Sanctions a pillar of US policy toward Iran, says Pompeo

Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil "as close to zero as possible" by November 4, part of US efforts to increase economic pressure on Tehran. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018
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Sanctions a pillar of US policy toward Iran, says Pompeo

  • The sanctions will be rigorously enforced and remain in place until the Iranian government radically changes course
  • President Donald Trump is intent on getting Iran to “behave like a normal country”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said renewed US sanctions on Iran will be rigorously enforced and remain in place until the Iranian government radically changes course. Speaking to reporters en route from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, Pompeo said Monday’s reimposition of some sanctions is an important pillar in US policy toward Iran. He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran.
“We’re hopeful that we can find a way to move forward but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” he said Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”
European foreign ministers said Monday they “deeply regret” the reimposition of US sanctions.
Iran said on Monday the US was “isolated” in its hostility to the Islamic republic.
“Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Washington is set to reimpose sanctions on Iran on Tuesday following President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal in May — a move opposed by all other parties to the agreement.
“We deeply regret the reimposition of sanctions by the US,” said EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini in a statement jointly signed with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany.
“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” the statement added.
But the renewed hostility has already sparked a run on Iran’s currency, which has lost around half its value since Trump’s announcement.
And it has added to tensions inside Iran, which has seen days of protests and strikes in multiple towns and cities over water shortages, high prices and wider anger at the political system.
Severe reporting restrictions have made it impossible to verify the swirl of claims coming through social media, but journalists did confirm a heavy buildup of riot police on Sunday night in the town of Karaj, just west of Tehran, that has been a focal point of unrest, and said mobile internet had been cut in the area.
Rouhani on Monday outlined plans for tackling the currency decline and impact of sanctions.
His government eased foreign exchange rules on Sunday, allowing unlimited tax-free currency and gold imports, and reopening exchange bureaus after a disastrous attempt to fix the value of the rial in April led to widespread black market corruption.
With senior religious authorities calling for a crackdown on graft, the judiciary said Sunday it had arrested the vice governor of the central bank in charge of foreign exchange, Ahmad Araghchi, along with a government clerk and four currency brokers.
Sanctions are due to return in two phases on Aug. 7 and Nov. 5 — with the first targeting Iran’s access to US banknotes and key industries including cars and carpets.
The second phase — blocking Iran’s oil sales — is due to cause more damage, although several countries including China, India and Turkey have indicated they are not willing to entirely cut their Iranian energy purchases.
After months of fierce rhetoric, Trump surprised observers last week when he offered to meet with Rouhani without preconditions.
But Zarif suggested it was hard to imagine negotiating with the man who tore up an agreement on which Iran and world powers had spent the “longest hours in negotiating history.”
“Do you think this person (Trump) is a good and suitable person to negotiate with? Or is he just showing off?” he said.
There have been ongoing rumors that Trump and Rouhani could meet in New York later this month, where they are both attending the UN General Assembly — though Rouhani reportedly rejected US overtures for a meeting at last year’s event.
Over the weekend Trump once again floated the idea of meeting, tweeting “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter — it is up to them!“
But that came less than a fortnight after a bellicose exchange between the two presidents, with Rouhani warning of the “mother of all wars” and Trump responding with a Twitter tirade against Iran’s “DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE.”
Trump has stated he wants a new deal with Iran that goes beyond curbing its nuclear program, and ends what America calls its “malign influence” in the region, including its support to the Syrian regime and militant groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories.
Iran hawks believe the pressure is already showing results, pointing to a surprising lack of harassment by Iranian naval forces against American warships in the Gulf this year.
If Iran senses “American steel they back down, if they perceive American mush they push forward — and right now they perceive steel,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank that lobbied against the nuclear deal.


Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in border clashes: Gaza ministry

Updated 24 September 2018
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Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in border clashes: Gaza ministry

GAZA CITY: Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian in fresh clashes on the Gaza border Sunday, the health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave said.
Imad Ishtawi, 21, was shot in the head, the ministry said, as Palestinians again gathered along the border east of Gaza City late Sunday in the latest in months of often violent demonstrations.
The strip’s rulers Hamas had been rumored to be seeking a lasting truce with Israel but the indirect talks have seemingly stalled, with protests subsequently increasing in number.
In recent weeks the demonstrations, which typically involve burning tires and throwing stones, have also taken place at night, though with far smaller numbers than the regular Friday daytime gatherings.
At least 186 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30.
One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of Gaza for more than a decade it says is necessary to isolate Hamas.