EU backs off from new sanctions against Iran — for now

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European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks with the media as she arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Luxembourg on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (R), EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) and Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attend an EU foreign affairs council in Luxembourg on April 16, 2018. (AFP / Emmanuel Dunand)
Updated 17 April 2018

EU backs off from new sanctions against Iran — for now

  • Irish FM stressed need to send a strong signal to Iran about its activities
  • Targets for new sanctions could include both Iranians and non-Iranian militias in Syria

JEDDAH: EU foreign ministers met on Monday for talks on how they could persuade the US not to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, but stopped short of imposing new sanctions on Tehran.
Britain, France and Germany used a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers to try to build support for expanding sanctions against Iran to punish it for its regional expansionism and its role in the conflict in Syria.
They hope that by doing so they will persuade US President Donald Trump not to follow through on his threat to abandon the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson said there was “a very broad majority” in favor of expanding sanctions, as the clock ticks down to a May 12 deadline imposed by Trump to “fix” the agreement.
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said there was a need to “send a strong signal to Iran that we’re concerned in relation to some of their activity, particularly in Syria.
“But also to send a message to Washington that we share their concerns in some of those areas,” Coveney said after the talks in Luxembourg.
Targets for new sanctions could include both Iranians and non-Iranian militias in Syria. But any decision would have to have unanimous support, and countries such as Italy and Sweden are not convinced.
“There is no consensus at the moment,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.
“I don’t exclude that this will happen in the future but it’s not the case today.”

Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

Updated 24 April 2018

Daesh threatens Iraq polling stations ahead of parliamentary vote

BAGHDAD: Daesh has threatened to attack Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month.

In a message posted to the Telegram messaging app on Sunday, Daesh spokesman Abu Hassan Al-MuHajjir called on Sunni Iraqis to boycott the May 12 polls, the first since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory over Daesh in December.

Extremist groups in Iraq have targeted every election since the 2003 US-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein and paved the way for Shiites to dominate every government since.

Under a system of checks and balances designed to avoid a return to dictatorship, the winner of the May 12 elections will have to form alliances with other Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish lists to secure a majority.

An incumbent prime minister, his ousted predecessor and a paramilitary chief instrumental in defeating Daesh are the three favorites vying for Iraq’s premiership.

Two of the favorites topping the lists were among the architects of victory against Daesh, which in 2014 seized a third of Iraq’s territory in a lightning offensive.

The incumbent prime minister, 66 year-old Abadi, took over the reins from Nuri Al-Maliki in September 2014 at the high watermark of the security crisis.

The fightback which allowed Abadi to declare Iraq’s victory over Daesh in December, has silenced critics of his lack of military experience.

An engineering graduate and holder of a doctorate from the University of Manchester in Britain, Abadi is from the same Dawa party as his predecessor Maliki.

As the official head of Iraq’s military, Abadi has bolstered morale by drafting in foreign trainers, who have helped professionalize tens of thousands of soldiers.

Under his watch and backed by a US-led international coalition, the army has banished Daesh from all its urban strongholds in Iraq. 

The Iraqi military has also pushed back the Kurds in the north’s oil-rich Kirkuk province, bolstering Abadi’s status as frontrunner going into the election.

“He has a popular base which transcends confessional and ethnic lines. He offers a narrative as a statesman and he is not tarnished by corruption,” said Iraqi political scientist Essam Al-Fili.

Haddad said: “Abadi remains the single strongest contender but not strong enough to win anything close to a majority.”

His main contender is Hadi Al-Ameri — a leader of Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network that played a pivotal role in defeating Daesh.

During Maliki’s 2010-2014 term as premier, Ameri was a lawmaker and then transport minister, but he was blocked in a bid to head the Interior Ministry by an American veto.