Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran

Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid react after signing a memorandum of understanding at Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran

Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran
  • Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the US
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money

LONDON: Israel urged world leaders to keep up pressure on Iran and not lift sanctions as part of nuclear negotiations that were set to resume in Vienna on Monday, saying that tighter supervision of Tehran was needed.
Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the United States under then-President Donald Trump, who then reimposed sweeping US sanctions on Iran. That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
Israel has warned that Iran, its arch-enemy, will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerating enrichment of uranium.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking in London alongside his British counterpart Liz Truss, said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money.
“This is what they have done in the past. And this is what they will do this time as well. The intelligence is clear, it leaves no doubt,” he told reporters after signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade, technology and defense with Britain.
“A nuclear Iran will thrust the entire Middle East into a nuclear arms race; we will find ourselves in a new Cold War. But this time the bomb will be in the hands of religious fanatics who are engaged in terrorism as a way of life,” Lapid said.
“The world must prevent this and it can prevent this: tighter sanctions, tighter supervision, conduct any talks from a position of strength.”
In Jerusalem earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cautioned world powers to beware of what he described as Iranian “nuclear blackmail.”
Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for civil uses.
Truss said Britain was “absolutely determined” to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.
“As far as I am concerned, these talks are the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table and agree the JCPOA...,” she said, referring to the 2015 deal. “We will look at all options if that doesn’t happen.”


US detains smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters

US detains smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters
Updated 18 sec ago

US detains smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters

US detains smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters
  • A US ship seized over 40 tons of a chemical used to make bombs headed from Iran to Yemen
  • The Royal Navy found hundreds of kilograms of heroin, cocaine and other drugs

DUBAI: The US Navy announced Sunday it seized a boat in the Gulf of Oman carrying fertilizer used to make explosives that was caught last year smuggling weapons to Yemen. The British royal navy said it confiscated 1,041 kilograms (2,295 pounds) of illegal drugs in the same waters.
The interdictions were just the latest in the volatile waters of the Arabian Gulf as American and British authorities step up seizures of contraband during the grinding conflict in Yemen and ongoing drug trafficking in the region.
The US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said its guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and patrol ships halted and searched the sailboat, a stateless fishing dhow, that was sailing from Iran on a well-worn maritime arms smuggling route to war-ravaged Yemen last Tuesday. US forces found 40 tons of urea fertilizer, known to be a key ingredient in homemade improvised explosive devices, hidden on board.
Authorities said the vessel had been previously seized off the coast of Somalia and found last year to be loaded with thousands of assault rifles and rocket launchers, among other weapons. UN experts say weapons with such technical characteristics likely come from Iran to support the Houthi rebels. The Navy turned over the vessel, cargo and Yemeni crew to Yemen’s coast guard earlier this week.
Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into the country’s poorly controlled ports over years of conflict. Since 2015, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for control of the nation. Iran says it politically supports the rebels but denies arming them, despite evidence to the contrary.
Officials also revealed Sunday that a British royal navy vessel had seized a large quantity of illegal drugs valued at some $26 million from a boat sailing through the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 15.
The HMS Montrose confiscated 663 kilograms (1,461 pounds) of heroin, 87 kilograms (191 pounds) of methamphetamine and 291 kilograms (641 pounds) of hashish and marijuana, the joint maritime task force said in a statement.
The task force did not elaborate on where the drugs came from, who manufactured them or their ultimate destination. But Iran over the last decade has seen an explosion in the use of methamphetamine, known locally as “shisheh” or “glass” in Farsi, which has bled into neighboring countries.


Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
Updated 12 min 54 sec ago

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
  • Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted
  • Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia

DUBAI: Countries and organizations have condemned the extremist attacks carried out by the Houthi militia towards the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country on Monday, state news agency WAM reported.

An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al-Jawf, Yemen immediately after the attack.

In Saudi Arabia, two residents sustained minor injuries after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that fell in the industrial area of Ahad Al-Masarihah, Jazan on Sunday.

Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted.

Similarly, Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia.

Turkey’s foreign ministry has also said the attacks against both countries are a clear violation of international law.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has further said the continued Houthi attacks reflect the militia’s rejection of all peace efforts in Yemen.

Developing


UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi
Updated 24 January 2022

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al Jawf, Yemen in the early hours of Monday immediately after the Houthis fired two ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s MOD Joint Operations Command said.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier on Monday that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country, state news agency WAM reported.

There were no injuries from the shrapnel which fell in over the emirate of  Abu Dhabi.

A statement on WAM said the ministry was “ready to deal with any threats and that it takes all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks.”

Last week, three people were killed after a drone attack by the Iran-backed militia on Abu Dhabi, sparking international condemnation of the group’s indiscriminate actions against civilians.

Early on Monday, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile targeting the southern province of Asir, prompting the coalition supporting the Yemeni government to hit a launchpad used by the Houthis in Al-Jouf.

On Sunday, two people where injured following ballistic missile in Jazan.

 


Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 January 2022

Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round

VIENNA: The United States is unlikely to strike an agreement with Iran to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage, the lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday.
The official, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, repeated the long-held US position that the issue of the four people held in Iran is separate from the nuclear negotiations. He moved a step closer, however, to saying that their release was a precondition for a nuclear agreement.
“They’re separate and we’re pursuing both of them. But I will say it is very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal while four innocent Americans are being held hostage by Iran,” Malley told Reuters in an interview.
“So even as we’re conducting talks with Iran indirectly on the nuclear file we are conducting, again indirectly, discussions with them to ensure the release of our hostages,” he said in Vienna, where talks are taking place on bringing Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the deal.
In recent years, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.
Rights groups have accused Iran of taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage, while Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons.

MESSAGE SENT
Malley was speaking in a joint interview with Barry Rosen, a 77-year-old former US diplomat who has been on hunger strike in Vienna to demand the release of US, British, French, German, Austrian and Swedish prisoners in Iran, and that no nuclear agreement be reached without their release.
Rosen was one of more than 50 US diplomats held during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis.
“I’ve spoken to a number of the families of the hostages who are extraordinarily grateful for what Mr.Rosen is doing but they also are imploring him to stop his hunger strike, as I am, because the message has been sent,” Malley said.
Rosen said that after five days of not eating he was feeling weak and would heed those calls.
“With the request from Special Envoy Malley and my doctors and others, we’ve agreed (that) after this meeting I will stop my hunger strike but this does not mean that others will not take up the baton,” Rosen said.
The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round. Iran refuses to hold meetings with US officials, meaning others shuttle between the two sides.
The deal between Iran and major powers lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities that extended the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it chose to. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, reimposing punishing economic sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded by breaching many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions, to the point that Western powers say the deal will soon have been hollowed out completely.

LEVERAGE
Asked if Iran and the United States might negotiate directly, Malley said: “We’ve heard nothing to that effect. We’d welcome it.”
The four US citizens include Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, 50, and his father Baquer, 85, both of whom have been convicted of “collaboration with a hostile government.” Namazi remains in prison. His father was released on medical grounds in 2018 and his sentence later reduced to time served. While the elder Namazi is no longer jailed, a lawyer for the family says he is effectively barred from leaving Iran.
“Senior Biden administration officials have repeatedly told us that although the potential Iranian nuclear and hostage deals are independent and must be negotiated on parallel tracks, they will not just conclude the nuclear deal by itself,” said Jared Genser, pro bono counsel to the Namazi family.
“Otherwise, all leverage to get the hostages out will be lost,” he added.
The others are environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 66, who is also British, and businessman Emad Shargi, 57.


Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
Updated 24 January 2022

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
  • The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top diplomat held an official meeting Sunday evening with a Palestinian minister, the latter said, the first such encounter between the Jewish state’s current foreign minister and a Palestinian official.
“I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
“I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy,” he added, without saying where the encounter took place.
The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place.
In late December, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted talks with Mahmud Abbas on the Palestinian president’s first visit to Israel for an official meeting since 2010.
At that time, Israel’s defense ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority.
These included a $32 million (100 million shekel) advance payment to the PA in taxes collected on its behalf by Israel, and the granting of 600 extra permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross into Israel.
It also announced the regularization of 6,000 more Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War of 1967.
Sheikh had welcomed Abbas’ meeting with Gantz, saying at the time that it had been a “serious and courageous effort” toward a “political” solution.
After Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was formed in June, Gantz visited the PA’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in August for talks with Abbas, the first official meeting at such a level for several years.
Right-winger Bennett leads a motley coalition of parties ranging from the Jewish nationalist right to the center and left, and includes an Israeli Arab party for the first time.
After those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group who opposes Palestinian statehood, underlined that there was no peace process under way with the Palestinians, “and there won’t be one.”