Trump tipped to extend sanctions relief for Iran

Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions with new, targeted sanctions against Iranian businesses and people, AP reported. (AP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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Trump tipped to extend sanctions relief for Iran

NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump is expected to extend sanctions relief for Iran this week as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, amid widespread speculation about whether he would kick-start a process that would see the accord unravel.

The Associated Press cited unnamed administration officials saying lawmakers had made progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark agreement, allowing Trump to extend relief from economic sanctions to Tehran.

Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions with new, targeted sanctions against Iranian businesses and people, including some firms and individuals whose sanctions were ditched under the 2015 agreement, the officials said.

The six sources, who were not allowed to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, said Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other top aides and that no final decision had been made.

Trump must decide by Friday whether to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank or reimpose the restrictions that former President Barack Obama suspended two years ago, which largely cut Iran out of the global financial system.

AP’s sources said Trump’s top national security aides appear to have successfully persuaded him to waive anew for 120 days the nuclear-linked sanctions while also imposing new curbs to punish Iran over weapons, alleged terrorism and human-rights abuses.

Such a balance may satisfy Trump’s demand to raise pressure on Iran, while not embarking on a frontal assault on the most central trade-offs of the 2015 accord, which the president has blasted as the “worst deal ever”.

Aaron David Miller, a former US State Department adviser, said Trump had talked tough against Iran but was actually “risk averse” when dealing with the regime and would likely take the safer course over waiving sanctions relief.

“All of this talk about putting Iran on notice in the region simply has not materialized; in Syria, Iraq … it’s actually been quite restrained,” Miller, from The Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, told Arab News.

“The most likely course of action will be tougher sanctions on human rights-related issues but to give the agreement more time.”

Suzanne Maloney, a former US State Department adviser on Iran, said Trump likely feels vindicated in his hostility to Iran by the eruption of nationwide anti-government protests across the Islamic republic at the end of December.

Trump’s chief objection to the Obama-era deal was not its technical shortcomings, but that it was a “bargain with a fundamentally evil entity, and that kind of a bargain can never succeed and only strengthens evil,” Maloney told Arab News.

“The real challenge for the US is not to constrain certain aspects of Iran’s behavior, but to see a wholesale transformation of the regime itself. Now Trump has seen young Iranians on the street calling for something that at least parallels that, he may push back on the course of prudence, which would be to give the deal another three months,” she added.


US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

Updated 4 min 56 sec ago
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US moves 100 coffins to North Korean border for war remains

  • From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains
  • The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned

SEOUL, South Korea: The US military said it moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for North Korea’s returning of the remains of American soldiers who have been missing since the 1950-53 Korean War.
US Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said Saturday that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a US air base near Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and would be used to send the remains home.
North Korea agreed to return US war remains during the June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. While the US military preparations suggest that the repatriation of war remains could be imminent, it remains unclear when and how it would occur.
Earlier Saturday, Carroll denied a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that US military vehicles carrying more than 200 caskets were planning to cross into North Korea on Saturday. He said plans for the repatriation were “still preliminary.”
US Forces Korea said in a statement later in the day that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the border as part of preparations to “receive and transport remains in a dignified manner when we get the call to do so.”
From 1996 to 2005, joint US-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains.
But efforts to recover and return other remains have stalled for more than a decade because of the North’s nuclear weapons development and US claims that the safety of recovery teams it sent during the administration of former President George W. Bush was not sufficiently guaranteed.
US officials have said earlier that the remains are believed to be some or all of the more than 200 that the North Koreans have had for some time. But the precise number and the identities — including whether they are US or allied service members — won’t be known until the remains are tested.
The transfer of remains is usually done in a somber, formal ceremony, and that is what officials said was being planned.
Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, said last week that he had been told the North may have the remains of more than 200 American service members that were likely recovered from land during farming or construction and could be easily returned. But he said the vast majority have yet to be located and retrieved from various cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.
More than 36,000 US troops died in the conflict, including those listed as missing in action. Close to 7,700 US troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, and about 5,300 of those were lost in North Korea.
The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
According to Chuck Prichard, spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, once the remains are turned over, they would be sent to one of two Defense Department facilities — Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska — for tests to determine identification.