Iran conservatives attack govt over nuclear deal

Iran conservatives attack govt over nuclear deal
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif at Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 14 May 2018

Iran conservatives attack govt over nuclear deal

Iran conservatives attack govt over nuclear deal
  • Ayatollah Ali Jannati said the government had already failed to guarantee the country’s interests.
  • Rouhani reiterated on Sunday that Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal if its interests can be protected and said the US withdrawal from the accord was a “violation of morals.”

TEHRAN/ BEIJING: As Iran’s foreign minister embarked on a diplomatic tour on Sunday to save the nuclear deal, his government faced mounting pressure from hard-liners at home who say the West should never have been trusted.

Ayatollah Ali Jannati, the ultra-conservative head of the Assembly of Experts whose responsibilities include choosing the next supreme leader, said the government had already failed to guarantee the country’s interests.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the key architect of the 2015 agreement, should “present his apologies to the Iranian people for the damage caused in the cadre of the nuclear deal,” Jannati said.

Rouhani reiterated on Sunday that Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal if its interests can be protected and said the US withdrawal from the accord was a “violation of morals.”

“The US withdrawal ... is a violation of morals, the correct way to carry out politics and diplomacy and against international regulations,” Rouhani during a meeting with visiting Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Beijing for the first stop of his tour of the remaining members of the nuclear deal.

He is due in Moscow and Brussels in the coming days.

Mirroring the line taken by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Jannati said there was little chance the Europeans would provide the assurances needed for Iran to stay in the deal.

The Europeans “have never stopped taking actions against Iran,” he wrote.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, also criticized “certain officials” who “look to outsiders.”

“I hope recent events will lead us ending our trust in the West and the Europeans. The Europeans have repeated on several occasions that they will not be able to resist US sanctions,” said Jafari, according to the conservative Fars news agency.

Around 100 Iranian lawmakers have also signed on to a Parliament bill that would set a clear deadline for the government to “obtain necessary guarantees from the Europeans” without which Iran would resume high-level uranium enrichment, according to Parliament’s official website.

Although conservatives have tried to score political points against Rouhani in the wake of the US withdrawal, the president has essentially taken the same line.

Immediately after US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal last Tuesday, Rouhani said he had instructed Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to prepare for “industrial enrichment without limit” unless Iran’s interests were guaranteed by the remaining parties.

 

‘Clear future design’

Zarif said he was hopeful of forging a “clear future design” for the nuclear deal facing collapse after Washington’s withdrawal, at the start of a diplomatic tour aimed at rescuing the agreement.

“We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement,” Zarif told reporters on Sunday after talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

In what is seen as a last-ditch effort to save the accord, Zarif has embarked on a tour of world powers.

Zarif will later fly to Moscow and Brussels to consult the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement denounced by Trump. His withdrawal from the deal last week has infuriated Washington’s allies in Europe as well as China and Russia.

US President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to pull out of the nuclear deal has upset European allies in Europe as well as China and Russia, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

China was one of the six powers — with the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany — that signed the historic pact which saw sanctions lifted in return for the commitment by Tehran not to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran has said it will stay committed to the deal if powers still backing the agreement can ensure it is protected from sanctions against key sectors of its economy such as oil.

As he arrived in Beijing, Zarif said, “we will discuss the decision that Iran should take,” according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He added: “As the president of the republic has said, we are ready for all option(s). If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured.”

Earlier, Zarif hailed Tehran’s relations with Beijing, ISNA reported.

“We have had good relations with China before and since the deal,” he said.

“China is by far the first economic partner of Iran. We are certain that today China is by our side.”

Tehran’s chief diplomat embarked on the tour as regional tensions spiked just days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming Trump’s “extremist administration” for abandoning “an accord recognized as a victory of diplomacy by the international community.”

It reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume “industrial scale” uranium enrichment “without any restrictions” unless Europe provided solid guarantees it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions.

Trump hit back Saturday evening, tweeting that the accord had failed to contain Iran’s militarism.

“Iran’s Military Budget is up more than 40 percent since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached... just another indicator that it was all a big lie,” he wrote.

Zarif’s delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Saturday that 11 Iranians were among the pro-regime fighters killed in strikes by Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran gaining a military foothold in neighboring Syria.

Tehran, which has sought to avoid an escalation in a regional conflict that could alienate its European partners, has not commented on whether its forces were hit.

Israel and its allies have blamed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for initiating Thursday’s exchange by launching missiles into the occupied Golan Heights.

Iran denies the claims, saying the Israeli strikes were launched on “invented pretexts.”

Meanwhile, European diplomats in Tehran fumed that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could undermine years of patient work to restore commercial and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

“Since the signing of the JCPOA (nuclear deal), we have gone from an atmosphere like a gold rush, to one of utter depression,” said a Western trade diplomat on condition of anonymity.

“We are waiting now for how the decision makers in the European Union will react. If the EU leans toward accommodating the US, all the progress we have made since 2015 will be lost.”

Iranian hard-liners — who have long opposed Rouhani’s moves to improve ties with the West — are already mobilizing against the efforts to save the nuclear deal.

Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said the country could not rely on the West.


Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
Updated 39 min 59 sec ago

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
  • In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season

BEIRUT: Death stalks the corridors of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where losing multiple patients in one day to COVID-19 has become the new normal. On Friday, the mood among the staff was even more solemn as a young woman lost the battle with the virus.
There was silence as the woman, barely in her 30s, drew her last breath. Then a brief commotion. The nurses frantically tried to resuscitate her. Finally, exhausted, they silently removed the oxygen mask and the tubes — and covered the body with a brown blanket.
The woman, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, is one of 57 victims who died on Friday and more than 2,150 lost to the virus so far in Lebanon, a small country with a population of nearly 6 million that since last year has grappled with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season when restrictions were eased and thousand of expatriates flew home for a visit.
Now, hospitals across the country are almost completely out of beds. Oxygen tanks, ventilators and most critically, medical staff, are in extremely short supply. Doctors and nurses say they are exhausted. Facing burnout, many of their colleagues left.
Many others have caught the virus, forcing them to take sick leave and leaving fewer and fewer colleagues to work overtime to carry the burden.
To every bed that frees up after a death, three or four patients are waiting in the emergency room waiting to take their place.
Mohammed Darwish, a nurse at the hospital, said he has been working six days a week to help with surging hospitalizations and barely sees his family.
“It is tiring. It is a health sector that is not good at all nowadays,” Darwish said.
More than 2,300 Lebanese health care workers have been infected since February, and around 500 of Lebanon’s 14,000 doctors have left the crisis-ridden country in recent months, according to the Order of Physicians. The virus is putting an additional burden on a public health system that was already on the brink because of the country’s currency crash and inflation, as well as the consequences of the massive Beirut port explosion last summer that killed almost 200 people, injured thousands, and devastated entire sectors of the city.
“Our sense is that the country is falling apart,” World Bank Regional Director, Saroj Kumar Jha, told reporters in a virtual news conference Friday.
At the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the main government coronavirus facility, there are currently 40 beds in the ICU — all full. According to the World Health Organization, Beirut hospitals are at 98% capacity.
Across town, at the private American University Medical Center — one of Lebanon’s largest and most prestigious hospitals — space is being cleared to accommodate more patients.
But that’s not enough, according to Dr. Pierre Boukhalil, head of the Pulmonary and Critical Care department. His staff were clearly overwhelmed during a recent visit by The Associated Press, leaping from one patient to another amid the constant beep-beep of life-monitoring machines.
The situation “can only be described as a near disaster or a tsunami in the making,” he said, speaking to the AP in between checking on his patients. “We have been consistently increasing capacity over the past week or so, and we are not even keeping up with demands. This is not letting up.”
Boukhalil’s hospital raised the alarm last week, coming out with a statement saying its health care workers were overwhelmed and unable to find beds for “even the most critical patients.”
Since the start of the holiday season, daily infections have hovered around 5,000 in Lebanon, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The daily death toll hit record-breaking more than 60 fatalities in in the past few days.
Doctors say that with increased testing, the number of cases has also increased — a common trend. Lebanon’s vaccination program is set to begin next month.
The World Bank said Thursday it approved $34 million to help pay for vaccines for Lebanon that will inoculate over 2 million people.
Jha, the World Bank’s regional director, said Lebanon will import 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines for 750,000 people that “we are financing in full.” He added that the World Bank also plans to help finance vaccines other than Pfizer in the Mediterranean nation.
Darwish, the nurse, said many COVID-19 patients admitted to Rafik Hariri and especially in the ICU, are young, with no underlying conditions or chronic diseases.
“They catch corona and they think everything is fine and then suddenly you find the patient deteriorated and it hits them suddenly and unfortunately they die,”
On Thursday night, 65-year-old Sabah Miree was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. She was put on oxygen to help her breathe. Her two sisters had also caught the virus but their case was mild. Miree, who suffers from a heart problem, had to be hospitalized.
“This disease is not a game,” she said, describing what a struggle it is for her to keep breathing. “I would say to everyone to pay attention and not to take this lightly.”
A nationwide round-the-clock curfew imposed on Jan. 14 was extended on Thursday until Feb. 8 to help the health sector deal with the virus surge.
“I still have nightmares when I see a 30-year-old who passed away,” said Dr. Boukhalil. “The disease could have been prevented.”
“So stick with the lockdown ... it pays off,” he said.