Archive for August 6, 2018

Wary of repercussions, EU unlikely to defy US sanctions on Iran

August 6, 2018

Source: Wary of repercussions, EU unlikely to defy US sanctions on Iran – Israel Hayom

Israel welcomes new US sanctions on Iran as ‘major milestone’

August 6, 2018

Source: Israel welcomes new US sanctions on Iran as ‘major milestone’ – Israel Hayom

Neutralized at the last minute

August 6, 2018

Source: Neutralized at the last minute – Israel Hayom

Yoav Limor

The final stage of the Syrian civil war offers an opportunity, maybe the last one, for any entity that wants to eliminate threats without paying too high a price. The moment the war officially ends, which will happen soon, everything will become more complicated, from airstrikes to assassinations.

It is likely that this played a part in the killing of Syrian scientist Aziz Azbar over the weekend. The operation combined tactical and intelligence capabilities and a cost-benefit analysis. It took considerable time to gather the necessary intelligence, and the action needed to be precise, not only to ensure that it took out the target, but also to prevent collateral damage. The operational side was simpler, especially in light of the plethora of weapons available and the number of operatives in Syria looking for action.

The decision-making process for an operation like this one is complex. The rebel factions in Syria are uninhibited and would have acted without hesitation. But despite their claim of responsibility for the killing, it is unlikely they were behind it, not because they feel pity for the life of any Syrian official, but because Azbar was not an attractive target to them and was not worth the effort, certainly not as they are battling with their last breath.

It is more likely that others were more interested in Azbar’s activities. He was a senior missile engineer, No. 3 in the Syrian weapons industry, a close associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the point where Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah weapons interests converged.

For years, that weapons axis has been a focal point for Israel because of Hezbollah’s attempts to arm itself, and because of the additional effort this past year to establish and arm Iranian militias in Syria. Azbar oversaw missile production in Syria, and according to foreign reports was recently involved in laying the groundwork for missile production in Lebanon as well. For Israel, this is a critical issue. According to the same reports, Israel took care to strike the weapons convoys on Syrian soil, before they entered Lebanon, to avoid an escalation with Hezbollah, which had made it clear that it would consider a strike in Lebanese territory to be a casus belli.

The manufacture of missiles in Lebanon, if it begins, would eliminate the need for weapons convoys and would allow Hezbollah to build its capabilities without concern. Taking Azbar out of the game will not stop anyone in Lebanon from gaining the ability to make their own missiles, but will definitely complicate things for Iran and Hezbollah, because he was not only a source of knowledge, but also someone both sides trusted. It will take time to find a replacement.

This is another stage in a long battle, as was the series of strikes in Syria attributed to Israel, at least three of which targeted the factory where Azbar worked. It is rare that killing one person changes everything, but in a war of shadows like this one, any delay caused to the other side, any time they are forced to suspect that they might have a mole, and every failure to acquire weapons staves off the threat, and by doing so keeps the next war at bay.

EU ‘deeply regrets’ reimposed US sanctions on Iran

August 6, 2018
As American sanctions on the Islamic Republic snap back, European Union says parties remaining in nuclear deal will continue importing oil and gas from Tehran; EU also says its ‘determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran.’
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5323562,00.html
(Photo: MCT)

The European Union on Monday said it deeply regretted the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States on Iran, adding it and other signatories would work on keeping financial channels with Iran open.

“The remaining parties to the JCPOA have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas,” the European Union’s foreign service said in a statement, referring to the acromym for the nuclear deal struck with Iran in 2015.”On these, as on other topics, our work continues, including with third countries interested in supporting the JCPOA and maintaining economic relations with Iran. These efforts will be intensified and reviewed at Ministerial level in the coming weeks,” the EU added.

“The JCPOA is working and delivering on its goal, namely to ensure that the Iranian program remains exclusively peaceful, as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 11 consecutive reports,” the statement went on to say. “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.”

The EU foreign ministers went on to explain that “The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the deal—it aims at having a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people.”

The European Union also said it is “determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231. This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.

“Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security,” the statement concluded.

A first set of US sanctions that had been eased by the Obama administration under the terms of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal will take effect again on Monday. Those sanctions target Iran’s automotive sector as well as gold and other metals.

The US also has banned imports of Iranian products such as carpets and pistachios and revoked licenses that allowed Iran to purchase US and European aircraft. Iran acquired five new European commercial planes on Sunday before the sales were cut off.

The last and most significant sanctions—those on Iran’s oil sector and central bank—will be restored on Nov. 4. Iranian oil sales are a crucial source of hard currency.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday Washington intends to fully enforce the sanctions on orders from US President Donald Trump.

Pompeo, speaking with reporters returning with him from an Asian trip, said the White House would detail implementation of the measures on Monday morning.

“It’s an important part of our efforts to push back against Iranian malign activity,” he said. “The United States is going to enforce these sanctions.”

Despite opposition from European allies, Trump in May pulled the United States out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

Trump had denounced the deal reached under his White House predecessor, Barack Obama, as one-sided in Iran’s favor.

Starting this week, Washington will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s purchases of US dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals, and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.

The United States has told other countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil starting in early November or face US financial measures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Majority of Palestinians oppose Trump’s peace plan, Oslo Accords

August 6, 2018
By Khaled Abu Toameh
August 6, 2018 12:14

https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Majority-of-Palestinians-oppose-Trumps-peace-plan-Oslo-Accords-564228

The survey found that if presidential elections were held in which only Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh ran, 35.3% said they would vote for Abbas, while 19.3% said they would vote for Haniyeh.

Slain Israeli Prime Minister Rabin with former US President Bill Clinton and former PLO President Yasser Arafat after signing the Oslo Accords at the White House on September 13, 1993. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

More than 60% of the Palestinians support the Palestinian Authority’s position not to accept the US as a sole mediator in the peace process, according to a Palestinian public poll published last Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, showed that over 80% of Palestinians don’t believe that US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the “Deal of the Century,” would produce anything acceptable to the Palestinians. It also found that the percentage of Palestinians opposed to the Oslo Accords was on the rise.

The survey, which was conducted between June 26 and July 7, covered 1200 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and has a margin of error of 3%.

The poll’s results showed that Palestinians were divided over the idea of returning to peace negotiations with Israel – 49.1% were in favor of renewed negotiations and 45.6% opposed it.

The PA leadership’s position regarding Trump’s “Deal of the Century” has led to some improvement in its standing, the poll showed. The percentage of those who trust PA President Mahmoud Abbas rose to 11.1% in this poll after it was 10.6% in a previous poll published last January. Furthermore, there was a rise in the percentage of those who trust Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction more than other groups – from 22.3% to 25% over the same period.

The survey found that if presidential elections were held in which only Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh ran, 35.3% said they would vote for Abbas, while 19.3% said they would vote for Haniyeh.

If elections were held without Abbas, 11.7% said they would vote for jailed Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, followed by Ismail Haniyeh, at 11.6%. Abbas’s arch-rival in Fatah, Mohammed Dahlan, came in third with 8.3%.

Asked about the Oslo Accords that were signed 25 years ago between Israel and the PLO, more than 45% of respondents said the agreements had harmed Palestinian national interests, as opposed to 33.6% in March 2013. Only 11.9% claimed they had served Palestinian national interests, and 34.0% said the accords had made no difference.

More than 61% of respondents said they opposed the Oslo Accords (48.3% in March, 2013) compared to 24% who said they supported them.

With regards to the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Fatah, more than 37% of respondents held the Ramallah-based PA government responsible for the crisis, as opposed to 29% who blamed Hamas.

The majority of respondents, 56.9% expressed their pessimism towards the likelihood that the reconciliation agreement signed in October 2017 would be implemented as opposed to 35.5% who said the opposite.

The poll showed that the majority of respondents, 39.3% depend on social media as a source of news, followed by 28% who depend on television, 17.3% who depend on news websites, 7.4% on radio and 1.4% on newspapers.

US to fully enforce Iran sactions reimposed this week

August 6, 2018

Source: US to fully enforce Iran sactions reimposed this week

First set of US sanctions to take effect again Monday, targeting Iran’s automotive sector, gold and other metals; second batch of sanctions targeting oil sector and central bank will be re-imposed in early November; ‘We are happy to talk if there’s an arrangement that is appropriate, but there’s no evidence today of a change in their behavior,’ says Pompeo.

The United States intends to fully enforce sanctions due to be reimposed against Iran early this week on orders from US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

A first set of US sanctions that had been eased by the Obama administration under the terms of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal will take effect again on Monday. Those sanctions target Iran’s automotive sector as well as gold and other metals.The US also has banned imports of Iranian products such as carpets and pistachios and revoked licenses that allowed Iran to purchase US and European aircraft. Iran acquired five new European commercial planes on Sunday before the sales were cut off.

US President Donald Trump; Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (Photos: Reuters)

US President Donald Trump; Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (Photos: Reuters)

The last and most significant sanctions—those on Iran’s oil sector and central bank—will be restored on Nov. 4. Iranian oil sales are a crucial source of hard currency.

Pompeo, speaking with reporters returning with him from an Asian trip, said the White House would detail implementation of the measures on Monday morning.

“It’s an important part of our efforts to push back against Iranian malign activity,” he said. “The United States is going to enforce these sanctions.”
Despite opposition from European allies, Trump in May pulled the United States out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump had denounced the deal reached under his White House predecessor, Barack Obama, as one-sided in Iran’s favor.
Starting this week, Washington will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s purchases of US dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals, and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.
The United States has told other countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil starting in early November or face US financial measures.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week that Trump’s repudiation of the deal was illegal and Iran would not yield to Washington’s renewed campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports.
Iran will ease foreign exchange rules, state TV reported on Sunday, in a bid to halt a collapse of the rial currency, which has lost half its value since April due to fears about the return of US sanctions.
Referring to recent sporadic protests in Iranian cities , Pompeo said: “The Iranian people are not happy—not with the Americans but with their own leadership. They’re unhappy with the failure of their own leadership to deliver the economic promises that their leadership promised them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  (Photo: AFP)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo: AFP)

Pompeo said the United States wants “the Iranian people to have a strong voice of who their leadership will be,” although he stopped short of calling for regime change in Tehran.

He later said in a message on Twitter that the United States was “deeply concerned about reports of Iranian regime’s violence against unarmed citizens” and urged respect for human rights.

Protests broke out on Sunday for a sixth night in Iranian cities, including Kazeroon in the south, according to social media. Authorities reported the first fatality among protesters, with the shooting of a man in Karaj, west of Tehran. But they denied security forces were involved, Iranian news agencies reported.

The protests have often begun with slogans against the high cost of living and alleged financial corruption but quickly turned into anti-government rallies.Pompeo said Monday’s re-imposition of sanctions is an important pillar in US policy toward Iran. He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran. “They have got to behave like a normal country,” he said, describing Iranian leaders as “bad actors.”

He alluded to Trump’s suggestion last week of the potential for future negotiations with Tehran, a notion that senior Iranian officials quickly rejected.”We are happy to talk if there’s an arrangement that is appropriate, that could lead to a good outcome,” he said.

Pompeo noted that the US has long designated Iran as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and said it cannot expect to be treated as an equal in the international community until it halts such activities.

“Perhaps that will be the path the Iranians choose to go down,” he said. “But there’s no evidence today of a change in their behavior.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Analysis: Iran reaches crisis point as U.S. sanctions return 

August 6, 2018

Source: Analysis: Iran reaches crisis point as U.S. sanctions return – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Washington’s harshest sanctions will come back into effect on November 4, by which date the Trump administration hopes to decimate Iran’s oil export market.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 AUGUST 5, 2018 22:44
An Iranian woman raises her fist during a protest on December 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – Faced with a spiraling currency crisis, protests nationwide and the return of biting American sanctions on Monday, Iran’s government is poised to take a series of actions this week meant to project defiance abroad and control at home.

Protests that have slowly simmered since January spread last week to Iran’s largest cities, including Shiraz, Isfahan, and sporadically throughout Tehran itself, as corruption, mismanagement and external financial restrictions began to take their toll. The rial hit a new low as locals prepared for the US Treasury Department to cut off Iran’s access to the dollar, severely hampering the country’s ability to conduct basic financial transactions.

One man was shot dead in the city of Karaj protesting the dilapidated state of the economy while hundreds more were allegedly arrested in cities from Eshtehard to Arak, in a round of demonstrations covered by state-run media outlets largely dismissive of the movement thus far.

Last week, in a show of force to Washington and its Gulf allies, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ naval forces conducted a drill in the Strait of Hormuz typically held later in the year and with an extensive publicity lead-up. Over 100 “swarming” boats practiced closing the critical strait, demonstrating Iran’s ability to “control and maintain the security of the international waterway” and “confront threats and potential adventurous acts of enemies,” an IRGC spokesman said on Sunday.

Over 20% of the world’s oil passes through the strait each day.

Then, on Saturday, the government approved plans by Iran’s Central Bank to limit access to official currency rates to essential imports and to restrict foreign currency access to local businesses. The emergency moves came as the rial hit 111,000 to the dollar, and marks part of a financial “rescue package” that Tehran plans to unveil in full on Monday, a Central Bank spokesman told local press, as the first round of US sanctions previously lifted under a 2015 international nuclear deal snap back into place.

In addition to cutting off Iran from dollars and gold, US sanctions enforced on Monday will also restrict Iran’s access to industrial metals and target the country’s automotive sector, its exports of carpets and its sale of pistachios.

Washington’s harshest sanctions will come back into effect on November 4, by which date the Trump administration hopes to decimate Iran’s oil export market.

Cash strapped and desperate, Tehran has reportedly sought to withdraw funds parked overseas with limited success. According to The Wall Street Journal, Iran may lose access to $400 million of its money sat in a German account if Berlin proceeds with a new financial rule that would bar transactions adversely affecting its relationship with fellow central banks and institutions – in particular, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.

Iran did receive five French-made turboprop planes over the weekend for its domestic commercial fleet, marking what may be Tehran’s last tangible benefit from its nuclear agreement with world powers. That 2015 accord – brokered with France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, and the US – had exchanged caps on Iran’s nuclear work for international sanctions relief.

Since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in May, businesses that were testing the waters in Iran have largely fled, fearing instability and a cutoff from the US financial system.

Iranian officials say they may pull out of the agreement themselves, or begin enriching uranium anew, unless Europe can guarantee it the benefits it was promised under the nuclear deal. To that end, talks between Tehran and European powers have stalled.