The Trump administration, delaying an anticipated confrontation with Iran until the completion of a long-awaited policy review, plans to recertify Tehran’s compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal, according to U.S. and foreign officials. The recertification, due Monday to Congress, follows a heated internal debate between those who want to crack down on Iran now — including some White House officials and lawmakers — and Cabinet officials who are “managing other constituencies” such as European allies, and Russia and China, which signed and support the agreement, one senior U.S. official said.
U.S. President Donald Trump is "very likely" to state that Iran is adhering to its nuclear agreement although he continues to have reservations about it, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday. Under U.S. law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran's compliance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump has a congressionally mandated deadline of Monday to decide. The landmark 2015 deal struck with Iran by the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany is aimed at preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon by imposing time-limited restrictions and strict international monitoring on its nuclear program. In return, Tehran won relief from punishing international economic sanctions. If Trump does state Iran is in compliance, it would be his second time since taking office in January to do so despite his promise during the 2016 campaign to "rip up" what he called "the worst deal ever."
While the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday the details of consultations between Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, the latter criticized the US Administration for “intimidating” international banks from establishing financial ties with Iran. In its second report on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, the parliamentary committee said major banks refused to deal with Iran for fear of being subjected to US sanctions. The report touches on the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear file in eight axes, including measures taken to implement the agreement, the country’s nuclear activity, in addition the sanctions imposed on the Persian State. According to the report, more than 238 people and entities were still on the UN Security Council sanctions list, “even after 7 years” (8 years since the implementation of the agreement).
The former leader of a student paramilitary organization in Iran was denied entry into the US on Tuesday as he headed to a prominent Boston hospital to work as a medical scholar. Mohsen Dehnav arrived back in Tehran Thursday morning after being detained for 30 hours at Logan International Airport, along with his wife and three children. Dehnav, 32, was barred from entering the US despite having a valid work visa to conduct cancer research at Boston Children’s Hospital. Iranian state TV footage revealed that Dehnavi once featured in a years-old report by the semi-official Fars news agency in which he was named the head of the student branch of the Basij at Iran's Sharif University in September 2007. The Basij is a volunteer militia that is linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. He later served on the unsuccessful 2013 presidential campaign of a prominent hard-liner, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
President Trump must increase pressure on Iran to disclose the whereabouts of Robert Levinson -- the former FBI agent who disappeared in the country a decade ago -- and return him to his family, several U.S. lawmakers said. A delegation of lawmakers -- led by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. -- penned a letter Tuesday to Trump, calling on the administration to "re-engage" with Iran over Levinson, a Florida native who was last seen in 2007 on Iran's Kish Island. Levinson disappeared while traveling on an unauthorized mission to recruit an intelligence source for the CIA. If alive, he is the longest-held hostage in American history. "As you know, our government has long pressed Iran to return Bob," read a copy of the letter obtained by Fox News.
In August 2012, a silver Rolls-Royce pulled up to the majestic Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Out stepped a newly married couple, freshly arrived from their wedding ceremony...At the wedding dinner, a man toasted the groom, Mitchell Zong, as the kind of person who “really bends over backwards to help friends and family.” Less than two years later, when FBI agents, executing a search warrant, entered the Zong family’s Southern California home, they took that same sapphire wedding set, valued at more than $40,000, as well as $24,000 in cash. Federal prosecutors had initiated a huge civil forfeiture case over property owned by the Zong family, including Mitchell Zong. Prosecutors claim that what the FBI seized that day represents a fraction of the ill-gotten funds that tie Mitchell Zong to a spectacular transnational sanctions-evasion scheme, one that laundered more than $1 billion in Iranian government funds over a mere six-month period in 2011.
As part of the comprehensive nuclear deal reached two years ago between Iran and the six world powers, Iran agreed to reduce elements of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The deal was largely brokered as a result of bilateral talks between the United States and Iran. The two countries, to ensure that the other side fulfilled its requirements, required periodic reports. A report by Iran’s parliament says that the United States has made transactions between Iranian and large European banks challenging, impacting the effects of the nuclear deal. In the United States, every 90 days the State Department must provide Congress with a report on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, which is referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the United States and with the Persian acronym BARJAM in Iran. In April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that Iran was in compliance but cited the country for involvement in regional conflicts. He also said that President Donald Trump ordered the National Security Council to review whether or not continuing to suspend the nuclear sanctions on Iran was “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz Tuesday proposed a bill calling for the unconditional release of U.S. nationals and permanent legal residents detained in Iran. Iran has “detained and imprisoned several U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents in order to extract political and financial concessions from our country,” Cruz’s media office said in a statement. In May, the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution calling for the release of political prisoners, including Lebanese national and permanent U.S. resident Nizar Zakka. The bill, put forward by Cruz, urges the U.S. and its allies to establish a multinational task force to secure the release of U.S. and foreign nationals imprisoned in Iran. In the statement Cruz said, “The Iranian regime must be held firmly accountable after the last eight years in which the U.S. policy towards Iran was based on weakness and appeasement.”
Iran has piqued financial interest throughout the world for its massive energy reserves, but the country actually has a host of other opportunities in less obvious areas, according to one global investor. For Clemente Cappello, CIO of London-based Sturgeon Capital, Iran holds promise in part for its cheap labor, abundance of natural resources, and well-educated youth. Specific sectors that could benefit from this mix include glass, manufacturing and petrochemicals, he explained, but Iran could also grow its technology sector. In fact, the country already has local versions of Uber, Amazon and eBay. In addition, Cappello mentioned that he thinks "equity opportunity is the easiest and most profitable" option in the country. Stocks, he said, are trading on average of six times price-to-earnings ratio, dividend yields are "well into the double digits" and interest rates could soon be cut in half.
The Syrian defense minister has lauded the support provided by Iran, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in battling terrorism inside Syria. Major General Fahd Jassem al-Freij made the remarks during a Thursday field visit to units of the Syrian army in Damascus south-eastern countryside. “Our battle against terrorism is continuous and the terrorist scheme against Syria is collapsing and retreating thanks to the steadfastness of the Syrian people who rallied around their army and leadership as well as the support provided by the friendly countries, particularly Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Resistance,” the official SANA news agency quoted Freij as saying. Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. De Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then. Russia and Iran are the main international backers of the Syrian government in its battle against foreign-backed terrorists.
Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, who also serves as head of the Resistance Economy Command Headquarters, last month unveiled a comprehensive employment plan that envisions the creation of 971,700 jobs by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2018). This target could be achieved if the allocated 215 trillion rials ($6.6 billion) in credit is secured, and most importantly, if the cost of job creation is significantly cut. Meanwhile, the plan is silent on the ample red tape that must be removed for unemployment to decrease. The Rouhani administration has unveiled a comprehensive employment plan in a bid to realize the president’s campaign promises, but it is unclear whether the envisioned job creation will materialize given the obstacles that remain unaddressed. The latest data released by the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) put the national unemployment rate for the first (spring) quarter at 12.6% — 0.4% higher than the same period last year.
Head of the Iranian reform policies committee Mohammed Reza Aref revealed deep divisions between the reformists and President Hassan Rouhani over the formation of the country’s new government. The revelation was made weeks before the president is set to be officially sworn in to office after being elected for a second term earlier this year. Intense efforts are being made to form a new cabinet. Aref has meanwhile demanded from Speaker Ali Larjani to urge Rouhani to “be open with the people over the country’s financial situation.” He stressed that selling oil and gas does not comply with the Iranian budget. Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Mohammed Ali Jaafari also refused to stop his forces’ economic activity, saying that he cannot “stand idly by to the needs of the revolution and people.” Aref directed a strongly worded rebuke to his “moderate” reformist ally Rouhani, saying that he “condemns the reformists for winning a second term in office” and demanding that consultations be made with the higher reform policies committee to form a new government.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
France shares a dubious distinction with my own home country of Italy. Both were among the first to send business delegations and enter into new trade agreements with the Islamic Republic of Iran following the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – what President Donald Trump is famous for describing as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” In a joint press conference with his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris on Thursday, President Trump said, “Today we face new threats from rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria, and the governments that finance and support them.” It is yet unclear what exactly the two presidents may have discussed when it comes to Iran, but one can hope they will present a united front standing against the regime going forward.
And the U.S. should say so. Per the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015, the Trump administration is required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) and that this agreement is in the national-security interests of the United States. The next certification is due on July 17, 2017. It is crucial that the Trump administration, in the next JCPOA certification statement, correct the gross error it made in April, when it certified that Iran was complying with this agreement and that the JCPOA is in the national-security interests of our country. Unfortunately, the administration reportedly might make this same mistake again.
Friday marks two years since the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany and Iran, finalized the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement which legitimized Iran's industrial-sized nuclear program and paved the rogue regime's pathway to a nuclear weapon. In a newly-released report, the U.N. disclosed numerous Iranian violations of the Security Council resolution implementing the deal, ranging from ballistic missile tests to illegal arms shipments to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. The response to these infractions by our global partners has been finger waving at best and implicit approval at worst.
It was important that President Donald Trump open his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin by raising the point of Russian meddling in American elections. It was equally important that he accepted Mr. Putin’s response. Russia — whether as the USSR or the Russian Federation — has spent decades trying to undermine American confidence in its system of economics and government, including confidence in its elections. As a national insurance carrier says, “It’s what they do.” Most Americans know that and worry more about the integrity of voter rolls than about what the Russians want us to think. Which is wise, because the next part of the Trump-Putin conversation was more important precisely because it was ahistorical. The U.S.-Russian joint announcement of a cease-fire for the southwest corner of Syria seriously affects Jordan and Israel, both of whom had been increasingly concerned about Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the area. The U.S., Jordan and Russia have been discussing the parameters of the agreement for some time now, with Israel — not in the room — weighing in with all three.
It's been a fiery couple of days on the set of "Tucker Carlson Tonight." The famously combative Fox News host, who also happens to be my former boss, has been engaged in something of a foreign policy royal rumble with Republican foreign policy analysts Ralph Peters and Max Boot. The fireworks started when Peters compared Carlson to Charles Lindbergh because Tucker questioned whether Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar Assad were really serious threats to the United States. Shockingly, being compared to a Nazi apologist didn't sit well with Tucker and the segment quickly became, shall we say, more lively? The next night, Tucker brought on Boot (who had praised Peters on Twitter) for another entertaining, if not always illuminating, display of verbal fisticuffs. Who you think won these rather nasty battles likely depends on what your foreign policy worldview is. But whether or not you agree with Carlson's foreign policy worldview — which is close to, if not exactly the same as, Rand Paul's non-interventionism — he is asking legitimate questions that deserve to be answered and debated.
There is a map distributed by the Center for American War Studies showing the areas of proliferation and control of ISIS. Since 2014, there has always been a large black dot on the map with lines connected to it. In the last version of the map this point representing the city of Mosul disappeared. The city was liberated from the terrorist organization and both Iraqis and Americans saw it as a historic moment. In an interview with reporters at the Pentagon, the commander of the coalition forces against ISIS General Townsend asserted that it is important to reach a political consensus between the Iraqi parties; specifically pointing out that the Sunnis of Iraq have long considered that the government in Baghdad does not represent them. Ashton Carter, who since the beginning of 2015 until the beginning of this year has supervised the war against ISIS, wrote a column in the Washington Post in which he said he was less worried about the military campaign in Iraq than “the political and economic campaigns that must follow.”