US Politics in Trump era
The relationship between Iran and the Houthis is not simple and has long been clouded by accusations and denials and amplified by rumors and propaganda from all sides. Iranian backing of the Houthis appears to have increased over time. But experts on Iran’s network of proxies say the Houthis are among the least dependent on Tehran for financial and military support and decision-making.
President Trump said Sunday the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that cut the state oil company’s production output by half, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible. Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, nor specify whether he was contemplating a military response.
Iran seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, state television reported on Sunday, the third time Tehran has reported detaining a tanker in the last month as the United States applies its campaign of “maximum pressure,” sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the country.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday in a dramatic step bound to further escalate tensions with Tehran. A senior administration official said Zarif had acted more as a “propaganda minister” than a diplomat, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Zarif was “complicit” in Iran’s support of terrorists, torture and other malign activity around the world.
Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf.
The American military shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, President Trump said during a ceremony at the White House.Mr. Trump said the unmanned aircraft threatened the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship that can launch attack jets and helicopters from its landing deck.
Donald Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal to spite Barack Obama, according to a leaked memo written by the UK's former ambassador to the US.Sir Kim Darroch described the move as an act of "diplomatic vandalism", according to the Mail on Sunday.It says the memo was written after the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appealed to the US in 2018 to stick with the nuclear deal.
Iran has exceeded a key limitation on how much nuclear fuel it can possess under the 2015 international pact curbing its nuclear program, effectively declaring that it would no longer respect an agreement that President Trump abandoned more than a year ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Monday.
Iran’s news media was filled with upbeat economic reports last week. Several tankers of oil had been exported to China, and the economy minister said tax collections were up 30 percent. Farm-raised shrimp production had expanded by 400 percent. “Summer is here!” one article exulted, and online vacation rentals in the country’s tourist spots were a potential growth market. But on the streets of Iran’s cities, as the United States’ “maximum pressure” sanctions took hold, the view was decidedly less sunny.
Senate Republicans narrowly defeated an amendment Friday that would have limited President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran without congressional approval. The 50-40 vote gave the measure a majority of votes cast, but due to parliamentary maneuvering by Senate leadership, it needed 60 votes to pass.
Iran's parliamentary speaker has warned the United States against violating the country's borders, cautioning such a move would draw a "stronger" reaction than the downing of a US drone a week ago. In comments carried by Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency on Thursday, Speaker Ali Larijani said the shootdown of the unmanned aerial vehicle was "a good experience for them to avoid any aggression".
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Tuesday called the White House “mentally retarded” and vowed that Tehran would not be intimidated by American sanctions — drawing a blistering threat of “obliteration” from President Trump.“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, calling Mr. Rouhani’s comments “ignorant and insulting.”
US President Donald Trump has said he is imposing hard-hitting new sanctions on Iran, including on the office of the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.Mr Trump said the additional sanctions were in response to the shooting down of a US drone and "many other things".Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, was singled out because he was "ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime".
President Trump said Friday morning that the United States military had been “cocked and loaded” for a strike against Iran on Thursday night, but that he called it off with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack.
Iran shot down a United States surveillance drone early Thursday, both nations said, but they differed on the crucial issue of whether the aircraft had violated Iranian airspace, in the latest escalation in tensions that have raised fears of war between the two countries.Iranian officials said that the drone was over Iran, which the American military denied — an important distinction in determining who was at fault — and each side accused the other of being the aggressor.
Administration officials are briefing Congress on what they say are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill that the White House could invoke the war authorization passed in 2001 as legal cover for military action against Tehran.
President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Patrick M. Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, leaving the Pentagon in transition at a time of escalating tensions with Iran and questions about the role of the military at the border with Mexico.
Iran said Monday it would boost its stockpile of enriched uranium to exceed limits set by a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, in what appeared to be the latest salvo in an escalating standoff with the United States. Some European diplomats saw that 10-day deadline less as a firm plan to violate enrichment limits and more as an urgent call to Europe from Iran to deliver fresh concessions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that intelligence reviewed by American officials showed that Iran was responsible for attacks earlier in the day on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a critical waterway for the transit of much of the world’s oil.Mr. Pompeo did not present any evidence to back up the assessment of Iran’s involvement.
In 2018, President Donald Trump was seeking to jettison the landmark nuclear deal that his predecessor had signed with Iran in 2015, and he was looking for ways to win over a skeptical press. In response, the White House passed along an article published in Forbes by a writer named Heshmat Alavi. There’s a problem, though: Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi’s persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept.
Iran is failing as a nation after Washington imposed powerful sanctions last year, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday, adding that things could change rapidly in talks with the leadership in Tehran. "They are failing as a nation, but I don't want them to fail as a nation. We can turn that around very quickly but the sanctions have been extraordinary [in] how powerful they have been."
Prince Mohammed bin Zayed grew the U.A.E.’s power by following America’s lead. He now has an increasingly bellicose agenda of his own. At times, the prince has contradicted American policy and destabilized neighbors. Rights groups have criticized him for jailing dissidents at home, for his role in creating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and for backing the Saudi prince whose agents killed the dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.
The US state department has cut off funding to a group that purported to combat Iranian propaganda, after it was found to be trolling US journalists, human rights activists and academics it deemed to be insufficiently hostile to the government in Tehran. The group also focused on supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Donald Trump withdrew from last year, particularly the National Iranian American Council, which has advocated nuclear diplomacy with Tehran. It used the hashtag #NIACLobbies4Mullahs.
President Trump publicly undercut John R. Bolton, his national security adviser, on Iran and North Korea in recent days, raising questions about the administration’s policy and personnel in the middle of confrontations with both long-term American adversaries.
The United States on Friday announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.
A US move to send more troops to the Middle East after accusing Tehran of being behind attacks on tankers in the region is "extremely dangerous ... [for] international peace", Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying. "Increased US presence in our region is extremely dangerous and it threatens international peace and security, and this should be addressed," state news agency IRNA quoted Zarif as saying on Saturday.
The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.
Iran has made a dramatic shift in how it confronts the United States, abandoning a policy of restraint in recent weeks for a series of offensive actions aimed at pushing the White House to rethink its efforts at isolating Tehran, say diplomats and analysts. With the Trump administration tightening economic sanctions and intensifying military pressure, Iran is now seeking to highlight the costs it could also impose on the United States — for instance, by disrupting the world’s oil supply — without taking actions likely to trigger an all-out war.
The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has hit back at Donald Trump’s “genocidal taunts” after a strongly worded warning from Trump that Tehran should not think of attacking the US. “Goaded by #B_Team,” Zarif wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to Trump advisers such as John Bolton, “@realdonaldTrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran’.” He added: “#NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect – it works!”
That the Trump administration’s approach to Iran could lead the United States into an inadvertent conflict should come as a surprise to no one. Indeed, from the day Trump took office, many feared that his impulsive behavior, blustering rhetoric, inability to think ahead, disrespect for policy process, and determination to “win” could lead to war. In a spring 2017 essay for this magazine, I raised concerns about his potential to stumble into conflict with Iran, China, or North Korea.
With strong memories of the last catastrophic war in Iraq, Europeans are united in opposing what many consider the United States’ effort to provoke Iran into a shooting war. Yet, despite the strains in trans-Atlantic relations in the Trump years, flat-out opposition to Washington remains an uncomfortable place for European nations.
Trump has said that there is no inconsistency in his administration’s messaging but that the image of incoherence can be useful. “At least Iran doesn’t know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!” he tweeted Friday. But as he moves more deeply into the second half of his term with major foreign policy issues unresolved, Trump’s credibility has suffered, and his options have narrowed.
The photographs fueled fears that Iran would fire missiles at U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon has not released the photograph. On its own, two American officials said, the photograph was not compelling enough to convince the American public and lawmakers, or foreign allies, of the new Iranian threat. But releasing other supporting images could compromise secret sources and methods of collecting intelligence, the officials said.
The State Department on Wednesday ordered all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave Iraq amid soaring tensions with Iran, which backs proxy forces there. It said in a statement that the announcement affects both the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Baghdad, and a consulate in the northern city of Irbil.
US investigators believe Iran or groups it supports used explosives to damage four ships off the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, media reports say. Military experts were reportedly sent to investigate the incident and found a large hole in each of the tankers. No evidence has emerged to show that Iran was involved. The affected countries are yet to assign blame.
The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region. Hours later however, his assessment was disowned by US Central Command in an extraordinary rebuke of an allied senior officer.
At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.
Two Saudi oil tankers, Norwegian ship apparently attacked near the Persian Gulf amid rising Iran tensions
Two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and a Norwegian ship were damaged over the weekend near the Persian Gulf in what Saudi Arabia claimed Monday was an “act of sabotage,” further heightening regional tensions with Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Brussels on Monday for an unplanned visit with European foreign ministers who fear that the United States and Iran are inching toward war. The last-minute decision, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between Pompeo and European diplomats who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
With the Trump administration moving ahead Monday with punishing new sanctions against Iran with the goal of completely halting the country's oil exports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly joked about a secret White House plot to overthrow the Iranian government during a private meeting with Iranian-American "community leaders."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a hotly contested bid for a fourth term, tweeted on the eve of the election that the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization at his request.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his desire to go to war with Iran, and said he was meeting with dozens of foreign envoys, including those from the Arab world, in order to push the initiative forward.
Iraqi President Barham Salih has said US President Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for US troops stationed there to "watch Iran". Salih was responding on Monday to Trump's comments to US media in which he said American forces would remain at a US base in Iraq to keep a close eye on neighbouring Iran.
To be a European company with links to Iran in the age of American sanctions can mean dealing with challenges that, every day, verge on the existential. Suppliers cut off their shipments with little warning. Phone lines get disconnected. Even having the elevators repaired can be an ordeal, with service contracts canceled.
President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the “dangers of Iran” and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing. In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.
A new American intelligence assessment of global threats has concluded that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” needed to make a bomb, directly contradicting two top tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy.
China’s flagship tech company Huawei is the first Chinese company to establish global dominance in a game-changing technology, namely 5G mobile broadband. Washington’s efforts to thwart Huawei’s rise simply are an after-the-fact charade by the US national security establishment to deflect blame for a catastrophic policy failure. With a wink and a nudge, the rest of the world will humor the United States, and continue to do business with the Chinese giant.
‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran
Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, "a reckless advocate of military force," the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton "asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department."
Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey. The request appeared to help open the way for the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, to start retaking the Kurdish-held part of the country near Turkey’s border. That would be a big step toward Mr. Assad’s goal of reclaiming all of Syria, upended by almost eight years of war.
At a meeting in Canada in July 2018, espionage chiefs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.—all signatories to a treaty on signals intelligence, and often referred to as the “Five Eyes”—agreed to do their best to contain the global growth of Chinese telecom Huawei, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing a prior report from the Australian Financial Review.
Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company's founder, could face extradition to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver on 1 December, but the news was not made public at her request. The charges remain unknown but the US has been probing Huawei over possible violation of sanctions against Iran. China says her detention is possibly a rights abuse.
Trump administration officials urged senators against withdrawing American military support for the war in Yemen in an aggressive warning on Wednesday that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the United States.
S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that it is in Iran's best interests to toe the line and listen to Washington or else its people will pay the price. Iran has vowed to fight back against Washington after the Trump administration reinstated on November 5 sanctions on Iran that were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
New U.S. sanctions on Iranian financial firms, including a bank that until recently handled most payments for Iran’s imports of humanitarian goods, are having a chilling effect on foreign companies that help supply medicine and other medical products, economic analysts say.
Schumer has sided with the GOP on Wall Street, Israel, Iraq, Iran, and Facebook. Almost any other Democrat should be Senate minority leader instead. As I argued earlier this week, the next two years in U.S. politics will be a 24/7 battle for the future of American democracy; a relentless fight against fascism, racism, and white nationalism. Are we really expected to believe that Schumer will be the leader of the #Resistance in the Senate ? Don’t make me laugh.
Dick Cheney’s former top national-security aide has come under scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller, two people with knowledge of the probe tell The Daily Beast. It’s the latest sign that Mueller’s probe has expanded beyond the narrow bounds of Russian interference in American politics.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned SWIFT that there would be “penalties applied” to firms that do not comply with the latest round of sanctions. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, SWIFT could now face EU penalties for siding with the US and violating its own Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) laws prohibiting companies siding with sanctions.
The White House said it was "the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed on Iran" and targeted Iran's energy, shipping and banking sectors. However, eight countries will not be penalised by the US for continuing to import Iranian oil. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May, describing it as "defective at its core".
The European Union has signaled that it may impose substantial fines on European firms that pull out of Iran deals over fear of Trump’s unilateral U.S. Treasury Department sanctions. It is likely that smaller European companies that trade with Iran but have no relationship with the U.S. will continue their relationship with the Islamic republic, using euros and non-U.S. banks. But large firms, such as French oil giant Total S.A. and Renault, have signaled that they will get out of Iran to avoid American fines.
According to ABC, the US is going to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. An operation may start as early as next month. The UK and Australia will participate in intelligence efforts, such as identifying targets. The US-Iran relationship took a nosedive after Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in early July. President Trump told the Iranian leadership in a tweet that he would respond with force if Tehran’s hostile anti-US rhetoric did not stop.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned his US counterpart, Donald Trump, not to escalate tensions with his country, saying a confrontation with the Islamic republic would be the "mother of all wars".
Mr. Trump, in an all-caps message on Twitter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, wrote that the country would face “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED” if he continued to threaten the United States.
The Trump administration, as part of a dual effort to counter both Iran and the Islamic State, should push for an “Islamic Reformation,” a State Department memo advised the White House last year. The suggestion was ultimately not adopted as part of the National Security Strategy announced in December, but that a so-called reformation of Islam was up for discussion at the highest levels of the State Department and National Security Council underscores the extraordinary rise of a once-fringe, far-right approach to foreign policy.
Mike Pompeo’s claim that the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is carrying out “assassination operations in the heart of Europe” has bewildered security experts and Iranian exiles, who say they are not aware of any evidence for the allegation.
Nathalie Tocci, the director of Italy’s Institute of International Affairs and a senior adviser to Ms. Mogherini, said that Europe’s foreign and defense policy “has become more difficult now, not least because of the Trump administration efforts to undercut the E.U.” She warned that “if Europeans are serious about their strategic autonomy, now is the time to demonstrate it by standing united behind their shared interests.” And she said saving the Iran deal “is the place to start.”
One of China’s most internationally successful technology suppliers, with about $17 billion in annual revenue, ZTE is facing a death sentence. The Commerce Department has blocked its access to American-made components until 2025, saying the company failed to punish employees who violated trade controls against Iran and North Korea.
President Trump on Tuesday said he is pulling the United States out of the international nuclear deal with Iran, announcing that economic sanctions against Tehran will be reinstated and declaring that the 2015 pact had been rooted in “fiction.”
Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. Instead of discussing the Palestinian issue, Mr. Pompeo’s focused message on his sweep through the region has been a denunciation of Iran. He met with Saudi leaders on Saturday and Sunday morning, and they all agreed that Iran is a destabilizing force. He met on Sunday afternoon with Mr. Netanyahu, who blistered Iran alongside Mr. Pompeo.
All you need to know about Mike Pompeo, the four-term congressman from Kansas who is actually from California, is that most of his life he has been in business with the Koch brothers. His appointment as secretary of state puts a seal on President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. More dangerously, Trump was straightforward: He put Pompeo in to replace Rex Tillerson in order to destroy the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action treaty between the United Nations Security Council and Iran.
Hezbollah, which was founded in the 1980s during a civil war and an Israeli invasion, is now the country’s dominant political and military force. It is unrealistic of Saudi leaders and the Trump administration to expect that it can be supplanted by a popular Lebanese groundswell against it or removed by a foreign military force without causing catastrophic damage to Lebanon.
Mr. Hariri, until he announced his resignation on Saturday, had shown no signs of planning to do so. Hours later, on Saturday evening, a missile fired from Yemen came close to Riyadh before being shot down by Saudi Arabia. It then emerged that the week before, Jared Kushner, had visited Riyadh on a previously undisclosed trip and met until the early morning hours with the crown prince.
Donald Trump has threatened to terminate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if Congress and US allies fail to amend the agreement in significant ways. In a vituperative speech on Friday that began by listing Iran’s alleged crimes over the decades, Trump announced he would not continue to certify the agreement to Congress, but stopped short of immediately cancelling US participation in the deal.
The Iran nuclear deal is working well and continues to prevent the country from developing atomic weapons, the European Union's foreign policy chief has said.Federica Mogherini made the comments after Donald Trump announced he had chosen not to re-certify the agreement. Ms Mogherini said no one country could terminate the deal, which was signed onto by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. Instead, she called for a "collective process" to preserve the historic accord.
President Trump was livid. Why, he asked his advisers in mid-July, should he go along with what he considered the failed Obama-era policy toward Iran and prop up an international nuclear deal he saw as disastrous? He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits.
More than any other issue that has threatened transatlantic cohesion this year, President Trump’s decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal could start a chain of events that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world.
At the UN pulpit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered a measured, elegant, cultured and at the same time scathing speech thoroughly debunking Trump’s assertions with actual facts. The overall theme was “the path of moderation.” A particular pearl: “Moderation is the synergy of ideas and not the dance of swords.” The contrast with the bellicose, Manichean Trump Doctrine was stark.
Trump’s tough talk and sophomoric antics may have had the opposite effect of what he intended, however. Across the board, the world’s other major powers, most of America’s closest allies, and the vast majority of governments at the United Nations this week made clear that they favor the deal. They are siding with Iran this time.
A rift between the Trump administration and Europe, over whether to stick to a nuclear agreement with Iran, deepened considerably on Wednesday after a meeting on the deal’s implementation at the United Nations in New York. The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, emerged from the meeting conceding that Iran was abiding by the letter of the 2015 deal, but he still insisted Tehran was not fulfilling the “expectations” of the agreement.
President Trump is now fully engaged in two nuclear confrontations, one with Iran over a nuclear accord he finds an “embarrassment” and the other with North Korea that is forcing the Pentagon to contemplate for the first time in decades what a resumption of the Korean War might look like. The dynamics of those cases are entirely different, but they are also oddly interdependent. If Mr. Trump makes good on his threat to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, how will he then convince the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, that America will honor the commitment to integrate North Korea into the world community if only it disarms — the demand Mr. Trump made from the podium of the United Nations.
“I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said, returning to a campaign theme and the “America First” phrase that has been criticized as isolationist and nationalistic. The president warned of growing threats from North Korea and Iran, and he said, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.” The North Korean delegation was seated, by chance, in the front row, mere feet from the U.N. podium.
As if the steeply rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula weren’t enough, President Trump seems determined to kill the Iran nuclear deal, against the near unanimous opinion of his closest foreign policy advisers. According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, after he grudgingly agreed to recertify the deal a few weeks ago, Mr. Trump assigned a team of White House staff members to develop a case within the next three months for declaring that Iran had violated the agreement.
The United States punished Iran on Friday for launching a satellite-carrying rocket into space by hitting six Iranian entities with sanctions targeting the country’s ballistic missiles program. The sanctions hit six Iranian subsidiaries of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, described by the Treasury Department as “central” to Iran’s ballistic missiles program. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cast the sanctions as part of an ongoing U.S. effort to aggressively oppose Iran’s ballistic missile activity, including what he called a “provocative space launch” carried out by the Islamic Republic on Thursday.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, charged on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s attempt to reimpose sanctions on his country was a violation of the accord signed two years ago that sharply limited Iran’s ability to produce nuclear material in return for its reintegration into the world economy. “It is not clear what the administration is trying to do,” said Mr. Zarif, the urbane, American-educated diplomat who negotiated the agreement with John Kerry, then the American secretary of state.
The head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, one of the architects of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, has warned the US to stop upsetting the regional balance of power by siding with Saudi Arabia. Writing in the Guardian, Ali Akbar Salehi said “lavish arms purchases” by regional actors – a reference to the Saudi purchase of $100bn of US arms during Donald Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh – would be seen as provocative in Tehran and that it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to remain “indifferent”.
An American F-15E fighter jet shot down an Iranian-made armed drone on Tuesday over southeast Syria that was flying toward American-backed Syrian fighters and their advisers, Pentagon officials said. The episode was a fresh indication that the air war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the American military is likely to continue, and perhaps even escalate, even as the United States has sought to keep its focus on defeating the Islamic State militants operating in Syria and Iraq.
The new U.S. policy towards Iran includes regime change, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on “elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition of that government.”
Senators have struck a deal to put a comprehensive Russia sanctions bill on the floor this week, according to those negotiating the legislation. The measure, which will be attached to a bill to stiffen Iran sanctions that is under consideration, incorporates proposals to codify existing Russia sanctions, introduce punitive measures against Moscow in light of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine, introduce measures addressing Syria and the realm of cyberhacking, and give Congress the power to review efforts by the administration to scale back sanctions against Russia before they can go through.
“We have recently seen an attack on Iran, and the Iranian government, the mullahs, believe that Sunni forces have attacked them. This may signal a ratcheting up of certain commitments by the United States of America. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to make this point and see what you think, isn’t it a good thing for us to have the United States finally backing up Sunnis who will attack Hezbollah and the Shiite threat to us? Isn’t that a good thing? And if so, maybe this is a Trump — maybe it’s a Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another, considering that you have two terrorist organizations.”
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