Tough line on Iran to continue as Trump hails ‘great win’ in election

Updated 08 November 2018
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Tough line on Iran to continue as Trump hails ‘great win’ in election

  • Two Muslim women make history by winning races for US House of Representatives
  • Loss of the House of Representatives unlikely to affect President Trump’s regional policies, say analysts

WASHINGTON, AMMAN: President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed “a great win” in midterm elections after his Republican party increased its majority in the US Senate, although it lost control of the lower House of Representatives.

The Republicans “defied history” by retaining control of the upper house and “dramatically outperformed historical precedents,” Trump said.

Analysts said the loss of the House of Representatives was unlikely to affect President Trump’s regional policies, particularly in relation to Iran.

Eliot Engel, the congressman expected to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of the Democrats who opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. 

On Trump’s foreign policies, he said: “I don’t think we should challenge something just because it’s put forth by the administration, but I do think we have an obligation to review policies and do oversight.”

The election brought wins for Arab-American candidates on both sides of the political divide, and two Democrats made history by becoming the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

Rashida Tlaib, 42, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, ran virtually unopposed in Michigan. Ilhan Omar, 37, a former refugee from Somalia, won in Minneapolis, Minnesota, succeeding Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Tlaib has become “a source of pride for Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world,” her uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah, told Arab News Tlaib’s victory spoke volumes about the accumulation of political expertise and the political assimilation of Palestinian-Americans. 

“We are proud that this trailblazer American politician is female, a professional, and ready and able to speak truth to power,” he said.

Palestinian diplomat Husam Zomlot said: “Her victory is historic and indicative of the role the Palestinian-American community will play in the future.”

Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her parents when she was 8, and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. In 1997, the family settled in Minnesota, where there is a large Somali population. She won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016.

Elsewhere, Republican Justin Amash, the first Palestinian elected to Congress, in 2010 in Michigan, was comfortably re-elected.

In Florida, Lebanese-American Democrat Donna Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar. Three other Arab-American Republicans incumbents were also re-elected — Darin LaHood in Illinois, and Ralph Abraham Jr. and Garret Graves in Louisiana.


Iranians brace for harder times as US oil sanctions close in

Updated 24 April 2019
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Iranians brace for harder times as US oil sanctions close in

  • When the 2015 nuclear deal was struck, hopes were high that it would end the country’s years of crippling economic isolation
  • Hopes were shattered when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year and reimposed sanctions

TEHRAN: Iranians, already hard hit by punishing US economic sanctions, are bracing for more pain after Washington abolished waivers for some countries which had allowed them to buy oil from Iran.
“In the end the pressure (America) is putting out is on the people,” said a 28-year-old technical instructor in Iran.
“Some have crumbled, and those still standing will probably give up when things worsen,” he added, asking not to be named.
In 2015 when Iran struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, hopes were high that it would end the country’s years of crippling economic isolation.
Thousands even flooded the streets of the capital, Tehran, to celebrate and hail Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as he arrived back from tough negotiations in Vienna.
But those hopes were shattered when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year and reimposed sanctions.
Pressure has piled up ever since, with Washington saying Monday it would sanction all countries that buy Iranian oil, in a move meant to squeeze Iran’s main source of revenue down to zero.
Iran’s economy has been battered. Inflation has shot up, the country’s currency has plummeted and imports are now vastly more expensive.
“The country’s revenues will naturally reduce and maybe the rial will drop further,” the instructor told AFP.
Analysts have put Iran’s oil exports in March at around 1.9 million barrels a day, while the Central Bank had forecast revenue from oil sales in 2019 at around $10.57 billion.
Many of the country’s woes pre-date Trump and the sanctions, however, as it has struggled with a troubled banking system, a stifled private sector and the lack of foreign investment.

Yet life continues at Tehran’s Tajrish Bazaar, located north of the city.
On Tuesday people thronged the tight alleyways, drawn in by the tantalising smells of fresh vegetables and fruit as stall-owners shouted out prices, haggled with customers and hurriedly packed their goods.
But other parts of the bazaar selling non-essential goods such as pots, perfume and clothing were noticeably less busy.
“Have sanctions affected me? Which rock have you been hiding under all these years?” asked one irritated stall-owner, keeping an eye out for potential customers among the window-shoppers.
A 55-year-old housewife agreed.
“We have a limited wage, you see. (When sanctions came back) we were forced to spend what was meant for food and meat on the rent that went up,” she said.
Most people questioned by AFP asked to remain anonymous, and complained bitterly about inflation, saying they were especially pressured by growing housing and food prices.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran, overall inflation for the Iranian month of Farvardin (March 21-April 20) rose to 51.4 percent compared to the same month last year.
Food and services prices shot up by by 85 and 37 percent respectively over the same month.
This has caused “the class gap to really widen. There is only rich and poor now, nothing is left in between,” said the housewife.
“It will get worse. As ordinary citizens, we already expect prices to rise further” if oil exports reach zero, she added.
Iranians have also been forced to cut back on traveling, a tradition during the Nowruz, the Iranian new year which started on March 21, as prices grew out of many people’s reach.
“The situation is shocking,” the head of Tehran’s travel agencies association, Amir Pooyan Rafishad recently told ISNA news agency.
“Demand for trips, whether abroad or in Iran has dropped significantly.”

For Zarif, the US move to sanction Iran’s oil sales is another instance of what the Islamic Republic has repeatedly called “economic terrorism.”
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
The foreign ministry denounced the sanctions as “illegal” and said Iran was in “constant talks with its international partners including the Europeans.”
Russia on Tuesday called the US tightening of sanctions an “aggressive and reckless” policy.
Other major sources of income for the Iranian economy are minerals, about $8 billion annually, and agricultural exports, at about $5 billion — but it also imports large quantities of both, offsetting much of that income.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, however, has said he believes the US will not be able to block Iran from selling its oil.
“America’s dream for bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero will not be realized,” he told lawmakers on Tuesday, ISNA reported.
“America and its allies have made a big mistake by politicizing oil and using it as a weapon,” he added. “Given the market’s circumstances, (it) will backfire on many.”