Trump vows ‘support’ for Iran protesters

Republican U.S. Presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio August 1, 2016. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Trump vows ‘support’ for Iran protesters

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump pledged unspecified support for Iranians trying to “take back” their government Wednesday, extending a drumbeat of encouragement for countrywide protests.
“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday.
“You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” he said, without offering any specifics on what or when that might be.
Trump has sought to ramp up pressure the Iranian regime, which has struggled to contain a week of protests across the country.
But so far his administration’s input has been rhetorical and diplomatic.
Trump on Tuesday described the regime as “brutal and corrupt,” ignoring warnings that his intervention could backfire.
Trump’s administration also demanded a snap UN Security Council meeting to debate unrest that has killed 21 people — mostly protesters.
His top diplomat at the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, used her public platform to recite protesters’ slogans and declared that “the people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
Trump — flanked in the White House by a coterie of former generals who spent a career fighting Iranian proxies from Beirut to Baghdad — has taken a hard line against Iran since coming to office.
He has abandoned Obama-era diplomatic overtures and embraced allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia who are keen to confront Iran’s growing regional power.
Much of Trump’s response has focused on playing up perceived errors by the Obama administration, not least a deal that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Trump — who built his broader political fortunes around opposing America’s first black president — has, for now, left the fate of that deal with Congress while he continues to oppose it.
But he must soon decide where to extend sanctions relief. If he declines, the deal could effectively be dead.
Obama’s muted support for 2009 protests in Iran has also appeared to play a role in the Trump administration’s’ more vocal response.
Protests began in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.
“President Trump is not going to sit by silently like President Obama did. And he certainly supports the Iranian people and wants to make that clear,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Wednesday that the unrest that rocked Iran over several days was at an end, and claimed that a maximum of 15,000 people had taken part nationwide.
“Today we can announce the end of the sedition,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards.


Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

Updated 24 min 33 sec ago
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Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

  • The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day
  • Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility

JEDDAH: Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium and boosted its ability to enrich it to weapons grade, the head of its atomic agency admitted on Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the regime had imported 550 tons of uranium before the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program. It had acquired about 400 tons more since then, bringing the total to between 900 and 950 tons.

Iran has also built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges a day for uranium enrichment, Salehi said.

The announcements came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal.

Under the agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the deal. Iran has said it will wait to see what they can do, but has signaled it is ready to put its enrichment activities back on track.

Salehi insisted the new factory did not break the terms of the agreement. “Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but have not started it,” he said.

Salehi said last month that Iran had begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

The announcements suggest that a nuclear bomb is on Iran’s agenda, Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News

“Iran’s negotiating strategy here seems to be pegged to pressuring the EU to provide European businesses protection from complying with renewed US sanctions,” he said.

“IR-6 centrifuges are relatively complex and if Tehran moves forward with enhancing their capacity to mass-produce faster advanced centrifuges, they could easily establish a position to breakout quickly toward nuclear weapon production, if the decision is made.

“The capacity to build en masse more advanced centrifuges in the future doesn’t violate the deal itself, but it sends a strong political signal that nuclear weaponization could very well still be on the agenda in Tehran.”