Atomic watchdog: Iran sticking to nuclear deal amid new US sanctions

‘Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,’ International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano said. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2018

Atomic watchdog: Iran sticking to nuclear deal amid new US sanctions

VIENNA: Iran is implementing its side of its nuclear deal with major powers, the UN atomic watchdog policing the pact reaffirmed on Thursday, two weeks after the latest wave of reimposed US sanctions against Tehran took effect.
President Donald Trump said in May he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal for reasons including Iran’s influence on the wars in Syria and Yemen and its ballistic missile program, none of which are covered by the pact.
Germany, France and Britain have been scrambling to prevent a collapse of the deal, under which international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in exchange for strict limits being placed on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Many Western companies have canceled plans to do business with Iran for fear of breaching the sanctions Washington has put back in place. That has raised fears that Iran will breach the deal’s nuclear limits, which are designed to keep it a year away from being able to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to.
“Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano told a quarterly meeting of his agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
The JCPOA is the official name of the nuclear accord.
“It is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments,” he added, confirming the findings of a confidential report to IAEA member states last week.
Amano did not comment on the broader impact of US sanctions, the latest round of which took effect on Nov. 5. Iran has warned it could scrap the deal if signatories France, Britain and Germany and their allies fail to preserve the economic benefits promised by its terms.
The European powers have been working on setting up a so-called special-purpose vehicle that would act as a kind of clearing house matching Iranian exports with EU exports in what amounts to a barter arrangement to circumvent US sanctions.
But the countries they have approached to host it have declined, diplomats say, delaying the project and deepening doubt as to whether Europeans can counteract the bulk of US sanctions targeting oil and other vital sources of income.


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 16 min 53 sec ago

Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

  • Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.