Sanctions noose tightens on Iran

A man takes a glance at a newspaper with a picture of US president Donald Trump on the front page in this July 31, 2018 photo. Iran has been gripped by protests countrywide amid an economic crisis that is expected to worsen as economic sanctions by the US take effect Monday, August 6, 2018. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)
Updated 06 August 2018
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Sanctions noose tightens on Iran

  • New penalties begin today ... with more to follow in November 
  • Trump withdrew US support for a 2015 deal under which sanctions would be lifted in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program

LONDON: Iran is staring into the economic abyss as the US today restores crippling sanctions that have already sparked protests countrywide and sent the value of the Iranian rial tumbling.

The US Treasury Department’s new sanctions are wide-ranging and block Tehran from acquiring US dollars, and trading in gold and other precious and industrial metals. 

They also cover the automotive sector and debt markets — effectively preventing the country from seeking relief at home by raising international capital. The measures even extend to the sale of pistachio nuts and Persian rugs. Further sanctions targeting the banking and energy sectors will follow on Nov. 4.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had treated its people “very poorly” as he wrapped up a three-day trip to Southeast Asia in Indonesia.

“President Trump has always said he is prepared to talk, but it’s important that Iran has to be committed to changing its ways in order for those discussions to prove of any value,” he said.

The crisis has led to protests around the country demanding regime change. Iranians complain that they face economic deprivation while their government squanders cash on military adventures in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. 

Iran has witnessed angry protests over the past week over rampant inflation that is being made worse by the weakening of the Iranian currency.

Footage posted online showed people in Tehran shouting: “Death to the dictator,” in a reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

President Donald Trump announced in May that the US was withdrawing from an international accord struck in 2015 under which sanctions would be lifted in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.

Meanwhile corporations have been racing to finalize deals before sanctions resumed and Iran bought five new commercial planes on Sunday. The ATR72-600 aircraft are made by a company jointly owned by European consortium Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo.

Tensions have risen in the Arabian Gulf and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed on Sunday they had held war games in the region in recent days. A US military spokesman said they had detected increased Iranian naval activity in the Gulf. 

 


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 7 min 28 sec ago
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Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.