Iraqi protesters torch Iranian consulate after Abdel Mahdi fall

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An Iraqi demonstrator carries the national flag in Najaf on Sunday, where protests continued to rage. (Reuters)
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Iraqi mourners carry the coffin of Haidar Ahmed Kazem, a high school student who was killed a day earlier, during his funeral procession in Tahrir square in the capital Baghdad, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Sabah Arar/AFP)
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Medical crew carry a wounded man during ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf Sunday, (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Iraqi protesters torch Iranian consulate after Abdel Mahdi fall

  • Abdel Mahdi said he would submit resignation following spike in the death toll among protesters
  • Iraqi protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Najaf for second time in a week

BAGHDAD: Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Sunday for the second time in a week, as demonstrations continued despite the confirmation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s resignation.
More than 420 people have been killed in a violent Iranian-orchestrated response to two months of protests against corruption, economic hardship and failed public services.
In a victory for the protesters, a police major was sentenced to death and a lieutenant colonel was jailed for seven years for killing seven civilians in the southern city of Kut in November.
Pope Francis on Sunday joined criticism of the crackdown. “I am following the situation in Iraq with concern. It is with pain that I have learned of the protest demonstrations of the past days that were met with a harsh response,” said the pope, who wants to visit Iraq next year.
Meanwhile, funerals took place for dead protesters, and mourners marched for the first time in Salaheddin, a Sunni-majority province north of Baghdad.
Eight Shiite provinces also announced a day of mourning during which government offices would remain shut.
Clashes continued in Najaf, where armed men in civilian clothes fired on protesters who had torched part of a Shiite shrine.
Abdel Mahdi resigned last week under pressure from the influential Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and Parliament on Sunday confirmed the fall of his government. President Barham Saleh will now be asked to name a successor.
Protesters demanded wider change. “Abdel Mahdi should go — and so should Parliament and the political parties and Iran,” said one demonstrator in Baghdad.

Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to accept the resignation of Abdul Mahdi. His decision to quit on Friday came after a call by Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani for parliament to consider withdrawing its support for Abdul Mahdi’s government to stem the violence.
“The Iraqi parliament will ask the president of state to nominate a new prime minister,” a statement from parliament’s media office said.
MPs said Abdul Mahdi’s government, including the prime minister himself, would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is chosen.
Under the constitution, President Barham Salih is expected to ask the largest bloc in parliament to nominate a new prime minister to form a government, a move expected to trigger weeks of political wrangling.
 


Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapse

Updated 06 December 2019

Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapse

  • Envoys from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran will take part in the meeting
  • Iran insists that under the agreement it has the right to take measures in retaliation for the US’s withdrawal from the deal

VIENNA: The remaining signatories to the faltering 2015 Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Friday with the survival of the landmark agreement at stake after Tehran vowed to continue to breach the deal’s limits on its nuclear program.
Envoys from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran will take part in the meeting, which is the first time the six parties will have gathered in this format since July.
Since May, Iran has taken a series of measures, including stepping up uranium enrichment, in breach of the 2015 deal, with another such move likely in early January.
Iran insists that under the agreement it has the right to take these measures in retaliation for the US’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of crippling sanctions.
Since last month, European members have in turn begun raising the possibility of triggering the so-called “dispute resolution mechanism” foreseen in the accord, which could lead to the resumption of UN sanctions on Iran.
On the eve of what was already likely to be a strained meeting, Britain, France and Germany accused Iran of developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, in a letter to the UN on Thursday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed the allegation as “desperate falsehood.”
However, despite the mounting tension observers say Britain, France and Germany are unlikely to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism on Friday when their diplomats attend the joint commission meeting chaired by senior EU official Helga-Maria Schmid.
Analysts say if UN sanctions are re-imposed and the deal falls apart, Iran could also withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
“It’s not clear whether that’s worth the benefit,” Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group told AFP.
But he warned the risk of the deal collapsing was increasing as Iran was “running out of measures that are easy to reverse and non-controversial.”
“Both sides are locked into an escalatory cycle that is just very hard to imagine that they would step away from,” he said.
Francois Nicoullaud, former French ambassador to Iran, also says tensions were expected to continue to rise.
“Maybe it won’t be this time, but (the deal falling apart) will certainly be in the background of the discussions,” Nicoullaud told AFP.


Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned Sunday that if European partners triggered the dispute mechanism, Tehran may “seriously reconsider” its commitments to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the deal’s implementation.
European efforts to shield Iran from the effects of US sanctions by creating a mechanism to carry on legitimate trade with the Islamic republic have borne little fruit, much to Tehran’s frustration.
The EU is growing increasingly concerned by Tehran rowing back from its commitments.
The dispute resolution mechanism in the deal has numerous stages, but it can eventually culminate in the UN Security Council voting on whether Iran should still have relief from sanctions lifted under the deal.
In such a scenario, says Vaez, “we will have a major non-proliferation crisis on our hands in the sense that the Russians and the Chinese have already declared they would not recognize the return of (sanctions).”
Vaez said in the end the path to a diplomatic solution would depend on Washington’s next moves and whether it would at least be willing to relax its attempts to prevent sales of Iranian oil, a vital source of income for the country.
“The remaining parties to the deal have proved incapable of providing Iran with any kind of breathing space,” Vaez said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Tehran is willing to return to the negotiating table if the United States first drops sanctions.