Author Archive

Bartering – An Act of Desperation

September 26, 2018

“Special Purpose Vehicle aims to keep Iran in 2015 nuclear deal with barter system


Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov with EU external affairs chief Federica Mogherini in New York on Tuesday. Photograph: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

By Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor Wed 26 Sep 2018 01.00 EDT The Guardian

Source Link: EU, China and Russia in move to sidestep US sanctions on Iran

{What’s next, wampum? – LS}

The European Union, Iran, China and Russia have set out a plan to sidestep unilateral US sanctions designed to cripple the Iranian economy and force the Iranians to renegotiate the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

European diplomats hope the proposed measure – known as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) – will help persuade an increasingly reluctant Iran to stay inside the deal in the hope of rescuing its economy.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York, Federica Mogherini, the EU external affairs chief, said the SPV was designed to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports – including oil – and imports, so long as the firms involved were carrying out legitimate business under EU law.

The aim is to make the SPV available not just to EU firms but to others, she added.

In his address to the United Nations general assembly, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, stressed Tehran’s continued commitment to the deal and accused the US of pressurising other countries into violating the nuclear agreement.

“Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength,” he said. “Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world.”

But the US president Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, addressing an anti-Iran pressure group, said he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” by the EU plan.

“This is one of the of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security,” Pompeo said.

Versions of the SPV floated by thinktanks suggest it could underpin a sophisticated barter system that can avoid US Treasury sanctions. For example, Iran could ship crude oil to a French firm, accumulating credit that could then be used to pay an Italian manufacturer for goods shipped the other way, without any funds traversing through Iranian hands or the banking system.

A multinational European state-backed financial intermediary would be set up to handle deals with companies interested in Iran transactions and with Iranian counter-parties. Any transactions would not be transparent to the US, and involve euros and sterling rather than dollars.

The proposal is additional to a blocking statute passed by the EU in August that theoretically makes EU companies immune from sanctions imposed by the US in pursuit of its Iran policy. In theory, the statute empowers EU firms to seek compensation from US Treasury for trying to impose extra-territorial sanctions in breach of the statute. So far this statute has not been tested in court.

Richard Nephew, a former Barack Obama official and author of The Art of Sanctions, expressed scepticism on Twitter, saying that for the SPV to be taken up, European firms – many with either US employees, or US subsidiaries – must still be prepared to take the risk of being sanctioned by the US.

He also suggested US sanctions could be applied to the traded good as much as to the cash to fund the trade. He predicted few firms would take that risk, outside some SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] heavily dependent on Iran for their income.

Jarrett Blanc, another former Obama staffer for the Iran deal, broadly agreed with Nephew, but was more sympathetic, writing that “the symbolism here is probably Europe’s most important contribution, and it may be sufficient depending on what China, India, Turkey do on oil”. He added: “The payment mechanism move opens the door to a longer-term degradation of US sanctions power.”

Either way, Europe needs a solution soon after months of railing against US economic imperialism. The vast majority of European firms are planning to pull out.

Trump announced two sets of US secondary sanctions in May, and other sanctions imposed in August cover shipping and insurance. The other more important sanctions – aimed at ending Iranian oil exports, still the heart of the faltering Iranian economy – do not bite until 5 November.

In advance of the oil sanctions, Iran’s crude sales to China fell 21% between May and August, according to Eurasia Group. But it is unclear how long China will stick to that trend.

The assumption is that many countries like India and Russia will continue to trade with Iran and challenge the US to try to impose sanctions, pointing out that in reality it is the US, by tearing up the agreement and not them, that is in breach of UN resolutions.

Forcing Iran Out of Iraq

September 21, 2018

“It is difficult to name a conflict in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints on it,” said US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

By Tovah Lazaroff September 21, 2018 The Jerusalem Post

Source Link: Nikki Haley: Iran proxies reportedly developing missile production in Iraq

{Actually, they should be forced out of the Mideast. – LS}

Iranian proxies in Iraq are reportedly developing the capacity to produce missiles, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Thursday as she warned against the growing Iranian foothold in Iraq.

“In recent months, Iran’s aggression has escalated. Iranian proxies in Iraq operate openly, with funding, training, and weapons supplied by Tehran. The Iranian regime has reportedly begun over the last few months to transfer ballistic missiles to these proxies in Iraq. It is reportedly developing the capability for its proxy militias to produce their own missiles inside of Iraq,” Haley told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

She spoke at the UNSC’s monthly meeting on the Middle East, as Israel and the United States are increasingly concerned about the Iranian activity in Iraq and the subsequent dangers to both Israel and the United States. Last month, Reuters reported that Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq with the capacity to hit Israel. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has warned that the IDF, which has focused on preventing an Iranian foothold in Syria, could expand it activities against Iran to other areas of the Middle East.

All the council members who spoke at the UNSC meeting, however, focused the debate on Israeli actions against the Palestinians.

Haley, whose country holds the rotating UNSC presidency this month, chaired the meeting. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump plans to chair a UNSC meeting of foreign minsters on global non-proliferation.

During her speech, Haley chastised the UNSC members for their focus on Israel over other Middle Eastern dangers such as Iran.

“If there is one country that is the source of conflict and instability in the Middle East – one country that merits a quarterly debate in the Security Council – that country is not Israel. It’s Iran.”

“It is difficult to name a conflict in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints on it,” she added.

Iran has “trampled on the sovereignty of its neighbors” in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq where they want to create an “Iranian controlled corridor for weapons and fighters from Tehran to the Mediterranean,” Haley said.

Iranian General and head of the IRGC Quds Force Soleimani, who is leading an effort to influence the composition of a new Iraqi government, has “practically taken up residence in Iraq” in defiance of UNSC resolution 2231, Haley said.

“Iran sees Iraq as merely a transit point for Iranian weapons and a training ground for Iranian proxies,” said Haley. Iran wants to see an economically weak and dependent Iraq, so that it can be a base by which to illicitly fund terrorist activities, Haley charged.

Iran has already attacked the US in Iraq, said Haley. “Two weeks ago, two Iranian proxy groups launched rocket attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Basra,” she said.

She restated a White House warning to Tehran.

“We hold the Iranian regime fully accountable for its proxies’ attacks on U.S. facilities and personnel in Iraq. And we will not hesitate to vigorously defend American lives,” Haley said.

 

From Hanoi Kerry to Tehran Kerry in 50 Short Years

September 14, 2018

Former secretary of state and failed Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry has been trying to salvage Obama’s awful Iran Deal – by going around the Trump administration and holding meetings with Iran. Who elected Kerry?

by Aleister September 13, 2018 Gateway Pundit

Source Link: DEEP STATE: John Kerry Held Meetings With Iran – Advised Them To ‘Wait Out’ Trump Presidency

{Once again, we see Kerry giving aid and comfort to our enemies…and getting away with it. – LS}

FOX News reports:

“John Kerry slammed for ‘shameful’ shadow diplomacy after admitting to meetings with Iran”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is being slammed for conducting shadow diplomacy with Iran after admitting to multiple meetings with Iranian officials behind the backs of the Trump administration — including over the scrapped nuclear deal.

An administration official on Thursday told Fox News Kerry’s meetings are “shameful,” pointing out what Iranian-backed militias are doing to kill and injure people in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Other Republicans suggested it may not even be legal.

“John Kerry is out giving advice to Iran about how to maneuver around what Donald Trump is doing, it’s insidious,” Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, said Wednesday on Fox News’s “Special Report.” “I don’t know if it’s legal or illegal, I don’t care about that side of it. It’s wrong.”…

Later Wednesday, during an appearance on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” Kerry did not deny the suggestion he’s telling the Iranians to wait out Trump until there is a Democratic president again.

“I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump,” said Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and who has not ruled out a 2020 bid.

As Ari Fleischer points out in the video below, Kerry had no business doing this:

Michael Rubin of the Washington Examiner says Kerry deserves jail for this:

John Kerry deserves jail for secret Iran diplomacy

In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that he’s been working behind-the-scenes to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. “What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better,” he explained. Kerry’s backchannel with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has not been a one-time deal. “I think I’ve seen him three or four times,” Kerry said, and acknowledged that his talks were occurring without the Trump administration’s approval.

Perhaps Kerry believes he is not violating the Logan Act of 1799 which states that: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

What would have happened if someone from the Bush administration decided to go around Obama in this way while he was president?

 

A Coalition of Willing Hostages

September 4, 2018

Among other workarounds, the Europeans are thinking of devising a new way of transferring money electronically that is free from U.S. influence.


A peddler holds Iranian currency for sale in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Aug. 9, 2018.Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP – Getty Images file

by Josh Lederman and Dan De Luce / Sep.04.2018 NBC News

Source Link: How Europe plans to skirt Trump’s sanctions and keep doing business with Iran

{Leave it to European ingenuity to find a way to make money as a hostage. – LS}

WASHINGTON — America’s allies in Europe are plotting ways to bypass President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Iran as they work to keep the nuclear deal alive without the United States.

With a second round of U.S. sanctions set to take effect in November, European officials are working at cross-purposes with Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign as they try to preserve as much business as possible with Iran. The goal is to persuade Iran’s leaders to stay in the deal for a few more years — perhaps long enough for Trump to be replaced and for a new U.S. president to rejoin the deal.

Among the creative workarounds under discussion in Brussels and other capitals: Devising an alternative — free from U.S. influence — to the current electronic system used to transfer money from place to place, European officials told NBC News. And since commercial banks must stop handling transactions with Iran or face U.S. penalties, European countries are considering using their own central banks to transfer funds to Iran, wagering that Trump wouldn’t go so far as to sanction an ally’s central bank.

The Trump administration is working to foil the Europeans, threatening to sanction anyone — from American bank executives to small foreign companies — who doesn’t comply. Caught in the middle are foreign companies that must choose between flouting the Trump administration or their own governments.

In the last few weeks, U.S. diplomats in Europe have started working to help local companies that do business with Iran find new markets and business opportunities to offset their losses, a senior Trump administration official said, describing a program that has not been made public. The official said that the U.S. Commercial Service — diplomats who work abroad for the Commerce Department — have been holding seminars and reaching out to business groups to find ways to help small and medium-sized businesses find alternatives to Iran.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Commercial Service didn’t respond to several requests for comment.

The looming sanctions have become the latest flashpoint between the Trump administration and European allies, particularly the three that brokered the nuclear deal with the Obama administration in 2015: France, Germany and the U.K. Those tensions are exacerbated by Trump’s trans-Atlantic trade battle and intermittent hostility toward NATO.

“Europe can no longer rely on the United States alone for its security,” French President Emmanuel Macron said this week.

To the Trump administration, the allies’ efforts constitute an egregious attempt to undermine the president’s foreign policy and ignore the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and other troubling activities. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, recently blasted the European Union for making a $21 million payment to Iran, saying it “sends the wrong message at the wrong time.” The Europeans argue the payment shows Europe’s continuing commitment to the nuclear deal.

Trump administration officials have privately blamed President Barack Obama’s top aides, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and top Treasury Department officials, for what they say is an organized campaign to undercut the current U.S. foreign policy. Trump officials pointed to recent speeches, visits to Europe and op-eds by former Obama aides calling for Europe to stay in the deal, suggesting that Obama’s team is aiding foreign countries in evading sanctions.

The president took aim at Kerry more publicly over the weekend, calling him “the father of the now terminated Iran deal” and noting the speculation that Kerry may run against him in 2020. “I should only be so lucky,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

But some economists worry that the overuse of sanctions, particularly when other countries disagree with them, will lead the rest of the world to develop workarounds that may eventually diminish America’s economic dominance. The concern is that other economic powers like China will market themselves as attractive alternatives where international corporations can bank without being told what to do.

A president who doesn’t fear ‘third rails’

Under the 2015 deal struck by Obama, Iran and world powers, Tehran received billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in May. As a result, some U.S. sanctions kicked back in earlier this month, and others take effect in November, including a prohibition on processing financial transactions for Iran.

European officials involved in discussions with Iran say that the Iranians want to stay in the deal despite the U.S. withdrawal, as long as they continue receiving enough economic benefits for it to be worthwhile. Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog that monitors the deal, said in a new report that Iran is still complying with its obligations under the deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal.

But the sanctions include a U.S. threat to ban anyone who does business with Iran — even non-U.S. banks — from the American financial system. Because of the dominance of the U.S. banks, nearly every global transaction touches the U.S. in one way or another, even if only for a second as transactions are “cleared.” So the sanctions essentially force businesses and banks to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States.

To big, multi-national corporations, the choice has been obvious. Since Trump announced sanctions would be returning, major companies have started shutting down their Iran-related operations, including auto maker German automaker Daimler AG, French oil company Total SA and both British Airways and Air France, in a blow to the nuclear deal.

“There is clearly money to be made in Iran, but nothing like the business opportunities available in the U.S. market,” said Adam Smith, a former senior sanctions official in the Obama Administration and partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

As a result, the Europeans have narrowed their focus to small- and medium-sized businesses that have a footprint in Iran but no U.S. operations, and therefore may be more willing to take the risk.

“There are many companies in Europe able to fall into that category,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But they need small banks to do the financing, or central banks. People have to be paid, and it has to be converted to local currency.”

That problem has led the Europeans to consider using their own central banks to transfer the money. Under that scheme, a central bank would collect hundreds or even thousands of planned transactions and “bundle” them together, sending the funds to Iran in one lump sum that would then be re-distributed to the intended recipients in Iran.

European central banks that send money to Iran would still be violating the same sanctions as commercial banks, and could be punished. But the countries are betting that Trump won’t, given the dramatic economic implications of the U.S. slapping sanctions on the central bank of an ally.

Yet Iran hawks say if any president would take that risk, it’s Trump.

“I think that actually is realistic under this president,” said Richard Goldberg of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates for a hard U.S. line on Iran. “There have been so many third rails of trade relations that the president has not been afraid to touch.”

Another major U.S.-flashpoint is SWIFT, a financial messaging service that is used ubiquitously by banks to send money from one place to another. November’s sanctions call for Iran to be disconnected from SWIFT and say anyone who allows them to stay on the system will face sanctions. The U.K., Germany and France have all urged the U.S. to let Iran stay on the system, but Trump is expected to rebuff that request.

SWIFT is based in Belgium, but its board includes top U.S. bank executives from Citigroup and J.P. Morgan, making it difficult for the messaging service to say no to Trump and risk sanctions. So European officials have been looking at creating their own “clearing mechanism” for transactions or alternative to SWIFT so transactions with Iran can continue.

“I want Europe to be a sovereign continent, not a vassal,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said recently. “And that means having totally independent financing instruments that do not today exist.” The idea has stoked divisions even within European governments. After German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas advocated creating a SWIFT alternative to “protect European companies from sanctions,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out against it, warning it could undermine the transparency of the SWIFT system that helps root out fraud and terror financing.

Other ideas the Europeans have floated have sputtered. A proposal to use the European Investment Bank to lend to European projects in Iran was shot down by the EIB’s board, which was loath to risk sanctions.

The European Union this summer also revamped an arcane, little-used law known as the “Blocking Statute,” created in the 1990s to protect European businesses against the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The law prohibits European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions, and threatens to punish those who comply anyway.

That forces European companies who do business in Iran to make a choice: Break EU law by cutting off business with Iran, or break U.S. law by continuing.

But would the EU really punish its own companies for stopping business with Iran? How could they prove it was due to sanctions and not an unrelated business decision?

Those complications have led even EU officials to concede that while the blocking statute sends a powerful diplomatic message — that the EU has its companies’ backs — it is unlikely to be enforced in any meaningful way.

The Europeans have also been scrambling to figure out how strictly they must comply with Trump’s sanctions requiring countries to stop importing Iranian oil. The Trump administration has given mixed messages, at first saying imports must drop to “zero” by November 5, then suggesting there could be some leniency. The law calls vaguely for “significant” reductions, which the Trump administration hasn’t specifically defined.

Some major importers of Iranian oil — like India, Japan and South Korea — are expected to continue to import some oil, creating a game of chicken as countries wager how much they can get away with without Trump punishing them. Another complication is the effect on oil prices and global supply-and-demand.

Other countries are exploring more novel ways to sidestep the oil embargo. Under one idea being discussed, Russia would increase its oil imports under a goods-for-oil barter deal, then rebrand it as Russian oil before reselling it to third countries.

 

Holding the West Hostage With the Threat of More Nuclear Research for Peaceful Purposes

September 1, 2018

IRAN has issued a clear warning to signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, threatening to once again build up its arsenal unless economic ties with Tehran are guaranteed.


Iran wants more guarantees now that the US is imposing sanctions (Image: GETTY)

By DAN FALVEY
PUBLISHED: 03:02, Sat, Sep 1, 2018 | UPDATED: 03:05, Sat, Sep 1, 2018
The Express

Source Link: Iran threatens to WITHDRAW from nuclear pact and DEMANDS more guarantees from signatories

{Imagine the threats if Iran really had the bomb…assuming they do not. – LS}

Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, warned on Thursday his country was willing to pull out of the agreement if those within the nuclear deal did not honour the terms of the pact.

His statement comes after Donald Trump reintroduced sanctions on the Middle Eastern country and threatened to impose sanctions on any companies from other countries doing business with Tehran.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Zarif threatened: “If preserving JCPOA is the goal, then there is no escape from mustering the courage to comply with commitment to normalise Iran’s economic relations instead of making extraneous demands.

“Being the party to still honoUr the deal in deeds & not just words is not Iran’s only option.”

The UK, US, Russia, France, China, and Germany all signed the agreement in 2015 which aims to limit the country’s nuclear capabilities.

It was also signed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, but the Republican pulled out of the agreement earlier this year.

Trump has argued the Iran nuclear agreement is too lenient and called for tougher sanctions to be imposed on the rogue state.

The US President has previously called the agreement “not a fair deal” and claimed: “It’s a deal that should have never ever been made.”

The remaining signatories of the JCPOA have all tried to reassure Iran they remain committed to the agreement, but the Middle East regime wants more guarantees.

A €50million (£45million) international aid package was adopted for Iran by the European Commission last week in an attempt to prove their intention to uphold the deal.

Further, a joint statement released at the start of last month by the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK said the deal was “crucial” for international security.

It said: “We are 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.”

Those countries involved in the agreement are desperate to ensure firms continue to trade with Iran rather than listen to the threats from the US.

Trump has warned companies doing business with Iran: “Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.”

A Farewell to Iran

August 31, 2018

THE US is “expected to invade Iran” with military force by the end of his year after the war of sanctions escalates, an expert has claimed.


The US and Iran are currently at loggerheads over sanctions (Image: GETTY)

By Matt Drake
PUBLISHED: 22:21, Thu, Aug 30, 2018 | UPDATED: Fri, Aug 31, 2018
The Express

Source Link: US will INVADE Iran with military FORCE by ‘end of the YEAR’ expert claims amid WW3 FEARS

{Sounds a bit far fetched, but hell folks, many think it’s entirely possible. No one knows for sure what will happen when more sanctions kick in, not even the fake news media, and for that matter, not even Iran. Regardless, Tehran continues to invest heavily in their proxy warriors even when the Iranian people are paying the biggest price while searching for more US currency to settle their debts. In defiance of everyone else, the mullahs continue to set the stage for yet another proxy fight, but on a larger scale, maybe larger than they can imagine. Meanwhile the bearded ones are hoping everyone will be too scared to take them on. But we’ve already seen Donald Trump is not your usual President. He could very well be the first to take the fight directly to Tehran. If that happens, then all bets are off for Tehran. I even doubt their proxies would engage the US military in their defense. We shall see. Hint…watch for the biggest exodus in the history of Mullah-dom. – LS}

The US and Iran are currently at loggerheads over sanctions following the breakdown of the Nuclear Deal, and the Islamic Republic has gone to the highest court of the United Nations to contest it.

But German political scientist Josef Braml believes the decision by the International Court of Justice will be ignored by the US.

He goes on to say that Donald Trump is probably already planning air strikes and he not only wants to hit the regime in Tehran, but also China.

When asked if he expected military strikes, Mr Braml said: “Yes, I assume that the Americans will take military action against Iran later this year.

“I can’t really imagine an attack with ground troops. Presumably there will be targeted air strikes to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“This is only logical: If the then German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was right, that a war was prevented with the 2015 deal, we must conclude that war is coming after the one-sided resignation by America.”

He goes on to say that there are only two options.

The expert added: “Either the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia agree that Iran may, in principle, continue to develop nuclear capacity, or not.

“If not, it will mean what the late Senator John McCain and Trump’s current security advisor John Bolton have openly demanded years ago: Bomb Iran!”

The expert’s comments come after Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, warned the country’s President and his cabinet they can’t rely on the support from European countries for the landmark agreement after the US withdrew itself from the accord.

Mr Khanmenei said Iran might take the extreme step to abandon the deal altogether because of a lack of faith in the ability of European countries.

He made the remarks during a meeting with the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

Mr Khanmenei said in a post on his website Iran “should give up hope on Europe over economic issues or the nuclear deal”.

He added: “The nuclear deal is a means, not the goal, and if we come to this conclusion that it does not serve our national interests, we can abandon it.”

European countries have been working hard to keep Iran in line with the nuclear deal by making sure Tehran receives economic benefits.

The swift action from European leaders follows Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the historic agreement.

Since the US withdrew from the accord, Iran has endured economic problems as a result of sanctions implemented by Trump.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.)

 

Living in a State of Denial

August 29, 2018


President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, second from left, arriving in Parliament in Tehran on Tuesday to answer lawmakers’ questions. He blamed United States sanctions for Iran’s troubles. Credit Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

By Richard Pérez-Peña Aug. 28, 2018 New York Times

Source Link: Iran’s Parliament Gives President a Rare Rebuke

{When politics has the power to define reality, you’re in big trouble. – LS}

LONDON — Iran’s Parliament summoned President Hassan Rouhani to answer questions on Tuesday about the country’s economic crisis, and then voted to reject his explanation, in a remarkable rebuke of a sitting leader.

Mr. Rouhani blamed United States sanctions, not government management, for his country’s troubles. But after he answered five questions about economic challenges like high unemployment and the collapsing value of the national currency, the rial, a majority of lawmakers voted that they were “not convinced” by four of his answers.

Elected by wide margins in 2013 and 2017, Mr. Rouhani is seen as a moderate in Iranian politics, and he campaigned on easing hostilities between his country and the West, and increasing economic opportunity. In 2015, his government struck a deal with the United States and other powers to give up elements of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

But this year, President Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement and reimposed sanctions not only on Iran but also on companies doing business with the country. That has persuaded many European businesses to stay away from the Islamic republic, though their countries’ governments still support the deal.

Iran experts say that unwinding the agreement could strengthen the hand of hard-liners who oppose both the deal and Mr. Rouhani’s reformist agenda. His government runs many of the country’s daily affairs, but the ultimate power rests with the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the unelected Guardian Council.

The lawmakers’ vote came two days after Parliament dismissed the finance minister. In the last few weeks, the country’s central banker and its labor minister have also been fired.

It was not clear what impact the rebuke of Mr. Rouhani would have. Officials said the matter could be referred to the judiciary, which could, in theory, find grounds for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Some analysts, however, said that impeachment was unlikely. They pointed to Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent admonition against calls for Mr. Rouhani to resign — even though Mr. Khamenei himself has been more critical of the president lately.

“Khamenei, and other members of the Iranian leadership, likely believe that removing a sitting president would further destabilize the country’s already precarious economy and potentially undermine support in the Islamic Republic’s structure,” said Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

More likely, Mr. Rome said, are further efforts to remove those members of Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet deemed responsible for Iran’s economic travails, including the agriculture and industry ministers.

Mr. Rouhani’s allies remain the largest faction in Parliament. And in a country where tensions are high and protests have cropped up in many places, the potential for civil unrest could tamp down any party’s appetite for trying to remove a president and call new elections.

In an arresting aside during the proceedings, Mr. Rouhani attributed much of the economic troubles to street protests that began on Dec. 26, “when people saw suddenly that some people were chanting on the streets, and the slogans little by little went out of bounds.”

The protests, he said, encouraged Mr. Trump to declare his intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement. “His threat of withdrawal and the domestic turbulence and international threats frightened the people,” undercutting the economy, Mr. Rouhani added.

Lawmakers said that a decision on referral to the judiciary would not be made before next week, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

The agency quoted Mr. Rouhani as telling Parliament, “Nobody, including the noble people of Iran, our friends and enemies around the world, must think that today is the start of a rift between the government and the Parliament.”