Posted tagged ‘Iran sanctions’

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review

August 17, 2017

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review, Washington Free Beacon, August 17, 2017

(Please see also, President [of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions. Will Ambassador Haley discuss — or be permitted to review — the limitations imposed on the IAEA under the “secret agreements” between it and the Iranian regime?– DM)

Nikki Haley / Getty Images

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has ramped up pressure on Iran ahead of a trip to Vienna next week, where she will meet with international atomic watchdog officials concerning Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Haley on Tuesday rejected threats from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who warned the country could walk away from its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States continued to impose new sanctions.

Rouhani said recently enacted sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program violated its pact with the United States and five other world powers, which aimed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions related to the program.

Haley said the sanctions were separate from the deal and were instead imposed “to hold Iran responsible for its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”

“Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage,” Haley said in a statement directed at Rouhani. “The nuclear deal must not become ‘too big to fail.'”

Earlier this month, the United States, backed by Britain, France, and Germany, demanded the UN Security Council take action against Iran after the Islamic Republic launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space in late July.

The group, spearheaded by Haley, warned in a letter to the council that the Iranian missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead” and therefore violated an international resolution.

Under UN Security Council resolution 2231, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from conducting “any activity” related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, “including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The Trump administration, which previously accused Rouhani’s government of failing to comply with the “spirit” of the nuclear deal, swiftly imposed sanctions on six Iranian companies for their role in the country’s ballistic missile program in response to the rocket launch.

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

If Trump rejects certification, his administration can reapply sanctions that were suspended under the pact.

Similar to Trump, Haley has repeatedly criticized the deal for empowering Iran and Russia while handicapping U.S. leverage over the Rouhani regime.

US Diplomacy: When failure became an accepted option

August 15, 2017

US Diplomacy: When failure became an accepted option, Israel National News, Meir Jolovitz, August 15, 2017

(Please see also, President [Rouhani of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions. — DM)

For what it’s worth, future historians will judge the North Korean crisis as the less significant one of our generation – simply because China is able to control it. The more formidable and dangerous threat is the nuclearization of Iran. The occasional terror attacks in Europe, murderous as they are, pale in comparison.

In kind, the geopolitical threat that has already been unleashed – remarkably with more support than opposition by the West – is the facilitation of an Iranian nuclear capability. With the overt and covert support of the Obama Administration – despite its denials – the Iranians were fast changing the rules of the game. Unless stopped forcibly in the next year or two, Iran will be in possession of the bomb. Correction: bombs.

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It’s been said by many, in various forms, that “hindsight is everyone’s favorite perspective.”  The problem is, few grasp when “it” is happening until “it” has happened.

Political analysts and pundits are seemingly in concert: the most disquieting crisis that confronts our world today is the realization that North Korea presents a horrifying threat that remains unchecked. It didn’t have to be.

When Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017, admitted this past week that the two-decade-old US strategy on preventing North Korea from obtaining a nuclear capability was a “failure,” our hindsight was offered some unclouded perspective.

And yet, it was her other comments that made us understand that the lessons of history remain unlearned. Rice, with a criticism directed at President Donald Trump, opined that pragmatism dictates that we should simply accept, and tolerate, a nuclear North Korea.  Worse was the quiet acquiescence:  “The fact of the matter is, that despite all of these efforts, the North Korean regime has been able to succeed in progressing with its program, both nuclear and missile. That’s a very unfortunate outcome; but we are where we are.” Rice added: “It will require being pragmatic.

Pause to laugh, and cry.

Trump, luckily, did not hire Rice as an adviser, and did what he thought was right.

In 1967, a couple of years before he achieved notoriety as the controversial founder and voice of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane coauthored a book – The Jewish Stake in Vietnam –  whose implications were largely ignored. One might still find it on the shelves of some antiquarian book store, but the book is largely lost. Its relevance, decades lately, offers food for serious thought.

While the book’s theoretical message was clear, the practical implications remain undeniable.

The radical rabbi argued that the anti-Vietnam war sentiment that had targeted the hearts and minds of a confused American population that was increasingly drawn to slogans of “peace,” “liberation,” and “democratic freedom” – would pressure its government to abandon an ally, South Vietnam. The implication, seemingly unthinkable even to Jewish liberals in the aftermath of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, was that if the United States could not stand firm in its commitment to support an ally in Southeast Asia, it would one day be willing to abandon its commitment to its only ally in the Middle East as well. Ergo, the Jewish state.

Times have changed, and with it, America’s foreign policy. Israel is no longer considered America’s only ally in a still-troubled Middle East. In fact, the United States counts many, mostly as a result of a misbegotten reinterpretation of what allies are, thanks in great measure to the US State Department’s purposeful redefinition of American interests in the region.

One recalls the comment most often attributed to Charles de Gaulle: “Nations don’t have friends, only interests.”

Despite the very strong relationship that ostensibly exists between President Trump and Israel – at great contrast with that of his predecessor – his State Department and the National Security Council are still adherents of ‘interests before friends’. And, they mistakenly and quite foolishly attribute American interests to the wrong side. Governed by the belief that the “occupied” territories and the settlements are the reason of the impasse to the conflict between Muslims and Jews, Trump is ready to dispatch his son-in-law to once again bridge the unbridgeable gap.

In an oil-thirsty world, the Muslim states (we include here of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran) seemed to have gained a leverage that was simply unthinkable in 1967. The Europeans seemed the first to turn the other cheek when Arab terror spread, still in its nascent stages – mostly one would think, because it was not their cheeks that were being most often slapped.

Over the years, the terror in Europe proliferated. And correlatively, so did the finger of blame that was directed at Israel. As long as the Muslim antipathy was directed at the Jewish State – and more telling, Jews everywhere – the Europeans would assuage the perpetrators. It was Israel that was called to make compromises, territorial and (axiomatically) ideological. The more threatening and damaging the terror, the more shrill the calls for Israeli capitulation.

Undeniably, the greatest threat to the ever-elusive peace in the Middle East, and the invariable spill-over of violence into a Europe that is fast becoming a battlefield, is the terror that so many of its nations have voluntarily imported with the jihadis who carry the torch of Islam.

For what it’s worth, future historians will judge the North Korean crisis as the less significant one of our generation – simply because China is able to control it. The more formidable and dangerous threat is the nuclearization of Iran. The occasional terror attacks in Europe, murderous as they are, pale in comparison.

In kind, the geopolitical threat that has already been unleashed – remarkably with more support than opposition by the West – is the facilitation of an Iranian nuclear capability. With the overt and covert support of the Obama Administration – despite its denials – the Iranians were fast changing the rules of the game. Unless stopped forcibly in the next year or two, Iran will be in possession of the bomb. Correction: bombs.

Meanwhile, the new Trump foreign policy team, despite its frequent criticism of the Obama-Iran nuke deal, has yet to do anything significant. Worse, it has twice certified that Iran remains compliant. Of a deal that Trump called “the worst in diplomatic history.”

Yes, allies are often sacrificed on the mantle of political expedience. The US national security apparatus prefers to call it pragmatism.

And count on it. Susan Rice will one day again be interviewed by the New York Times and CNN, in a joint appearance with President Trump’s National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, admitting another failure. This will be the statement that they will issue: “The fact of the matter is, that despite all of these efforts, the Iranian regime been able to succeed in progressing with its program, both nuclear and missile. That’s a very unfortunate outcome; but we are where we are.” McMaster, resplendent in his uniform and its military regalia, will add: “It will require being pragmatic.”

After all, we are where we are!

Today, despite the unmistakable danger that Iran poses to Israel directly, it is more than simply a Jewish stake. This is an American interest. The message is quite clear. The practical implications are quite ominous. Let us hope Trump deals with Iran as he is dealing with North Korea.

Pause to cry.

Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.

President [of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions

August 15, 2017

President: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions, Tasnim News Agency, (Iranian), August 15, 2017

(This appears to be an acknowledgment that — despite the JCPOA or because of its gaping loopholes —  Iran has continued its development of nuclear weapons and/or that its collaboration with North Korea has continued to flourish. Thanks again, President Reject Obama. — DM)

If the US opts to repeat its previous experiences, Iran will be capable of returning to conditions “much more advanced” in comparison to the pre-negotiations era in a short time – not a week or a month but within hours, he added.

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TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Should the US government decide to repeat the failed experience of imposing sanctions on Iran, Tehran can immediately acquire capabilities in its nuclear industry that would be much more advanced than those prior to the JCPOA negotiations, Iran’s president said.

The new US administration should know that failure of Washington’s policy of anti-Iran sanctions prompted it to go to the negotiating table with Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, in an address to a parliamentary session to defend his proposed list of ministers.

If the US opts to repeat its previous experiences, Iran will be capable of returning to conditions “much more advanced” in comparison to the pre-negotiations era in a short time – not a week or a month but within hours, he added.

Describing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany), as a symbol of peace and diplomacy’s victory over war and unilateralism, President Rouhani underscored that the JCPOA is not and will not be “the only option” for Iran.

He also pointed to US president’s repeated threats of ripping up the nuclear deal, saying Trump has been advised by his aides to accuse Iran of violating the spirit of the JCPOA for fear of US isolation in the international community in case of abandoning the nuclear deal.

Despite US claims, President Rouhani noted, seven reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency have confirmed Iran’s full commitment to the JCPOA.

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran?

July 19, 2017

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran? Gatestone InstituteHassan Mahmoudi, July 19, 2017

(Vocal support for regime change would be good. Declaring that Iran has violated the JCOPA, now that Iran has received all of the financial benefits from America that it will get, would be merely a symbolic gesture. — DM)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

American leadership expert John C. Maxwell defines a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” During his two terms in the highest office in the world, former U.S. President Barack Obama failed at all three, with disastrous consequences.

There is no realm in which Obama’s lack of leadership was more glaring than that of foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. His combination of action and inaction — pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran at all costs, while simultaneously adopting a stance of “patience” with and indifference to Tehran’s sponsorship of global terrorism and foothold in Syria — served no purpose other than to destabilize the region and weaken America’s position.

While hotly pursuing the nuclear accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and U.S.-led world powers in July 2015 — Obama enabled the regime in Tehran to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad in starving and slaughtering his people (with chemical weapons, among others) into submission. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama’s passivity, and the $1.7 billion his administration transferred to Tehran upon the inking of the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic was able to dispatch its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to recruit and train Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Syria, as well as militias in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.

Today, two years after the signing of the JCPOA, and six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, there is a growing rift between America and Europe over implementation of the deal, which officially went into effect in January 2016. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been wavering on whether to remain committed to the deal, which his administration and members of Congress claim has been violated repeatedly by Iran. The U.S. also has maintained certain sanctions, over Iran’s ballistic-missile tests, human-rights abuses and sponsorship of global terrorism.

European countries, however, have taken a very different approach, pointing to International Atomic Energy Organization reports confirming Iran’s compliance, and rushing to do business in and with Tehran.

At a ceremony on July 14, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the JCPOA a “success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver,” adding, “This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, that expects all sides to keep the commitments they took two years ago”

Meanwhile, when reports emerged about Trump being “likely” to confirm on July 17 that Iran has been complying with the deal — and because the law requires that both the president and secretary of state re-certify the deal every three months — four Republican senators sent a letterto Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with a copy to Trump, urging him not to do so.

The letter reads, in part:

“…In April, you certified Iran’s compliance for the first 90-day period of the Trump administration. That certification was understandable, given the need to grant time for the interagency review of the JCPOA that you described in the certification letter you sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“But now … U.S. interests would be best served by a sober accounting of Iran’s JCPOA violations … of regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology, and oppress the Iranian people. Iran’s aggression directly targets the United States…a continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran’s belligerence… German intelligence agencies in 2015 and 2016 reported that Iran continued illicit attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels.

“… Perhaps most concerning is Iran’s refusal to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities. International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) inspectors are entitled to visit any location in Iran to verify compliance with the JCPOA’s ban on nuclear weapons development. However, Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors physical access and other forms of access makes it possible-if not highly probable, given Iran’s history of duplicity-that it is concealing additional violations of the JCPOA.

“…it is highly questionable whether the United States can under current arrangements ever gain high confidence that Iran’s nuclear-weapons development has indeed ceased. …”

The senators are correct. Iran never had, nor has to this day, any intention of forfeiting its bid for regional and global hegemony.

Nevertheless, Trump decided, after all, to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Ahead of his doing so, however, the administration issued a series of reassurances — in the form of talking points — that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on Iranian government entities and individuals, to punish the regime for its nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, these include ballistic-missile development, support for terrorism and the Assad regime, cyber-attacks against U.S. targets, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of American citizens and others.

A few months into the current administration in Washington, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps strategist Hassan Abbasi boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American military and vulnerable targets:

“If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons. … It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerrilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

It was Obama’s refusal to recognize, let alone acknowledge, this Iranian ambition that led to his utter appeasement of Tehran and subsequent signing of the JCPOA. It is up to Trump to do more than merely keep the nuclear accord at bay by leaving certain sanctions in place — or even canceling it.

Hassan Abbasi, a strategist for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, recently boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American targets: “If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons…” (Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

At the annual “Free Iran” rally, held in Paris on July 1, 2017, an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries gathered to call for a renewed effort to topple the regime in Tehran. Members of the U.S. delegation to the event — among them former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq General George Casey — issued a joint statement saying, in part:

“We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition.”

Let us hope that Trump takes heed and turns out to be the leader who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations

July 18, 2017

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations, DEBKAfile, July 18, 2017

(Why not? Iran has already received all of the substantial U.S. financial benefits of the Iran Scam. Withdrawal would allow Iran to pursue its nuclear objectives without the minor conveniences of trying to hide them. Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told a National Interest interview Tuesday: “If it comes to a major [US] violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” This was his rejoinder to the Trump administration’s statement in certifying that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal while “in default of its spirit.”

 

Trump Admin to Hit Iran With New Sanctions as Tehran Threatens Attacks on U.S. Bases

July 17, 2017

Trump Admin to Hit Iran With New Sanctions as Tehran Threatens Attacks on U.S. Bases, Washington Free Beacon, July 17, 2017

(Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

The Trump administration is expected to ratchet up pressure on Iran with a slew of new sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s illicit ballistic missile program and regional support for terrorism as the landmark Iranian nuclear deal hits its two-year anniversary, according to senior U.S. officials who deemed Iran in violation of the agreement’s “spirit.”

News of the new sanctions comes on the same day that Iranian military leaders threatened attacks on U.S. forces and bases in the Middle East should America move forward with new sanctions, particularly ones targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC.

The new sanctions are part of a larger White House effort to counter Iran’s massive military buildup and rogue militant activities across the Middle East, specifically in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have launched a series of direct attacks on American forces in recent weeks.

U.S. official dubbed Iran “the most dangerous threat to U.S. interests” and promised a series of new efforts both militarily and policy oriented to combat the Islamic Republic’s illicit activities.

The new sanctions are being leveled outside the purview of the nuclear deal, meaning that they are all non-nuclear related and do not violate conditions of the deal barring the United States from engaging in such activity.

The Trump administration is continuing to perform a full-scale review of its Iran policy, including the nuclear deal. The review is set to be completed in about a month’s time, according to the administration.

The White House must make a decision by Tuesday on whether it will recertify that Iran is in compliance with the deal. The administration is likely to again certify Iran as in compliance of the agreement, despite mounting evidence this not the case. Deliberations in the White House had not concluded as of late Monday morning, but officials signaled they were leaning towards certifying Iran as not in technical violation.

U.S. officials were hesitant to deem Iran in direct violation of the deal, but said Tehran “is in default on the spirit of that agreements,” according to senior administration officials who spoke on background.

“Years of concessions … have resulted in the unintended effect of empowering Iran across the region,” one senior administration official said about the package of new sanctions on multiple Iranian individuals and entities tied to the country’s ballistic missile program and proliferation efforts.

“What we’re saying is Iran is in default of the spirit of the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran deal’s official title. “We need to ensure more aggressively they are in compliance with the letter of the JCPOA.”

U.S. officials said that Iran has obfuscated key details of its nuclear program, and continues to engage in activities that could be in violation of the agreement.

“Iran has been less than forthcoming, walking up to the edge of violating the JCPOA,” one senior U.S. official said. “That behavior has to stop.”

Officials also criticized key flaws in the deal that allow Iran to engage in critical nuclear work within the next decade.

The United States plans to “ramp up our efforts to verify reports” of Iran’s alleged violations, officials said.

As part of the effort to combat Iran’s activities, the Trump administration is expected to announce an additional package of sanctions that includes 16 Iranian entities and individuals found to be supporting Tehran’s illicit and criminal activities in the region. This includes seven entities and five individuals found to be supporting the Iranian military and criminal organizations.

Sanctions also have been leveled on three networks designated as supporting Iran’s military procurement and another two organizations supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program.

As news of the expected new package of sanctions came, Iranian military leaders issued new threats warning of attacks on U.S. regional bases should the Trump administration move forward with plans to sanction the IRGC and designate it as a terror group.

“Putting the IRGC in one single class with the terrorist groups and imposing similar sanctions against the IRGC poses a major risk to the U.S., its bases and forces deployed in the region,” Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, warned on Monday during remarks before IRGC commanders.

Baqeri also lashed out at sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, stating, “the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile power is defensive and is never negotiable at any level.”

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications

June 29, 2017

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications, Iran News Update, Edward Carney, June 29, 2017

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations delivered testimony to the House panel on foreign operations, a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in the US House of Representatives. In that testimony, Haley addressed multiple issues relating to the Islamic Republic of Iran, thereby reasserting the Trump administration’s assertive policies toward the Iranian regime. By most accounts those policies are still emerging, but they have already come to include purposive outreach to other adversaries of the Islamic Republic and a program of expanded sanctions on matters such as Iran’s ballistic missile program.

However, those efforts to confront and contain the Islamic Republic are arguably complicated by other aspects of the Trump administration’s policy commitments, including a focus on domestic issues and an effort to improve relations between the US and Russia, which boasts close relations with Iran in the areas of trade and military cooperation, especially as it relates to the Syrian Civil War.

While the US supports moderate rebel groups fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranians and Russians have been credited with turning the war in favor of Assad. Various Shiite militias are currently operating as proxies for Iran in that war, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is increasingly playing a direct role in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia has been providing air support for pro-Assad ground operations since 2015.

Western commentators, including officials in the Trump administration, have variously accused Russia and Iran of ignoring or actively facilitating human rights abuses by the Assad regime, including an April chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 people in a rebel-controlled civilian area.

As the Associated Press points out, Ambassador Haley’s comments to the House panel came shortly after the White House had issued a warning to Syria regarding alleged preparations for another such chemical attack. The article specified that Pentagon officials had confirmed the intelligence underlying that warning, involving particular movements at the same Syrian air base that had been used as the staging area for the previous chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of Assad that “he and his military will pay a heavy price” if they follow through with apparent plans for another “mass murder attack using chemical weapons.” But the AP quoted Haley as saying that the administration’s remarks were not intended only for Assad, but also for Russia and Iran. Both of the Syrian allies joined in denying Assad’s responsibility for the attacks, with some officials insisting that the chemical weapons had originated in a rebel warehouse at the site of a conventional military airstrike.

The dispute over this issue and the subsequent US cruise missile strike on Shayrat air base can be seen as early examples of the escalation between Iranian allies and adversaries which is still going on to this day. In fact, Haley’s effort to fold Russia and Iran into a warning directed more explicitly against Syria is reminiscent of an incident earlier in June wherein a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said that a ballistic missile strike on eastern Syria had been intended largely as a warning to the US and Saudi Arabia.

Those two traditional adversaries of the Islamic Republic have been expanding relations under the Trump administration, sometimes with explicit reference to shared anxieties over expanding Iranian influence and meddling in the broader Middle East. President Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May for an Arab-US summit coincided with the signing of trade agreements that included 110 billion dollars in arms sales to the Arab Kingdom.

But at the same time that the White House is openly siding with Saudi Arabia and its regional allies against the Iranian regime, it does not appear to be giving up on the prospect of improved relations with Russia. In fact, the Western strategy for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War seems to presently involve the expectation that Russia can be encouraged to rein in the Islamic Republic and prevent it from further sabotaging ceasefire agreements.

Recent developments have cast doubt upon the practicality of this strategy however. As the US has taken a more direct role in defending rebel groups, even resorting to the shoot-down of at least two military controlled drones and a Syrian warplane, Russia has responded by threatening to target US aircraft and to halt the use of a hotline intended to prevent mid-air collisions between the multiple powers operating in the skies over Syria.

Haley’s comments on Tuesday were indicative of a roughly matching increase in American criticism of Russia. And this criticism was not limited to the issue of chemical weapons. Haley also explained that Russia’s position on the UN Security Council allowed it to stymie US efforts to sanctions Iran and hold it to account for ongoing misbehavior in matters including the development of the Iranian nuclear program.

“[The Iranians are] going to continue their nuclear capabilities and we just gave them a lot of money to do it with,” Haley said, referring to the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Trump has described as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” She went on to highlight concerns about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, suggesting that nuclear weapons could find their way into the hands of terrorist groups at some point in the future, and that Russia would effectively prevent the US and its allies from doing anything to stop this.

“Yes, we would love to sanction Iran; and, yes we will continue to be loud about it; and, yes, Russia will veto it,” Haley said, according to the Washington Examiner.

But this is not to say that the Trump administration has positively brought an end to its strategy of attempting to improve relations with Russia. In fact, various reports suggest that this endeavor is even standing in the way of congressional legislation aimed at increasing national-level sanctions on both Iran and Russia. The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act passed the Senate two weeks ago by a margin of 98 to 2, but it was subsequently stalled in the House on procedural grounds, leading Democrats to argue that the House Republican leadership was trying to protect the president’s Russian agenda.

The prospects for resolution appeared to grow dimmer on Tuesday when the Washington Post reported that energy lobbyists were urging lawmakers to reevaluate the bill on the grounds that its restrictions on doing business with Russian companies could have a punishing effect on American firms and foreign firms doing business in the US. These objections could bolster the prospects of the House leadership sending the bill to various committees for review and markup – a process that could delay a final vote by months.

As it concerns Iran, the bill would include sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and also extend all terrorism-related sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for which Trump has urged designation as a foreign terrorist organization. This position has not changed, and it seems that neither has the Trump administration’s hardline approach to Iran policy. Some have suggested that the emerging policy is pointing in the direction of regime change, though this has not become a declared position as yet.

The Washington Examiner pointed out that one member of the House panel on foreign operations, Republican Representative Hal Rogers, had directly raised the prospect of regime change on Tuesday, asking Nikki Haley whether it is an option. The ambassador’s only response was “I don’t know.”

This coming Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran will hold its annual Free Iran rally, which will include explicit calls for regime change driven by a domestic opposition movement within the Islamic Republic. The event is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, plus hundreds of policymakers and experts from the US, Europe, and throughout the world. Notably, these dignitaries will include figures with close ties to the Trump administration, such as John Bolton, who served the second Bush administration in the position now occupied by Haley.