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Posts tagged ‘Tehran’

LIGNET: 35 Years After Revolution, Iran Faces Moment of Truth.


Image: LIGNET: 35 Years After Revolution, Iran Faces Moment of TruthIranian President Hassan Rouhani waves at a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Feb. 11, 2014. (Atta Kanare/AFP/Getty Images)

Mired in decades of slow economic growth and at odds politically with much of the world, Iran is at a crossroads in its history. Domestic and foreign policy decisions made this year will set the tone for the nation’s future.

Click HERE to read an exclusive analysis from LIGNET’s top intelligence experts. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks.


Image: Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Congress that new unilateral sanctions against Iran could upend sensitive international negotiations over its nuclear development, imploring lawmakers to work with the Obama administration in presenting a unified front to Tehran.

Echoing President Barack Obama’s deep concerns about another round of tough economic penalties, Clinton said any congressional action could undercut U.S. work with its allies as well as American influence with Russia and China in forcing Tehran to negotiate after years of inconclusive talks.

“Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution,” Clinton said. “As President Obama has said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table.”

Clinton offered her assessment in a three-page letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Levin’s office released the letter, dated Jan. 26, on Sunday.

Levin and several other committee chairmen have expressed a willingness to hold off on sanctions to give diplomatic efforts a chance. However, 59 Republicans and Democrats back legislation to impose a new round of penalties on Iran, maintaining that crippling economic sanctions forced Tehran to make concessions.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Iran agreed in November to slow its uranium enrichment program to a level that is far below what would be necessary to make a nuclear bomb. It also agreed to increased international inspections to give world leaders confidence that it is not trying to build weapons in secret.

In exchange, the U.S. and five other nations — Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — agreed to ease an estimated $7 billion worth of international sanctions against Iran’s crippled economy for a six-month period while negotiators try to broker a final settlement.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Clinton said the intelligence community has said new sanctions could undercut the chances for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

“I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course,” said the former New York senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

In his State of the Union address this past week, Obama repeated his threat to veto any new Iran sanctions if Congress passes legislation.

Clinton, who said she repeatedly backed Iran sanctions during her eight years as senator, cautioned lawmakers.

“If the world judges — rightly or wrongly — that negotiations have collapsed because of actions in the United States Congress, even some of our closest partners abroad — to say nothing of countries like Russia and China — may well falter in their commitment. And without help from our partners in enforcing them, any new measures we put in place will not achieve maximum impact,” Clinton said.

Levin, who had written to Clinton Jan. 16 seeking her views, said her letter “is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations.”

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Report: Iran to Send Warships to Atlantic.


TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s state TV says the navy has sent warships on a mission to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in the Islamic Republic’s history

The Tuesday report said that Sabalan destroyer and Khark logistic helicopter carrier will be dispatched on a three-month voyage.

It said the ships carried some 30 navy academy cadets for training, alongside an unspecified military mission. It did not mention any ports of call.

Iran aims to demonstrate the ability to project its military power across the Middle East and beyond. It has regularly deployed warships to the Gulf of Aden off the eastern coast of Africa to fight piracy and protect commercial ships.

In 2012, Iran said it aims to put warships in international waters off the U.S. coast within the next few years.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Menendez Iran Sanctions Bill Stirs Democratic Unrest.


Image: Menendez Iran Sanctions Bill Stirs Democratic Unrest

By Melissa Clyne

A fight is brewing among Democrats and the White House over a bill proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez that would impose additional sanctions against Iran if the country fails to make good on its promises regarding its nuclear program.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the New Jersey Democrat’s bill has drawn criticism from the White House, which fears that saber rattling over more sanctions could upset efforts to reach a final agreement with Tehran aimed at effectively ending its nuclear program. In December, a large group of Democratic Senate chairman also raised the same concern about threatening new sanctions before talks have even gotten well underway.

The U.S., along with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, struck a deal with Tehran to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of international sanctions for six months. Menendez and other liberal Democratic heavyweights, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, have voiced skepticism over the interim deal, arguing that it has no “end game” and is not stringent enough.

Two dozen senators – 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans – are cosponsoring the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced by Menendez and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. Writing in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post last Thursday, Menendez argued that the U.S. needs to operate from a trust and verify stance with Iran, a historically untrustworthy nation.

“The American public supports diplomacy. So do I.” Menendez wrote. “The American public doesn’t trust the Iranian regime. Neither do I.”

The same day, the White House struck back with a statement from National Security Council Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, who accused Menendez and other critics of the deal of being stealth war hawks.

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action [against Iran’s nuclear development efforts], they should be up front with the American public and say so,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

Meehan argued that the Menendez-Kirk bill would be counter-productive and “divide the international community . . . and possibly end negotiations.”

Also lining up against Menendez and his camp are 10 Senate committee chairmen, whopenned a Dec. 18 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to reject additional sanctions unless Iran violates the current agreement.

“We believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail,” the letter stated.

But Menendez wrote in his op-ed piece that Iran has already laid the groundwork for breaching terms of the deal reached in Geneva by doing things like firing a rocket into space and improving their ability to develop a long-range ballistic missile. Tehran has also proposed enriching uranium up to 60 percent, well beyond any potential use for peaceful purposes, according to Menendez.

His bill, he argues, “supports continued negotiations, gives the administration a year of flexibility to secure a comprehensive agreement, respects the sanctions relief Iran is set to receive and prevents any new sanctions from taking effect while good-faith negotiations are underway.”

He called measure a “diplomatic insurance policy” and “an act of reasonable pragmatism.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Iran’s Rouhani Eyes Rebuilding Relations With US.


BERLIN — Iran wants to improve bilateral relations with the United States and other Western powers, President Hassan Rouhani said in an editorial published in a German newspaper on Monday, broaching an issue he has so far avoided since he took office.

Rouhani won a landslide election victory in June promising a policy of engagement with the West and has had regular diplomatic contacts with the United States, but they have been limited to negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“We want to rebuild and improve our relations to European and North American countries on a basis of mutual respect,” he wrote in a contribution for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

“We are striving to avoid new burdens on relations between Iran and the United States and also to remove the tensions that we have inherited,” said Rouhani, who has promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and to win an easing of sanctions.

Tehran and Washington severed relations after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran cannot forget everything that has affected relations with the United States over the last 60 years, he said, but added: “We must now concentrate on the present and orientate ourselves towards the future.”

Rouhani’s diplomatic pragmatism has already resulted in significant progress. While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September, Rouhani held an historic telephone call with Barack Obama, the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken in more than three decades.

“REMOVING DOUBTS”

Iranian officials subsequently emphasized the call was to support a diplomatic resolution of Iran’s nuclear program and did not concern direct bilateral ties. Two months later Iran and world powers signed an interim deal to curb part of Iran’s nuclear activities in return for some sanctions relief.

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, said he was doing whatever he could to end tensions over Tehran’s nuclear activities, which have raised concerns in the West that Iran is seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iranian officials have repeatedly denied such suggestions.

“We have never even considered the option of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said. “We’ll never give up our right to profit from nuclear energy. But we are working towards removing all doubts and answer all reasonable questions about our program.”

Iran agreed under the Nov. 24 accord to stop its most sensitive nuclear work — uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent — and cap other parts of its activities in exchange for some limited easing of sanctions, including trade in petrochemicals and gold.

On Sunday, world powers and Iran suspended their technical talks in Geneva on how to implement the agreement until after the Christmas holidays following slow progress.

In a posting on Facebook on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they would resume early next week but he described all stages of the talks as complex.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Sanctions Expansion Angers Iran; Russia Sees Nuke Deal Threat.


VIENNA/MOSCOW — A breakthrough agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that expanding a U.S. sanctions blacklist could seriously complicate the deal’s implementation.

Russia, which, along with the United States, is among the six world powers that negotiated the Nov. 24 interim accord with Tehran, echoed Iranian criticism that it violated the spirit of the deal and could “block things.”

The United States on Thursday blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.

Diplomats said Iran, in what appeared to be a response, interrupted technical talks in Vienna with the six nations over how to implement the agreement, under which Tehran is to curb its atomic activities in return for limited sanctions easing.

The developments highlighted potential obstacles negotiators face in pressing ahead with efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute between the Islamic Republic and the West that has stirred fears of a new Middle East war.

Western diplomats said the inconclusive outcome of the Dec. 9-12 expert-level discussions should not be seen as a sign that the deal hammered out nearly three weeks ago was in trouble.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency in reaction to the U.S. decision that it was evaluating the situation and would “react accordingly”, adding, “It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”

Russia also made its concerns clear.

“The U.S. administration’s decision goes against the spirit of this document,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, referring to the Geneva agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany.

“Widening American ‘blacklists’ could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing sanctions pressure.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she did not think the blacklistings announced on Thursday had made the negotiations more difficult.

“No, I don’t. I think it was always going to be very complicated,” Harf told reporters, adding the United States had told Iranian officials in Vienna that more designations were coming.

DEAL OPPONENTS

Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant and has much better ties with Tehran than Western states. It supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear program but has criticized the United States and Europe for imposing additional sanctions.

U.S. officials said the blacklisting move showed the Geneva deal “does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions.”

The new measure, the first such enforcement action since Geneva, targeted entities that are suspected of involvement in the proliferation of materials for weapons of mass destruction and trying to evade the current sanctions.

Some U.S. lawmakers want further sanctions on the Islamic state. But the administration of President Barack Obama has campaigned to hold off on new measures for now to create space for the diplomatic push to settle the nuclear dispute.

Iran’s ambassador to France said expanding the blacklist played into the hands of those opposing the deal — including hardliners in Iran irked by the foreign policy shift and apprehensive that they are losing influence over Iran’s most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“This agreement has opponents both inside Iran and outside Iran,” Ali Ahani told reporters at a meeting of business and political leaders in Monaco.

“We are determined to keep to our commitments, but we have to be sure that on the other side they are serious, and that we can show to our people that we can trust them and that the West is a viable partner.”

“The contents of this accord are quite clear. It was decided not to add sanctions. This type of decision blocks things,” added Ahani, speaking on behalf of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pulled out of the World Policy Conference after his mother was taken ill.

‘NOT PANICKING’

The Geneva deal was designed to halt Iran’s nuclear advances for six months to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement. Scope for diplomacy widened after Iran elected the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as president in June. He had promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and win sanctions easing.

Under the agreement, Iran will restrain its atomic activities in return for some easing of the international sanctions that have battered the major oil producer’s economy.

But one diplomat said the Iranian delegation in Vienna suddenly announced late on Thursday — hours after Washington made its blacklisting decision public — that it had received instructions to return to Tehran: “It was quite unexpected.”

A European Union (EU) diplomat said he did not believe the decision was linked to the issues under discussion in Vienna, but rather “their reaction to moves in the U.S. on sanctions.”

The hope was that it was a temporary problem: “The Iranians have been committed to making this work. We are not panicking.”

Iranian officials were not available for comment.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected the implementation talks to resume in the coming days.

“We have been hard at it in Vienna . . . we are making progress but I think that they’re at a point in those talks where folks feel a need to consult and take a moment,” he said during a visit to Israel. “There is every expectation that the talks are going to continue in the next few days and that we will proceed to the full implementation of that plan.”

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the discussions with Iran, also said they were expected to resume soon.

“After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed,” Michael Mann said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Officials: Iran Gained Far More Than $7 Billion in Sanctions Relief.


Senior Obama administration  officials have conceded that the value of sanctions relief to Iran from last month’s Geneva nuclear accord will far exceed the initial estimate of $6 billion to $7 billion, Israeli sources told Haaretz.The new estimate is closer to Israel’s original projection that Iran would receive at least $20 billion worth of relief from the deal it agreed to with six international powers including the United States.

“Economics is a matter of expectations,” Israeli security sources said. “The Iranian stock exchange is already rising significantly and many countries are standing in line to renew economic ties with Iran based on what was already agreed in Geneva.”

China has quickly moved to renew contracts to develop the Iranian oil industry worth around $9 billion,and several German companies have also expressed interest in deals with Tehran, the Israeli sources noted.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) has also found weaknesses in the White House’s previous estimate that Tehran gained $500 million worth of relief for  the Iranian auto industry from the Geneva deal.

In a report published this week, the FDD concluded that the White House estimate failed to account for an additional $2.5 billion in economic activity that sanctions relief would provide Iran in the next six months, according to Haaretz.
The United States had originally intended to permit only the unfreezing of about $3 billion to $4 billion in Iranian financial assets. But during the course of negotiations in Geneva, the international powers backtracked and approved a much more generous easing of sanctions.Iran has now been granted sanctions relief in areas including commerce in gold, petrochemicals, cars, and replacement parts for civilian aircraft.

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© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

By Robert Brothers

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