Deadline midnight: Iran on the brink of international isolation

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A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Nov. 3, 2018 shows a crowd cheering as he delivers a speech during a meeting with Iranian students in the capital Tehran. (AFP PHOTO / Handout by the khmanenei.ir site)
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Motorcyclists wait for customers in front of the grand bazar in the Iranian capital Tehran on Nov. 3, 2018. As the deadline for US sanctions neared, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that President Donald Trump has "disgraced" US prestige and would be the ultimate loser from renewing sanctions on the Islamic republic. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
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Iranians shop in the Tehran's grand bazar on Nov. 3, 2018. As the deadline for US sanctions neared, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that President Donald Trump has "disgraced" US prestige and would be the ultimate loser from renewing sanctions on the Islamic republic. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
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Iranians shop at a market street in the capital Tehran on November 3, 2018. As the deadline for US sanctions neared, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that President Donald Trump has "disgraced" US prestige and would be the ultimate loser from renewing sanctions on the Islamic republic. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
Updated 04 November 2018

Deadline midnight: Iran on the brink of international isolation

  • US sanctions will decimate Tehran’s oil export trade and deny its banks access to global finance
  • “I will stand against you,” Iran's international terror campaign architect tells Trump

JEDDAH: When the clocks strike midnight on the US east coast on Sunday, Iran will become the world’s economic pariah state.

US President Donald Trump will reintroduce tough sanctions on Iran’s vital oil sales and banking sectors to try to force Tehran into negotiations to scrap its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and end its regional meddling.

Most international sanctions were lifted in 2016 in a deal Iran signed with world powers the year before to curb its uranium enrichment program, widely seen as a disguised effort to develop a nuclear bomb.

But Trump denounced the deal as flawed in Iran’s favor, and withdrew in May. His decision was welcomed throughout the Middle East.

Iran’s “aggressive policies” were “largely responsible” for the reimposition of US sanctions, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Saturday.

In Iran, the sanctions were greeted with boastful defiance. “The world opposes every decision made by Trump,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. “America’s goal has been to re-establish the domination it had before 1979 but it has failed.”

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, which runs the foreign operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded to a Game of Thrones-inspired tweet by Trump on Friday that warned: “Sanctions are Coming.”

“I will stand against you,” Soleimani said on Instagram.

Iran has been trying for six months with the EU to create a financial mechanism to avoid the sanctions. Diplomats said the new EU mechanism to pay for Iranian exports should be legally in place by Nov. 4, but not operational until next year. In addition, no country has volunteered to host the entity, which is delaying the process.

A senior French diplomat said on Saturday there was no way any trade with the mechanism could be conducted before the end of 2018, and no other countries, including China, would be part of it.

The US has given eight countries — including India, Japan and possibly China —waivers to continue importing Iranian oil to avoid upsetting the global market.

Turkey said on Saturday it had received initial indications from Washington that it would be granted a waiver, but is awaiting clarification on Monday.

The sanctions are “aimed at depriving the Iranian regime of the revenues it uses to spread death and destruction around the world,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.”


Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

Updated 15 September 2019

Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

  • LNA has been battling since early April to seize Tripoli from GNA forces

TRIPOLI: An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the Tripoli-based government said on Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks.

Separately, two commanders of the Libya National Army (LNA) were killed in a drone strike while trying to capture the capital Tripoli.

The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.

Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday’s attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.

BACKGROUND

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike.

A drone airstrike hit the airport early on Saturday morning, followed by “Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia,” the GNA said on Facebook.

The former military air base had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on Sept. 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 km to the east, until further notice.

The LNA has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.

The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital’s southern outskirts.

Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.

The GNA’s Interior Ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday’s incident.

The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday’s attack a “desperate attempt” at revenge for losses sustained the previous day.

Since April, the fighting around Tripoli has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.