Biden warns Iran to end its ‘malign’ regional activities

Joe Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box last month, said during campaigning that he did not support the lifting of sanctions but intended to offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.” (AFP/File Photo)
Joe Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box last month, said during campaigning that he did not support the lifting of sanctions but intended to offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.” (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 03 December 2020

Biden warns Iran to end its ‘malign’ regional activities

Biden warns Iran to end its ‘malign’ regional activities
  • President-elect sets out his demands if US is to return to 2015 nuclear deal

JEDDAH: US President-elect Joe Biden warned Iran it must address the “malign” regional activities it carries out through proxies if it wants the US to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

In an interview published in the US media on Wednesday, Biden also warned that if Tehran acquires a bomb it could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East “and the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”

He said: “Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” and added: “In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.”

Responding to Biden’s comments, political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News that in pursuit of the 2015 nuclear deal, more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), former US President Barack Obama turned a blind eye to the Iranian militias operating throughout the region, and to Tehran’s ballistic-missile program.

“Biden can do the opposite by exerting pressure on Iran over its regional proxies and ballistic missiles,” Al-Shehri said. “Biden also reassured Washington’s allies in the region that negotiations with Iran would be different this time and more specific.”

“While this development is a step in the right direction, it still does not adequately address major problems with the JCPOA,” said Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh

“First of all, Biden must include Iran’s neighbors in the negotiations. When the JCPOA was being negotiated they were needlessly excluded, despite living on the country’s doorstep and experiencing the consequences of Iranian proxy action more acutely than any of the deal’s signatories.

“This (resulted in) a flawed agreement that failed to recognize their rightful concerns about missile proliferation and the funding of violent proxies within and next door to their territories.”

The political temperature in Tehran is rising, however. The Guardian Council, a watchdog body, has approved a law obliging the Iranian government to halt UN inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under the 2015 deal, if US sanctions are not eased within a month. In retaliation for the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last week, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, the Iranian parliament on Tuesday approved the bill with a strong majority, which will harden the country’s nuclear stance.

Al-Shehri said that it seems as if Iran’s latest actions are designed to attract the attention of the new administration in Washington.

“(President Hassan) Rouhani has rejected the Iranian parliament’s recent bill, because it would obstruct Iran’s diplomatic efforts,” he said. “Iran knows that it cannot take any more risks and is trying to find a solution because it is being economically drained under sanctions.”

Reports in the US media said during a new round of negotiations the Biden administration will seek to extend the duration of “restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a (nuclear) bomb.”

The 2015 deal caps the fissile purity to which Iran can refine uranium at 3.67 percent, which is less than the 20 percent the nation achieved before the deal, and far below the weapons-grade requirement of 90 percent. However, Iran breached the 3.67 percent limit in July last year and the enrichment level has remained at up to 4.5 percent since then. Iran has also contravened many of the deal’s other restrictions.

Rafizadeh also warned that in addition to its nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s other disruptive and destabilizing behavior must be addressed.

“How will Iran’s ballistic missile program be incorporated in the deal?” he asked. “How exactly will the deal address Iran’s malign behavior in the region and support for terror groups?

“We should remember that after two years of negotiations with the Obama administration, the JCPOA ended up being in Iran’s favor, with Tehran receiving many concessions from world powers.”

Rafizadeh also urged caution in the lifting of sanctions, which he said should be used as an incentive for compliance.

“Biden is also implying that sanctions will be immediately lifted once a deal is reached with Iran,” he said. “Lifting of sanctions must be gradual and contingent on Iran’s compliance. If sanctions are lifted immediately, as they were in 2015, the international community will again lose its leverage against Tehran.”


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.