U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday accused Iran of 'alarming ongoing provocations' to destabilize countries in the Middle East as the Trump administration launched a review of its policy toward Tehran.Tillerson told reporters the review, which he announced on Tuesday, would not only look at Tehran's compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal but also its behavior in the region which he said undermined U.S. interests in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. His tough words matched those of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said in a visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that Iran's destabilizing influence would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen.
After her first UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East in February, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley knocked the organization's "anti-Israel bias." On Thursday, Haley will try to turn the spotlight from Israel to Iran, the latest target of the Trump administration's tough talk. Haley, who holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations' top decision-making body for April, wants to use a monthly meeting on "the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question" to tackle Tehran's role in Yemen and Syria and its support for Hezbollah, topics she sees as more central to the theme of Middle East peace.
Companies from China and Iran will this weekend sign the first commercial contracts to redesign an Iranian nuclear plant as part of an international deal reached in 2015 over Iran's nuclear program, China's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. The fate of the Arak reactor in central Iran was one of the toughest sticking points in the long nuclear negotiations that led to the agreement, signed by Iran with the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. In the redesign, the heavy water reactor will be reconfigured so it cannot yield fissile plutonium usable in a nuclear bomb. Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the contracts for the plant's redesign would be signed on Sunday in Vienna with initial agreements having already been reached in Beijing, describing it as an important part of the Iran nuclear deal.
The Trump administration is not shy about taking on global adversaries with tough rhetoric. This week, it turned some of its attention toward Iran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slammed Iran on Wednesday as a state sponsor of terrorism responsible for "alarming, ongoing provocations" across the Middle East. (Think: threats against Israel, support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and harassment of U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.) In formal remarks to reporters, Tillerson suggested the United States was considering whether to punish the Islamic republic by reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan has warned the American leaders against bullying other countries and intervening in their internal affairs, saying "such era has come to an end." Dehqan's remarks came amidst growing tension between Tehran and Washington as they increasingly accuse each other of sponsoring terrorism. On Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis accused Iran of creating chaos in the region. "Iran has been spreading chaos and havoc in several regional countries, including Yemen. The Houthis and ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are like puppets controlled by Iran; they do what the Iranians tell them to do," Mattis claimed Tuesday during his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the landmark nuclear deal has failed to squash Iran's ability and determination to develop atomic weapons, arguing that the country's ambitions still threaten international peace and security. "An unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it," Tillerson said in remarks to reporters in the formal setting of the State Department's Treaty Room. "The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach."
President Trump's team is working to "checkmate Iran" through enhanced coordination with Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. "What we're seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause," Mattis told reporters in Riyadh following a meeting with Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense. "It's got to be ended."
Iran's return to the world economy is helping plane-makers cope with a downturn in global demand, providing homes for airplanes orphaned by reversals in the growth plans of airlines elsewhere.Plane-makers are also gambling that the early delivery of such aircraft could help prop up a nuclear sanctions deal between Iran and world powers, threatened by conservative opponents in both Washington and Tehran, western sources said. Since sanctions were lifted under the deal to reopen trade and limit Iran's nuclear program, the Islamic Republic, trying to boost its economy after years of isolation, has joined a waiting list of up to eight years for 200 new aircraft.
A general from Iran's Revolutionary Guards assumed the post of ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday, in a sign of the key role the military force is currently playing in its neighboring country. Iraj Masjedi previously worked as adviser to Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, according to the Tasnim news site. Soleimani is head of the Quds Force, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for operations outside of Iran. Since Islamic State took control of swathes of Iraq in 2014, Soleimani worked with top Iraqi security officials to fight the militant Islamist group, primarily through a Shi'ite volunteer force known as Popular Mobilization Units.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen, as the United States weighs increasing support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting there. At least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 3 million displaced in the war in Yemen, now in its third year. Millions of people are also struggling to feed themselves. "We will have to overcome Iran's efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it," Mattis told reporters in Riyadh after meeting senior Saudi officials. Mattis said the goal was for there to be a political solution through U.N.-brokered negotiations to resolve the conflict in Yemen.
The Islamic Republic of Iran arrested more than 30 men who are believed to be gay at a private party last week in the Esfahan province. The prominent Canadian NGO Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) first reported on the violent crackdown, saying the men were between the ages of 16 and 30. "IRQR received several reports in last few days and were able to confirm that police attacked guests and physically beat them. Police detained them all at the Basij (Revolutionary Guard Militia) Station and then transferred them to Esfahan's Dastgerd Prison. A few people managed to escape and we received reports that there were several heterosexual individuals among those arrested," the human rights NGO wrote in its website on Thursday.
Authorities in Iran are threatening new restrictions on non-Muslims seeking to run in next month's local elections. Just one week before parliament is to approve a list of candidates, a letter published this week by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, declared it is against Sharia (Islamic law) for non-Muslims to be candidates in Shia Muslim-majority areas in city and village council elections. These contests, along with the presidential election, are set for May 19.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
President Trump has flip-flopped many times during his first months in office. But none may be as consequential as his decision on April 18 to certify that Iran is abiding by the nuclear deal of 2015, paving the way for further waiving of sanctions. In just a few months, Mr. Trump has gone from promising to "tear up" the nuclear deal to allowing its extension. The administration has now said it will conduct a 90-day review of whether lifting sanctions - as required by the nuclear deal - will be in line with American national security interests. But that timeline is not long enough to save the deal and stop the United States and Iran from sliding dangerously back to a path toward war.
Despite Donald Trump's insistence during the presidential campaign that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - was the "worst deal ever" and Iran's failure to fully comply with this agreement, the Trump administration Tuesday certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the agreement and will continue to receive sanction relief. The administration added, however that the agreement is under review. Make no mistake: this is a huge win for the Obama administration and the permanent foreign policy bureaucracy - the so-called swamp - who desperately want to protect this flawed and dangerous agreement at all costs. The certification probably indicates the outcome of the Trump administration's review of the JCPOA is a forgone conclusion just like a similar review in 2001 by the Bush administration of a deeply-flawed nuclear agreement with North Korea.
We failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. As a result, our options to stop them from developing a delivery system capable of reaching our shores are severely limited. The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power is that we MUST stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interest than a nuclear North Korea. Iran already has rockets capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores. Its fundamentalist religious leaders would be willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to destroy the big Satin (United States) or the little Satin (Israel).