Iran says sanc­tions a bid to scrap nu­clear agree­ment

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Erin Cun­ning­ham of The Wash­ing­ton Post and by Kam­biz Foroohar of Bloomberg News.

ISTANBUL — New U.S. sanc­tions tar­get­ing Iran are a breach of its nu­clear deal with world pow­ers and an at­tempt to abol­ish the ac­cord, Ira­nian of­fi­cials said Thurs­day, adding that the govern­ment will re­spond to what it sees as an es­ca­la­tion of U.S. ag­gres­sion.

“We be­lieve that the nu­clear deal has been vi­o­lated, and we will re­act ap­pro­pri­ately,” Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­bas Araghchi said on state tele­vi­sion Thurs­day.

The deal curbed Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties in ex­change for the re­moval of some sanc­tions, while the new mea­sures tar­get any­one in­volved in Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and its pow­er­ful Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps.

The “be­lief in Wash­ing­ton is that … Iran must be put un­der pres­sure,” Araghchi said. And the goal of the new sanc­tions, signed into law Wed­nes­day by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, is “to de­stroy” the 2015 agree­ment so that Iran will with­draw.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has crit­i­cized the deal for its nar­row fo­cus on the nu­clear pro­gram without ad­dress­ing is­sues such as Iran’s sup­port for proxy mili­tias and its grow­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile arse­nal. Trump has ques­tioned the “util­ity of the agree­ment,” Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said in re­marks Tues­day at the State Depart­ment.

The “agree­ment dealt with a very small slice of Iran’s threats,” Tiller­son said. “It was kind of like we put blin­ders on and just ig­nored all those other things.”

But even as the United States ramps up pres­sure on Iran — in­clud­ing threats to leave the pact — of­fi­cials in Tehran have moved cau­tiously in re­sponse, weigh­ing the cost of po­ten­tial con­flict with the ben­e­fits of re­main­ing part of the deal.

Un­der the nu­clear deal, Iran has re­joined the global econ­omy and is now keen to avoid blame for the col­lapse of the agree­ment. Trump re­cently cer­ti­fied Iran’s com­pli­ance with the deal, an au­tho­riza­tion he is re­quired to make to Congress ev­ery 90 days, but has sug­gested he may not do so again in the fall, without say­ing why.

“Pres­i­dent Trump made clear that, in terms of the fate of the nu­clear deal, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lat­est cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Ira­nian com­pli­ance was only a tem­po­rary re­prieve — a stay of ex­e­cu­tion,” said Robert Mal­ley, who served as the White House co­or­di­na­tor for the Mid­dle East un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

So far, Iran “has ap­peared con­tent to sit back and al­low the [Trump] ad­min­is­tra­tion to fur­ther iso­late it­self” on the nu­clear deal, said Mal­ley, who is now vice pres­i­dent of pol­icy for the Brussels-based In­ter­na­tional Crisis Group. “But that cal­cu­lus could change.”

Iran, ex­perts say, could con­tinue to ad­here to the agree­ment and seek as­sur­ances from Europe and Rus­sia that they would refuse any U.S. at­tempt to rene­go­ti­ate. The Euro­pean Union has coun­tered Trump’s calls to ditch the ac­cord, re­mind­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion that it be­longs to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

If the White House de­cided to de­clare Iran non­com­pli­ant, it would prob­a­bly be based “on lit­tle to no valid ev­i­dence,” said Richard Nephew, for­mer co­or­di­na­tor for sanc­tions pol­icy at the State Depart­ment.

But Iran still could push the tech­ni­cal lim­its of the deal with “small in­cre­men­tal steps that restart its nu­clear pro­gram,” he said.

It also could restart all of its nu­clear ac­tiv­ity, which it says is for peace­ful pur­poses, or use its mil­i­tary as­sets or proxy forces to strike U.S. in­ter­ests in the re­gion.

Iran and the United States have skir­mished in the wa­ters of the Per­sian Gulf, where the U.S. Navy sta­tions its 5th Fleet. Amer­i­can forces and mili­tias loyal to Iran also fight in prox­im­ity in Iraq and Syria, where they are both bat­tling the Is­lamic State.

Ac­cord­ing to Ali Vaez, se­nior Iran an­a­lyst at the In­ter­na­tional Crisis Group, ris­ing ten­sions “could push Iran to dou­ble down on means of de­ter­rence it con­sid­ers es­sen­tial to its na­tional se­cu­rity,” in­clud­ing mis­sile de­fense and sup­port for re­gional prox­ies.

Last week, Iran suc­cess­fully fired its satel­lite-car­ry­ing Si­morgh launch ve­hi­cle into space, prompt­ing the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment to im­pose ad­di­tional sanc­tions.

Iran’s par­lia­ment, re­act­ing to the sanc­tions bill as it made its way through Congress, re­cently fast-tracked fund­ing for the coun­try’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps.

Ac­cord­ing to Ab­bas As­lani, world news edi­tor at Iran’s pri­vately run Tas­nim news agency, Iran “will not vi­o­late” the nu­clear agree­ment but nei­ther will it “aban­don or com­pro­mise on its de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the mis­sile pro­gram.”

The nu­clear deal was ne­go­ti­ated un­der Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani, a mod­er­ate re­cently elected to a sec­ond term.

Rouhani fired back at do­mes­tic crit­ics Thurs­day at a cer­e­mony mark­ing his for­mal en­dorse­ment by Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, who has the fi­nal word on all mat­ters of the state.

Iran sur­vived some of the tough­est sanc­tions “through a com­bi­na­tion of the power of diplo­macy and de­ter­rent de­fen­sive power,” The As­so­ci­ated Press quoted Rouhani as say­ing. Dur­ing his sec­ond term, Iran will “in­sist on con­struc­tive en­gage­ment more than be­fore.”

LAUNCH PROTESTED

The U.S. said Wed­nes­day that it per­suaded France, Ger­many and the U.K. to join in sign­ing a let­ter of protest to the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil about Iran’s “threat­en­ing and provoca­tive” launch last week.

The four pow­ers, which bro­kered the 2015 nu­clear deal with Iran along with China and Rus­sia, called the launch “in­con­sis­tent” with a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion that ac­com­pa­nied the nu­clear agree­ment.

The Euro­pean al­lies backed Nikki Ha­ley, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the U.N., even though they op­pose Trump’s sug­ges­tions that the U.S. will quit the nu­clear deal.

“The world must not al­low Iran to act in de­fi­ance of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and its res­o­lu­tions,” Ha­ley said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day, af­ter con­demn­ing Iran be­fore the coun­cil for its sup­port of “ter­ror­ist” or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Ha­mas and Hezbol­lah. The U.S. “will be vig­i­lant in en­sur­ing that Iran is held accountable for such be­hav­ior.”

In the let­ter, the four na­tions called on Iran “to im­me­di­ately cease all ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to bal­lis­tic mis­siles de­signed to be ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing nu­clear weapons, in­clud­ing launches us­ing such bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­ogy.”

And they said Iran’s “long-stand­ing pro­gram to de­velop bal­lis­tic mis­siles con­tin­ues to be in­con­sis­tent with” the U.N. res­o­lu­tion and has a desta­bi­liz­ing ef­fect in the re­gion.

The let­ter echoes pro­vi­sions in U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2231, which calls on Iran “not to un­der­take any ac­tiv­ity re­lated to bal­lis­tic mis­siles de­signed to be ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing nu­clear weapons, in­clud­ing launches us­ing such bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­ogy” un­til eight years af­ter the agree­ment was adopted.

Rus­sia and China, which have veto power in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, didn’t sign the U.S. let­ter and have re­jected the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­tention that Iran is un­der­min­ing the nu­clear ac­cord.

The launch “is not a vi­o­la­tion of the agree­ment be­cause it con­cerns other things which were not di­rectly writ­ten into the agree­ment,” said Vass­ily Neben­zia, Rus­sia’s new am­bas­sador to the U.N.

On the Web Iran nu­clear deal de­tails nwadg.com/iran

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