Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

Ahmad Khatami told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable. (Reuters)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric

  • ‘Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship’
  • ‘The price of a war with Iran is very high for America’

LONDON: A senior Iranian cleric warned Washington on Wednesday that if it attacked Iran, the United States and allied Israel would be targeted, as a war of words escalated after the reimposition of the US sanctions on Iran.
Ahmad Khatami also told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable, as the US leader wanted Tehran to concede on its missile program and regional influence.
“Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship. The Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation would stand up against dictatorship,” Khatami was quoted as saying by Mizan news agency.
“The price of a war with Iran is very high for America. They know if they harm this country and this state in the slightest way, the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime (of Israel) would be targeted,” Khatami said.
Khatami did not elaborate which forces would carry out such attacks, but Iran has said it could target Israeli cities with its missiles if it is threatened. Iran also has proxies in the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it, and vowed to boost Iran’s military might.
The Trump administration slapped sanctions back on Iran this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it was too soft on Tehran and would not stop it developing a nuclear bomb.
Washington imposed new sanctions in August, targeting Iran’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars. Trump has said the United States will issue another round of tougher sanctions in November that will target Iran’s oil sales and banking sector.
Trump’s national security adviser told Reuters on Wednesday that the US president wanted maximum pressure on Iran.
“There should not be any doubt that the United States wants this resolved peacefully, but we are fully prepared for any contingency that Iran creates,” John Bolton said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal, prompting Trump to tell Reuters in an interview on Monday: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.