Trump accuses Iran of secret nuclear enrichment and warns of ‘substantial’ new sanctions

Iran's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kazem Gharib Abadi under pressure at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting in Vienna Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Trump accuses Iran of secret nuclear enrichment and warns of ‘substantial’ new sanctions

  • Washington accuses Iran of 'nuclear extortion' during IAEA governors meeting
  • IAEA inspectors confirm that Iran was now enriching uranium to 4.5% purity

WASHINGTON/VIENNA: President Donald Trump accused Iran on Wednesday of secretly enriching uranium for a long time and said US sanctions would be increased “substantially” soon, as the UN nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting on Tehran’s breach of a nuclear deal.
Washington used the session of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors to accuse Iran of extortion after it inched past the deal’s limit on enrichment levels, while still offering to hold talks with Tehran.
Iran says it is reacting to harsh US economic sanctions imposed on Tehran since Trump pulled out of world powers’ 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic last year, and says all its steps were reversible if Washington returned to the deal.

“Iran has long been secretly ‘enriching,’ in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!“
While Iran was found to have had covert enrichment sites long before the nuclear accord, the deal also imposed the most intrusive nuclear supervision on Iran of any country, and there has been no serious suggestion Iran is secretly enriching now.
The deal confines enrichment in Iran to its Natanz site, which was itself exposed in 2003. Any clandestine enrichment elsewhere would be a grave breach of the deal. It was not immediately clear from Trump’s comments whether he was referring to previous, long-known activities or making a new allegation.
The US statement, made just hours before Trump’s tweet, made no mention of either secret enrichment or an imminent tightening of sanctions.
Iran’s IAEA ambassador said in a German newspaper interview published on Wednesday that Tehran intended to preserve the nuclear deal with major powers if all other signatories honored their commitments under it.
“Everything can be reversed within a single hour — if all of our partners in the treaty would just fulfill their obligations in the same way,” Gharib Abadi was quoted by the weekly Die Zeit as saying.
In the past two weeks Iran has breached two limits pivotal to the 2015 deal, which aimed to extended the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, if it chose to do so, to a year from around 2-3 months.
President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic’s moves were permissible under the deal, rebuffing a warning by European powers to continue compliance.
The Trump administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues. But Iran says it must first be able to export as much oil as it did before the US withdrawal.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen sharply, culminating in a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that were called off at the last minute.
“There is no credible reason for Iran to expand its nuclear program, and there is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community,” said a Trump administration statement issued at the closed-door session of the IAEA board in Vienna.
“We call on Iran to reverse its recent nuclear steps and cease any plans for further advancements in the future. The United States has made clear that we are open to negotiation without preconditions, and that we are offering Iran the possibility of a full normalization of relations.”
Iran says it will continue to breach the deal’s caps one by one until it receives the economic windfall — trade and investment deals with the wider world — promised under terms of the agreement.

In a separate closed-door meeting with member states on Wednesday, IAEA inspectors confirmed that Iran was now enriching uranium to 4.5% purity, above the 3.67% limit set by its deal. This would be Iran’s second breach of the deal in as many weeks, diplomats familiar with the figures said.
However, that is still far below the 20% to which Iran refined uranium before the deal, and the roughly 90% needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel.
“The latest steps indicate that Tehran’s leadership has made a decision to move onto the offensive to create leverage vis-a-vis the international community and bring about a solution to its constraints,” a Western intelligence source told Reuters.
Washington is set on isolating Iran to force it to negotiate stricter limits on its nuclear program and, for the first time, to address calls to curb its ballistic missile program and its role around the conflict-ridden Middle East.

Diplomats from several countries on the IAEA board said that while fiery exchanges between the Iranian and US envoys were likely at the meeting at agency headquarters, they did not expect the board to take any concrete action.
While Iran has breached the terms of the deal which the IAEA is policing, the IAEA is not a party to the deal and Iran has not violated the Safeguards Agreement binding it to the agency.
Britain, France and Germany are considering their next move, torn between the urge to show their displeasure at Iran’s breach of the deal and wanting to keep alive a pact that signatories in 2015 touted as vital to preventing wider war in the Middle East.
 


Deportation of Syrian refugees from Istanbul creates panic

Turkey’s move to deport unregistered Syrian refugees is seen as being related to pleasing the ruling AKP government’s constituencies, who have complained about refugees taking their jobs. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 59 sec ago
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Deportation of Syrian refugees from Istanbul creates panic

  • Turkish citizens consider Syrian refugees as one of the top critical issues in the country

ANKARA: The deportation of about 1,000 Syrians in a week from Istanbul to Syria’s Idlib province has sparked a debate about Turkey’s refugee policy and the timing of the move. Syrian refugees who have illegally crossed into Turkey or committed a crime were sent to rebel-held Idlib, where Turkey has 12 observation posts and some safe zones.
Local authorities in Istanbul on Monday set a four-week deadline — until Aug. 20 — for Syrians living without authorization to return to provinces where they were registered or be forcefully dispatched to those regions, Reuters reported.
The number of refugees exceeds 4 million in Turkey, with Istanbul hosting about half-a-million Syrian refugees. More than 5,000 Syrian refugees in Istanbul were also reportedly detained by police because their residency permits were registered in another Turkish city.
They will be moved to those cities from the relocation centers because according to the law they should stay in the province where they are registered and obtain a special permit to travel elsewhere.
There are about 300,000 refugees in Istanbul who are registered in another Turkish city.
According to some experts, deporting unregistered refugees is understandable to a point, but sending them to a war zone is not acceptable. For other experts, the move is seen as being related to pleasing the ruling AKP government’s constituencies, who have complained about refugees allegedly taking their jobs.
A recent poll conducted by Turkish Piar research company revealed that Turkish citizens consider Syrian refugees as the second most critical issue the country faces.
Murat Erdogan, of the Migration and Integration Research Center at the German-Turkish University in Istanbul, said that the move appears to have two objectives.
“On the domestic front, the authorities intend to send a message to Turkish society to say that the flow of Syrian refugees is under their control. From the international perspective, it is a message to the European Union, which insists on not launching a visa-free Europe to Turkish citizens although Turkey has met the key criteria,” he told Arab News.
For Erdogan, sending Syrian refugees to a dangerous place such as Idlib, where the latest bombings have targeted civilians, is a tactical move to seriously disturb European officials.
“How those Syrians relocated to the city where they were registered will be accommodated by the local people from an integration point of view, and how they will find jobs to make ends meet, is another concern,” he said.
Erdogan said that the management of refugee flows from Syria was a significant soft power tool for Ankara.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The number of refugees exceeds 4 million in Turkey, with Istanbul hosting about half-a-million Syrian refugees.

• More than 5,000 Syrian refugees in Istanbul were reportedly detained by the police because their residency permits were registered in another Turkish city.

• They will be moved to those cities from the relocation centers because according to the law they should stay in the province where they are registered and obtain a special permit to travel elsewhere.

Halit Hoca, founder of the Solidarity with Syrian People Platform and ex-president of the Syrian National Coalition, said that the government’s latest move with Syrian refugees came as a surprise to them.
“There were some Syrians who came to Turkey under the guise of refugees over the past eight years, and some of them gained citizenship status but they were not refugees. However, we insistently advised the government to coordinate these refugee flows with the relevant civil society actors, but our calls remained unanswered,” he told Arab News.
Now the government had suddenly decided to send them back in an unsystematic manner, which had caused great panic and may create new wounds, Hoca said.
“The timing is also telling. These deportations occurred during the days when Russian planes heavily hit targets in Idlib,” he said.
Turkey had a similar deportation wave in 2017, which was criticized by Human Rights Watch. Last week, a 16-year-old teenager was reportedly sent back to Idlib because he had left his identity card at home.
“Although this time it is not the first wave of deportation, it is on a more massive scale than the previous one. But one thing is clear: This decision might be temporary, but there is a constant message that comes out: Turkey wants to show that it can host and send back guests whenever it wants,” Hoca said.
Syrian refugees who work without a work permit are also under close examination by police.
The Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) recently announced its plan to address the situation of refugees in Turkey. During a press conference in Riyadh, Nasr Al-Hariri, head of the HNC, said that it was currently working with Turkish authorities on this issue.
For Omar Kadkoy, a Syrian-origin researcher on refugee integration at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, the recent measures put both the mandate of temporary protection and the universal principle of non-refoulement (a principle of international law that forbids a nation returning asylum seekers to a country in which they would be in danger of persecution) at risk of violation.
“The former indicates an obligation of notification in case of removal and the latter requires verifying the aspect of voluntary return through a third-party — namely the UNHCR — and the presence of a safe country of origin. Unfortunately, recent actions don’t seem to meet the aforementioned conditions,” he told Arab News.
“The current bad turn of the economy is affecting everybody. Yet the reactionary behavior of the government reflects two bitter realities,” Kadkoy said.
“First, losing the megacity to the opposition in the re-run elections — but still telling the constituency that it is the AKP who calls the shots. Second, harvesting the bad fruits of the laissez-faire approach toward Syrians from the onset. After all, the subjects of unregistered Syrians, informal employment or businesses were not born yesterday.”