Iran makes nuclear advance despite talks to salvage 2015 deal, says IAEA

Iran makes nuclear advance despite talks to salvage 2015 deal, says IAEA
satellite picture shows Iran's underground Fordo nuclear facility outside of Qom, Iran. (AP/FILE)
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Updated 03 December 2021

Iran makes nuclear advance despite talks to salvage 2015 deal, says IAEA

Iran makes nuclear advance despite talks to salvage 2015 deal, says IAEA
  • Blinken voices pessimism about reviving pact
  • Israel calls on world powers to stop talks urgently

VIENNA, JERUSALEM: Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, the UN atomic watchdog has said, further eroding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal during talks with the West on saving it.

The announcement appeared to undercut indirect talks between Iran and the US on bringing both fully back into the battered deal that resumed this week after a five-month break prompted by the election of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi.

Western negotiators fear Iran is creating facts on the ground to gain leverage in the talks.

On the third day of this round of talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20 percent purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow. Those machines are far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1.

Underlining how badly eroded the deal is, that pact does not allow Iran to enrich uranium at Fordow at all. Until now Iran had been producing enriched uranium there with IR-1 machines and had enriched with some IR-6s without keeping the product. It has 94 IR-6 machines installed in a cascade at Fordow that is not yet operating, the IAEA said in a statement.

A more comprehensive IAEA report circulated to member states said that as a result of Iran’s move the nuclear watchdog planned to step up inspections at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant that houses the centrifuges, but the details still need to be ironed out.

The US sounded pessimistic on Thursday about the chances of reviving the deal, with Washington saying it had little cause for optimism and Tehran questioning the determination of US and European negotiators.

HIGHLIGHTS

•Iran starts enriching at Fordow with advanced machines.

•West fears Iran creating facts on ground for leverage.

•IAEA report says agency plans to step up inspections.

“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for ... optimism,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Stockholm, saying he could judge in a day or so if Iran would engage in good faith.

Israel urged world powers to halt nuclear talks with Iran immediately. “Iran is carrying out nuclear blackmail as a negotiating tactic, and this should be answered by the immediate halt to negotiations and the implementation of tough steps by the world powers,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office quoted him as saying in a call with Blinken.

An Israeli official said Bennett told Blinken of his objections to any lifting of sanctions against Iran, particularly under an interim deal, which would effectively mean “the massive flow of funds to the Iranian regime.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that negotiations in Vienna were “proceeding with seriousness” and that the removal of sanctions was a “fundamental priority.”


Israeli general turned lawmaker emerges as settler critic

Israeli general turned lawmaker emerges as settler critic
Updated 9 min 9 sec ago

Israeli general turned lawmaker emerges as settler critic

Israeli general turned lawmaker emerges as settler critic

JERUSALEM: Retired general Yair Golan spent a significant part of his military career serving in the occupied West Bank, protecting Jewish settlements. Today, he is one of their most vocal critics.
Golan, a former deputy military chief, is now a legislator with the dovish Meretz party, where he has repeatedly spoken out against settler violence against Palestinians.
His comments, highlighted by his recent description of violent settlers as “subhuman,” have rattled Israel’s delicate governing coalition, and his opponents have labeled him a radical. He joins a cadre of former security personnel who, after not speaking up while in uniform and positions of influence, have in retirement sounded the alarm over Israel’s five-decade-long military rule of the Palestinians.
“You can’t have a free and democratic state so long as we are controlling people who don’t want to be controlled by us,” Golan told The Associated Press in an interview at his office in the Knesset this week. “What kind of democracy are we building here long term?”
Golan has emerged as a rare critical voice in a society where the occupation is largely an accepted fact and where settlers have successfully pushed their narrative through their proximity to the levers of power. Most members of Israel’s parliament belong to the pro-settlement right wing.
Golan, 59, had a long military career, being wounded in action in Lebanon and filling key positions as head of the country’s northern command and as commander of the West Bank, among others.
Along the way, he gained a reputation as a maverick for decisions that sometimes landed him in hot water. At one point, he reached an unauthorized deal to remove some settlers from the West Bank city of Hebron. He was reprimanded and a promotion was delayed after he permitted the use of Palestinian non-combatants as human shields during arrest raids, a tactic the country’s Supreme Court banned.
At the same time, he was credited with permitting thousands of Syrians wounded in their country’s civil war to enter Israel for medical treatment.
As the deputy military chief, he was passed over for the top job after comparing what he saw as fascistic trends in modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany. He believes the speech cost him the position.
A few years after retirement, he was elected to parliament and eventually joined Meretz, a party that supports Palestinian statehood and is part of the current coalition headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Meretz has been one of the few parties to make ending Israel’s occupation a top priority. But since joining the coalition, which has agreed to focus on less divisive issues to maintain its stability, most of its members have appeared to tone down their criticism.
Golan has not. Earlier this month, he caused a firestorm when he lashed out against settlers who vandalized graves in the Palestinian West Bank village of Burqa.
“These are not people, these are subhumans,” Golan told the Knesset Channel. “They must not be given any backing.”
His remarks angered Bennett, a former settler leader, and sparked criticism from others within the coalition.
Golan acknowledged his choice of words was flawed but said he stands by the spirit of his remarks.
“Is the problem the expression that I used or is the problem those same people who go up to Burqa, smash graves, damage property and assault innocent Palestinians?” he said.
Such statements have turned him into a poster boy for what far-right nationalists describe as dangerous forces in the coalition challenging Israel’s role in the West Bank. The Palestinians seek the area, captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future state.
Some on Israel’s dovish left also have been hesitant to embrace Golan, who continues to defend the army’s actions in the West Bank.
Golan always saw his duty in the territory as primarily combatting Palestinian militants, and he continues to believe that most settlers are law-abiding citizens. The international community overwhelmingly considers all settlements illegal or illegitimate, and the Palestinians and many left-wing Israelis see the military as an enforcer of an unjust occupation.
Breaking the Silence, a whistleblower group for former Israeli soldiers who oppose policies in the West Bank, called for action, not just words, against settler violence.
“Yair Golan knows full well what settler violence looks like and what our violent control over the Palestinian people looks like. That’s why his criticism is valuable, but it’s not enough,” the group said in a statement.
Golan said he always saw Israeli control over Palestinian territories as temporary. He said separating from the Palestinians is the only way to keep Israel a democratic state with a Jewish majority.
In 2006, Golan commanded the violent evacuation of the Amona settlement in the West Bank, which was built on privately owned Palestinian land.
“I can’t come to terms with the idea that someone Jewish who holds Jewish values supports the theft of someone else’s lands,” he said.
In recent months, as violence between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank has ticked up, videos have emerged of soldiers standing by as settlers rampage. Golan said he never would have allowed such a thing under his command.
“These people don’t accept the essence of Israel and abide by the law only when it’s convenient for them,” he said.
His comments about settlers aren’t the first to rankle the establishment. In a 2016 speech marking Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, Golan, then deputy military chief, said he was witnessing “nauseating processes” in Israeli society that reminded him of the fascism of Nazi-era Germany.
He said the remarks were sparked by the fatal shooting of a subdued Palestinian attacker by a soldier. The soldier was embraced by nationalist politicians, including then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Golan said the shooting was nothing short of an execution.
Next to his desk, Golan keeps a photo of Netanyahu arriving for his corruption trial at a Jerusalem courthouse, surrounded by his Likud Party supporters as he rants against police and prosecutors.
Golan said the image is a reminder of what he is fighting against — and for.
“I served the country in uniform for so many years, I really gave it my life,” Golan said. Pointing to the photo, he said: “I didn’t endanger my life countless times for these people.”


Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’
Updated 19 min 11 sec ago

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

LOS ANGELES: US actress Jessica Chastain’s “The 355” just hit theaters to mixed reviews and Arab News sat down with the star to hear more about the game-changing film. 

In early 2018, Chastain pitched studios on a movie about an all-female team of spies — four years later, she’s starring in it. 

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain.

The story sees a team of spies from agencies around the world uniting to stop a dangerous enemy.

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain. (YouTube)

“It was never my intention even with making this film to be an action star or that kind of sarcastic one-liner character that you would see in all these genre movies,” the actress, who stars as spy Mace Brown, told Arab News. “I like playing all different kinds of parts as we see in ‘The Eyes Of Tammy Faye’ or in ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ and I just want to do everything.”

The film had a lacklustre showing at the American box office and with critics who cited a generic plot, flat characters and uninventive action. Chastain, however, believes the movie is being held to unfair standards.

“The industry tends to be more critical of a film that may be an ensemble of women or about a group of people that aren’t often celebrated by this industry,” she said. 

“We’re living in a pandemic and there is no sense to anything that’s happening right now because people’s safety is the only thing that they care about. And we need to stop using the pandemic as a way to devalue the stories of others,” added Chastain. 

Co-star Diane Kruger, who plays the role of spy Marie Schmidt, said her cast members helped her to overcome the physical and emotional stress of filming only six months after having a baby.

“It became exhilarating, week after week feeling I was able to kick higher, lift heavier just feeling my body coming back and becoming stronger again and taking control over myself again,” Kruger said. “It felt really empowering. It’s a little silly to say, but it did feel like this movie in a way helped me get back to me.”


Iran, Russia and China begin joint naval drill

Iran, Russia and China begin joint naval drill
Updated 30 min ago

Iran, Russia and China begin joint naval drill

Iran, Russia and China begin joint naval drill
  • Iran’s state TV said 11 of its vessels were joined by three Russian ships including a destroyer, and two Chinese vessels

TEHRAN: Iran, Russia and China on Friday began a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean aimed at boosting marine security, state media reported.
Iran’s state TV said 11 of its vessels were joined by three Russian ships including a destroyer, and two Chinese vessels. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard will also participate with smaller ships and helicopters.
The report said the maneuvers would cover some 17,000 square kilometers, or 10,600 miles, in the Indian Ocean’s north, and include night fighting, rescue operations and firefighting drills.
This is the third joint naval drill between the countries since 2019. It coincided with a recent visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia that ended on Thursday.
“Improving bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow will enhance security for the region and the international arena,” Raisi said upon returning from Russia on Friday, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Tehran has sought to step up military cooperation with Beijing and Moscow amid regional tensions with the United States. Visits to Iran by Russian and Chinese naval representatives have also increased in recent years.
Iran has been holding regular military drills in recent months, as attempts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers flounder.
Russia is also at loggerheads with the US and the West over its neighbor Ukraine, where it has sent some 100,000 troops that Washington, Kiev and their allies fear will be used to invade the country.
Russia on Thursday announced sweeping naval maneuvers in multiple areas involving the bulk of its naval potential — over 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft — to last through February. The exercises will be in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the northeastern Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, in addition to the joint exercise with Iran in the Indian Ocean.


‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects
Updated 37 min 46 sec ago

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

DUBAI: It’s been five years since Kinda Alloush, one of the most popular actresses in the Arab world, decided to take a prolonged break for the first time in her career. She had dominated Syrian television in one decade and then Egyptian film and TV in the next, but Alloush had found, at the height of her fame, something that mattered more: The chance to start a family with her husband, Egyptian actor Amr Youssef.

Alloush, 39 and now the mother to a 3-year-old daughter named Hayat, has since returned to the screens both big and small, but while she is as popular as ever, the Syrian superstar is not the same person she was in the last phase of her acting journey. With each project she now takes, Alloush yearns for more, and she’s tired of playing it safe.

Alloush stars in “Sittat Bayt Al Ma’adi.” (Supplied)

“For a long time, I played roles that were very similar to each other. I’m not sure why — maybe I fit a type. Maybe it’s my face,” Alloush, who has long played the ‘good girl’, tells Arab News.

“Now, I don't want to just add a new film to my archive, I don’t want to just say ‘I did a new movie, it’s so successful, I’m so happy.’ That’s not what I'm looking for. What I’m looking for is to learn. It’s about how to really make yourself richer on a human level, not just the acting level. I want to go back to my country and to feel that I am now a different person,” Alloush continues.

Each role that she has taken since her break from acting has pushed her in a different direction, stretching muscles — physical, mental, and spiritual — that she didn’t know she had. Currently, she’s filming “Yellow Bus” in Abu Dhabi, an OSN Original about an Indian girl who goes missing after falling asleep on a school bus, and her mother’s search to find out the truth. Alloush plays Mira, the missing girl’s school principal.

Alloush is married to Egyptian actor Amr Youssef. (Supplied)

“I read maybe 10 pages of the script before I knew I had to be in this movie. It’s a human story that could have happened anywhere in the world. I assure you that if anyone watches this movie, they will feel the pain this family felt. And that is what happened to me; I felt the pain, I felt every detail written into this movie. And I felt that I wanted to be a part of this, no matter how busy my schedule was,” says Alloush.

The film also offers Alloush something none of her previous work has — the chance to act in a different language with a multi-cultural cast featuring Bollywood stars Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amit Sial along with an American director in Wendy Bednarz.

“It’s my first time acting in English. I’ve been doing this for more than 17 years in Syria and Egypt, but all my projects were in Arabic. I’ve spoken English for a long time, but it’s different to act in English rather than to just speak it. You need to be so real. I need to make you believe me, to make you feel what I’m feeling. And pushing myself to do that, opposite these amazing actors from different backgrounds and different styles, makes it such a rich and challenging experience,” says Alloush.

The actress stars in the upcoming Netflix original film “The Swimmers.” (Supplied)

And with Mira, Alloush is finally playing against type, abandoning her ‘good girl’ persona.

“Mira is really different. She’s a bit controversial. You can’t really put your finger on her. You need to finish the movie before you have a full view of her many layers. At the beginning, you’ll wonder, ‘Why did she react like this? Why did she do that?’ And your curiosity pays off as you learn more about her story. She’s so unlike anyone I’ve ever inhabited.”

Alloush, who already boasts 10 million followers on Instagram, will also soon be introduced to a wider audience than ever before when she stars in the upcoming Netflix original film “The Swimmers,” based on the real-life story of Sara and Yusra Mardini, the famed Syrian refugees-turned-Olympians. The film was written by BAFTA-winner Jack Thorne and directed by Egyptian filmmaker Sally El-Hosaini.

Alloush stars alongside Ahmed Ezz in 2012’s “El Maslaha.” (Supplied)

“‘The Swimmers’ is so interesting, because every bit of it is true to life, with all the characters still living, including these two famous swimmers. Although my character is pure Syrian, working with German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman from Palestine, and Ahmed Malek from Egypt also brought a real multicultural spirit to the project, which made for a rich experience as well,” says Alloush.

While Alloush moved to Egypt just as the Syrian civil war began, the actress has devoted much of her free time to the refugee cause ever since, becoming a ‘High Profile Supporter’ of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In another upcoming film, entitled “Nuzooh” (Displacement), Alloush will tackle the country’s trauma from the civil war, giving perhaps the most harrowing experience of her career.

“It’s about a Syrian family, and it’s a very difficult, sensitive subject. We filmed it in Turkey,” she says. “While I’m from Syria, I didn’t live through the war in Syria. With this movie that I’ve just finished, I felt like I was living the war in every small detail. It was a really difficult experience unlike any I’ve had.”

While Alloush is testing her limits as an actor, she’s also never been more fulfilled by her craft.

“I’m collecting experiences. When I enter a new project, I feel like I am empty, and I want to fill myself in some way — to learn, to hear, to talk to people from a different culture,” she says. “I’m carried by passion. Maybe other people have a different approach, but for me, it’s about love. I want this to make me richer on a human level. And it is working.”

With each of her three upcoming movies, she hopes that audiences can take away just as much as she did.

“With a great movie, you feel that you traveled to another civilization. With this craft, I can take you there. I can open your eyes to a new horizon, a new space, and new stories that you've never heard about, and people that you've never met,” says Alloush. “Each of these (films) can do that, I believe.”


UN chief: World worse now due to COVID-19, climate, conflict

UN chief: World worse now due to COVID-19, climate, conflict
Updated 53 min 8 sec ago

UN chief: World worse now due to COVID-19, climate, conflict

UN chief: World worse now due to COVID-19, climate, conflict
  • ‘The secretary-general of the UN has no power. We can have influence. I can persuade. I can mediate, but I have no power’

UNITED NATIONS: As he starts his second term as UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said Thursday the world is worse in many ways than it was five years ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and geopolitical tensions that have sparked conflicts everywhere — but unlike US President Joe Biden he thinks Russia will not invade Ukraine.
Guterres said in an interview that the appeal for peace he issued on his first day in the UN’s top job on Jan. 1, 2017 and his priorities in his first term of trying to prevent conflicts and tackle global inequalities, the COVID-19 crisis and a warming planet haven’t changed.
“The secretary-general of the UN has no power,” Guterres said. “We can have influence. I can persuade. I can mediate, but I have no power.”
Before he became UN chief, Guterres said he envisioned the post as being “a convener, a mediator, a bridge-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.”
He said Thursday these are things “I need to do every day.”
As an example, the secretary-general said this week he spoke to the African Union’s envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, twice with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and once with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his attempt to get a cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia between the government and forces in the embattled Tigray region.
“I hope that we are in a situation in which it might become soon possible to have a cessation of hostilities and that is where I’m concentrating most of my efforts,” Guterres said.
As another example, Guterres said he has also been on the phone to try to get Mali’s military leaders who recently delayed elections scheduled for next month to 2026 to reduce the timetable. He said he spoke to Mali’s military ruler, President Assimi Goita, three presidents from the 15-nation West African regional group ECOWAS, Algeria’s prime minister and the African Union’s leader about “how to make sure that in Mali, there is an acceptable calendar for the transition to a civilian government.”
Guterres said he hopes Mali’s military leaders will understand that they need to accept “a reasonable period” before elections. The secretary-general believes voting should be held in “a relatively short amount of time,” and said: “All my efforts have been in creating conditions for bridging this divide and for allowing ECOWAS and the government of Mali to come to a solution with an acceptable delay for the elections.”
Guterres said the UN Security Council, which does have the power to uphold international peace and security including by imposing sanctions and ordering military action, is divided, especially its five veto-wielding permanent members. Russia and China are often at odds with the US, Britain and France on key issues, including Thursday on new sanctions against North Korea.
On the issue on every country’s front burner now — whether Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, will invade the former Soviet republic — Guterres said, “I do not think Russia will invade Ukraine, and I hope that my belief is correct.”
What makes him think Moscow won’t invade when Biden and others believe Russian President Vladimir Putin will send troops into Ukraine?
“Because I do not believe in a military solution for the problems that exists, and I think that the most rational way to solve those problems is through diplomacy and through engagement in serious dialogue,” Guterres said, stressing that an invasion would have “terrible consequences.”
The secretary-general said “we have been in contact, of course” with top officials in Russia, though the UN is not directly engaged in the Ukraine crisis.
Guterres is scheduled to deliver a speech to the 193 UN member nations in the General Assembly on Friday on his priorities for 2022.
He singled out three immediate priorities that “are worrying me enormously”: the lack of vaccinations in large parts of the world, especially in Africa; the need to reduce emissions by 45 percent in this decade to try to meet the international goal of trying to limit future global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit); and the “extremely unjust” financial situation in the world that favors rich countries.
Many developing countries have very few resources, high debts that are growing and they pay much higher interest rates than in Europe or North America, have no vaccines, and disproportionately “suffer the impacts of climate change,” Guterres said.
“We need a deep reform in our international financial system in order to make sure that there is more justice in the way resources are available to allow for the recovery (from COVID-19) to be possible everywhere,” he said.
On another major issue, Guterres stressed that the Afghan people can’t be collectively punished for “wrong things that are done by the Taliban,” so it is absolutely essential to massively increase humanitarian aid “because the Afghans are in a desperate situation with the risks of deaths by hunger” and disease in a frigid winter with COVID-19.
“More than half the population is in desperate need of humanitarian aid,” he said, and money needs to be injected into the economy to ensure Afghan banks operate and doctors, teachers, engineers and other workers are paid to prevent the country’s economic collapse.
The issue of recognition of the Taliban government is up to member states, Guterres said, but the UN has been pressing the Taliban, which took power in August as US-led NATO forces were departing after 20 years, to ensure human rights, especially women’s rights to work and girls’ education, and to make the government more inclusive and reflective of Afghanistan’s diverse population.
The secretary-general said he will be attending the Beijing Olympics in February “which is not a political act” but “to be present when all the world comes together for good — for a peaceful message.”