Pence says US action has cut off Iran’s ability to support terrorism

A US air power demonstration near the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea last week. (US Navy via AP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Pence says US action has cut off Iran’s ability to support terrorism

  • US Vice President says Iran deal gave away billions in economic relief that Iran could then use to wage terrorist attacks
  • Pence says the US’s actions have succeeded in 'cutting off' Iran’s ability to support terrorism in the Middle East

WASHINGTON: The United States will not waver from its course of maximum pressure against Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said Monday, as tensions rise and the US-brokered nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers appears to be unraveling with the Trump administration’s pullout.
Pence’s assertion to a pro-Israel Christian organization that the US “will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon” came on the same day that Iran began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent , breaking the limit set in the 2015 agreement sealed under President Barack Obama.
The speech, amplified in later remarks to the group by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, also comes as the other partners in the agreement must decide how to respond to Iran’s announcement. President Donald Trump discussed the issue by phone Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Echoing comments made repeatedly by Trump, Pence said the international accord simply delayed Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by “roughly a decade” and gave away billions in economic relief that Iran could then use to wage terrorist attacks.
Since Trump withdrew from that deal more than a year ago, his administration has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran and designated its Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist group.
“Iran must choose between caring for its people and continuing to fund its proxies who spread violence and terrorism throughout the region and breathe out murderous hatred against Israel,” Pence said.
Pence said the US’s actions have succeeded in “cutting off” Iran’s ability to support terrorism in the Middle East, but he also charged that Iran had increased its “malign activity and violence in the region” over the past several months.
Tensions in the region have risen in recent weeks after oil tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz and Iran downed an unmanned US military surveillance drone. The downing of the drone nearly led to a US military strike against Iran; it was called off at the last minute by Trump.
Instead, the US military’s cyberforces launched a retaliatory strike against Iranian military computer systems that controlled the country’s rocket and missile launchers.
The US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.
“Let me be clear,” Pence said. “Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve.”
Iran has long maintained it was enriching uranium for peaceful reasons. While enriched uranium at the 3.67 percent level is enough for peaceful pursuits, it isn’t close to the weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. At 4.5 percent, the enriched uranium is enough to help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant.
Iran has been trying to gain European help in bypassing US sanctions, which have targeted oil sales and top officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The remaining signatories to the deal include Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
“We hope for the best, but the United States of America and our military are prepared to protect our interests and to protect our personnel and citizens in the region,” Pence said.
Later Monday, Bolton, the White House national security adviser and a longtime advocate of tough measures against Iran, devoted a large portion of his speech at the same summit to Iran, noting that the that the administration has expanded sanctions to cover metals and the petrochemical sector.
“As we pressure the Iranian regime, we will also continue to stand with the long-suffering Iranian people, who as President Trump has said, are the “rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land,” Bolton said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US has implemented the “strongest pressure campaign in history against the Iranian regime,” before adding “and we are not done.”


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.