US sanc­tions Iran de­spite nu­clear deal com­pli­ance

Tehran has re­ceived ‘con­tra­dic­tory sig­nals’ from Trump

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: The US slapped fresh sanc­tions on Iran yes­ter­day over its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram, just hours af­ter Wash­ing­ton ad­mit­ted the Is­lamic Repub­lic was com­ply­ing with a land­mark nu­clear deal signed two years ago. Iran’s par­lia­ment re­tal­i­ated by vot­ing for ex­tra fund­ing for the mis­sile pro­gram, a move that speaker Ali Lar­i­jani said would show the Amer­i­cans that Iran “will re­sist them with all its power”.

The height­ened ten­sions came af­ter Pres­i­dent Donald Trump was forced to back off from a key cam­paign prom­ise to with­draw from a 2015 nu­clear ac­cord with Tehran, which eased sanc­tions in re­turn for lim­it­ing its abil­ity to pro­duce ma­te­rial for atomic weapons. Trump had de­scribed it as “the worst deal ever” and ac­cused Iran of con­tin­u­ing to back ter­ror­ism in the Mid­dle East.

But on Mon­day, the White House ad­mit­ted that the Is­lamic Repub­lic was stick­ing to the nukes agree­ment. It noted, how­ever, that while Iran might be meet­ing its re­quire­ments on pa­per, it was “un­ques­tion­ably in de­fault of the spirit” of the ac­cord. In announcing the new sanc­tions against 18 in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties in Iran, the State Depart­ment said it “re­mains deeply con­cerned about Iran’s ma­lign ac­tiv­i­ties across the Mid­dle East which un­der­mine re­gional sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity, and pros­per­ity.”

It cited Iran’s sup­port for Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas, the regime of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad and Houthi rebels in Ye­men fight­ing a US-backed coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia. In ad­di­tion to ear­mark­ing an ad­di­tional $260 mil­lion for its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram, Iran’s

par­lia­ment also agreed yes­ter­day to al­lot a sim­i­lar amount to the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards’ for­eign op­er­a­tions wing, the Quds Force, ac­cused by Wash­ing­ton of fo­ment­ing un­rest across the re­gion.

The Pen­tagon has also re­peat­edly voiced con­cern over a string of high-pro­file in­ci­dents in waters off Iran in­volv­ing Ira­nian ves­sels. It has ac­cused the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards of con­duct­ing risky ma­neu­vers around US war­ships in the Gulf, some of which re­sulted in the Amer­i­cans fir­ing warn­ing shots. “These sanc­tions tar­get pro­cure­ment of ad­vanced mil­i­tary hard­ware, such as fast at­tack boats and un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, and send a strong sig­nal that the United States can­not and will not tol­er­ate Iran’s provoca­tive and desta­bi­liz­ing be­hav­ior,” said Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin. Wash­ing­ton is also con­cerned about the fate of Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old Chi­nese-Amer­i­can re­searcher at Prince­ton Univer­sity who was re­cently sen­tenced to 10 years in Ira­nian prison.

While the US com­plained about Iran’s de­fi­ance of the spirit of the nu­clear ac­cord, Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif said he would make his own com­plaints about US non-com­pli­ance when rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the five nu­clear pow­ers - China, Russia, France, Bri­tain, the United States - plus Ger­many meet in Vi­enna on Fri­day to take stock of the deal. Zarif ac­cused the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of fail­ing to lift sanc­tions in line with the deal. Zarif said the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, “which is hardly a sym­pa­thizer for Iran,” has ver­i­fied its com­pli­ance with the agree­ment.

The key is­sue with the US, he said, is over sanc­tions against Iran that the agree­ment re­quires to be lifted and the sanc­tions that re­main on Iran over hu­man rights, ter­ror­ism and other is­sues. Zarif said that for the United States “it’s more im­por­tant to main­tain the sanc­tions that re­main” on Iran “rather than re­move the sanc­tions that have been lifted”. As a re­sult, he said, the Of­fice of For­eign As­set Con­trol “has been re­luc­tant to pro­vide straight­for­ward an­swers to those who want to do busi­ness with Iran be­cause it was wor­ried that a straight-for­ward an­swer would un­der­mine the sanc­tions” that haven’t been lifted.

Zarif said this “cre­ates the im­pres­sion in Iran that the United States’ hos­til­ity to­ward Iran will never end.” But he left open the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing that per­cep­tion, say­ing: “I think that can be reme­died.” Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about whether Iran has re­ceived any sig­nals from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, Zarif said: “We re­ceive con­tra­dic­tory sig­nals. So we don’t know which one to in­ter­pret in what way. But it’s very clear that Iran is se­ri­ous about the nu­clear deal and we be­lieve that the nu­clear deal can lay the foun­da­tion, not the ceil­ing.”

Zarif said he had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, in stark con­trast to his pre­de­ces­sor John Kerry, with whom Zarif ne­go­ti­ated the ground­break­ing nu­clear deal. “It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The pos­si­bil­i­ties for en­gage­ment... have al­ways been open,” said Zarif in New York, where he was at­tend­ing a UN fo­rum on de­vel­op­ment. He said he was will­ing to dis­cuss Wang’s case “on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds” but stressed that Iran’s courts were in­de­pen­dent of the gov­ern­ment.

Trump and his top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have al­ways taken a tough line on Iran: His de­fense sec­re­tary, Jim Mat­tis, fought Ira­nian-backed mili­tias dur­ing the US oc­cu­pa­tion of Iraq while serv­ing as a Marine gen­eral, and mem­o­ries are still fresh of Hezbol­lah’s at­tack on the Marine Corps bar­racks in Le­banon in 1983.— Agen­cies

WASH­ING­TON: US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump swings a Marucci base­ball bat in the Blue Room dur­ing a “Made in Amer­ica” prod­uct show­case event at the White House on Mon­day. — AFP

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