Iran issues new threat to world over nuclear deal

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi (Center R) and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary-General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. (AFP / ALEX HALADA)
Updated 29 July 2019

Iran issues new threat to world over nuclear deal

  • Save JCPOA or we boost our atomic program, Tehran tells crisis meeting

VIENNA: Iran on Sunday renewed threats to boost its nuclear program unless world powers rescue the collapsing 2015 deal to curb it.

The new threats followed an emergency meeting in Vienna with the remaining other signatories to the agreement — the UK, Germany, France, the EU, Russia and China.

“We will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran’s interests,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqhchi said.

The 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), eased sanctions against Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon.

The deal’s original signatories included the US, and the others have been trying to prevent its collapse since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s already struggling economy.


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Tehran has responded by increasing its nuclear activities in breach of the deal, enriching uranium and increasing uranium stockpiles beyond the agreed limits. The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Sunday that Iran would restart activities at the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, in a further breach of the agreement. Heavy water can be used in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.

The Europeans say further breaches of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could lead to war.

Tension with the West rose further this month when Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces boarded a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and forced it into an Iranian port, in retaliation for the British seizure in the Mediterranean of an Iranian tanker carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

The confiscation of the Iranian vessel was a breach of the nuclear deal, Araqchi said on Sunday. “Since Iran is entitled to export its oil according to the JCPOA, any impediment in the way of Iran’s export of oil is actually against the JCPOA,” the minister said.

The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the Gulf on Sunday to join a British frigate escorting UK-flagged ships, and Britain has proposed a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran again criticized that plan on Sunday. It “carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”