Europe must put up, says Iran

Kerry hit

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

BERLIN, Sept 15, (Agen­cies): Europe should take ac­tion to neu­tralise the con­se­quences of the US de­ci­sion to quit a 2015 Iran nu­clear ac­cord to en­sure its own long-term eco­nomic in­ter­ests, Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter said in an in­ter­view pub­lished on Satur­day.

Mo­hammed Javad Zarif told Ger­many’s Der Spiegel news mag­a­zine that Iran could “re­duce its im­ple­men­ta­tion” of the agree­ment and pos­si­bly in­crease ura­nium en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties if the nu­clear agree­ment was jeop­ar­dised by “the ac­tions of the Amer­i­cans and the pas­siv­ity of the Euro­peans.”

“The Euro­peans and other sig­na­to­ries must act to off­set the con­se­quences of the US sanc­tions,” Zarif told the mag­a­zine, call­ing a pack­age of mea­sures drafted by Europe an im­por­tant step that should now be im­ple­mented.

“What is para­mount: Europe should do so not for Iran, but for its own sov­er­eign and longterm eco­nomic in­ter­ests.”

Euro­pean Union of­fi­cials strongly op­pose the May de­ci­sion by the United States to with­draw from the nu­clear agree­ment, and have sought to sal­vage the deal in some form.

Ger­many on Fri­day said it was con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a pay­ment sys­tem with its Euro­pean part­ners that would al­low con­tin­ued busi­ness trans­ac­tions with Iran once US sanc­tions kick in.

How­ever, Ger­man of­fi­cials con­cede pri­vately that such a sys­tem would not pre­vent big com­pa­nies that rely on US ex­ports to es­cape US sanc­tions if they con­tinue to sell to Iran.

Zarif said Tehran’s big­gest pri­or­ity was to con­tinue to sell a rea­son­able amount oil world­wide and re­turn the pro­ceeds to Iran, as well en­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment and co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas such as tech­nol­ogy and re­search.

“Europe said the nu­clear agree­ment was in its se­cu­rity in­ter­est. Then Europe must be ready to pay for its se­cu­rity,” Zarif said. “Noth­ing is for free.”

Se­cu­rity

He said Europe should be “ready to pay for its se­cu­rity” by im­ple­ment­ing a Euro­pean Union “block­ing agree­ment” un­der which it can pun­ish Euro­pean firms for with­draw­ing from Ira­nian busi­ness deals to avoid US sanc­tions.

“The ques­tion is whether Euro­pean wants its com­pa­nies to fol­low Euro­pean laws or Amer­i­can ones, or whether it will sub­mit to the Amer­i­can dic­tates,” Zarif said.

He said Iran had op­tions to act if Europe failed to act to com­pen­sate Iran for the US sanc­tions.

“We do not nec­es­sar­ily have to can­cel (the agree­ment). Ar­ti­cle 36 of the agree­ment and Se­cu­rity Res­o­lu­tion 2231 make it pos­si­ble to re­duce im­ple­men­ta­tion, with­out can­celling it,” he said.

Asked if Iran could re­sume in­creased en­rich­ment of ura­nium, he said, “That would be one of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

Zarif said Tehran would not “waste its time” on ad­di­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions with the United States about Iran’s be­hav­iour in the re­gion un­less Wash­ing­ton re­scinded its de­ci­sion to with­draw from the nu­clear agree­ment.

“Only when Europe en­sures that (the agree­ment) is im­ple­mented can Iran see if the at­tempt should be made to talk about other is­sues,” he said.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has un­loaded on his Obama-era pre­de­ces­sor John Kerry for “ac­tively un­der­min­ing” US pol­icy on Iran by meet­ing sev­eral times re­cently with the Ira­nian for­eign min­is­ter, who was his main in­ter­locu­tor in the Iran nu­clear deal ne­go­ti­a­tions.

In un­usu­ally blunt and caus­tic lan­guage, Pom­peo said Fri­day that Kerry’s meet­ings with Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif were “un­seemly and un­prece­dented” and “be­yond in­ap­pro­pri­ate.” US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had late Thurs­day ac­cused Kerry of hold­ing “il­le­gal meet­ings with the very hos­tile Ira­nian regime, which can only serve to un­der­cut our great work to the detri­ment of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Pom­peo said he would leave “le­gal de­ter­mi­na­tions to oth­ers” but slammed Kerry as a for­mer sec­re­tary of state for en­gag­ing with “the world’s largest state-spon­sor of ter­ror” and telling Iran to “wait out this ad­min­is­tra­tion.” He noted that just this week Ira­ni­an­backed mili­tias had fired rock­ets at US diplo­matic compounds in Iraq.

“You can’t find prece­dent for this in US his­tory, and Sec­re­tary Kerry ought not to en­gage in that kind of be­hav­ior,” an ag­i­tated Pom­peo told re­porters at the State De­part­ment. “It’s in­con­sis­tent with what for­eign pol­icy of the United States is as di­rected by this pres­i­dent, and it is be­yond in­ap­pro­pri­ate for him to be en­gaged.”

Kerry, who is pro­mot­ing his new book “Ev­ery Day is Ex­tra,” tweeted a re­sponse to Trump that re­ferred to the pres­i­dent’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, who agreed on Fri­day to co­op­er­ate with the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign.

“Mr Pres­i­dent, you should be more wor­ried about Paul Manafort meet­ing with Robert Mueller than me meet­ing with Iran’s FM. But if you want to learn some­thing about the nu­clear agree­ment that made the world safer, buy my new book,” said Kerry.

He has been harshly crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent and his de­ci­sion in May to with­draw from the Iran deal but de­nies “coach­ing” Tehran.

In a state­ment, his spokesman, Matt Sum­mers, said: “There’s noth­ing un­usual, let alone un­seemly or in­ap­pro­pri­ate, about for­mer diplo­mats meet­ing with for­eign coun­ter­parts. Sec­re­tary (Henry) Kissinger has done it for decades with Rus­sia and China. What is un­seemly and un­prece­dented is for the podium of the State De­part­ment to be hi­jacked for po­lit­i­cal the­atrics.”

Pom­peo also took to task for­mer En­ergy Sec­re­tary Earnest Moniz and exIran deal ne­go­tia­tor Wendy Sher­man for join­ing Kerry at a meet­ing with Zarif and other Ira­nian of­fi­cials ear­lier this year at a se­cu­rity con­fer­ence in Mu­nich – though Sher­man said Fri­day she wasn’t with Kerry and Moniz when she met Zarif there. Along with Kerry, Moniz and Sher­man played key roles in ne­go­ti­at­ing the 2015 agree­ment be­tween Iran and sev­eral world

pow­ers that lifted sanc­tions against Tehran in ex­change for re­stric­tions on its nu­clear pro­gram.

“I wasn’t in the meet­ing, but I am rea­son­ably con­fi­dent that he was not there in sup­port of US pol­icy with re­spect to the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran,” Pom­peo said.

“For­mer sec­re­taries of state – all of them, from ei­ther po­lit­i­cal party – ought not to be en­gaged in” this kind of ac­tiv­ity, he said. “Ac­tively un­der­min­ing US pol­icy as a for­mer sec­re­tary of state is lit­er­ally un­heard of.”

Meet­ings be­tween a pri­vate US cit­i­zen and for­eign of­fi­cial are not against the law and not nec­es­sar­ily in­ap­pro­pri­ate or a vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral reg­u­la­tions, but Trump, Pom­peo and sev­eral GOP law­mak­ers say they are ev­i­dence Kerry and for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are try­ing to sub­vert Trump’s hard line on Iran.

“John Kerry had il­le­gal meet­ings with the very hos­tile Ira­nian regime, which can only serve to un­der­cut our great work to the detri­ment of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Trump tweeted late Thurs­day. “He told them to wait out the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion! Was he reg­is­tered un­der the For­eign Agents Regis­tra­tion Act? BAD!”

The law Trump in­voked – the For­eign Agents Regis­tra­tion Act, or FARA – re­quires regis­tra­tion and trans­parency by peo­ple or com­pa­nies act­ing on be­half of for­eign gov­ern­ments, po­lit­i­cal par­ties or in­di­vid­u­als.

But Josh Rosen­stein, a part­ner with the Wash­ing­ton law firm San­dler Reiff and a spe­cial­ist in lob­by­ing com­pli­ance, said there are too many unan­swered ques­tions to know whether the law ap­plies to Kerry’s in­ter­ac­tions with Zarif. FARA’s pro­vi­sions don’t ex­tend to ac­tiv­i­ties con­ducted en­tirely over­seas, so where Kerry in­ter­acted with him mat­ters. Also un­clear is whether any Ira­ni­ans specif­i­cally asked Kerry for ad­vice.

“The devil’s al­ways in the de­tails,” Rosen­stein said. “Sim­ply of­fer­ing ad­vice to a for­eign gov­ern­ment doesn’t make you a for­eign agent.”

When re­ports of Kerry’s ex-of­fi­cio con­tacts with Zarif first sur­faced in May, Trump tweeted sim­i­lar thoughts. “John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from ne­go­ti­a­tions John, you are hurt­ing your coun­try!” he said on May 8. A day ear­lier, he tweeted: “The United States does not need John Kerry’s pos­si­bly il­le­gal Shadow Diplo­macy on the very badly ne­go­ti­ated Iran Deal. He was the one that cre­ated this MESS in the first place!”

Trump and Pom­peo’s crit­i­cism came af­ter Kerry told con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Hugh He­witt on Wed­nes­day that ear­lier re­ports of his meet­ings with Zarif were cor­rect: They had met three or four times since Kerry left of­fice but not since Pom­peo took the job in April. One of those meet­ings took place in Oslo, Nor­way, and an­other in Mu­nich, he said. A third is re­ported to have oc­curred at the United Na­tions head­quar­ters, which is not tech­ni­cally on US soil.

Kerry told He­witt that he was not coach­ing the Ira­ni­ans on how to deal with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“That’s not my job, and my coach­ing him would not, you know, that’s not how it works,” he said in the in­ter­view. “What I have done is tried to elicit from him (Zarif) what Iran might be will­ing to do in or­der to change the dy­namic in the Mid­dle East for the bet­ter.”

The Euro­pean Union Fri­day re­it­er­ated its com­mit­ment to the “full and ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion” of the Ira­nian nu­clear deal as long as Iran con­tin­ues to re­spect its re­lated com­mit­ments.

“We be­lieve it is cru­cial for the se­cu­rity of the re­gion, for Europe and be­yond,” Maja Ko­ci­jan­cic, spokesper­son for EU High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fed­er­ica Mogherini, told a news con­fer­ence.

She noted that in Au­gust the EU up­dated its block­ing statute, as the EU does not rec­og­nize the ex­tra-ter­ri­to­rial ap­pli­ca­tion of re-im­posed US sanc­tions on Iran.

“We con­tinue to work with (EU) mem­ber states and other part­ners on other con­crete mea­sures aimed at sus­tain­ing the co­op­er­a­tion with Iran in key eco­nomic sec­tors, par­tic­u­larly in bank­ing, fi­nance, in­vest­ment, trade, trans­port and oil,” said the spokesper­son.

“Part of this on­go­ing ef­fort is to make sure that the ef­fects of the (US) sanc­tions are min­i­mized for com­pa­nies that want to con­tinue to do le­git­i­mate busi­ness with and in Iran and they can

still have nec­es­sary ac­cess to fi­nance,” she added.

Mean­while, po­lit­i­cal con­sul­ta­tions on re­gional is­sues be­tween the EU and Iran were hosted in Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day.

Euro­pean Ex­ter­nal Ac­tion Ser­vice (EEAS) Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Helga Sch­mid chaired the meet­ing at­tended by po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tors of France, Ger­many, Italy and the UK.

Hos­sein Jaberi An­sari, Deputy Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs, led the Ira­nian del­e­ga­tion.

The US gov­ern­ment, mean­while, on Fri­day im­posed sanc­tions on a Thai­land-based com­pany it says pro­vides ser­vices to an Ira­nian air­line that Wash­ing­ton ac­cuses of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties di­rected by Iran’s gov­ern­ment.

The US Trea­sury De­part­ment said in a state­ment that My Avi­a­tion Co Ltd, head­quar­tered in Bangkok, “pro­vides cargo ser­vices to Ma­han Air, to in­clude freight book­ing,” as well as pas­sen­ger book­ing ser­vices. Ma­han Air’s web­site lists six weekly flights to the Thai cap­i­tal, Bangkok.

It said the pri­vately owned Ira­nian air­line “has rou­tinely flown fight­ers and ma­teriel to Syria to prop up the As­sad regime, which has con­trib­uted to mass atroc­i­ties in the coun­try and the dis­place­ment of mil­lions of in­no­cent civil­ians.”

The sanc­tions or­der blocks the Thai com­pany’s as­sets in the United States and gen­er­ally pro­hibits US cit­i­zens from do­ing busi­ness with it. The or­der was an­nounced af­ter work­ing hours in Thai­land, and no com­ment was im­me­di­ately avail­able from My Avi­a­tion.

“Ma­han Air con­tin­ues to fly into Syria ev­ery week, even as mil­lions of in­no­cent civil­ians in Idlib prov­ince are un­der threat of im­mi­nent attack from the mur­der­ous As­sad regime and its back­ers in Iran and Rus­sia. Trea­sury is cut­ting off yet an­other ser­vice provider act­ing on be­half of Ma­han Air, a sanc­tioned air­line that trans­ports soldiers and sup­plies to As­sad and fu­els ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties across the re­gion,” the state­ment quoted Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin as say­ing.

“This Thai­land-based com­pany has dis­re­garded nu­mer­ous US warn­ings, is­sued pub­licly and de­liv­ered bi­lat­er­ally to the Thai gov­ern­ment, to sever ties with Ma­han Air,” Mnuchin said. “This ac­tion should serve as a warn­ing that the US is in­tent on en­sur­ing that the avi­a­tion in­dus­try ceases pro­vid­ing ser­vices to, and prof­it­ing from, this ter­ror­ist-af­fil­i­ated air­line.”

The United States has sanc­tioned Ma­han Air for mul­ti­ple in­stances of sup­port­ing groups it des­ig­nated as ter­ror­ists, in­clud­ing trans­port­ing weapons and per­son­nel for Hezbol­lah and Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards.

The sanc­tions or­der against My Avi­a­tion was ap­plied un­der two Trea­sury De­part­ment pro­grams, cov­er­ing Global Ter­ror­ism Sanc­tions Reg­u­la­tions and Ira­nian Fi­nan­cial Sanc­tions Reg­u­la­tions.

One other Thai­land-based com­pany has been sanc­tioned un­der the same pro­grams.

“Asian Avi­a­tion Lo­gis­tics also acts for or on be­half of Ma­han Air and helps the air­line evade sanc­tions by mak­ing pay­ments on be­half of Ma­han Air for the pur­chase of en­gines and other equip­ment,” the Trea­sury De­part­ment said in 2014. “Asian Avi­a­tion Lo­gis­tics also em­ploys at least one Ma­han Air of­fi­cial.”

In other news, Iran said on Satur­day that Kur­dish ac­tivists at­tacked its embassy in Paris, break­ing win­dows, and has ac­cused French po­lice of ar­riv­ing late on the scene.

A spokes­woman for the po­lice was un­able to com­ment im­me­di­ately.

Fars news agency re­ported that around 15 Kur­dish ac­tivists burned the Ira­nian flag in front of the embassy dur­ing the in­ci­dent on Fri­day, and smashed some win­dows with stones.

They also threw fire ex­tin­guish­ers and com­put­ers at the gate, ac­cord­ing to Fars, but did not man­age to en­ter the premises.

“The French gov­ern­ment should take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect Ira­nian diplo­matic mis­sions in that coun­try,” Ira­nian for­eign min­istry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as say­ing by the state news agency IRNA on Satur­day.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the French po­lice did not ar­rive as ex­pected on the scene on time, although the as­sailants were mem­bers of a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he said.

Qasemi said some of the at­tack­ers were ar­rested.

Tehran has ac­cused France of sup­port­ing op­po­si­tion groups which seek the over­throw of the Is­lamic Repub­lic and are clas­si­fied by Tehran as ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions. France has re­jected Ira­nian ac­cu­sa­tions.

Last week, Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards fired seven mis­siles at the head­quar­ters in north­ern Iraq of the Demo­cratic Party of Ira­nian Kur­dis­tan (PDKI), an armed op­po­si­tion group that fights for greater au­ton­omy for Iran’s Kur­dish com­mu­nity.

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