Egypt shares Trump’s concerns about Iran

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km south of Tehran, in this October 26, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 October 2017

Egypt shares Trump’s concerns about Iran

CAIRO: Egypt has stated its support for US President Donald Trump’s concerns regarding Iranian threats to regional security.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry reiterated “Egypt’s deep concern regarding Iranian policies which lead to the instability of regional states and affect Arab national security as well as Gulf security.”
The ministry added that the security of the Gulf was “an extension of the national security of Egypt.”
The statement came after Trump decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement signed between Iran, the US, the UK, China, Germany, France and Russia in 2015. Trump asked the US Treasury Department to impose “harsh sanctions” on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), whom he accused of supporting regional terrorist groups.
Trump urged Congress and US allies to find a solution, which guarantees stronger conditions in the nuclear agreement with Iran, in order to ensure its sustainability, to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, and to limit its destabilizing conduct.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmad Abu Zeid, told Arab News that Trump’s announcement contained many factors, which explain Egypt’s concern regarding Iranian policies.
He reiterated how important Egypt feels it is that the Middle East is a nuclear-free zone, and that it remains free from “other weapons of mass destruction.”
He added that Iran should stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries. “All of which would enhance the stability of the Middle East and help achieve sustainable solutions for the current crises,” he said.
“Egypt is worried about constant Iranian threats to the security and stability of some GCC countries, like Kuwait and Bahrain, due to the relations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with some groups which seek to undermine the security and stability of those countries,” Mohammad Abbas Nagi, editor-in-chief of Iranian Selections magazine, told Arab News.
Dr. Mu’taz Salamah, director of the Arabian Gulf program at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), told Arab News that he notices a “leap” in the Egyptian statement with regards to the country’s traditional commitment to the security of the Gulf.
Egyptian rhetoric had previously not singled any country out, he explained. But the recent statement specifically highlighted negative Iranian interference.
Nagi explained that lifting restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program after 10 years cold expose the region to danger from both Israel and Iran. “Cairo is concerned about reports regarding Iranian attempts to circumvent the nuclear agreement and preserve a secret military side to its nuclear program,” he said.
However, Egypt is not critical of the 2015 agreement, according to Dr. Iman Ragab, regional security expert at ACPSS.
Ragab said Egypt welcomed the nuclear agreement and considered it in the interest of regional stability. The ministry’s statement, he believes, is an attempt to convince Iran to change its policies toward its neighbors.
Dr. Ahmad Youssef, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Arab News that the Arab initiative is an ideal framework for dealing with Iranian threats.
He added that Egyptian-Gulf awareness of these threats is more consistent than America’s shifting policies regarding Iran, and warned that total investment in any US strategy could be risky.
“We cannot control the results of changing American policies, especially when the US adopts a policy which does not conform with Arab interests,” he said. A sudden change in Trump’s position cannot be ruled out, especially considering the opposition he faces not only from Democrats, but from within his own administration, he added.
Nagi, meanwhile, pointed out that the strategy presented in Trump’s speech has not yet translated into procedural steps on the ground, and that process could take a long time.
Before Trump’s address on Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clarified that Trump’s decertification of Iran’s compliance with the terms of the nuclear agreement would not mean withdrawing from the agreement. Tillerson added that the Trump administration would not ask Congress to re-impose sanctions on Iran, as that would be “tantamount to walking away” from the agreement.
Tillerson said that he discussed with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, the possibility of reaching a new agreement “alongside the 2015 accord” dealing with the “sunset clause” (the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program after 2025) and the Iranian ballistic missile program.
While he expected the imposition of additional sanctions against the funding structures of the Revolutionary Guard and some of its elements, Tillerson ruled out the possibility of classifying it as a terrorist organization because of specific dangers and complications associated with categorizing any country’s army in that way.

Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

Updated 24 May 2018

Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.