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Iran Starts 60% Enrichment in Reaction to Natanz Sabotage

Mehr News Agency – April 13, 2021

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Sayyed Abbas Araqchi announced the beginning of 60% enrichment in the Natanz Enrichment Facility.

Araqchi who is in Vienna to participate in a new round of talks with the P4+1 and the EU representative within the framework of the JCPOA Joint Commission announced the start of 60% enrichment on Tuesday afternoon.

Iran has announced today in a letter to the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency that it would begin 60% enrichment, he said.

Another 1,000 centrifuges with 50% more capacity will be added to the machines in Natanz, in addition to replacing the damaged ones, he added.

Earlier, after the recent sabotage of the Natanz enrichment facility, Iran’s permanent representative to Vienna-based international organizations Kazem Gharibabadi announced that a new generation of machines will be installed in Natanz and several other technical measures will be announced this week.

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Sunday that an incident took place in a part of the electricity distribution network of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz.

Following the incident, AEOI Chief Ali-Akbar Salehi slammed the “act of sabotage”, noting that the international community, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), must deal with such “nuclear terrorism” that targets Iran’s facilities.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

Report: Iran’s verification of US reversal to take 3 months at least

Press TV – April 11, 2021

A detailed report by the Iranian parliament’s Research Center says the verification of any US removal of sanctions on Tehran would require at least three months, emphasizing that the process would not be possible within hours or days.

“It is obvious that the real test of sanctions removal and fulfillment of measurable indices put forward by Iran is not possible in a matter of few hours or days, and would take at least 3 to 6 months. It is also necessary to verify within specified intervals (for example every six months) that the Iranian economy benefits from the removal of the sanctions,” the parliament’s Research Center (IPRC) said in its report.

The report said Article 6 of the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions, a law passed in December by Iranian legislators, stipulates several general criteria concerning the removal of the anti-Iran sanctions.

They include normalization of banking transactions, total removal of export barriers, unhindered sale of Iranian petroleum and oil derivatives, in addition to complete and rapid return of revenues from Iranian oil sales.

Last December, Iranian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the action plan, which tasked the administration with suspending extra commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iranian parliament’s report went on to say that Article 7 of the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions obliges the government to report to the parliament on measures taken to counteract the US sanctions. Parliamentary commissions have been assigned to assess those measures.

The report noted that Washington has a number of economic, political and legal means which it could employ despite its possible removal of the sanctions in order to prevent the Iranian economy from benefiting from the dividends of the nuclear deal.

The United States, the report said, may prevent Iran from benefiting economically from the removal of the sanctions by trying to maintain the status quo, including limiting other countries’ cooperation with the Islamic Republic.

Research conducted by the IPRC has significant impact on the legislation passed by Iranian lawmakers.

On April 8, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said verification means Iran should be able to sell its oil under normal conditions and receive its money.

The Biden administration has conceded that its predecessor’s so-called maximum pressure campaign has failed, but it has so far failed to take any practical steps to undo the wrongs.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Iran reports ‘NUCLEAR terrorism’ attack at Natanz facility – day after uranium enrichment began

RT | April 11, 2021

Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was hit by a “terrorist” attack on Sunday, the country’s nuclear chief said, hours after reports of an electrical “accident” – and a day after new uranium enrichment centrifuges were started up.

Iran reserves the right to “take action” against those behind the incident at the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facility in Natanz, the head of the nation’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state TV on Sunday.

He called the incident at the plant an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

Iran “condemns this heinous act,” Salehi said, calling on the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in particular to “deal” with the act of “nuclear terrorism.”

The incident at the plant was earlier described as an “electricity problem” at a power grid in Natanz. “Fortunately, the incident did not cause any human injuries or pollution,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), said earlier on Sunday.

A member of the Iranian parliament’s Energy Commission, Malek Shariati Niasar, also described the incident as “very suspicious,” and said he had assumed it might potentially be “sabotage and infiltration,” since it took place around the National Day of Nuclear Technology.

The event reportedly caused a blackout in the electricity distribution network of the Shahid Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan nuclear facility in Natanz. Further details have not been made public and the causes of the incident are currently “under investigation.”

Natanz is key to Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Tehran says is strictly peaceful. In early February, it said that hundreds of advanced centrifuges with a higher capacity for uranium enrichment were installed there.

The events also took place just a day after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran has begun using new advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium at the Natanz site.

Israeli media reported that the incident was likely caused by a cyberattack, while the Times of Israel has openly claimed, citing “Western intelligence sources,” that Mossad was “behind” the power cut in Natanz. There have been no official statements from Israeli officials so far, however.

Iran’s nuclear program was significantly limited under the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It included caps on uranium purity and the amount Iran is able to produce.

After then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal, despite the IAEA repeatedly confirming Iran’s compliance, Tehran said that it would no longer be meeting its obligations in full. Washington has since launched a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on Iran.

Earlier this week, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said the nation had already produced 55 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium this year, adding that it exceeded the enrichment capacity achieved before the JCPOA. All of Iran’s nuclear aspirations are “peaceful and civilian,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday.

Recent talks in Vienna on the nuclear deal, which saw Washington and Tehran negotiating indirectly, have not resulted in any major breakthrough.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Iran, Kazakhstan share many objectives on regional stability, nuclear disarmament: FM Zarif

Press TV – April 8, 2021

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran and Kazakhstan have many common goals when it comes to global nuclear disarmament and regional stability.

In a post on his Twitter account on Thursday, Zarif hailed his “substantive and fruitful meetings” with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi which were held in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan on Wednesday during his third leg of a four-nation Central Asian tour.

“Our two countries share many objectives on regional stability and global nuclear disarmament,” the top Iranian diplomat said.

In his tweet, Zarif once again highlighted the top priority of the neighboring states in Iran’s foreign policy.

During a meeting between Zarif and Tokayev in the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, formerly called Astana, the two sides discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments surrounding the peace processes in Afghanistan and Syria in addition to Iran’s nuclear deal.

In talks with his Kazakh counterpart, Zarif highlighted the many historical and cultural commonalities linking the two nations.

“Excellent talks were held on important regional and international issues, and we thank Kazakhstan for its support of the Islamic Republic of Iran on international fronts,” he said.

The Iranian and Kazakh foreign ministries also signed a 15-article document for cooperation between the two countries aimed at reinforcing friendly, fraternal and neighborly relations based on mutual respect and trust.

Zarif visited Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan before heading to Kazakhstan. He will visit Turkmenistan as the last leg of his tour.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Iranian merchant vessel Saviz struck by blast in Red Sea, suffers minor damage: Official

Press TV – April 7, 2021

Iran says one of its merchant vessels has been targeted by an explosion of unknown origin in the strategic Red Sea, in the second such incident in less than a month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatizadeh told reporters that the Saviz ship was struck by the blast at around 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) on Tuesday, April 5, near the coast of Djibouti, and sustained minor damage.

“Fortunately, no fatalities were caused by the incident, and technical evaluations on how the incident occurred and its origins are underway,” he added.

The Iranian official said Tehran will take all the necessary measures regarding the case through international bodies.

Rejecting media claims, Khatibzadeh said the Saviz is a non-military vessel, whose specifications and mission have been formally registered with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

He said the ship acts as Iran’s logistic station in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, protects naval routes and provides security for merchant vessels and tankers against pirates.

A New York Times story published on Wednesday quoted an anonymous US official telling the newspaper that the Tel Aviv regime notified the United States that Israeli forces had attacked an Iranian ship in the Red Sea.

The unnamed US official said Israel called the strike a retaliation, and that the ship had been hit below the water line.

In a similar incident last month, an Iranian cargo ship was damaged after it was targeted by a terrorist attack en route to Europe in the Mediterranean Sea.

Tehran said back then that such acts of terror are a clear example of naval piracy and run counter to international law on the safety of commercial vessels.

On February 25, an explosion struck Israeli-owned and the Bahamas-flagged ship, the MV Helios Ray, in the Sea of Oman near the strategic mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastily accused Iran of attacking the ship. Iran categorically rejected the charge.

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi, in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 5, warned of consequences of any possible miscalculated measure by Israel over the explosion.

“The incident has all the characteristic of a complicated false flag operation carried out by actors in order to pursue their malign policies and to advance their illegitimate objectives,” Takht Ravanchi wrote.

April 7, 2021 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Iran will in no way enter negotiations beyond JCPOA: Security chief

Press TV – April 6, 2021

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani says the Islamic Republic will under no circumstances enter negotiations beyond the nuclear agreement it clinched with six major world states in 2015.

“Regardless of whether Europe has the will or ability to persuade #USA to lift all sanctions at once & Washington’s return to its commitments, there will be no possibility for Iran entering the talks in the new fields, more than JCPOA, under any circumstances,” he said.

The security chief posted the tweet with the hashtag #activeresistance in his tweet.

Shamkhani’s tweet followed remarks by the US administration’s special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, who is based in a hotel near the venue of talks in the Austrian capital of Vienna between representatives of Iran and the remaining signatories to the JCPOA.

In an interview with the American National Public Radio, Malley was asked about a “follow-up” agreement in case the JCPOA gets back on track.

“What we would pursue is, first of all, a longer agreement. Even though this one lasts quite some time and some of its provisions last forever, of course, it would be better, as in any arms control agreement, to see whether we could get a follow-on deal that extends the timelines,” he replied.

Earlier in the day, representatives of Iran and the P4+1 group of countries — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — began a new round of talks in Vienna over a possible return of the United States to the JCPOA, which abandoned by the US under former president Donald Trump some three years ago.

The Vienna negotiations took place within the “in-person” and expert-level formats.

Ahead of the talks, Iran’s Foreign Ministry reaffirmed in a statement that no representatives from the US are to attend the nuclear talks in Vienna, and that the Iranian delegation’s agenda does not feature any direct or indirect negotiations with Americans either.

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 3 Comments

Australian-British received Israeli training for spying in Iran, analyst affirms

Press TV – April 3, 2021

A political commentator has shed light on the case of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British citizen who served a prison sentence over espionage charges in Iran, highlighting US media’s dishonesty in intentional concealing of the truth about Tehran’s assertion that the academic lecturer had passed a special training course under Israel’s direct supervision for her spying mission in the country.

Tim Anderson, the director of the Center for Counter Hegemonic Studies (CCHS) in Australia, said in an article published on the center’s website  on Friday that the American news mogul Rupert Murdoch’s media outlet had spread misinformation over the convicted Israeli spy, Gilbert, who returned home to Australia from an Iranian jail late last year.

The media outlet claimed that Gilbert had been held in a “hellhole” in Iran for no reason at all.

The British-Australian academic was freed from Tehran’s Evin prison in November after serving about two years of her 10-year jail term.

Iranian media reported that Gilbert had passed a two-year special training course in Israeli occupied territories for her spying mission and she had became fluent in Persian during the course and got prepared to perform espionage activities inside Iran.

Anderson said he had provided Murdoch journalist Stephen Rice with evidence that Gilbert had engaged in Israeli “leadership training” for her spying mission in Iran through a fellowship offer in the Ein Prat Israeli leadership academy at the Alon Shvut settlement, one of many illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Anderson added that Gilbert had received a scholarship for the course from Tikvah Fund, an institution committed to supporting the intellectual, religious, and political leaders of the Jewish people.

As cited by the CCHS’s website, Anderson said, “Stephen Rice was either too lazy or too dishonest” to look at the links he had sent him, and that Rice had mentioned in one Israeli article that the linked article said nothing about “leadership” or “training” and those words were an “invention” by Anderson.

“Murdoch’s Megaphone @riceyontheroad was either too lazy or dishonest to recognize Israeli sources backing Iran’s assertion that @KMooreGilbert took Israeli leadership training in a militarized colony at the heart of Palestine’s occupied West Bank,” Anderson also said in a tweet.

Anderson also underlined that Rice pretended Gilbert’s Israeli “leadership training” did not exist and he misled his readers.

“This willful ignorance and distortion of facts allows the Murdoch stable to keep representing the US backed regional wars in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen as humanitarian exercises,” he noted.

Gilbert traveled to different Iranian cities as part of her mission and gathered information.

Unaware that she was being watched by Iranian intelligence forces, the woman went to religious and tourist places in order to make her sojourn in Iran look normal.

She later tried to get in touch with some figures and targets to obtain economic and military information about Iran as well as the anti-Israel resistance front, but she was arrested in September 2018.

Following legal and judicial proceedings, the spy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for acting against Iran’s national security through her intelligence cooperation with the Israeli regime.

April 3, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

How China is Going to Reshape Asia

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 01.04.2021

With China and Iran signing a multi-billion dollar deal for the next 25 years, there remains little gainsaying that the former is going to increase its footprint in West Asia/Middle East in a way that once was thought to be unimaginable for reasons that included China’s own economic policies and West Asia’s too close ties with the West to allow for any players. Forces of economic change that China is unleashing will not only become a massive boost for Iran, but Iran will become a gateway for China’s further expansion into the Middle East, including countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that Iran rivals. For China, its presence and expansion in the Middle East is not merely about economic benefits; this presence is equally driven by the emerging US-China global rivalry and China’s desire to push back against erstwhile US hegemony and domination of the Middle East since the Second World War.

As such, when China’s foreign minister went on a tour to the Middle East last week, he was not merely looking to sign a deal with Iran; he was more interested in and largely focused on introducing new rules of the game that focus, first and foremost, on economic engagement and connectivity. Rather than traditional Gulf tensions. Therefore, while Wang Yi met Saudia’s Crown Prince, MBS, and supported Saudi stance to oppose any “interference” in the internal affairs by any external player, Wang also offered MBS, who is currently not on good terms with the Joe Biden administration, an opportunity to engage with China “to explore and find a path of development that fits its own conditions.” This path, as Wang emphasised in an interview with Saudia’s official news channel, Al Arabiya, can be found only when Gulf countries can “break free from the shadows of big-power geopolitical rivalry and [be able to] independently explore development paths suited to its regional realities.”

As it stands, China has offered Saudi Arabia the same path it has signed up with Iran. Therefore, China, while it does not want to get entangled in the cross-web of geo-political rivalries in the Persian Gulf, aims to chart a new course whereby countries in the region can stick to an agenda that maintains a strict separation between geo-economics and geo-political and/or ideological rivalries including those around Sunni & Shia faiths and organisations like Muslim Brotherhood.

Therefore, while China signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Iran that includes development projects and enhanced oil production and supplies, China’s growing ties with Saudi Arabia, too, include an increasing Saudi desire to enhance Saudi supply of oil to China and secure Chinese investment in fields ranging from petrochemical, nuclear energy and other energy fields, further expanding it into new fields such as 5G, telecommunication and digital technologies. Saudi Arabia, MBS affirmed, is also willing to make joint efforts with China to push forward the free trade negotiations between China and Gulf countries.

Therefore, by offering both rivals a somewhat similar paradigm of economic development that bypasses geo-political tensions and rivalries, China is building an economic landscape that would leave minimum room for external payers, like the US, to continue to manipulate the Gulf to its advantage as it has been doing for the past many decades.

As such, whereas Chinese investment in Iran offers the latter an opportunity to break economic shackles imposed by the US through economic sanctions, for Saudi Arabia, China offers an opportunity to reshape its ties with the US at a time when the Joe Biden administration appears unwilling to accept MBS as the future king.

By offering states in the Gulf an opportunity to diversify their external geo-economic ties and reduce dependence on the US, China is posing a serious challenge to the US position in West Asia, which has mostly relied on using the precarious geo-political scenario to keep itself militarily entrenched and maintain a relationship that served, first and foremost, the US military industrial complex. At the same time, for the Middle Eastern states, China’s economic path is a way out of their decades old reliance on oil as a primary source of national income.

For China itself, it is pivoting to the Middle East at a time when the Joe Biden administration is trying to assemble an anti-China coalition through the QUAD, a group of countries that includes the US, Japan, India and Australia. China, by simultaneously approaching rival countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and the UAE, is posing a counter-challenge to the US ambitions, making it more and more difficult for the US to realise its “containment” of China ambitions at the global level.

The fact that China’s multi-billion dollar deals have received a very warm reception speaks volumes about how the Gulf itself is keen to transform its geo-economic landscape. In this sense, China-Gulf ties become, unlike US-Gulf ties, a fruit of a path that converges to serve mutual interests.

China’s pact with Iran and its deepening ties with other Gulf countries, therefore, has the potential to completely upend the prevailing geo-economic scenario. With the Gulf countries’ ability to diversify their ties and radically reduce their over-dependence on the US, the region’s geo-political scenario could also undergo a dramatic change.

Therefore, it would be wrong to grasp China-Iran deal as an isolated event. The fact that Wang has toured Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, and the UAE shows how China is embracing the region as a whole through a single framework of policy that is very largely underpinned by economic development. The fact that Saudi Arabia, to China’s utter joy, even refused to back the US campaign against China’s alleged “genocide” of Uyghur shows how China, to the disappointment of the US, continues to earn more and more acceptability.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

April 1, 2021 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran takes United Nations ‘rights report’ apart, belies it bit by bit

Press TV – March 27, 2021

Iran has provided the United Nations with a detailed letter exposing all instances of falsification and deviation from the UN Human Rights Council’s standards in a recent controversial HRC report about the Islamic Republic.

Ali Baqeri-Kani, head of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, forwarded the letter recently to the world body’s Secretary General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The message sought to “clarify the ambiguous allegations and accusations” leveled against the country in an earlier report by Javaid Rehman, the UN’s so-called special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

The rapporteur had thrown a flurry of accusations against the country, blaming it for a raft of self-proclaimed but unproven human rights abuses.

Among other things, he had alleged in his report that women were being treated in Iran as “second-class citizens” and attacked the Islamic Republic’s COVID-19 response.

UK, US, Saudi, Israeli footprints

Iran’s response noted how the report had been compiled based on information provided by anti-Iran counter-revolutionary and terrorist groups as well as fugitive and dangerous criminals , whom the report had glorified as “human rights defenders.”

It identified the alleged “sources” of the report as “organizations affiliated with governments hostile to the Iranian nation” such as the British, American, and Saudi governments as well as organizations linked to the Israeli regime.

The letter underlined those regimes’ own longstanding record of deadly human rights violations against the Iranian nation and other peoples around the world.

It further blasted the rapporteur for trying “to paint a black picture of the situation [of human rights in Iran] instead of stating the realities” and opting for “silence in the face of the biggest cause of violation of the rights of the Iranian nation.”

By the latter, the message was referring to the US’ long-drawn-out inhumane sanctions against Iranians, which have been illegally blocking their access to food and medicine among other vital items.

Elsewhere, the message asked how the report had failed “to reflect the views of the Islamic Republic” and “provide sufficient time for clarifications and responses to allegations and accusations.”

The Islamic Republic essentially discredits Rehman’s very mandate to report on Iran, calling the permission the result of a non-consensual resolution forced upon the Council by a few political actors.

Tehran also strongly disapproves of the way the Council tolerates such politicization of the human rights issue.

March 28, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

Iran, China to sign cooperation document

IRNA – March 27, 2021

Tehran – Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Friday night that Iran and China would sign the 25-year Cooperation document on Saturday.

Speaking to IRIB TV Channel 1, Khatibzadeh said that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Iran on the verge of the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries and the document would be signed in this trip.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, who arrived in Tehran Friday night, is also going to have meetings with a number of Iranian authorities, according to the Spokesman.

He also said that the cooperation document was discussed in 2015, when the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran, to lead bilateral ties to a comprehensive and strategic level.

“Relations between Iran and China are multi-layered, deep and having different dimension and this necessitates them to be included in a document. Therefore, the document has been exchanged between the two states for several times and it will eventually be signed on Saturday by Foreign Ministers,” Khatibzadeh went on to say.

The document has a comprehensive road-map, said the diplomat, adding that the economic dimension, as the main axis of the document, includes cooperation in different areas, as well as Iran’s participation in One Road, One Belt initiative and special focus on the private sector in both countries.

“No comprehensive strategic participation is established unless the exact cultural, popular and media basis is formed. This has been addressed in the cultural part of the document,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman said, adding “We expect the document to serve as a road-map for Iran-China relations in the next 25 years.”

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Iran blasts Johnson’s ‘utter hypocrisy’ for ‘concerns’ over Tehran plutonium risk after PM announces UK nuke warhead increase

RT | March 16, 2021

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been branded a hypocrite by Iran’s foreign minister for raising concerns of the risk of Tehran developing nuclear weapons minutes after announcing an expansion to the UK’s own nuke arsenal.

On Tuesday, Javad Zarif condemned what he called Johnson’s “utter hypocrisy” in a statement on Twitter, adding: “Unlike the UK and allies, Iran believes nukes and all WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] are barbaric and must be eradicated.”

Earlier in the day Johnson revealed that the UK would lift a cap on its own nuclear stockpile, allowing it to keep a total of 260 warheads, rather than being limited to 180, as had been set by previous British governments.

The PM was then quizzed about Iran’s role in the Middle East by a fellow Tory MP after unveiling the plans as part of the government’s Integrated Review Of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

“We remain extremely concerned by Iran’s influence in the region, the disruptive behavior of Iran and particularly, of course, we are concerned by the risk of Iran developing a viable nuclear weapon,” Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons.

He added that it would be beneficial for the security of the people of Iran and the wider Middle East if the state returned to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In recent months the deal has been a major flashpoint between Iran and the Western signatories of the JCPOA, including Germany, France and the UK, which have all called for Iran to stop breaching its commitments.

US President Joe Biden has said Washington will return to the deal, which provides sanctions relief for Iran, if Tehran stops undermining the agreement by stepping up its uranium enrichment – a crucial step in the development of nuclear weapons.

For its part, Tehran has repeatedly said it would be prepared to fall back into full compliance under the deal if the US drops its sanctions against Iran.

The UK’s security review accuses Iran, Russia and North Korea of destabilizing their respective regions and the “weakening of the international order.”

The 100-page document says it is the UK’s priority to “prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon” and that it remains open about further JCPOA talks.

March 16, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Trade-Off ahead on Syria and Yemen

By Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog | March 16, 2021

In the past few weeks much has happened in the area of diplomacy on the part of Russia. Russia is forging ahead after stepping up its presence in the Middle East in the past decade, taking a strong pro-active political role. Moscow during this period has been intent on consolidating its efforts in re-establishing itself as the key player in any political settlements in the Middle East. Ever since Kissinger in the late 1970’s pulled the rug out from underneath the feet of the USSR, striking a deal between Israel and Egypt, excluding the USSR and the rest of the Arab World, the political influence of Russia in the Middle East significantly waned until it came back with deciding force when Russia responded to the Syrian Government’s request for help in September 2015.

Lately, the economic crisis has deepened in Syria following the drastic Western sanctions. And specifically after the implementation of the Caesar’s Act, the Syrian currency took a huge tumble and the cost of living has soared to unprecedented levels. This left many cynics wondering and pondering what was Russia going to do in the face of the collapsed Syrian economy after having achieved an impressive military victory, taking its troops outside its former USSR borders for the first time and heralding the end of the single super power status of the USA.

To this effect, and on the diplomatic side, Russian FM Lavrov has recently visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE for talks pertaining to an array of issues. The agenda issues that transpired to the media include trade, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, as well as issues of global and regional security, albeit vague in details as what ‘security issues’ mean.

It appears that in these meetings, discussions included the return of Syria to the Arab League and the cost of reconstruction of Syria after ten years of war, a bill touted to exceed $Bn200. Expectations have existed for some time that the Arab Gulf states will fork out a huge chunk of this cost. As mentioned above, the bottom line here is that Russia’s military success in its operation in Syria needs to be followed by political success. Partly, this is achieved within the Astana talks which include Turkey and Iran. However, the very same Arab States instrumental in the ‘War on Syria’ are also instrumental in facilitating the return of Syria to the Arab League, the reconstruction efforts in Syria and the easing of sanctions. The Gulf states have always reiterated that there will be no return of Syria to the Arab League for as long as Iranian forces remain on the ground. The UAE seemed more open than Saudi Arabia to the prospects of Syria’s return to the Arab League and financing the reconstruction process.

But why would the Gulf States, the same states that spent tens of billions of dollars in order to destroy Syria, be suddenly now interested in the reversal of the process? This is a fair question to ask.

Quite unexpectedly, and almost immediately after the return of Lavrov to Moscow, a top delegation of Hezbollah, headed by Mohamad Raad, was invited to Moscow for talks. Apparently, the visit was cloaked in a veil of secrecy in Russia and was not at all covered in Western media, even though it made news in Arabic mainstream media. It would be politically naïve to imagine that Lavrov’s visit to the Gulf has no relation to this. All issues in the Middle East are related to each other, including the war in Yemen.

To put it succinctly, the UAE had already stepped away from the Yemen war. However, Saudi Arabia remains bogged down in this travesty and seven years on, must have come to the humiliating and painful realization that it is a war it cannot win. This is where Iran and Hezbollah can have leverage in any direct or indirect negotiations with the Saudis, and Russia is the only arbitrator who is able to communicate with all parties involved.

All parties in the Middle East are looking for face-saving tradeoffs; at least partial and interim ones. The Saudis in particular are tired and exhausted.

In an interview given to Sputnik Arabic, one not widely reported in other media, not even Sputnik English, Raad praised the cooperation between Hezbollah and Russia, stating that ‘the invitation we received aims to reopen the dialogue about the next phase after having reached the achievements that serve the interests of the people of the region in the recent past’ .

This is Raad’s first visit to Moscow since 2011. Of that visit, I am not trying to speculate in hindsight of the purpose of it and the achievements of it. Furthermore, Hezbollah has not ever been party to any international dis-engagement or peace negotiations in the past, except for ones relating to exchange of prisoners. The economic demise of Syria and Lebanon, as well as the Saudi-Yemeni impasse, may well have placed Hezbollah in a position of participating in peace-deals negotiations this time.

I am neither referring to peace deals with Israel here, nor any deal involving disarmament. Hezbollah will not be prepared to negotiate disarming itself under any political settlement either today or in the foreseeable future, and Moscow is totally aware of this.

According to my analysis, the deal that Moscow is most likely to suggest is a mutual withdrawal of Iran and Hezbollah from Syria on one hand, and an end of the Saudi war on Yemen. It is simple, Saudi Arabia to leave Yemen and Iran/Hezbollah to leave Syria. I believe that Lavrov has already secured the Saudi acceptance of those terms, terms that will not only end the war in Yemen, but also the return of Syria to the Arab League and a possible easing of the Western economic sanctions on Syria. Had Lavrov not secured the Saudi assurance, he would not have invited Hezbollah for talks.

A deal of this nature can potentially end the criminal human tragedy in Yemen in a manner that will portray the Saudis as the real losers in the war, and this is where they need a face-saving trade-off in Syria. In Syria, they will be perceived as winners by securing an Iranian/Hezbollah exit. But most importantly perhaps for the Saudis, this will put an end to a very costly and humiliating war in Yemen, one which is beginning to draw criticism from some quarters of the international community, including alleged talk of America considering placing arms deal embargos on Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, if Iran and Hezbollah end their presence in Syria, many sanctions are likely to be lifted and the severe economic pressure in Syria will be eased. Such a deal will be a humanitarian win for Syria and Yemen, a strategic win for Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a diplomatic win for Russia.

What will be in it for Hezbollah will largely depend on what Lavrov has put on the table, and it seems obvious that it is Hezbollah that will need more convincing than Iran, and this is why the talks are now with Hezbollah; not with Iranian officials. Perhaps the deal already has the tacit approval of Iranian officials.

It goes without saying; Israel will be watching these developments with keen interest. Israel wants Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria. But the trade-off deal I am talking about is not one in which Israel is a direct party.

What is known at this stage is that a meeting has already taken place between the Hezbollah delegation and Russian officials. As I write this, I am not aware if other meetings are to follow and or whether or not the Hezbollah delegation is back in Lebanon.

Was the 2011 Moscow visit of Raad a prelude for Hezbollah to enter Syria? Will the 2021 visit be prelude for Hezbollah to leave Syria? We don’t know. We may never find out the actual detailed outcome of the mysterious-but-not-so-mysterious current Hezbollah visit. It may not even end up with a press release, but in the next coming days, we will find out if a Syria-Yemen trade-off is indeed looming.

March 16, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment