France’s Macron calls for Iran nuke deal to be saved

French President Emmanuel Macron says the Iran nuclear deal must be saved. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 May 2019

France’s Macron calls for Iran nuke deal to be saved

  • EU concerned over Iran rhetoric, but spokesman suggests Islamic Republic committed
  • France's President Macron says Iran must remain committed to the deal

Iran wants to bring its nuclear deal with world powers “back on track” after the US unilateral withdrawal, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on Thursday, a day after Tehran said it was scaling back curbs to its nuclear program.
“Our goal is to strengthen the JCPOA (the acronym for the nuclear agreement) and bring it back on track,” Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by IRNA.

His comments came a day after concerns were raised that Iran was about to default on at least parts of the nuclear deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron later said the Iran nuclear deal must be saved and that the accord’s signatories should do all they can to ensure that the Islamic Republic respects it.
Macron told reporters on Thursday that “Iran must remain in this agreement and we must do everything we can to ensure that it stays in.”
Speaking ahead of an EU summit in Romania, Macron lauded the 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions as “a good agreement."
But he said it should be completed with other pacts governing Iran’s missile development and its potentially destabilizing role in the Middle East.
Amid heated rhetoric from Tehran and Washington in recent days, Macron urged the signatories not to “get caught up in any escalation” and to “jointly watch over our collective security.”

Meanwhile the European Union on Thursday urged Iran to respect the international agreement curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, saying it aims to continue trading with the country despite US sanctions.
The EU and major European powers — Britain, France and Germany — also said that they “note with great concern the statement made by Iran concerning its commitments” to the nuclear deal.
The joint statement came as the bloc struggles to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a day after a new deadline from Tehran on finding a solution to make up for last year’s unilateral US withdrawal from the accord and re-imposed US sanctions on Iran.
“We remain fully committed to the preservation and full implementation” of the deal, endorsed by the UN Security Council, said the EU statement.
The Trump administration pulled America out of the 2015 deal a year ago, saying it does nothing to stop Iran from developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East. The Europeans insist that the pact is an important pillar of regional and global security and was never meant to address those other issues.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised address Wednesday that signatories to the deal now have 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country — already laboring under economic hardship — from the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.
The EU powers say they “regret the re-imposition of sanctions” by the US and remain “determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran.”
The Europeans have set up a complicated barter-type system to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and so evade possible US sanctions. The workaround, dubbed INSTEX, is not yet operational as Iran has not completed its part of the scheme.
The bloc said it plans to push ahead with "the operationalization of the special purpose vehicle 'INSTEX'."
The EU has also introduced a so-called “blocking statute” protecting European companies from the effects of US sanctions, but many international corporations do more business in the United States than in Iran and have already severed ties there rather than risk running afoul of Washington.
In a message implicitly directed at the US administration, the EU powers said “we call on countries not party to the (deal) to refrain from taking any actions that impede the remaining parties’ ability to fully perform their commitments.”
Despite the heated rhetoric, the Europeans insist that only the International Atomic Energy Agency can judge whether Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear agreement. More than a dozen reports have shown that Tehran is respecting it so far. A new report is due at the end of May.


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 15 October 2019

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.