Trump throws future of Iran deal to Congress

A man holds up a sign during a protest calling for the Trump administration to continue diplomacy with Iran near the White House in Washington, D.C.m on October 12, 2017. Trump is set to deal a blow to the Iran nuclear deal, which the European Union is desperate to uphold. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2017
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Trump throws future of Iran deal to Congress

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will unveil a more aggressive strategy to check Iran’s growing power Friday, but will stop short of withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal or declaring the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
During a White House speech at 12:45 p.m. (1645 GMT), Trump is expected to declare the 2015 agreement — which curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief — is no longer in the US national interest.
Officials say he will not kill the international accord outright, instead “decertifying” the agreement and leaving US lawmakers to decide its fate.
Trump had repeatedly pledged to overturn one of his predecessor Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievements, deriding it as “the worst deal” and one agreed to out of “weakness.”
The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — at talks coordinated by the European Union.
While the deal stalled Iran’s nuclear program and marginally thawed relations between Iran and its “Great Satan,” opponents say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence in the Middle East.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House to set the stage for Trump’s speech, he will rail against Iran’s “destabilizing influence” on the Middle East, “particularly its support for terrorism and militants.”
The strategy will seek to shield Israel from Iran’s “unrelenting hostility” and counter the threat to all US interests and allies from Iran’s proxy forces, ballistic missile development and eventual nuclear ambitions.
But the plan as outlined by the fact sheet does not envisage Washington pulling out of the Iran deal’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. Indeed, “the deal must be strictly enforced, and the IAEA must fully utilize its inspection authorities.”
Since coming to office, Trump has faced intense lobbying from international allies and his own national security team, who argued the deal should remain in place.
In another partial climbdown, Trump is also expected to levy limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, rather than invite retaliation by designating it as a terrorist organization.
The outcome “probably reflects more some of the divisions and debates within the administration,” said former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.
Apart from running swaths of Iran’s economy and Iran’s ballistic program, the corps is also accused of guiding bellicose proxies from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Houthi in Yemen to Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria.
Still, Trump’s tough-guy gambit could yet risk undoing years of careful diplomacy and increasing Middle East tensions.
UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at US counterpart saying he was opposing “the whole world” by trying to abandon a landmark nuclear agreement.
“It will be absolutely clear which is the lawless government. It will be clear which country is respected by the nations of the world and global public opinion,” he added.
And Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by “snapping back” sanctions, which Iran demanded be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment.
Many lawmakers are waiting to see how Trump presents the choice before deciding whether to keep or torpedo the agreement.
In a statement to AFP, leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio described the accord as “fatally-flawed” and said he was open to legislation that would “substantially improve America’s ability to counter Iran’s nuclear, terrorism, militancy and regional threats.”
Trump has been railing against the Iran deal since before he was elected in November last year.
In office, he has chafed at being required under US law to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the accord every 90 days, declaring that Tehran has broken it “in spirit.”
Right up until the last minute, the other signatories to the deal have urged Washington not to let it fall apart.
“We believe this deal is important to ensuring the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and regional peace and stability. We hope all parties can continue to preserve and implement this deal,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent much of the week on the telephone, talking through a decision that is deeply unpopular with allies.
Europe fears not only that Iran will resume the quest for the bomb but that the US is relinquishing its leadership role in a stable, rules-based international system.


Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

Updated 23 September 2018
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Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

  • Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead
  • ‘No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force’

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities issued a notice to residents of a Bedouin village in a strategic spot in the occupied West Bank on Sunday informing them they have until the end of the month to leave.
The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.
Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead.
Israel says the village was built without the proper permits, though it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive such permission in that part of the West Bank.
The notice given to the some 200 residents of Khan Al-Ahmar on Sunday says they have until the end of the month to demolish the village themselves.
“Pursuant to a supreme court ruling, residents of Khan Al-Ahmar received a notice today requiring them to demolish all the structures on the site by October 1st, 2018,” a statement from the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said.
It did not say what will happen if they refuse to do so. Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice.
“No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force,” said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents’ meeting would be held later on the issue.
“If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force.”
The village is located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem, near Israeli settlements and along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
There have been warnings that continued settlement building in the area would eventually divide the West Bank in two, dealing a death blow to any remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan Al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.