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Author: Subject: Iran and it's Policies and Machinations
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[*] posted on 9-5-2018 at 10:52 AM


Trump says he’s withdrawing US from Iran nuclear accord

By: Josh Lederman, The Associated Press and Catherine Lucey, The Associated Press   6 hours ago


President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.

“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address.

Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iran has offered conflicting statements about what it may do — and the answer may depend on exactly how Trump exits the agreement.

Trump said he would move to re-impose all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, not just the ones facing an immediate deadline. This had become known informally as the “nuclear option” because of the near-certainty that such a move would scuttle the deal.

Supporters of fixing the agreement had hoped Trump would choose a piecemeal approach that could leave more room for him to reverse himself and stay in the deal if he could secure the additional restrictions that European nations tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with him.

Still, the administration planned to allow a grace period of at least three months and possibly up to six months so that businesses and governments can wind down operations that will violate the re-imposed U.S. sanctions.

A slower withdrawal process could allow more room for Trump to reverse course later and decide to stay — if he secures the additional restrictions on Iran that European nations tried unsuccessfully to negotiate to prevent him from withdrawing.

Indeed, as administration officials briefed congressional leaders about Trump’s plans Tuesday, they emphasized that just as with a major Asia trade deal and the Paris climate pact that Trump has abandoned, he remains open to renegotiating a better deal, one person briefed on the talks said.

The agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain’s top diplomat, the deal’s European members gave in to many of Trump’s demands, according to officials, diplomats and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet they still left convinced he was likely to re-impose sanctions.

Macron was to have a conference call with British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about half an hour before Trump’s announcement.

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision Tuesday. Macron vigorously supports the deal and tried to persuade Trump to stay committed to it during a visit to Washington last month.

The British Foreign Secretary traveled to Washington this week to make a last-minute pitch to the U.S. to remain in the deal, according to a senior British diplomat. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the British objective will remain to uphold and maintain the deal.

Hours before the announcement, European countries met to underline their support for the agreement. Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany met in Brussels with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi.

If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the U.S. American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications, said U.S. officials and others, who weren’t authorized to speak ahead of an announcement and requested anonymity.

Building up anticipation, Trump announced on Twitter he would disclose his decision at 2 p.m. at the White House.

In Iran, many were deeply concerned about how Trump’s decision could affect the already struggling economy. In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm nerves, smiling as he appeared at a petroleum expo. He didn’t name Trump directly, but emphasized that Iran continued to seek “engagement with the world.”

“It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this,” Rouhani said.

Under the most likely scenario, Trump would allow sanctions on Iran’s central bank — intended to target oil exports — to kick back in, rather than waiving them once again on Saturday, the next deadline for renewal, said individuals briefed on Trump’s deliberations. Then the administration would give those who are doing business with Iran a six-month period to wind down business and avoid breaching those sanctions.

Depending on how Trump sells it — either as an irreversible U.S. pullout, or one final chance to save it — the deal could be strengthened during those six months in a last-ditch effort to persuade Trump to change his mind. The first 15 months of Trump’s presidency have been filled with many such “last chances” for the Iran deal in which he’s punted the decision for another few months, and then another.

Other U.S. sanctions don’t require a decision until later, including those on specific Iranian businesses, sectors and individuals that will snap back into place in July unless Trump signs another waiver. A move on Tuesday to restore those penalties ahead of the deadline would be the most aggressive move Trump could take to close the door to staying in the deal.

Even Trump’s secretary of state and the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear compliance agree that Iran, so far, has lived up to its side of the deal. But the deal’s critics, such as Israel, the Gulf Arab states and many Republicans, say it’s a giveaway to Tehran that ultimately paves the path to a nuclear-armed Iran several years in the future.

Iran, for its part, has been coy in predicting its response to a Trump withdrawal. For weeks, Iran’s foreign minister had been saying that a re-imposition of U.S. sanctions would render the deal null and void, leaving Tehran little choice but to abandon it as well. But on Monday, Rouhani said Iran could stick with it if the European Union, whose economies do far more business with Iran than the U.S., offers guarantees that Iran would keep benefiting.

For the Europeans, a Trump withdrawal would also constitute dispiriting proof that trying to appease him is futile.

The three EU members of the deal — Britain, France and Germany — were insistent from the start that it could not be re-opened. But they agreed to discuss an “add-on” agreement that wouldn’t change the underlying nuclear deal, but would add new restrictions on Iran to address what Trump had identified as its shortcomings. Trump wanted to deter Iran’s ballistic missile program and other destabilizing actions in the region. He also wanted more rigorous nuclear inspections and an extension of restrictions on Iranian enrichment and reprocessing rather than letting them phase out after about a decade.

Negotiating an add-on agreement, rather than revising the existing deal, had the added benefit of not requiring the formal consent of Iran or the other remaining members: Russia and China. The idea was that even if they balked at the West’s impositions, Iran would be likely to comply anyway so as to keep enjoying lucrative sanctions relief.

Although the U.S. and Europeans made progress on ballistic missiles and inspections, there were disagreements over extending the life of the deal and how to trigger additional penalties if Iran were found violating the new restrictions, U.S. officials and European diplomats have said. The Europeans agreed to yet more concessions in the final days of negotiating ahead of Trump’s decision, the officials added.

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Ken Thomas in Washington and Amir Vahdat and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
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[*] posted on 9-5-2018 at 11:17 AM


Iran deal: Trump breaks with European allies over 'horrible, one-sided' nuclear agreement

President says he will impose ‘highest level of economic sanctions’ on Iran as Tehran vows: ‘We won’t allow Trump to win’

Julian Borger in Washington, Saeed Kamali Dehghan in London and Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem

Wed 9 May 2018 06.47 AEST
First published on Wed 9 May 2018 05.40 AEST

Donald Trump has announced he will impose “the highest level of economic sanctions” on Iran, violating an international nuclear agreement and a UN resolution, breaking decisively with US allies in Europe, and potentially triggering a new crisis in the Gulf.

In a statement at the White House, Trump said this decision meant that the US would “exit the Iran deal” agreed with other major powers in 2015, and warned that “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could be strongly sanctioned”.

He then signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on any foreign company that continues to do business with Iran. The order gives companies 90-day or 180-day grace periods to extract themselves from existing Iranian contacts or face punitive US measures.

The leaders of the UK, France and Germany, who are also parties to the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, issued a statement soon after Trump’s declaration expressing their “regret and concern” and emphasising their “continuing commitment” to the deal.

“We urge the US to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal,” the statement said.

In a separate tweet, the French president Emmanuel Macron warned: “The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.”

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said he believed the agreement could still survive if other negotiating partners defied Trump.

But Rouhani warned that he has instructed the country’s atomic energy agency to prepare to restart enrichment of uranium at an industrial level in a few weeks’ time should the deal collapse completely.

“This is a psychological war, we won’t allow Trump to win. I’m happy that the pesky being has left the [agreement],” the Iranian president said.

In his White House remarks, Trump called the Iran agreement “a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made”. He said: “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Even before Trump made his announcement at the White House, tensions were visibly rising. The Israeli military warned of “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria” and ordered bomb shelters to be readied in the Golan Heights. Moments after the president’s declaration, explosions were heard near Damascus and Syrian official media claimed government positions had come under Israeli air strikes.

In reintroducing sanctions, Trump referred to claims by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel had documents detailing past Iranian work on nuclear weapons development.

Netanyahu, who has been a vocal critic of the deal and called for Trump to “fix it or nix it”, said on Tuesday: “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”

He said Israel opposed the deal as it “paves Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs”.

The “removal of sanctions under the deal has already produced disastrous results,” Netanyahu said. “Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership,” he added.

Both Trump and Netanyahu are under significant domestic pressure. Trump is under scrutiny for possible collusion with Russia during the presidential election campaign, and for paying hush money to a porn actor who claims to have had sex with him. The Israeli prime minister is the subject of several police corruption inquiries.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said the sanctions would apply immediately to new deals, but that companies would have three or six-month grace periods to get out of existing contracts.

The US Treasury issued a factsheet providing a timetable of restoration of sweeping sanctions against global companies trading or investing with Iran.

Bolton said that the US would also cease to abide by the UN security council resolution that endorsed the July 2015 deal. He said: “We are not using the provisions of UNSC 2231 because we are out the of the deal.”

The announcement marks a decisive break from the nuclear deal that the US agreed in July 2015 with its main European partners along with Russia, China and Iran, in which Tehran agreed to significant curbs on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. The deal was endorsed by a UN security council resolution soon afterwards.

Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the deal, described Trump’s violation of the agreement as “a serious mistake”.

“Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East,” he said in statement.

Trump’s unilateral and dramatic withdrawal is likely to raise tensions rapidly in the Middle East, already inflamed by conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Much will now depend on reaction in Tehran, where hardliners have campaigned against the agreement and pressed for Iran to revive a full range of nuclear activities and throw out UN inspectors.

The other parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran have said they will try to keep the deal alive, but it is far from clear that will be possible in the face of the sanctions that Trump has reintroduced, targeting companies around the world for doing business with Iran.

The decision represents a rejection of repeated, concerted entreaties by Washington’s European allies to keep faith with the nuclear deal. Trump made his announcement a day after the UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, returned home after an abortive round of last-minute lobbying for the JCPOA in Washington.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, had come to the White House in the weeks before. Their failure to sway Trump was a striking measure of how little influence Europe has on this White House, which has sided instead with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on a major strategic decision.

“There is a question now about how aggressive Europe wants to be to keep the deal alive,” said Peter Harrell, a former senior state department sanctions official now at the Centre for a New American Security. “Without an active effort by the EU to keep European companies in Iran and resist US pressure, you will see big companies leaving.”

Trump's decision on Iran is not as black and white as it seems

The JCPOA, agreed in Vienna in 2015, led to a rapid and drastic reduction in Iran’s nuclear programme. It reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% to just 300lbs, far below what would be required if it attempted to make enough fissile material for a single bomb.

Iran also took down about 13,000 of its centrifuges, leaving just over 5,000 of its oldest-model machines in place. It ceased all enrichment at its underground facility at Fordow, which – like other Iranian nuclear sites - was put under continuous international monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA had repeatedly confirmed that that Iran was in compliance with the restriction it had agreed to in 2015.

Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned: “By withdrawing from the JCPOA, Trump hastens the possibility of three disparate but similarly cataclysmic events: an Iranian war, an Iranian bomb or the implosion of the Iranian regime.”

“Iran looms large over major US national security concerns including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, cyber, energy security, terrorism, & obviously nuclear proliferation,” Sadjadpour said in a tweet. “The opportunities for direct conflict are numerous.”

After announcing the abrogation of the Iran deal, Trump insisted he would press ahead with his bid to reach a nuclear agreement with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at a summit due to take place in the coming way.

He revealed that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was on the way to Pyongyang, apparently to finalise arrangements.
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[*] posted on 12-5-2018 at 03:52 PM


Mattis Says U.S., Allies Must Deal with Range of Iranian Malign Activities

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued March 09, 2018)

WASHINGTON --- The United States will continue to work with other nations to address the range of Iranian malign influences, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today.

Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the panel on the fiscal year 2019 defense budget request. The secretary also discussed President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the United States and European allies negotiated with Iran in 2015.

The pact was aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

“Yesterday, President Trump announced the administration's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, terminating U.S. participation, and re-imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Mattis told the subcommittee. “We will continue to work alongside our allies and partners to ensure that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, and we'll work with others to address the range of Iran's malign influence. This administration remains committed to putting the safety, interests and well-being of our citizens first.”

Iran’s Influence

Iran is a prime disturber of the peace throughout the Middle East, defense officials have said, and the plan, as it stands, does nothing to curtail the Iranian regimes malign activities. “[Syrian strongman Bashir] Assad is still in power today, still murdering his own people and still creating refugee flows that we've not seen before based on the support out of Iran,” Mattis said.

But Iran’s activities are not limited to Syria as their influence extends into Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain, defense officials have said. The Houthi movement in Yemen, a Shiite group, has fired missiles made in Tehran at Saudi Arabia, defense officials have said.

“We have not seen any drawdown or reduction in Iran's malicious activities and malign activities across the region,” the secretary said.

The secretary stressed that the United States will continue to work with allies to “try to bring Iran back into more responsible behavior.”

Iran needs to be confronted not just for its nuclear program, Mattis said, but for its development of ballistic missiles, support for terrorism, launching of cyberattacks and threats to international commerce.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 22-5-2018 at 01:05 PM


Pompeo Declares Economic War on Iran

By Krishnadev Calamur
The Atlantic

2:23 PM ET


AP / Jose Luis Magana

The U.S. secretary of state vowed “unprecedented financial pressure in the form of the strongest sanctions in history.”

The Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran essentially amounts to economic war. In a speech on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed “unprecedented financial pressure in the form of the strongest sanctions in history” unless the Islamic Republic renounced all its nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and its support of regional proxies.

“The [Iranian] regime has been fighting all over the Middle East for years,” Pompeo said at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “After our sanctions come in force, it will be battling to keep its economy alive. Iran will be forced to make a choice: Either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”

And if there were ever any doubts, Pompeo’s unambiguous remarks were complemented by the U.S. Defense Department, where a spokesman said the U.S. will take “all necessary steps to confront and address Iran’s malign influence in the region.”

Pompeo offered this outline weeks after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic is officially known, ordered the reimposition of all sanctions on Iran, and gave companies with investments there varying periods to wind up their dealings or face penalties. He said the U.S. would now work with its international partners to deter “Iranian aggression” and “advocate for the Iranian people.”

Pompeo’s list of demands on Iran was long. If it wanted diplomatic and commercial relationships with the U.S., he said, it would have to end its ballistic missile program as well as its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and its regional malfeasance in places like Iran and Syria. The contours of the list were familiar; many of the demands echoed what the Iran deal’s critics said had been left out of the nuclear deal, rendering it in their view fatally flawed. All together, the number of Pompeo’s asks clocked in at 12. “If you look at it these are 12 basic requirements the length of the list is simply the scope of the maligning behavior of Iran,” he said. “We didn’t create the list, they did.”

Pompeo’s remarks also included elements of the presentation made on April 30 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strident critic of the accord. At the time, Netanyahu had billed his speech as containing a major set of revelations, though he said little that wasn’t known publicly already. He did, however, insist that new intelligence showed how thoroughly Iran had lied about having had a nuclear program. (The skepticism of the world about Iran’s intentions was why the agreement was signed in 2015.)

But what’s the likelihood Pompeo’s vision will come to pass? “He’s not asking the leopard to change its spots,” Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told me regarding what Pompeo was demanding of Iran. “He’s asking it to become a lamb.” Slavin, a longtime supporter of the JCPOA, said the demands outlined by Pompeo were also the demands of Iran’s biggest adversaries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the U.S. She said of Pompeo’s speech: “It’s audacious, it’s bold, and it’s totally unrealistic.”

Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called Pompeo’s speech a “big plan and a big offer.” But, said Dubowitz, a critic of the JCPOA: “On the one hand, the administration is saying we’re going to put the regime under a world of hurt. On the other hand, the regime is winning in the region. So one of the things the administration has to be very careful about is a comprehensive agreement that locks in Iranian regional dominance. Iran would like nothing more than to reach some kind of armistice agreement based on its current position in the Middle East.”

Iran says it will abide by the agreement as long as the other signatories provide it with the kinds of foreign direct investment that will restart its economy, which was hobbled by years of international sanctions. Britain, France, and Germany, the three European countries that are also party to the agreement, said they will remain in the JCPOA, as did China and Russia. Last week, the European Commission, which is the European Union’s executive arm, said it would adopt regulations that would prevent European companies from complying with sanctions the U.S. will reimpose; though the largest European companies themselves have said the uncertainty caused by the U.S. withdrawal would all but ensure their withdrawal from Iran. U.S. sanctions on these companies would mean, among other things, they are blocked from doing business in the U.S. and lose access to the U.S. financial system. As I wrote last week: “For the largest European companies, the choice of doing business in the United States, a country with a $18 trillion economy, and Iran, one with a $400 billion economy, is simply no choice at all.”

Pompeo was clear Monday that European companies would not be granted special waivers to work in Iran. “We understand that our reimposition of sanctions and coming campaign on the Iranian regime will pose economic difficulties for a number of our friends—indeed, it imposes economic challenges to America as well,” he said. “These are markets our businesses would love to sell into as well. And we want to hear their concerns, but you know, we will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

Dubowitz told me the Europeans were stuck between an “Iranian rock and a Trumpian hard place.” He said Pompeo’s strategy “gives Europeans a possible way out of possible Iranian and American escalation, but it may be a nonstarter for Europeans who are angry with the president who they see as unreliable and someone who they see as a threat to their economic and political sovereignty.”

Given the skepticism of traditional U.S. allies, then, the secretary of state finds himself looking further abroad in hopes of assembling a kind of coalition of the willing for a new Iran deal. Pompeo said the U.S. would work to include in a new arrangement, in addition to Europe “the Australians, Bahrainis, Indians, Japanese, Omanis, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the U.A.E., and many, many others.”

“Indeed, we welcome any nation which is sick and tired of the nuclear threats, the terrorism, the missile proliferation, and the brutality of regime which is at odds with world peace, a country that continues to inflict chaos on innocent people,” Pompeo said.

Slavin told me that while Europe would ultimately go along with the U.S. plan, the Europeans are “not going to be a willing participants in this strategy.” European officials, who had worked on the negotiations for 12 years, were upset over the U.S. withdrawal, because they believed the U.S. was ignoring Europe’s core national security interests.

(European officials say they are most at risk if Iran develops a nuclear program.)

European officials said the debate over the JCPOA, and Europe’s apparent inability to keep the U.S. in, meant that, in the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “Europe must take its destiny in its own hands.”

And in that sense, the Iran debate is about much more than Iran. Dubowitz said: “The real question is whether the Europeans will play along with the Iranian regime strategy of driving a wedge between Europe and the United States.”
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[*] posted on 26-5-2018 at 12:47 PM


Iran likely to increasingly rely on China as major trading partner to withstand strengthening US sanctions

Nazanin Soroush - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

25 May 2018

Key Points

- Pompeo’s speech makes clear that the US seeks a fundamental change in Iran’s behaviour, emphasising that Iran’s failure to do so has the potential for internal collapse, not least given widespread public dissatisfaction with the Islamic Republic’s economic performance.
- Although there is domestic consensus in Iran to avoid provocative actions that could jeopardise securing sanctions relief from Europe, Russia, and China, strengthening US sanctions will reduce Iran’s available options, contribute to expanding divisions within the political establishment over economic management and foreign policy, as well as embolden economically driven protests.
- Iran will probably become increasingly reliant on China, its largest trading partner; Chinese companies will likely be supported by the Chinese state in legally obviating US sanctions for Iranian business deemed strategically important.

Event

On 21 May, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining the US policy toward Iran in the aftermath of US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA).

In his speech, Pompeo reiterated President Donald Trump’s willingness to negotiate another agreement with Iran, and also outlined 12 US requirements before a ‘new’ deal could be implemented including, Iran agreeing to never pursue plutonium reprocessing, halting all development of nuclear-capable missile systems, essentially giving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unrestricted access to verify implementation, as well as retracting all support for US-designated ‘terrorist’ groups in the Middle East region, which includes Iran’s most capable proxy non-state armed group (NSAG), the Lebanese militant group Hizbullah. In exchange for meeting these demands, the US would end its web of sanctions, which drastically narrow Iran’s access to the global financial system, as well as allow the Iranian government to re-establish normal diplomatic and commercial relations with the rest of the world, and receive financial and other support to modernise the Iranian economy, including liberalising the transfer of advanced technology.

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[*] posted on 26-5-2018 at 09:32 PM


Much like North Korea, Iran will never walk away from nukes, the Mullah's like the Kims, see it the only way to secure the current ruling clique's survival.



It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed,
the lips acquire stains,
the stains become a warning.
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion
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[*] posted on 31-5-2018 at 07:46 PM


Israel says Iran continues missile tests

Jeremy Binnie, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

30 May 2018

Iran carried out previously unreported ballistic missile tests in January that contravened UN Security Council Resolution 2231, according to Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.

“Last January they launched a Shahab-3 and a ‘Scud’ variant: both capable of delivering nuclear payloads hundreds of km from Iran,” Danon said on his Twitter account on 24 May. “The international community must hold the Iranian regime accountable and stop their attempts to threaten our region.”

Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported on the same day that Danon had submitted a letter to the Security Council that reported the launches.

“On 2 January 2018, Iran launched a Shahab-3 variant at the Chabahar firing range,” the newspaper quoted the letter as saying.

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[*] posted on 5-7-2018 at 10:43 AM


Despite media speculation, there is currently no persuasive evidence of Iranian government involvement in terrorist plot in France

Kit Nicholl - IHS Jane's Country Risk Daily Report

04 July 2018

Event

On 30 June, four individuals were arrested across Belgium, France, and Germany accused of planning a terrorist attack.

An Iranian diplomat was among those apprehended, according to a Belgian government statement. The plot reportedly intended to target a 25,000-strong rally organised by the Iranian opposition movement, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), held in a northeastern suburb of Paris on 30 June. Speakers at the event included Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and now one of US President Donald Trump’s lawyers, and former Canadian prime minister Steven Harper.

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[*] posted on 5-7-2018 at 10:46 AM


Iranian diplomat involved but there is no Iranian government involvement?

Actually that might be the case seeing as the Revolutionary Guards are a law to themselves, and out-with of any government control...............so, yes NOT involved per se, but one faction of the Ruling Body WAS involved almost certainly!
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[*] posted on 11-7-2018 at 01:29 PM


Authorities hang eight Islamic State militants in Iran

IHS Jane's Terrorism Watch Report - Daily Update

10 July 2018

ACCORDING to reports from the judiciary's official news agency Mizan on 7 July, eight Islamic State militants - identified as Soleiman Mozafari, Esmail Sufi, Rahman Behrouz, Majed Mortezai, Sirous Azizi, Ayoub Esmaili, Khosro Ramezani and Osman Behrouz - had been hanged by authorities for their involvement in a small-arms and suicide attack that killed at least 18 people at a parliament complex in Iran's capital Tehran on 7 June 2017, Mizan News Agency reported.

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[*] posted on 20-7-2018 at 05:24 PM


'Desperate to find a way out': Iran edges towards precipice

Economic grievances, lack of freedoms, global sanctions and climate change putting country under unprecedented pressure

Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent

Fri 20 Jul 2018 14.00 AEST
Last modified on Fri 20 Jul 2018 16.46 AEST

n the words of Mohammad, a graphic designer out of work for four months, life in Iran is “like being a fish in a rapidly shrinking puddle of water, under scorching sun in the middle of desert”.

On the surface the 28-year-old’s comments speak to the country’s grave environmental challenges: it is experiencing its worst drought in modern history, with water shortages and recurring electricity cuts that cut the internet, halt lifts and disrupt air conditioning in 40C heat. Authorities in Tehran are even considering to bringing working day forward, from 6am to 2pm, to help workers cope.

But Mohammad, who relies on his father’s pension for survival, like a “leech feeding on blood” as he puts it, is not speaking about the environment. Instead he is referring to a wider crisis he says has created a sense of hopelessness permeating Iranian society, which few have seen on such a scale since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A combination of factors ranging from economic grievances and a lack of social and political freedoms to international pressure and sanctions has put the country under unprecedented pressure. Many Iranians would now agree with Mohammad that the country faces a pivotal moment.

“People are desperate to find a way out,” he says. “If it’s war, so it be, but quick; if it’s reaching an agreement, so it be, but quick; if it’s regime change, so it be, but quick.”

Weeks of sporadic protests across the country over water scarcity, unpaid salaries and currency depreciation, combined with mounting pressure from the Trump administration, which wants all countries to stop buying Iranian oil by 4 November, have piled pressure on Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. He is increasingly being seen as a lame duck as he proves unable to fight off hardliners and pursue his agenda. One pledge he has delivered on – the landmark 2015 nuclear deal – is unravelling after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the framework in May.

A piece of tech – an interactive pen – that Mohammad bought last year for 5m rials is now priced at 25m rials (£440), a five-fold increase. Similar price increases have affected other items, particularly those imported and dependent on the price of the dollar. The rial has hit an all-time low and foreign companies are increasingly pulling out of Iran because they fear US actions which will make it difficult for people like Mohammad to find jobs.

“All the ‘down to America’, ‘down to Israel’ chants put us in this agony,” he says. “All the people around me are thinking about emigrating. My only way to flee is a student visa, but the costs are high – also you can’t find visa appointment times easily.”

Alarm bells have been raised about the country edging towards a political, economic and even environmental precipice, and analysts fear that the warnings are being ignored. Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of politics at Tehran University, says the situation has become so bad that “people see no light at the end of the tunnel”.

“In no period of time before this, we’ve had so much anguish, so much anxiety, so much despair about the future of the country,” he says. “Even this [level of despair] didn’t exist during the Iran-Iraq war years. Despite all the problems during the war, and the rationing, there was hope, because people believed the war would one day finish, but now, the problem is like having an illness that never gets cured.

“It might get like Iraq, bartering food for oil. Rouhani is getting closer to hardliners; he is becoming like a football team that has lost the first game 3-0 and now has no hope for the next match. He has become a lame duck.”

Zibakalam adds that Iranian society has turned its back against both conservatives and reformists, as people see no prospect of reconciliation with the US.

He believes that if, or rather when, the situation gets worse, hardliners will become strengthened, meaning that “the unelected part of the establishment will grab more power”.

Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St Andrews, says the outcome of the current situation “would be … something akin to military government”.

“What’s going in Iran is not something for democracy, people are not chanting for democracy, people are chanting for water and bread,” Ansari says. “In 2009 [post-election unrest], people were saying: ‘Where is our vote?’ That’s finished, what’s happening now is much more fundamental talking to the body politic of the country, which is more existential.”

The post-revolutionary optimism that helped people go through the Iran-Iraq war, he says, has given way to a state of despair as economic, social and political resources have become depleted.

The Iranian currency has been steadily losing its value against the dollar since the 1979 Islamic revolution, when $1 bought 70 rials. This week, $1 was exchanged for up to 75,000 rials in central Tehran.

Rouhani raised expectations when he became president in 2013, but could not deliver, says Ansari. “Everyone is focusing on Trump; Trump is his own problem right, let’s not diminish it, but actually the elephant in the room is [Iran’s supreme leader, Ali] Khamenei.

“Khamenei’s principal priority is the Islamic Revolution, and not the Islamic Republic. Khamenei has always been of the view that you have to show strength, but there comes a time when you have to ask what does this mean? [President] Assad showed strength in Syria but what does it mean for him in the long run?”

For ordinary Iranians, the sense of despair is palpable. Sam, a 26-year-old university lecturer from Shiraz, describes Iran’s ordeal as “the knife reaching the bone”, a Persian proverb meaning the last straw.

Matin, 25, from Isfahan, who earns $115 a month working in a dentist surgery and lives with his parents, is even more downbeat. “We are going all the way downhill, like Venezuela,” he says.
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[*] posted on 22-7-2018 at 04:13 PM


Iran Ready to Launch Cyberattack on US, Europe as White House Prepares Sanctions


President Donald Trump, right, listens to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a July 12 NATO press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on July 12. Trump has taken an aggressive stance against Tehran during his tenure in the White House. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

New York Daily News 21 Jul 2018 By Denis Slattery
Iran has laid the groundwork for massive cyber attacks on private companies and infrastructure in the U.S. and Europe, according to a report Friday.

The U.S. has warned allies to step up defenses and is even weighing a possible counterattack, NBC News reported, citing multiple senior officials.

Iran is prepping for possible denial-of-service attacks against electric grids, water plants, and health care and technology companies.

The U.S., Germany, the U.K. and other countries in Europe and the Middle East are all potential targets, according to the report.

Iranian officials pushed back on the report and labeled the U.S. as the cyber bully.

"The U.S. is the most belligerent cyber attacker of any nation in the world, repeatedly attacking military and civilian targets across the world including in Iran," Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said in a statement. "The U.S. has also undermined international efforts to establish global rules surrounding cyber issues. While we cannot comment on specific cyber capabilities or operational detail, we can say that our cyber activities are defensive in nature and necessary for our country's protection."

President Trump has taken an aggressive stance against Tehran during his tenure in the White House.

He withdrew the U.S. from the Iranian nuclear deal in May and has vowed to re-institute tough sanctions against the Middle East nation.

The Trump administration has also asked its allies to cut imports of Iranian oil by November.

Trump's Director of National Intelligence warned Thursday that although Iran has done "nothing of major impact" in retaliation, "we see continuous malign effort by the Iranians."

Coats, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, named Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as the main threats to U.S. cybersecurity. But, he added, Russia is the "most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy."

John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, and Secretary of State Pompeo have both led the charge against Iran.

Pompeo earlier this month told Sky News Arabia that the Trump administration is planning "a number of things" to confront Iran.

He added that the possible included a "series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people, but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behavior is unacceptable."
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[*] posted on 7-8-2018 at 06:15 PM


Trump brings back Iran sanctions after exiting nuclear deal

By: Joe Gould   12 hours ago


President Donald Trump, left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently butt heads over nuclear arms and economic sanctions. (AP)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Monday it is reactivating economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the landmark multinational nuclear accord — a tough move that may nonetheless leave the U.S. more isolated.

The action follows up on President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision in May to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by the Obama administration to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for a freeze on its nuclear program.

European nations, Russia and China had urged Trump to stay in the pact. And on Monday, the European Union moved to thwart America’s reimposition of Iran sanctions, announcing a “blocking statute” to shield EU operators to recover damages and ban EU persons from complying with the sanctions.

A statement by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany said it would also work to keep “effective financial channels” open with Iran.

“We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US, due to the latter’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the statement issued in Brussels said.

Trump argued the JCPOA was a “horrible, one-sided deal” that left Tehran with the resources to fuel conflict in the Middle East. The administration has touted the reimposition of actions as a means to cut off Tehran’s ability to fund terrorism and weapons proliferation.

“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased. The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond,” Trump said in a statement Monday.

In spite of EU opposition, Trump said he wants to get tougher still, with “a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism."

The first wave of sanctions will go into effect at midnight for Iran’s automotive sector and on its precious medals trade, with the next wave of sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector due in November.

“The United States is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions, and we will work closely with nations conducting business with Iran to ensure complete compliance,” Trump said. “Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.”

Meanwhile, there have been some mixed messages from the administration. Trump said last week that he would meet with Iran’s president with “no preconditions” — only to be contradicted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who listed a number of preconditions to such a meeting.

On Saturday, Trump said any meeting with the Iranian regime is "up to them."

“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast! I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter — it is up to them!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Officials with the State and Treasury departments have been traveling to 20 countries to coordinate with governments, according to the administration.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu represented a global minority in support of Trump’s move, calling on European countries to fall in line. “This is an important moment for Israel, for the United States, for the region, and for the entire world,” Netanyahu said Monday, as quoted by the Times of Israel.

From Capitol Hill, a number of Republican lawmakers voiced support for the White House, including Sen. Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Three months ago, President Trump stood up against Iran’s malign behavior by pulling out of flawed Iran Deal,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement. “Today, he continues his leadership by reimposing strong sanctions that will show Iran that their support for terrorism and expansion of their ballistic missile capabilities are unacceptable."

Maine Democratic Rep. Shellie Pingree, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said on Twitter: “None of us wants a nuclear Iran. President Trump should not have ripped up a functioning agreement. This misguided decision again risks putting Iran back on the nuclear weapons development track and further distances us from our allies.”
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[*] posted on 21-8-2018 at 03:04 PM


Iran Defense Chief Vows Continued Missile Efforts, New Fighter Jet

(Source: Radio Free Europe; issued Aug 18, 2018)

Iran’s defense minister says the country will continue to focus efforts on developing missile capabilities and will next week unveil a new fighter jet amid U.S. efforts to curb Tehran’s weapons programs and regional influence.

"Our top priority has been development of our missile program,” Brigadier General Amir Hatami was on August 18 quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying.

"We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it," he added.

Hatami said the new jet will be presented to the public as part of efforts to celebrate National Defense Industry Day on August 22 and that "people will see it fly."

Iran’s air force has struggled to build capabilities because of international sanctions and embargoes against the country.

It has been forced to rely on aging U.S. strike aircraft acquired before relations broke with the 1979 Iranian revolution. It also has several Russian jets in its inventory.

Because of the restrictions, Tehran has worked to develop a domestic arms industry, and in 2013, it unveiled the Qaher 313, a domestically built fighter jet. But some experts at the time expressed doubts about its viability.

Meanwhile, the country’s navy also announced on August 18 that it has mounted a domestically developed advanced-defensive weapons system onto a warship for the first time.

The semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi as saying that "coastal and sea testing of the short-range defense Kamand system was concluded successfully, and said this system was mounted...on a warship and will be mounted on a second ship soon."

The announcement comes as the U.S. military has said it has seen increased Iranian naval activity, including in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic artery for oil shipments.

In a move apparently designed to send a message to Washington, Iran on August 2 launched major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf involving more than 100 vessels, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The timing of the drills is unusual, as Iran's navy usually conducts annual exercises later in the autumn, officials said.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May that he was pulling out of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and reimposing sanctions on Tehran, the first batch of which took effect on August 7.

The United States maintains that Tehran's actions, including the testing of ballistic missiles, violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The administration also accuses Iran of arming Yemen's Shi'ite Huthi rebels in their war against the country's Saudi-backed government -- a charge Tehran denies.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 22-9-2018 at 09:25 PM


Gunmen kill dozens in attack on military parade in Iran

Updated22 September 2018 — 8:45pm
first published at 6:59pm

Dubai: Gunmen fired on a military parade in southwestern Iran on Saturday, killing 24 people, half of them members of the Revolutionary Guards, state news agencies reported, in one of the worst attacks ever on the elite force.

State television said the assault, which wounded more than 60 people, targeted a stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq.


Iranian armed forces members and civilians take shelter from the shooting.
Photo: AP

"There are a number of non-military victims, including women and children who had come to watch the parade," state news IRNA agency quoted an unnamed official source as saying.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp have been the sword and shield of Shi'ite clerical rule since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Guards also play a major role in Iran's regional interests in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

"Three of the terrorists were killed on the spot and a fourth one who was injured died in hospital," Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior spokesman for Iran's armed forces, told state television.

A video distributed to Iranian media showed soldiers crawling on the ground as gunfire blazed in their direction. One soldier picked up a gun and got to his feet as women and children fled for their lives.

Ali Hosein Hoseinzadeh, deputy governor in Khuzestan province, was quoted as saying the death toll was expected to rise. One of those killed was a journalist.

The bloodshed struck a blow to security in OPEC oil producer Iran, which has been relatively stable compared with neighbouring Arab countries that have grappled with upheaval since the 2011 uprisings across the Middle East.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in the city of Ahvaz.

State television blamed "takfiri elements", a reference to Sunni Muslim militants, for the attack. Ahvaz is in the centre of Khuzestan province, where there have been sporadic protests by the Arab minority in predominantly Shi'ite Iran.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the assault was the handiwork of "regional terror sponsors", language that usually refers to Iran's enemies Saudi Arabia and Israel, and "their US masters". He vowed Tehran would respond decisively.

The semi-official news agency ISNA said an unnamed spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards blamed Arab nationalists backed by Saudi Arabia for the attack.

Dominant military force

The Revolutionary Guards are the most powerful and heavily armed military force in the Islamic Republic and also have a vast stake worth billions of dollars in the economy.

Kurdish militants killed 10 Revolutionary Guards in an attack on an IRGC post on the Iraqi border in July, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, the latest bloodshed in an area where armed Kurdish opposition groups are active.

Iran will be scrambling to determine the motives for Saturday's high-profile attack as it faces growing US pressure.

President Donald Trump decided in May to pull the United States out of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran and reimpose sanctions in a bid to isolate the Islamic Republic.

"Where did they come from?"

Trump will fail in his confrontation with Iran, just like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, referring to the war in the 1980s between the two Middle Eastern powers and vowing that Tehran will not abandon its missiles.

As Rouhani spoke, Iran began displaying its naval power in the Gulf during annual parades in the capital Tehran and the port of Bandar Abbas on the Gulf.

Iran has suggested in recent weeks that it could take military action in the Gulf to block other countries’ oil exports in retaliation for US sanctions intended to halt its sales of crude.

A video on state television's website showed confused soldiers at the scene of the attack. Standing in front of the stand, one asked: "Where did they come from?" Another responded: "From behind us."

Four militants carried out the attack and two of them were killed, according to ISNA. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack in the city of Ahvaz.

Iran was holding similar parades in several cities including the capital Tehran and the port of Bandar Abbas on the Gulf.

"Shooting began by several gunmen from behind the stand during the parade. There are several killed and injured," a correspondent told state television.

Tensions between mainly Shi'ite Iran and mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia have surged in recent years, with the two countries supporting opposite sides in wars in Syria and Yemen and rival political parties in Iraq and Lebanon.

Attacks on the military are rare in Iran.

Last year, in the first deadly assault claimed by Islamic State in Tehran, 18 people were killed at the parliament and mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic.

Reuters
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