Pence says US action has cut off Iran’s ability to support terrorism

A US air power demonstration near the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea last week. (US Navy via AP)
Updated 11 July 2019

Pence says US action has cut off Iran’s ability to support terrorism

  • US Vice President says Iran deal gave away billions in economic relief that Iran could then use to wage terrorist attacks
  • Pence says the US’s actions have succeeded in 'cutting off' Iran’s ability to support terrorism in the Middle East

WASHINGTON: The United States will not waver from its course of maximum pressure against Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said Monday, as tensions rise and the US-brokered nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers appears to be unraveling with the Trump administration’s pullout.
Pence’s assertion to a pro-Israel Christian organization that the US “will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon” came on the same day that Iran began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent , breaking the limit set in the 2015 agreement sealed under President Barack Obama.
The speech, amplified in later remarks to the group by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, also comes as the other partners in the agreement must decide how to respond to Iran’s announcement. President Donald Trump discussed the issue by phone Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Echoing comments made repeatedly by Trump, Pence said the international accord simply delayed Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by “roughly a decade” and gave away billions in economic relief that Iran could then use to wage terrorist attacks.
Since Trump withdrew from that deal more than a year ago, his administration has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran and designated its Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist group.
“Iran must choose between caring for its people and continuing to fund its proxies who spread violence and terrorism throughout the region and breathe out murderous hatred against Israel,” Pence said.
Pence said the US’s actions have succeeded in “cutting off” Iran’s ability to support terrorism in the Middle East, but he also charged that Iran had increased its “malign activity and violence in the region” over the past several months.
Tensions in the region have risen in recent weeks after oil tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz and Iran downed an unmanned US military surveillance drone. The downing of the drone nearly led to a US military strike against Iran; it was called off at the last minute by Trump.
Instead, the US military’s cyberforces launched a retaliatory strike against Iranian military computer systems that controlled the country’s rocket and missile launchers.
The US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.
“Let me be clear,” Pence said. “Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve.”
Iran has long maintained it was enriching uranium for peaceful reasons. While enriched uranium at the 3.67 percent level is enough for peaceful pursuits, it isn’t close to the weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. At 4.5 percent, the enriched uranium is enough to help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant.
Iran has been trying to gain European help in bypassing US sanctions, which have targeted oil sales and top officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The remaining signatories to the deal include Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.
“We hope for the best, but the United States of America and our military are prepared to protect our interests and to protect our personnel and citizens in the region,” Pence said.
Later Monday, Bolton, the White House national security adviser and a longtime advocate of tough measures against Iran, devoted a large portion of his speech at the same summit to Iran, noting that the that the administration has expanded sanctions to cover metals and the petrochemical sector.
“As we pressure the Iranian regime, we will also continue to stand with the long-suffering Iranian people, who as President Trump has said, are the “rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land,” Bolton said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US has implemented the “strongest pressure campaign in history against the Iranian regime,” before adding “and we are not done.”


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”