Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran And Iraq Sign Accord To Boost Military Cooperation

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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.

When Zuao Ru Lin, a Beijing entrepreneur, first heard about business opportunities in eastern Iran, he was skeptical. But then he bought a map and began to envision the region without any borders, as one enormous market. "Many countries are close by, even Europe," Mr. Lin, 49, said while driving his white BMW over the highway connecting Tehran to the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad recently. "Iran is at the center of everything." For millenniums, Iran has prospered as a trading hub linking East and West. Now, that role is set to expand in coming years as China unspools its "One Belt, One Road" project, which promises more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment - bridges, rails, ports and energy - in over 60 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. Iran, historically a crossroads, is strategically at the center of those plans. Like pieces of a sprawling geopolitical puzzle, components of China's infrastructure network are being put in place.

Iran's top judge called on the United States on Monday to release Iranians held in U.S. jails and billions of dollars in Iranian assets, days after Washington urged Tehran to free three U.S citizens.  The statement by Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani capped a week of heightened rhetoric over the jailing and disappearance of Americans in Iran and new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic.  "We tell them: 'You should immediately release Iranian citizens held in American prisons in violation of international rules and based on baseless charges'," Larijani said in remarks carried by state television.  "You have seized the property of the Islamic Republic of Iran in violation of all rules and in a form of open piracy, and these should be released."  On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump urged Tehran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago, and release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, jailed on espionage charges.


Iran's judiciary chief yesterday accused the United States of holding Iranians "in gruesome prisons", as the two countries trade charges of illegally jailing each other's citizens. "You are keeping our innocent citizens in gruesome prisons. This is against the law and international norms and regulations," said Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, quoted by Iran's state broadcaster. "We tell them that you must immediately release Iranian citizens locked up in US prisons." Washington reacted angrily to news last week that Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University researcher, had been sentenced in Iran to 10 years in prison for espionage. President Donald Trump warned of "new and serious consequences" unless US nationals held in the Islamic republic were released. Iranian officials have in turn responded by criticising the detention of Iranians in the US. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Washington of holding Iranians on "charges of sanction violations that are not applicable today... for bogus and purely political reasons", at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in New York last week.


The US House of Representatives votes Tuesday to slap new sanctions against Russia, a move that limits President Donald Trump's ability to tinker with the penalties and has also triggered uproar in Moscow and Europe. The legislation, which is the result of a congressional compromise reached at the weekend and is aimed at punishing the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and Russia's annexation of Crimea, could end up penalizing European firms that contribute to the development of Russia's energy sector. New sanctions against Iran and North Korea for their actions on or testing of ballistic missiles are also included in the bill. Key among the provisions is one that handcuffs the US president by making it difficult for him to unilaterally ease penalties against Moscow in the future -- effectively placing him under Congress's watch. Initially, Trump resisted the legislation. But faced with near-total consensus among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the White House blinked. In mid-June, the Senate voted 98-2 in favor of tough sanctions on Moscow and Tehran, but the text stalled in the House.


French train maker and manufacturing group Alstom has signed a deal to enter into a joint venture that will build metro and suburban rail carriages in Iran, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Monday. Alstom is partnering with the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran, an investment fund active throughout the country's industry, and Iranian Rail Industries Development Co, according to the preliminary accord signed late on Sunday, Mehr added. Alstom will hold 60 percent of the project, Mehr added, without giving the value of the deal.


Iran and Iraq have pledged to join forces against militant fighters and ideology in the region by boosting bilateral defense ties, a move that could present a challenge to U.S. foreign policy goals. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hiyali met Sunday in Tehran to sign a military agreement aimed at improving joint efforts to curb the influence of jihadis such as the Islamic State militant group. ISIS has conducted deadly attacks in both countries and is still being fought by Iraq with support from Iran and the U.S., but the U.S. has become increasingly concerned about Iran's growing foothold in Iraq. Despite the volatile history of the two majority Shiite-Muslim neighbors and their differing views on Washington, the new deal will reportedly see Iran and Iraq's armed forces work together on a number of strategic levels. "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," Reuters quoted Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as reporting.


The names may be unfamiliar but the services are immediately recognisable: Snapp is Iran's answer to Uber, Digikala is its Amazon, and Pintapin its Booking.com. US sanctions have protected the Islamic republic's tech sector, barring Silicon Valley from profiting from one of the world's most promising emerging markets, and giving a free run to domestic start-ups to recreate their services. Even some Californian mumbo-jumbo has been imported: one booth at the Elecomp tech fair in Tehran this week claimed it was "Creating Artificial Mindfulness". But don't dare call them copycats -- transplanting a foreign business model to Iran is never straightforward. "It's not a matter of copying code line-by-line," said Amirali Mohajer, the 32-year-old chief operating officer of Pintapin. "You need local expertise that has to be built from the ground up, and it might need an entirely different business model to make it successful."His office sits alongside several other fast-growing start-ups in the offices of the Iran Internet Group (IIG), a haven of north Tehrani hipsterdom where the jeans are skinny, the headscarves loose, and 20-somethings sip espressos in glass meeting rooms.

Border guards in northwestern Iran have seized 30 mules and horses which were being used to smuggle arms and explosives into the country, the semi-official Tasnin news agency reported on Monday. Clashes with Iranian Kurdish rebel groups based in Iraq are fairly common near Iran's mountainous northwestern borders with Iraq and Turkey.  "The 30 horses and mules were carrying smuggled weapons, ammunition and explosive devices in the northwest," General Qasem Rezaei, head of Iran's border guard command, was quoted by Tasnim as saying.  He did not give further details and did not say if the arms smugglers themselves had been arrested.  Early in June, Islamic State attacked parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah 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.


Last week, the Trump administration recertified that Iran is complying the nuclear agreement, setting off predictable debate between who those want to exit the deal immediately and those who see it as his predecessor's signature foreign policy achievement. But for all the will-he-or-won't-he attention on Trump's decision, the focus on the nuclear deal is missing the point: The administration's real agenda on Iran doesn't hinge on the nuclear agreement-a dangerous deal that puts the U.S. in a impossible situation. Instead, the Trump administration's priority should be restoring leverage against Tehran, so that we can dissuade Iran from sprinting toward a bomb and create far more favorable circumstances to negotiate an agreement that-unlike Obama's deal-actually prevents a nuclear Iran. Abiding by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is known, will only enable a nuclear and hegemonic Iran.

On the second anniversary of President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, which President Trump sharply criticized during his campaign for the White House, the Trump  administration has signaled  its strong and continuing displeasure with Iran's hostile and dangerous behavior. The State Department announced new sanctions Tuesday on 18 Iranian entities and individuals for their support of Iran's ballistic missile program or military purchases by the nation's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Although the Trump administration certified that the Islamic Republic continues in compliance with the letter of its agreement to limit its nuclear weapons program, the State Department said Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement. It said the U.S. "remains deeply concerned about Iran's malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, and prosperity." The rhetoric sounds good and is a welcome change from the repeated lame excuses the Obama administration made for Iran's destabilizing behavior. But the tough talk is deeply unserious unless we go further to constrain and ultimately depose the Mullahs ruling Iran.

Two years have passed since the signing of the ineffective nuclear agreement between world powers and Tehran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). For those who are familiar with the theocracy in Iran, it is a known fact that all foreign policy in Iran are decided by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. This is even true in the case of the highly promoted nuclear deal. It is worth noting that before and during the negotiations, Khamenei, said that Oman had a key role in breaking the ice between Iran and the US. Thus, it is naive to think that the new president, Hassan Rouhani, was the one who changed the 10-year-long stalemate. Iran has an abundance of oil, gas and others natural resources, hence, using nuclear energy is both expensive and controversial. Independent experts acknowledge that Iran's goal of maintaining a nuclear program is to produce nuclear weapon. However, Iran has consistently refused these views and claims that its program is of a peaceful nature.

President Trump has reluctantly followed the advice of his national security advisers and certified that Iran is complying with the 2015 agreement to limit its nuclear weapons program for a second time. The July 17 recertification was a mistake, and the president would be wise to exit the deeply flawed agreement as soon as possible. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly and accurately criticized the agreement reached by the Obama administration and the despotic government of Iran, calling it "the worst deal ever." The Iranians are state sponsors of international Islamist terrorism who shout "Death to America" and vow to wipe Israel off the map. They made fools of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry by negotiating a nuclear deal that gave Iran nearly everything it wanted at little cost.

The war for Mosul has come to an end; the city is freed and the Islamic State (IS) is out. But the reverberations of the monthslong battle will likely impact Iraq as a nation and the region for years to come. In fact, the war that started after IS' occupation of Mosul in June 2014 wasn't merely a war for a country that was partly occupied by a group seen by all regional and international players as a serious threat to global stability. There was another parallel battle silently going on between the two faces of Iraq: that of Iraq following the US occupation that began in 2003 and that of post-Arab Spring Iraq that began taking shape in early 2011. To those concerned about Iran's role in post-Islamic State Iraq, there might be no choice but to engage with Tehran's allies to balance the expansion of the Islamic Republic's reach. When Mosul fell into the hands of IS, few thought that it would eventually be liberated by Iraqi fighters. 

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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