, the White House said in a statement on Friday. Trump urged Iran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared more than 10 years ago in Iran, and demanded that Tehran release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer. The statement capped a week of rhetoric against Tehran. On Tuesday, Washington slapped new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the 2015 nuclear accord. Those measures signaled that the Trump administration was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place an agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

After a contentious meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week, President Donald Trump instructed a group of trusted White House staffers to make the potential case for withholding certification of Iran at the next 90-day review of the nuclear deal. The goal was to give Trump what he felt the State Department had failed to do: the option to declare that Tehran was not in compliance with the contentious agreement. "The president assigned White House staffers with the task of preparing for the possibility of decertification for the 90-day review period that ends in October - a task he had previously given to Secretary Tillerson and the State Department," a source close to the White House told Foreign Policy. The agreement, negotiated between Iran and world powers, placed strict limits on Tehran's nuclear program in return for lifting an array of economic sanctions.


Iran decided on Friday for the second time since January not to upset its nuclear pact with six world powers, two informed sources said, despite public statements by Tehran accusing the United States of violating the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday new U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Iran contravened the nuclear accord reached with world powers in 2015 and he pledged Tehran would "resist" them while respecting the deal itself. The Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the nuclear accord, which was reached during the Obama administration. Iran can use the so-called Joint Commission meetings held every three months in Vienna to trigger a formal dispute resolution mechanism set out for cases where one party feels there is a breach of the deal.


Iran announced the launch of a new missile production line on Saturday, according to state media, against a backdrop of tension between the United States and Tehran. The Sayyad 3 missile can reach an altitude of 27 km (16 miles) and travel up to 120 km (74 miles), Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan said at a ceremony. The missile can target fighter planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and helicopters, Dehghan said. Last week, the United States slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program, and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from a 2015 Iran nuclear accord. The measures signaled that the administration of President Donald Trump was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place the agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.


Iran has demanded that the United States release all detained Iranian citizens, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Saturday. The report quotes Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi as saying he raised the issue Friday during a meeting with an American delegation in Vienna, on the sidelines of a meeting on 2015 nuclear deal. "We raised the issue of the release of Iranians who are detained under the meaningless accusation of bypassing sanctions," on Iran, Araghchi was quoted as saying. He did not elaborate. Earlier on Friday the White House threatened "new and serious consequences" for Iran unless it releases all U.S. citizens who are detained there. The White House says President Donald Trump is prepared to act in an attempt to end Iran's practice of using detentions and hostage taking as state policy, but it provides no specifics about potential consequences. Washington is urging the return of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007 and Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, who was arrested last year.

The future of U.S. relations with Iran hinges on Tehran coming clean about the whereabouts of a former FBI agent who vanished a decade ago in the Islamic republic, Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News. Robert "Bob" Levinson disappeared in 2007 from Iran's Kish Island, where the retired FBI agent had traveled on an unauthorized mission to recruit an intelligence source for the CIA. With the exception of a proof-of-life video in late 2010, there has been no credible sighting of Levinson or confirmation of who, specifically, is holding him and why. Iranian leaders deny knowing his whereabouts - a claim U.S. officials categorically reject. "Bob Levinson went missing because of the Iranian regime," Rubio, R-Fla., said Friday. "I believe with all my heart they know where he is, they know what's happened to him and we should hold them completely and entirely responsible for his fate, his whereabouts and the outcome of this."


U.S. Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on legislation that allows new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, leading congressional Democrats said on Saturday, in a bill that would limit any potential effort by President Donald Trump to try to lift sanctions against Moscow.  The Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, which was passed by the Senate a month ago, was held up in the House of Representatives after Republicans proposed including North Korea sanctions in the bill.  The House is set to vote on Tuesday on a package of bills on sanctions covering Russia, Iran and North Korea, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office. The measure will "hold them accountable for their dangerous actions," McCarthy said in a statement Saturday.


Iran's Revolutionary Guards engaged in heavy clashes with gunmen on the border with Iraq on Thursday evening, killing three of them and sustaining one fatality, the Guards said on Friday. A statement on the Guards' Sepah News website identified their opponents only as "terrorists". Clashes with Iranian Kurdish militant groups based in Iraq are fairly common in the area. After Thursday's fighting, four militants were wounded and fled back across the border into Iraq and one was captured, the statement said. As well as the one fatality, another Guard was wounded. On June 7, Islamic State attacked parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, killing at least 18 people. All of the attackers were Iranian Kurds. The Revolutionary Guards fired several missiles at Islamic State bases in Syria on June 18 in response to that attack.

Iran and Iraq signed an agreement on Sunday to step up military cooperation and the fight against "terrorism and extremism", Iranian media reported, an accord which is likely to raise concerns in Washington. Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart Erfan al-Hiyali signed a memorandum of understanding which also covered border security, logistics and training, the official news agency IRNA reported.  "Extending cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum," IRNA reported after the signing of the accord in Tehran. Iran-Iraq ties have improved since Iran's long-time enemy Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 and an Iraqi government led by Shi'ite Muslims came to power. Iran is mostly a Shi'ite nation.


Iran's Revolutionary Guards have detained a Saudi Arabian fishing boat and arrested its crew, an Iranian state news agency reported on Saturday, at a time of increased diplomatic tension between the two regional powers.  Five Indian nationals on the vessel were detained on Friday after they crossed into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf, Ardeshir Yarahmadi, a spokesman for the fisheries department of Bushehr province, was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Yarahmadi said it was the second time in the past month that a Saudi boat and its crew had been detained. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are at their worst in years, with each accusing the other of subverting regional security and supporting opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Riyadh, along with other Arab governments, has severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as one of the main reasons for the move.


The Israeli political and defense establishment has stated its intention to destroy Hezbollah in any future war. However, the strategy that same establishment has adopted will certainly fail to achieve that objective. Convinced Hezbollah has usurped the Lebanese state, Israel's highest officials are threatening to target Lebanon's institutions, army, and civilian infrastructure in its next conflict with  the Shiite organization. Instead of crippling Hezbollah, this return to Israel's past failed strategies will backfire by allowing the group to survive and reemerge stronger. Instead, to decisively defeat Hezbollah, Israel should attack the organization in Syria. Lebanon and Hezbollah have long had a confluence of interests in repelling Israeli attacks on the country. This led every Lebanese president, both pro-Syrian and pro-Western prime ministers and all cabinets since 1989 to defend the group's military exploits against Israel, and the Lebanese Army to cooperate with it against the IDF's occupation of south Lebanon.

Six years. Half a million dead. Many millions displaced. Untold thousands tortured and killed. The Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our young century, and would have been high on the list of the last one. But unlike the great world wars of the past, this relatively local conflict seems to have no imaginable solution, diplomatic or military. Even with the primary Western concern -- the destruction of the Islamic State -- within sight, we have to acknowledge that the aftermath may be even worse for Syria, the Middle East and the rest of the globe. The only certainty: much more destruction, suffering and death. Sorry for glooming up your weekend. In great conflagrations, however, the future can often be perceived in the past. Syria - like Iraq, Jordan and the Arab Gulf states -- was always a fake construct, the result of a passel of British and French mapmakers anticipating the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, aka the Sick Man of Europe.

The Trump administration last week certified that Iran is complying with the international agreement placing limits on its nuclear program - but for a while it looked as if the certification wouldn't happen. But then President Trump balked at signing off on the recommendation of key advisors, including Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national Security Advisor H. R McMaster. Eventually Trump agreed to the certification, after being presented with a plan for tougher measures against Iran in other areas. The next day the Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on 18 additional people and entities for supporting Iran's armed services and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a force commanded by Iran's Supreme Leader. The agreement itself was never conditioned on Iran's good behavior in other areas. But this wasn't a case of all's well that ends well.

Two years ago, the United States and its allies in Europe, China, and Russia announced to the world that the diplomatic coalition that had been negotiating with Tehran for the previous two years finally arrived at an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. And this week, one of the accord's loudest critics-president Donald Trump-had to formally admit to Congress that the Iranians continue to uphold their side of the bargain. The agreement was a classic illustration of realpolitik: adversaries sitting down and haggling, and walking away with a product requiring each side to give up leverage to get something important. Tehran's uranium enrichment and plutonium programs would be severely hindered; IAEA inspectors would be permitted to roam Iran's declared nuclear facilities whenever they wanted; two-thirds of Tehran's enrichment centrifuges would be rendered inoperable and placed under IAEA seal; and Iran would be prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon for the remainder of its time as a nation.

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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