The State Department on Tuesday acknowledged President-elect Donald Trump can exit President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. “It’s not a formal treaty, and, of course, no one else can prevent any party to this agreement from walking away,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday, according to The Washington Examiner... Toner added extending expiring legislation that levied sanctions on Iran is not in violation of the agreement’s conditions. “We obviously reject those views,” he said. "We’ve been very clear that what we call a ‘clean’ extension of the Iran Sanctions Act is entirely consistent with our commitments in the [Iran deal].”
Iran’s president said on Tuesday that he simply would not allow President-elect Donald J. Trump to tear up last year’s nuclear agreement and warned of unspecified consequences if he did. “He wants to do many things,” Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said of Mr. Trump in a speech. During the campaign, Mr. Trump called the nuclear agreement “a bad deal” that he promised to “tear up.” “He wants to undermine the J.C.P.O.A.,” Mr. Rouhani said, referring to the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “He wants to tear up the J.C.P.O.A. Will we or our nation allow this?” As Mr. Rouhani posed the question, the audience began chanting, “Death to America.” In the speech, which was delivered at Tehran University and televised nationally, Mr. Rouhani maintained that “America cannot influence our determination, this nation’s resistance and its struggle.” He continued: “America is our enemy; we have no doubt about this. The Americans want to put as much pressure on us as they can.”
Britain will help Gulf states "push back" against aggressive regional actions by Iran, Prime Minister Theresa May told the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain on Wednesday in a televised address... "We must... continue to confront state actors whose influence fuels instability in the region," May told Gulf leaders at their annual summit. "So I want to assure you that I am clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and to the wider Middle East." She added: "We must... work together to push back against Iran's aggressive regional actions."
NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC MISSILE PROGRAM
The UN's atomic watchdog has verified that Iran has exported enough nuclear-grade heavy water to come back into line with last year's landmark deal with the West, a diplomatic source said Tuesday. The International Atomic Energy Agency has told member states that it has "verified that 11 metric tonnes of nuclear-grade heavy water have arrived at its destination," the source told AFP. This brings Iran's stock of heavy water back below the 130-tonne level set out in the nuclear accord with world powers that came into force in January, the watchdog told its members. Heavy water is not itself radioactive, but is used in certain types of reactor. Plutonium for use in nuclear weapons can be extracted from the spent fuel of such reactors.
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who spent 18 months detained in an Iranian prison before his release in January, will write a book about his ordeal for Ecco. The memoir, tentatively titled “Hostage: 544 Days, 400 Million Dollars, the Nuclear Deal & Me,” is scheduled for publication in 2018. “Not knowing when I would get out was an incredible ordeal for my family and me to endure,” says Rezaian, who is studying at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship. “Now that it’s over, the hard work of putting my life back together continues, and that, too, has included many incredible and often surreal moments.”
Top Democratic lawmakers are challenging the Obama administration's decision to keep a range of unclassified documents related to the Iran nuclear deal away from the public eye, amid mounting calls from Trump insiders and Republican lawmakers urging the incoming Trump administration to release the documents. Democratic senators who both supported and opposed the Iran deal told THE WEEKLY STANDARD on Tuesday that the relevant documents, which have been reported to include secret concessions to Iran, should not be kept in the secure locations on Capitol Hill known as Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs), where they cannot be accessed by the public and some congressional staffers. "Unless there's a damn good reason to keep them out of the public eye, turn them over," said Montana senator Jon Tester, who voted in favor of the deal. "I'm more on the side of transparency than not, that is for sure. ... But that's a first blush, not really knowing what's in them." Delaware senator Chris Coons, who also voted for the deal, questioned why the unclassified documents were being held in a location normally used for top secret files. "If they're unclassified, what are they doing in a SCIF?" he said. "The entire purpose of a SCIF is to be a place where you can read classified documents."
Iran's destabilizing actions across the Middle East constitute a security threat that rivals that of Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators said Tuesday. "Iranian proxies remain a direct threat to the United States and our allies today," said the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, pointing to Lebanese Hezbollah, Shia militias in Iraq, and Houthi insurgents operating from Yemen, as well as Tehran's influence in Syria. "American citizens, uniformed and civilian, have been victims of Iranian terror. Iran-sponsored [entities], directed, trained and equipped are a threat to U.S. forces and American citizens today," said the committee's top Democrat, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. "This is a problem that directly threatens U.S. security. In my consultations with leaders in the region, it is crystal clear that Iranian terrorism is on equal grounds with the nuclear threat [posed by Tehran]," Cardin added.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC is expected to agree on Wednesday to develop a major Iranian oil field, a spokeswoman for the country’s oil ministry said, signaling that giant energy companies won’t be deterred by President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to undo the Iran nuclear deal. Total SA of France on Wednesday is also negotiating an investment in its second big Iranian energy development, the spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. The oil ministry initially said Total would be part of Wednesday’s announcement. The return of Shell would be a breakthrough for Iran’s energy industry, which has been slow to attract investments from the world’s biggest oil companies since the U.S. and other world powers lifted sanctions related to Tehran’s nuclear program... The announcement will be for a so-called “heads of agreement,” a nonbinding pact that falls short of a contract but publicly commits the companies to begin hashing out a partnership with Iran’s state oil company.
Marriott International, the US-listed hotel operator, said it was “very keen” to enter the Iranian market pending the removal of legal barriers, with a spokesman from the hotel chain saying there is strong demand in Iran for hotels. Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director for the Middle East and Africa at Marriott, said that Iran represents a “substantial market” to be responded to in terms of demand for hotels. “Today, Marriott International, being a United States publicly-floated company, is precluded from doing business in Iran. Depending on what happens in the future and what agreements are reached between the United States and Iran, if the doors open legally to do business in Iran, we would be very keen to pursue that opportunity,” he said... In late October, a top spokesman at Viceroy Hotel Group, told Gulf News the company was eyeing Iran, but would prefer to see other hotels’ experience in that market first before launching a property there.
In the early days of the assault on Islamic State in Mosul, Iran successfully pressed Iraq to change its battle plan and seal off the city, an intervention which has since shaped the tortuous course of the conflict, sources briefed on the plan say. The original campaign strategy called for Iraqi forces to close in around Mosul in a horseshoe formation, blocking three fronts but leaving open the fourth - to the west of the city leading to Islamic State territory in neighboring Syria. That model, used to recapture several Iraqi cities from the ultra-hardline militants in the last two years, would have left fighters and civilians a clear route of escape and could have made the Mosul battle quicker and simpler. But Tehran, anxious that retreating fighters would sweep back into Syria just as Iran's ally President Bashar al-Assad was gaining the upper hand in his country's five-year civil war, wanted Islamic State crushed and eliminated in Mosul. The sources say Iran lobbied for Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization fighters to be sent to the western front to seal off the link between Mosul and Raqqa, the two main cities of Islamic State's self-declared cross-border caliphate.
The woman who leads female volunteers in Iran's hard-line conservative militia, the Basij, has identified a new foe. Minu Aslani has reportedly called the promotion of gender equality illegal and demanded that the country's powerful judiciary take action against people who speak out against such state-sponsored discrimination. "These activities are in fact against our laws and the judiciary should take action," the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Aslani as telling reporters on December 2. In the past, Aslani has condemned efforts to increase the number of women in parliament and opposed campaigns to curb domestic violence as perceived assaults on Iranian society and traditional family values. Pushing for greater female participation threatens to "distort" the identity of Iran's women, she has said.
Iran's official IRNA news agency says that President Hassan Rouhani's administration is proposing changing the name and denomination of the country's currency. The report says the Cabinet approved a measure on Wednesday calling for the change from the rial to the toman. One toman would be worth 10 rials, or around 3,200 to a dollar at official exchange rates, and 3,900 to a dollar at unofficial rates.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Like President-elect Donald Trump, we vigorously opposed the Iran nuclear agreement, so we sympathize with his promise to “dismantle” it. But we hope that he and his administration will first try to aggressively enforce and then renegotiate the deal beyond the confines of the nuclear issue to make it better for us and the world. Before such renegotiations begin, the Trump administration could strengthen its hand by closely consulting with our allies in Iran’s neighborhood — Israel and the Arab states. They were missing from the group that developed and consented to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is formally known. That was wrong, for two main reasons: because the Arab states and Israel are our allies and the Iranians are not, and because the countries in the region have the greatest equities at stake and should have a significant voice in the outcome. To date, the Iranian regime has made clear it has no intent to honor the spirit or letter of the JCPOA. Iran’s pattern of reckless behavior has accelerated over the past year. Its anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Arab rhetoric has grown stronger, and its actions have matched its rhetoric. Last month, 11 Arab states publicly accused Iran before the United Nations of meddling in their internal affairs. In June, the State Department again designated Iran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The American people see clearly what is happening. According to a recent survey by United Against Nuclear Iran, a large majority of American registered voters view Iran as the greatest state threat facing the United States — ahead of North Korea, Russia and China. Only the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are deemed bigger threats.