As protests rage in Iran, Trump’s Iran policy faces sanctions test

In this Dec. 30, 2017 photo, by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, university students attend an anti-government protest inside Tehran University, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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As protests rage in Iran, Trump’s Iran policy faces sanctions test

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has signaled support for anti-government protests in Iran, but in two weeks he faces a decision on US policy toward the Islamic Republic that suddenly seems riskier than it did a week ago.
The six days of demonstrations in several Iranian cities began over economic conditions, and Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports under the terms of an international nuclear deal.
If he reimposes sanctions on oil, it could increase the economic pain for Iran’s leaders. But analysts said it could also send the wrong message about US support for Iran’s people in the middle of the boldest challenge to the leadership in a decade.
The sanctions waivers were included in the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran that eased economic pressure on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal and promised to negotiate a better one. Reimposing oil sanctions would essentially kill the agreement.
Reviving sanctions on Iran’s main export would allow Tehran to argue that the United States is ultimately the cause of Iran’s economic problems, said Richard Nephew, who worked on sanctions policy at the White House under President Barack Obama.
“Let’s say Trump was inclined not to renew the waivers. I think that (the protests) make it very hard for him to do that now because now that plays into the regime’s hands in a way that I don’t frankly think the administration is going to want to do,” said Nephew, now at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump has not made a final decision on whether to waive sanctions. Asked whether the protests had changed Trump’s calculation, she replied: “Not necessarily.”

BLAME THE OUTSIDERS
Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Iran’s leaders will blame internal troubles on the United States and other outside powers, no matter what Washington does.
“The regime’s argument that the world is against us is a constant for 38 years,” Takeyh said in a telephone interview. “The optics of waiving sanctions in the midst of all this — it just doesn’t look good.”
Takeyh and three US officials who follow Iran said the protests undercut Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who took office in 2013 pledging to improve Iran’s economy, more than they threaten the country’s clerical rulers.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, in a Twitter post, said the Trump administration with its condemnation of Iran and the nuclear deal over the last year has squandered an opportunity to bolster reformists in Iran and promote peaceful political change.
“Bluster is neither a strategy nor a mechanism for exercise of US power and influence,” Brennan wrote.
Yet in recent days, Trump and his top aides have charted a more careful course in reacting to the demonstrations, which have led to at least 21 deaths and hundreds of arrests.
Trump in a Tweet on Tuesday called the Tehran government a “brutal and corrupt regime.” But he and other US officials have shied away from suggesting Washington seeks the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic theocracy, calling instead for Iranian authorities to respect protesters’ rights.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Tuesday urged Iranian security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with protests and called on Tehran to restore access to social media sites that have been restricted.
Nauert suggested the US government could impose sanctions against Iranian officials who repress peaceful protests.
Another US official said a coherent policy response to events in Iran cannot be formulated until Washington has a better understanding of the composition of the protesters, the breadth of the economic and political grievances that are driving them, and what threat they pose to the government.
The United States has had no diplomatic presence in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, limiting its ability to interpret events.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington’s main effort now was “trying to get a sense of who is mostly behind this, how large it is and does it have legs.”


UAE ‘a living example for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths’

Updated 28 min 38 sec ago
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UAE ‘a living example for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths’

  • Every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam, says UAE's grand mufti
  • We should forgive Indian chef Atul Kochhar and teach him about the values of Islam, he says

DUBAI: The UAE has shown the world how people of all faiths and nationalities can live together in peace, which is in line with the teachings of Islam, according to Dubai’s leading religious scholar.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Dr. Mohammed Al-Kobaisi, grand mufti of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities of Dubai, said that Islam includes the principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among all people for goodness and righteousness, to benefit everyone.
“The UAE put these principles into practice and legalized the system in such a way that it not only became a case study but a reality that many people live here,” he said.
“We have more than 200 nationalities who are witnessing that and are a testimony to it.
“Allah Almighty has said repeatedly that all mankind are made from one single male and female, and they are made into races and tribes to know one and other. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also repeated the same by saying: ‘Oh mankind you are all from Adam,’ and there is no distinction or superiority over Arab or non-Arab, neither white over black or black over white, except by righteousness and good deeds.”
Al-Kobaisi said these principals of peaceful coexistence are deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam.
“Muslims worldwide abide and practice them,” he said. “The UAE has made huge advancement in this area. It works on multiple levels: The education system, preaching within guidelines, the legal system and many others. All these put together make it a beautiful reality that all people in the UAE enjoy and benefit from the practice (of treating everyone equally.)”
The grand mufti said Muslims who live with non-muslims or in non-Muslim countries must be especially responsible with their behavior as they face particular challenges.
“The first (challenges) are those that Muslims are facing with regard to their faith and other worldly matters,” he said. “The other major issue is their reaction towards these (challenges) — their own behavior.”
He added that like it or not, every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam, and how each individual acts and presents himself or herself affects the perception and image of all Muslims.
“(In this regard) Islam actually stands out among many other religions,” said Al-Kobaisi. “If a non-Muslim does something, it does not reflect on his religion but if a Muslim does, then it usually reflects on the image of Islam.
“That's why the messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, has guided us that we need to stand out among people with our characters, behaviors and morals. A Muslim should be known immediately as a Muslim because he is peaceful, respects the system and laws, is helpful to his community and neighbors, is truthful, and does not lie or cheat.”
He said this etiquette of Islam is very important everywhere but becomes even more crucial when dealing with non-Muslims.
“Now you are representing Islam,” said Al-Kobaisi. “Even if you are not a good Muslim, they will take it that this is what actual Muslims do. So you need to be careful and represent the real Islamic values. Muslims should always be ready to cooperate for the goodness and benefit of society.”
Responding to social media outcry over Dubai-based Indian origin chef Atul Kochhar’s tweet on Islam, Al-Kobaisi said such issues should be considered on two levels.

"First, a person who is living as a guest in a country should respect local cultural values and customs to ensure a peaceful coexistence.

“It does not make sense for a person living as a guest to attack local customs and traditions — let alone religious values or Islam at large, categorizing all Muslims and Islam through a narrow prism based on false information they read somewhere,” he said.

The second consideration is legal, given that the UAE has strict laws governing public comments, online or otherwise, about religion and anyone who breaks them can be prosecuted.

As for how Muslims should react to such cases, Al-Kobaisi said they should realize that the person involved is either ignorant or does not have the right information.

In the particular case of the chef, he said it is the duty of Muslims to educate him and share the real values of Islam, while offering forgiveness when warranted.

“We should forgive him and guide, if we realize that his opinion was based on wrong information and wrong experiences he had in the past,” he said.

However, if a person doing such things deliberately to disturb the peace in society, or to gain attention or sympathy, then the case should be referred to the authorities who will deal with it according to the rule of law, he added.