Posted tagged ‘US State Department’

Iraqi Parliament to Vote on Request for Russian Airstrikes

October 21, 2015

Iraqi Parliament to Vote on Request for Russian Airstrikes

10:37 21.10.2015 (updated 13:31 21.10.2015)

Source: Iraqi Parliament to Vote on Request for Russian Airstrikes

According to a member of the State of Law Coalition, Iraq’s parliament is planning to vote whether or not the country will request the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces in fighting the Islamic State militant group by the end of this month.

Iraq’s parliament is planning to vote to request support from Russia in fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) by the end of the month, a member of the State of Law Coalition told Sputnik on Wednesday.

The State of Law Coalition is Iraq’s largest political party, led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and is part of the ruling coalition. The legislator also told Sputnik that the vote is expected to pass with majority support. The US has been increasingly concerned about Russian influence in Iraq, and has sent envoys to the country to dissuade further cooperation.

“It doesn’t matter if the request is supported by Sunni and Kurdish factions or not, it changes nothing. We have enough strength in the parliament,” legislator Mowaffak Rubaie said.

Rubaie is also a former national security adviser in Nouri al-Maliki’s government. Iraq has spent over $20 billion on US military training since the 2003 US invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein. The new army has been unable to counter ISIL and has a dire lack of heavy equipment, such as artillery and helicopters.Iraq has recently purchased TOS-1 multiple rocket launcher systems and Mi-28 helicopter gunships from Russia to strengthen its army in the fight against the notorious terrorist group. At the same time, US airstrikes in the country have failed to help the Iraqi government mount an offensive against ISIL.

US Demand

The United States’ top-ranking general Joseph Dunford visited Iraq on Tuesday to seek assurances that Iraq would not request Russian aid in its operation against ISIL.

“Both the minister of defense and the prime minister said: ‘Absolutely.’ There is no request right now for the Russians to support them, there’s no consideration for the Russians to support them, and the Russians haven’t asked them to come in and conduct operations,” Dunford said as quoted by Reuters.

A week prior to Dunford’s visit, the US State Department envoy for the US-led anti-ISIL coalition also visited Iraq, telling Iraqi Prime Minister that the US is “disturbed” by Russian-Iraqi cooperation, according to leaks reported in regional media.

The new vote would alter these assurances, as Iraq’s government is obligated to follow decisions made by its legislature, Rubaie told Sputnik.Internal Divide

Aside from the parliamentary factions, Iraq’s Shiite militias have also pressured Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government to request Russian airstrikes, according to Reuters. However, Abadi appears to remain committed to maintaining Iraq’s alliance with the US.

“Abadi told the meeting parties that it wasn’t the right time to include the Russians in the fight because that would only complicate the situation with the Americans and could have undesired consequences even on long-term future relations with America,” a senior Iraqi politician closer to al-Abadi told Reuters.

Iraq’s powerful Badr Brigade militia has also demanded Russian airstrikes, saying that they have been decisive in Syria, unlike the US airstrikes in Iraq.

“I am positive that the government will respond to pressures, especially after the official mandate of the National Alliance for prime minister Abadi to request Russia’s participation,” a senior aide to the Badr Brigade’s leader told Reuters.

US: System reached to let UN inspect Iran military sites

June 29, 2015

US: System reached to let UN inspect Iran military sites

Senior official admits arrangement doesn’t include all facilities, says it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’ to demand that of Tehran

By AFP and Times of Israel staff June 29, 2015, 7:54 pm

via US: System reached to let UN inspect Iran military sites | The Times of Israel.

Negotiators from five world powers and Iran meet for high-level nuclear talks in Vienna Austria, on June 27, 2015. (US State Department)

Negotiators from six world powers and Iran meet for high-level nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, on June 27, 2015. (US State Department)


An agreement has been reached in talks between Iran and major powers towards a nuclear deal that will give the UN atomic watchdog access to all suspect sites, a senior US official said Monday.

“The entry point isn’t that we must be able to get into every military site — because the United States of America wouldn’t allow anybody to get into every military site — so that’s not appropriate,” the official said.

“But if, in the context of agreement… the IAEA believes it needs access, and has a reason for that, access then we have a process [whereby] that access is given,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“We have worked out a process that we believe will ensure that the IAEA has the access it needs.”

If the system is agreed to by Iran, it could mark a potential breakthrough in months of negotiations with the Islamic Republic, which has refused to give the International Atomic Energy Agency access to sensitive sites.

“There are conventional purposes, and there are secrets that any country has that they are not willing to share,” the official added.

The access to military sites has been one of the key sticking points in negotiations, with Western powers urging Tehran to open facilities to international inspectors, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei — who has the last word on the nuclear negotiations — adamantly refusing.

The anonymous US official stated that Washington had long insisted that if the IAEA felt it needed access to a site that was suspect, “then they should be able to get it.

“If that happens to be a military site, then that should be available,” the representative went on, adding that the IAEA had an “institutional responsibility” to explore what the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program may have been.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned earlier on Monday — as he awaited the return of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from consultations in Tehran — that it was too soon to tell if a nuclear deal with Iran is possible.

“We’re just working and it’s too early to make any judgments,” Kerry told reporters in Vienna following a weekend of intense talks with counterparts from five other major powers and Iran.

In a possible sign, meanwhile, of progress, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he would arrive on Tuesday, coinciding with the expected return of his Iranian counterpart.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking in New York, said he would be back in Vienna this week. It was unclear when his British, German or Chinese counterparts might follow suit.

Over the weekend, officials from both sides made clear that their Tuesday deadline to nail down a deal was highly unlikely to be met, although they said they would only extend it by several days.

Zarif flew back to Tehran on Sunday night, as did many of the other ministers.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini spoke for many late Sunday when she insisted there would be no formal months-long extension, saying that “postponement is not an option.”

In April, Iran and the P5+1 group — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — agreed on the main outlines of a deal that they hope will end a 13-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Under the framework, Iran will dramatically scale down its atomic activities in order to make any drive to make a weapon — an ambition it denies having — all but impossible.

This includes slashing the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, which can be used for nuclear fuel but also in a bomb; reducing its uranium stockpile; and altering the Arak reactor.

In return, the powers have said they will progressively ease sanctions that have suffocated Iran’s economy, but while retaining the option to reimpose them if Iran violates the agreement.

EU officials confirm Israel not fully briefed on Iran talks

February 18, 2015

EU officials confirm Israel not fully briefed on Iran talks

US State Department reported to say Israelis would ‘twist details’ to undermine negotiations

By Avi Lewis February 18, 2015, 3:08 pm

via EU officials confirm Israel not fully briefed on Iran talks | The Times of Israel.


Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks to the press in Jerusalem on February 22, 2014. According to reports, Sherman cautioned her European counterparts from disclosing information to Israel on the Iranian nuclear deal (screen capture: YouTube)


European officials have confirmed that the US State Department cautioned them against providing Israel with sensitive information on the current round of negotiations with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The account came amid vehement denials by the White House and State Department that they had stopped updating Jerusalem on the progress in the talks, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted Monday that Israel was indeed being kept in the dark.

The report quoted an unnamed European official involved in negotiations who said he was told recently by the State Department’s Wendy Sherman, the lead American negotiator with Iran, not to disclose too much information to the Israelis because “the details could be twisted to undermine a deal.”

Another unnamed State Department official speaking on Sherman’s behalf noted that talk with Israel was encouraged, so long as it remained clear “that the negotiation should take place in the negotiating room,” a reference to the fact that Israel is not directly involved in the talks.

The comments echoed those of an Israeli official interviewed for the report who quipped that he received only “empty” briefings on the looming deal, signalling perhaps a further chill in ties between the Obama administration and the Jewish state that The New York Times compared to “posting notes to each other on a refrigerator door.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel and that Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons to use against the Jewish state.

To that effect, Netanyahu vowed to go ahead with a speech before the US Congress on March 3 to discuss the looming nuclear deal, raising the ire of the White House, some US congressmen and his political opponents in Israel.

The report quoted another European official who said that US Secretary of State John Kerry was “fuming about [the] Israeli leaks” following a report Sunday on Channel 2 to the effect that the administration has been withholding information from Israel.

According to the TV report, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had cut off contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, while Sherman was quoted as saying that she will no longer keep Israel informed either.

The report was hurriedly denied by both US and Israeli officials.

Kerry, who has been leading the negotiations along with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, argued that it was in no one’s interest to negotiate in public.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.