It is important to clarify some of Russia’s approaches to the negotiations between representatives of the Syrian Government and armed opposition groups in Astana on January 23.
We believe that the best is to limit the number of foreign participants to representatives of the countries-guarantors of the ceasefire – Russia, Turkey and Iran. The new US administration has been invited too. We hope that Deputy Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General R.Ramzi will act as a mediator at the talks.
The meeting in Astana is not a substitute for the intra-Syrian talks, which begin on February 8 in Geneva. On the contrary, it will contribute to the further development of the negotiation process by inviting the representatives of the armed opposition, who have real influence “on the ground.” We hope that they will also agree to participate in the Geneva talks as an equal and permanent member of the united delegation of the Syrian opposition.
On the agenda – discussions on strengthening the ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid, building confidence, ensuring free movement of citizens throughout the country except in areas controlled by the terrorists, who are not a party to any agreement and must be defeated as endorsed by the UNSC resolutions.
We hope that a substantive discussion of the modalities of the constitutional reform in Syria will be launched, including the creation of the Constitutional Commission to get the work on a new Constitution started. The members of this Commission will include representatives of both the government and the various political opposition groups, which is provided for in the UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
We hope that the meeting in Astana will contribute to the peace process in Syria and strengthen counter-terrorism efforts.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Despite earlier threats made by US President-elect Donald Trump to dismantle the nuclear agreement with Iran, his pick for US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has called for a “full review” of the accord, but fallen short of seeking an outright rejection. Reacting to the remarks, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-e Ravanchi emphasized that the nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not negotiable.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, author and political scientist from Boston, believes that Tillerson’s remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee show that the incoming administration will abide by the JCPOA.
“At least in the intermediate term, the Trump administration is going to stick with the nuclear agreement while it is reviewing it,” Afrasiabi told Press TV on Friday night.
There are “some positive signs coming from the cabinet members of the Trump administration” regarding the implementation of the JCPOA, he added.
Tillerson implicitly emphasized on maintaining the nuclear deal by saying that the US should use elements of the nuclear agreement.
Afrasiabi interpreted Tillerson’s statements as positive and a good sign compared to all the negative rhetoric made by Trump himself and some of his associates.
He recalled that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued several reports on Iran’s full compliance with its obligations under the nuclear accord.
“Tillerson should not have any problem with the compliance and enforcement” of the deal, because it is a win-win agreement that serves the interests of both sides, he noted.
He mentioned that the new administration’s right to review agreements signed by its predecessor “should not morph into questioning this multi-lateral agreement (JCPOA).”
Iran and the six world powers signed the nuclear accord in July 2015. According to the deal, the Islamic Republic agreed to restrict its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions by the P5+1.
US President Barack Obama has declared the continuation of his country’s national emergency against Iran, claiming that despite full commitment to its nuclear deal with the six world powers, the Islamic Republic still poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to America.
The outgoing president informed Congress of his decision in a letter on Friday, saying that the national emergency, which was declared on March 15, 1995, “is to continue in effect beyond March 15, 2017.”
The National Emergencies Act requires the president to extend a national emergency within 90 days of its anniversary date, before it is automatically terminated.
Obama admitted in his letter that Iran had delivered on its commitments pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a landmark nuclear deal that was struck between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany — on July 14, 2015.
Under the landmark deal, which entered into force on January 16 last year, Iran undertook to put restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against the country.
“Since Implementation Day, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has repeatedly verified, and the Secretary of State [John Kerry] has confirmed, that Iran continues to meet its nuclear commitments pursuant to the JCPOA,” Obama said in his notice.
“However, irrespective of the JCPOA, which continues to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful, certain actions and policies of the Government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the outgoing president added.
In November, Obama extended a separate national emergency against Iran, which was originally declared by former US President Jimmy Carter on November 14, 1979.
He also extended the state of emergency with respect to Libya, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela.
A state of emergency gives the US president special powers, including the ability to seize property, summon the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.
The state of emergency also forms the basis for most US sanctions against other countries.
On January 1, 1988, just a year and a half before he passed away on June 3, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini made a historic move, reaching out the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in a gesture of anti-imperialist solidarity, despite the long hiatus in relations with communist Russia. This was at a time of war against Iraq and continued subversion of Iran by the US and Israel.
Ayatollah Khomeini made other prescient gestures in his short and difficult decade as the leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran; in the first place, the transfer of the Israeli embassy to Palestinian representatives, the canceling of recognition of Israel, and the inauguration of al-Quds Day as an annual international holiday on the last Friday of Ramadan. He met with Fidel Castro and other third world leaders, encouraging solidarity against the imperialist foe.
The unprecedented visit of the Iranian delegation to Moscow was a sincere offer of support to the faltering Soviet leader, who had rejected the atheism of the Soviet past. It contrasts with the treatment of the supposedly friendly US to Russia, which was at the same time conspiring to subvert the Soviet Union, even as Gorbachev was sincerely reaching out to the hawkish Reagan, offering a generous plan of world nuclear disarmament. The Ayatollah’s warning not to trust the West was being brought home to Gorbachev graphically as the last Soviet troops were retreating into Uzbekistan in 1988. Despite the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US was continuing to arm the insurgents, killing those doomed soldiers as they crossed the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, built in 1982. Imperialism takes no prisoners.
Iran played no part in the US-backed ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in the 1980s that brought the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iranian leaders knew that nothing good would come from working in alliance with America.
The Ayatollah knew this well, and was alarmed at the naiveté of Gorbachev. The Ayatollah warned in his letter that the western world was an “illusory heaven”, that appeared seductive. But the truth lies elsewhere. “If you hope, at this juncture, to cut the economic Gordian knots of socialism and communism by appealing to the center of western capitalism, you will, far from remedying any ill of your society, commit a mistake which those to come will have to erase. For, if Marxism has come to a deadlock in its social and economic policies, capitalism has also bogged down, in this as well as in other respects though in a different form.”
Gorbachev was offended and objected. “This invitation is an interference in the internal issue of a country. Because every country is free for selecting its school of thought.” He took the Ayatollah’s sincere advice as interference, rather than friendly concern. “Imam Khomeini invited us to Islam; do we have to invite him to our school of thought?”
History has proved the fears that the Ayatollah expressed justified. Gorbachev was standing on the edge of the abyss. Sadly, he scoffed at the ability of the Ayatollah to see the danger and to want to help him. But it was too late by then. Gorbachev had lost control, thinking he was handing power to the people, not recognizing that such a wish was an illusion. The disaster of the collapse of the Soviet Union will reverberate for generations to come, as the Ayatollah predicted.
Gorbachev was operating on a different wavelength when he received the letter from the Ayatollah, trying to cozy up to Israel and the US, again, naively thinking goodwill gestures would be reciprocated. He opened the doors to the emigration of Soviet Jews in 1988 and prepared to renew full diplomatic relations with Israel. At the same time Gorbachev promised Arafat during a state visit that year that the Soviet Union would recognize an independent Palestinian state if proclaimed, naively hoping that Israel would show gratitude for his generosity by negotiating a genuine peace with the Palestinians. Arafat declared independence in November 1988 and got Soviet recognition the next year, but it was not much consolation. Israel was busy setting up consular offices in Moscow and elsewhere, issuing eventually a million visas to Soviet Jews to come to Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews got instant Israeli citizenship and emigrated, many of them settling illegally in the Occupied Territories, nominally part of a Soviet-recognized Palestinian state. By the end of 1991 when full diplomatic relations with Israel were restored, over 325,000 Soviet Jews had emigrated. Gorbachev’s hope to bring a quick peace to the Middle East were dashed as he was ousted from power, leaving the PLO abandoned and Israel stronger than ever. Just as the Zionists had hoodwinked Stalin into recognizing Israel, they once again hoodwinked a Soviet leader into re-recognizing it. Instead of increasing Soviet/Russian influence by this dual recognition, all influence was lost, the Palestinians were hurt by the Soviet betrayal, while the Israelis welcomed a million new Jewish immigrants.
Gorbachev’s trust was betrayed by both the US and Israel; the Soviet Union collapsed as Soviet Jews fled to the illusory western heaven. The world logically expected a new era free of the threat of war, a peace dividend that would improve the lot of people everywhere, ensuring that the material imperative behind war was eliminated. But the triumph of empire has never led to an end to empire, and strengthening empire has never led to improving the lot of the periphery.
This was clear in the centuries of imperialism, where the periphery was impoverished at the expense of the center. There was no reason to believe a new Great Game of empire could be any different, even Bush I’s postmodern variant, with the US firmly in control. Indeed, the impoverishment of all who are not part of the center/periphery elite has only accelerated.
Today, the US continues to work with the Saudis to destabilize the Iran-Iraq ‘Shia arc’ replaying the endgame against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, this time with clandestine operations being carried out by the US, Saudis and Israelis—all jealous of Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East.
US support for Islamists continues to haunt the region, notably Syria and Iraq, even as US power ebbs. Following the uprisings in the Arab world in early 2011, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that the revolts in the Arab world were sparked by outside forces scheming to undermine Russia. “I won’t call any names but a whole range of countries, even those we have friendly relations with, have nevertheless been involved in terrorism in the [Russian] Caucasus.”
In the ideological vacuum created by the collapse of communism, two Russian ideologies have arisen—Atlantism and Eurasianism, both with roots in the nineteenth century, the latter, a geopolitical reaction to the decadence of the West, articulated persuasively by Nikolai Trubetskoi and Lev Gumilev in the mid-1920s and today by Alexander Dugin. Russia and Iran are already playing key roles in establishing this new reality, building on the first step taken by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988. The world’s problems will only be solved based on a new geopolitical reality with Russia and Iran at its heart, the kernel of truth in the Ayatollah’s historic gesture in 1988.
An Argentine federal appeals court will order the reopening of a probe that accuses former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish center in 1994, state news agency Telam said on Thursday.
Two years earlier the prosecutor who initially made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman had said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clear Iran and normalize relations to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.
Nisman’s death rocked Argentina, with some trying to pin the blame on the government of Fernandez, whose late husband President Nestor Kirchner ordered the investigation into the AMIA bombing. However, courts have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of an official conspiracy.
Fernandez’s government said Nisman’s murder was perpetrated by rogue agents from the defunct Secretariat of Intelligence — a holdover from Argentina’s Dirty War era — which was dissolved immediately after his death, but a report by Reuters revealed that President Mauricio Macri’s government wants to revive the infamous agency, sparking fears of a return to authoritarian rule and open class warfare in the country.
Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate the president.
Still, a delegation of Argentine Jewish associations pushed Macri to reopen the case, citing new evidence.
Fernandez has faced numerous criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. Earlier this week, she was indicted on corruption charges arising from allegations she skimmed money intended for public works projects, which her supporters say are being launched used to prevent Fernandez from running for office in the future.
The Syrian military has announced a nationwide halt to fighting starting at midnight, in a move that could promote the diplomatic efforts aimed at ending years of Takfiri violence in the Arab state.
In a statement carried by Syrian state news agency SANA, the Syrian army said the ceasefire, will come into effect at 0000 GMT on December 30, does not include the Takfiri Daesh and Fateh al-Sham terror groups as well as their affiliates.
“The Army and the Armed Forces General Command on Thursday declared a comprehensive cessation of hostilities across all the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic starting at 00:00 on 30/12/2016 in the wake of the victories and advances achieved by the Syrian armed forces on more than a front,” read the statement.
“The ceasefire comes with the aim of creating suitable circumstances for supporting the political track of the crisis in Syria,” it added.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Damascus and foreign-backed militant groups had reached a truce deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara.
Putin said the agreement would be followed by peace talks between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the foreign-backed opposition.
The Russian president also announced Moscow is set to scale down its military presence in Syria following the cessation of hostilities.
“I agree with the proposal from the Defense Ministry for the reduction of our military presence in Syria,” Putin said in televised comments.
Moscow will continue supporting Assad and “fighting international terrorism in Syria,” he said, adding that the Russian military will maintain its presence at an air base in Syria’s Latakia Province and the naval facility in the port city of Tartus.
The Russian head of state also said the agreement is the result of joint efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
“We know that only recently there was a trilateral meeting in Moscow of the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, where all of the nations made obligations not only to control, but also to act as guarantors of the peace process in Syria,” Putin said.
Putin further said he would contact his Iranian and Turkish counterparts to discuss further steps in the Syrian peace process.
Meanwhile, the so-called National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition bloc based in Turkey, said it backed the nationwide ceasefire.
“The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” said the coalition spokesman, Ahmed Ramadan.
Separately, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the truce, saying Ankara and Moscow will act as guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria.
“With this agreement, parties have agreed to cease all armed attacks, including aerial, and have promised not to expand the areas they control against each other,” the ministry said in a statement.
At the end of the December 20 trilateral meeting in Moscow, foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey issued a joint statement on the Syrian issue, in which they emphasized the need for expanding the Aleppo truce.
The three sides expressed “readiness to facilitate and become the guarantors of the prospective agreement being negotiated between the Syrian government and the opposition.”
The countrywide ceasefire came one week after the Syrian army announced full control over Aleppo when the last remaining militants were evacuated along with civilians from the eastern sector of city under a truce deal mediated by Ankara and Moscow.
A Kremlin readout on the phone call made by President Vladimir Putin to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Friday to formally congratulate the latter on the liberation of Aleppo, highlighted that the Russian leader “stressed that the main task now is to focus on furthering the peace process, in particular by signing an agreement on comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis.”
Putin’s remark is an important signpost of the way forward in Syria. Moscow disfavours continuation of military operations by the Syrian government forces to regain control of the entire country (which would be the likely preference of Damascus and Tehran) and prefers that conditions must be made available to open the peace track. At any rate, all 5 major cities in Syria and the entire Mediterranean coast, where the bulk of Syrian population is concentrated, is in government hands already and the opposition is left to hold Idlib and isolated pockets in the south and east, with supply lines under immense pressure.
A ceasefire all across Syria is in the making. This appears to be the understanding reached at the 2-track ‘trilateral’ of the foreign and defence ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran which was held in Moscow on Tuesday. Interestingly, at a meeting in the Kremlin on Friday to report to Putin on the conclusion of the operations to liberate Aleppo and the successful downstream activities to evacuate civilians and render humanitarian assistance (in terms of a deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran), Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also made a significant remark that “In our (military’s) opinion, we are close to reaching an agreement on a complete ceasefire across Syria.” Putin responded:
- Together with our partners from Iran and Turkey, and of course with the Syrian government, other countries in the region and all countries concerned, we will need to continue efforts to achieve a final settlement. We must make the greatest effort now to end hostilities everywhere in Syria, and we will, at least, do our sincerest best to achieve this goal.
Of course, the campaign against the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliates will continue. A ceasefire all across Syria has been a key demand by Turkey. Interestingly, Putin referred to the objective of drawing “other countries in the region” (other than Turkey and Iran) into these processes. The reference is to Saudi Arabia and Qatar principally. Conceivably, Russian diplomacy is at work on this front.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said he expected the peace talks to take place in Astana in mid-January. But TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying: “I wouldn’t talk now about timing. Right now contacts are being made and preparation is under way for the meeting.” He said Putin would have a series of international telephone calls later to discuss the Astana talks.
Whether the Gulf sheikhs will be willing to drink from the chalice of poison remains to be seen. But what alternative is left for them now that the ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria is off the rails? Equally, a shift in Saudi and Qatari policies, away from further intervention in the Syrian conflict, will also at some point raise another ticklish question: What about the role of Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militia groups from Iran and Iraq who have been fighting in Syria? How an all-Syria ceasefire will be enforced remains to be seen.
Moscow’s objective will be to create new facts on the ground by the time the Trump administration shifts gear on Syria policies. Moscow has signalled on Friday that it is preparing for the long haul as well, with Putin signing a presidential decree ordering the signing of a deal with Syria that will “expand the territory” of Russia’s naval facility in Tartus and allow Russian warships into Syrian waters. The Soviet-era base is currently inadequate to serve most of the modern ships in the Russian Navy.
If the Syrian peace talks take off in the coming weeks, it will amount to a huge victory for Russia’s prestige in the Middle East and for Putin, in particular. But that is a big ‘if’. The good part is that with a relatively cooperative US administration settling down in Washington soon, which may be inclined to collaborate with Russia.
A senior Iranian diplomat emphasizes the need for a peaceful settlement of regional issues, saying warfare in the Middle East only benefits Israel through undermining the resources of regional nations.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaber Ansari made the remarks during a meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Thursday.
“The solution to the region’s crises is not a military one. Not only doesn’t war lead to resolution of complications, but it will result in the erosion of the regional countries’ competencies, and has [hence] no winner other than the Zionist regime [of Israel],” the Iranian official asserted.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Ansari also said the cure to the existent confrontations among the region’s political movements only lies in “serious dialog.”
Ansari described his talks with Hariri as “very favorable and constructive,” saying regional affairs as well as the expansion of Tehran-Beirut ties were discussed in the meeting.
The Iranian official further praised Lebanon’s positive role in the region as well as its “effective and proactive resistance against the Zionist regime’s occupation, expansionism and aggrandizement” over the past two decades.
The Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah is credited with defending the country against two wars launched by Israel, in 2000 and 2006. It has also been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syrian conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
Hariri likewise said political solutions need the participation of domestic factions and the recognition of their views.
“If it were not for empathy and understanding among all Lebanese sides and political movements, we would not be witnessing their agreement and election of General Michel Aoun as president, the formation of a government, and the introduction of cabinet ministers,” he said.
On October 31, Lebanese legislators elected Aoun as president, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum. The Maronite Christian founder of the Free Patriotic Movement succeeded Michel Sleiman.
On Sunday, the country announced forming a new 30-minister cabinet led by Hariri. The government brought together the country’s whole political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party, which did not accept the portfolio it had been offered.
Ansari congratulated the Lebanese premier on the inauguration of the national unity government.
The Iranian official is to meet with other senior Lebanese political officials on Friday.
He arrived in Lebanon via Syria, where he had met separately with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem.
RT | December 21, 2016
Moscow says that Saudi Arabia should join efforts to find peace in Syria undertaken by Russia, Iran and Turkey, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN envoy, said.
The Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday to draft a joint statement aimed at resolving the long term conflict in Syria.
According to Churkin, the document was “an extra effort by our three countries” to, among other things, prepare opposition forces “to negotiate with the government, and put them at the same table with the government, so they can develop between themselves some arrangements that would advance the political process.”
It is “very important” that the statement by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara “contained an invitation to other countries that have influence ‘on the ground’ to join such efforts,” he said.
“It seems to me it would be very important for Saudi Arabia to take a similar stance and work in the same direction,” the envoy told Rossiya 24 channel.
The Russia-US talks on resolving the Syrian crisis have stalled, but Churkin says that the situation may change when Donald Trump replaces Barack Obama in the White House.
“I’m going to share my personal interpretation of the things I’ve heard recently,” he said.
According to Churkin’s information, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said he planned to convene a new round of talks about Syria on February 8, 2017.
“I’m sure he (de Mistura) did it only after he had found an opportunity to contact the people on Donald Trump’s team and to coordinate the date with them,” the Russian UN ambassador said.
“That’s good enough a sign because it could be indicative of the ability of the Trump Administration to steer the situation towards a rapid enough unfolding of the political process (in Syria),” Churkin said, again stressing that it was just his “personal interpretation of events.”
He said that Russia is ready to cooperate with Nikki Haley, who Trump plans to propose for the next US envoy at the United Nations.
“She’s a quite young governor of South Carolina, lacking international experience, but I heard some good comments about her,” the Russian envoy said.
However, he stressed that he doesn’t know Haley in person, which makes it hard to predict how the US delegation will act under her in the UN and with the Security Council.
“Anyway, I think it’s early to relax and expect that we’re going to have some kind of nirvana in our work at the UN. It’s going to be a bit more complicated in real life,” Churkin said.
The pullout of militants from the Syrian city of Aleppo “is being completed,” Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday.
Aleppo was the last major city being held by the rebels in the country, with their withdrawal being agreed though Russian and Turkish mediation.
According to estimates by Russian officials, the evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo, which has been under rebel control since 2012, is expected to conclude in a few days.
During a visit to Tehran, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has expressed satisfaction with Iran’s commitment to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
“Iran has been committed to its obligations and this is an important matter,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Director General Yukiya Amano said on Sunday at a joint press conference with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
The nuclear accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, Britain, Russia, France and China plus Germany — last year in Vienna.
The IAEA is tasked with monitoring the technical implementation of the nuclear deal.
Since January, when the JCPOA took effect, the agency has confirmed Iran’s compliance in several reports.
“We are satisfied with the trend of the JCPOA’s implementation, and hope for this trend to continue,” added Amano, who is in Tehran on a one-day visit at the invitation of Salehi.
Concerning his meeting with Salehi, he said the two had discussed a range of issues, including heavywater, enriched uranium, Iran’s uranium stockpiles as well as research and development in the field of nuclear energy.
Among other topics in the talks was a recent order by President Hassan Rouhani to the AEOI to plan work on nuclear propulsion devices to be used in sea transport, Amano added.
The Iranian chief executive issued the decree in response to the recent violation of the multilateral nuclear deal by the United States. The US Congress recently voted to extend Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), Washington’s sanctions law against Iran, for another 10 years. This is while Iran had all its nuclear-related sanctions removed on the back of the JCPOA.
Salehi, in turn, said he had addressed cooperation with the IAEA on the JCPOA’s implementation.
He urged the IAEA to “act as an impartial international authority, whose reports do not reflect leverage or influence peddling by any party,” the Iranian official asserted, thanking the agency for “acting in such a manner so far” in its reports on the JCPOA’s implementation.
He said the two had addressed the presidential decree and how to implement it as well as Tehran’s obligations under the IAEA’s Nuclear Safeguards Agreement during the JCPOA’s implementation process.
Salehi also touched on Washington’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, saying Tehran “is ready to take whatever proportionate measure upon the decision of the Iranian establishment’s authorities.”
Later in the day, Amano sat down for talks with the Iranian president, who likewise called on the agency to produce impartial and technical reports on Iran.
“We expect that this international institution perform its responsibility in the area of technical cooperation, the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology, and nuclear trade, too,” President Rouhani said.
He said the JCPOA’s sustainability hinged on compliance by all parties, and added, “The Islamic Republic will honor its commitments as long as other parties honor theirs.”
Rouhani said some recent measures by the US, including the extension of the ISA, contravened the nuclear agreement. “The course the United States has taken vis-à-vis Iran will lead to the reduction of international confidence in the US government,” he said.
Amano, for his part, reiterated that Iran had lived up to its contractual obligations since the accord’s implementation. “The JCPOA was a big achievement, whose implementation the IAEA will support with all its might.”
A major development in Russia-Iran relations, which merits close attention in New Delhi, has been that a preliminary agreement has been reached in Tehran two days ago to replace the US dollar with local currencies in the bilateral trade. The symbolism here is important against the backdrop of the recurring speculation that the new US president Donald Trump may tighten sanctions against Iran. A reasonable explanation for the decision to use the local currencies by Moscow and Tehran is that the two sides are insulating the dynamics of their strategic partnership from being buffeted by US’ unfriendly policies toward Iran.
Put differently, any improvement of ties for Moscow with the US in the coming period will be sequestered from the dynamics of the Russian-Iran partnership, no matter the Trump Administration’s policies toward Iran. Broadly speaking, albeit with some caveats, Beijing also has signaled a similar approach to Sino-Iranian ties.
Clearly, therefore, the revival of a containment strategy against Iran by Washington on the pattern of what the Obama administration managed to put together may never again be possible to resurrect so long as Tehran remains committed to the implementation of the nuclear deal of July last year. New Delhi should draw appropriate conclusions in regard of the future projection of India-Iran economic cooperation. This is one thing.
Secondly, again on Tuesday, Russia and Iran also took a great leap forward in energy cooperation. Several major tie-ups have been announced, signifying that the Russian energy companies are re-entering the Iranian oil sector in a big way ahead of western competitors, following the announcement of new policies by Tehran to encourage foreign collaboration.
An interesting dimension to this, from the Indian perspective, will be that Russia’s Gazprom has shown renewed interest in getting involved in the Iran-India subsea gas pipeline project. Gazprom’s deputy chairman Alexander Medvedev has been quoted as saying that “we (Russia) can develop Iran’s liquefied gas projects, get involved in Iran-India subsea gas pipeline as well as some upstream sectors like exploration, gas production”. Indeed, the National Iranian Gas Export Company has been negotiating to lay a $4.5-billion worth undersea gas pipeline from the Iranian coast via the Oman Sea to Gujarat.
India is a key market for Iran as it plans to increase gas exports from the current level of 10 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) to 60-80 bcm/y by 2021. Turkey is at present Iran’s only customer. Iran also has a half-finished liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, which needs a $8-11 billion investment to produce 10.4 million tons per year (14 bcm/y) of LNG. This is apart from building a string of several mini-LNG plants with about 150,000 tons per year of capacity. Gazprom is the most likely foreign partner in this field.
Besides, Gazprom is also interested in developing Iran’s underground gas storage (UGS) facilities, which is important for Iran to realise its plans to emerge as a major gas exporter in the future. Iran plans to increase its gas output from the current 750 mcm/d to 1,250 mcm/d by 2021. Gazprom has very good experience in this sphere, owning 22 UGS facilities at 26 gas storages in Russia itself, apart from having such facilities in Europe.
Another area of interest to India will be that Iran and Russia also inked a $1.6 billion agreement on Tuesday to build a 1,400 megawatt gas-fired power plant in the southern Hormozgan Province close to the giant South Pars gas field, which shares 60 percent of Iran’s gas production. Of course, India’s ONGC Videsh has been negotiating partnership in the development of Farzad-B as field in the South Pars.
Without doubt, Russia’s looming presence in Iran’s energy sector has profound implications for India’s energy security. The prospects are definitely there for India-Iran-Russia collaboration in the oil and gas sector and affiliated activities whereby Russian technology and collaboration become useful for India to tap Iran’s vast energy resources. Given the excellent ties India enjoys with Iran and Russia being a time-tested friend, New Delhi should optimize the window of opportunity here. It is important to note as well that Russia is keen to induct Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Read a Bloomberg dispatch on Russia’s burgeoning Iran ties in the energy sector – Gazprom signs oil deals with Iran as Russians return in force.
According to a number of politicians, diplomatic officials, and observers, the foreign policy of the new US President Donald Trump will surely introduce new and unexpected changes in many aspects of global politics. For example, Donald Trump has triumphantly announced that he does not intend to overthrow governments abroad in favour of the USA’s interests. He stated that Washington intends to contribute to stability in the international arena by all means.
“We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. Our goal is stability and not chaos as we want to rebuild our country.” This opinion is to be welcomed if it is put into effect as it completely differs from the aggressive and offensive line maintained by Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President Barack Obama who is retreating into insignificance.
For example, Donald Trump has underscored that he intends to change the policy in respect of the Middle East and cooperate with any country that combats terrorism, in particular, with the Islamic State. He admits that the USA has spent more than $6 trillion on this region to date and “the Middle East is in a much worse state than ever.” However, the new President has not yet specified particular changes and amendments to be introduced in the foreign policy of his country in this respect. Apparently, his team is still to be formed, nor does he or his team-mates know the details of the upcoming American policy and its changes.
However, there is one country in the Middle East regarding which Donald Trump has not yet decided or just does not know what policy the USA should maintain. He continues to offer the hackneyed phrases of the previous President and is preparing to toughen the American policy. This strongly contradicts with his speeches on so-called changes to the foreign policy. This country is Iran. If we look at his pre-election statements in respect of Tehran, they were predominately negative.
Therefore, the world is actively discussing the possible foreign policy strategies the USA will pursue – in particular, the prospects of the USA’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, which Tehran accepted in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions, and which the newly elected President called “a disaster” for the USA promising to terminate it. As is well known, in his pre-election speeches D. Trump swore to “completely dismantle the global terror network created by Iran” and promised other punishments aimed at Tehran. The Senate has just strongly supported Trump’s position and unanimously adopted the draft bill on prolonging the sanctions against Iran for a further 10 years. Now, the document will be submitted to US President Barack Obama, who will surely sign it before his resignation on January 20.
However, the experts who have worked with D. Trump or who know him well believe that he is unlikely to enact a sudden termination of the Iranian nuclear program deal. Termination is perhaps a too strong and decisive action, and the new President would rather reconsider the deal, submit it to the Congress, and try to demand that Iran agree to the omission of some clauses or change them in favour of the USA, and that it will be further discussed. The fact remains: the new President’s administration is unlikely to adopt the Iranian deal in its current version.
The thing is, the deal with Iran, according to Trump, is not effective enough and does not solve all the problems from the American point of view. The reconsideration of the Iranian nuclear program is still not the priority objective of the foreign policy of the USA and the new administration, which is likely to focus on domestic problems in the nearest future. The Iranian factor is rather weighty in Syria, which will surely be taken into consideration by the new administration. The question is how the Iranian problem fits in with the top-priority tasks of Trump’s foreign policy.
“They are already looking closely at their options — and that very much includes non-nuclear sanctions,” the newspaper reported citing a congressional official. Non-nuclear measures may be the reason for a possible introduction of new sanctions – for example, the program developing ballistic missiles and human rights violations. The President’s team believes their introduction will not violate the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Experts suppose that the introduction of new US sanctions may put pressure on Iran, in particular, in order to force it to make concessions regarding support for armed groups in the Middle East, in particular, in Syria and Yemen. Thus, the new administration may avoid withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran by introducing new sanctions. Meanwhile, the possible introduction of new sanctions against Iran will incur a negative reaction from Washington’s European allies as European analysts note. In other words, in this case, Donald Trump will have to move skilfully like the legendary Ulysses between the international Scylla and Iranian Charybdis. Let us see if he manages to do so, and afterwards, we can make a conclusion on the ability of the powerful Unites States and its new President to conduct foreign policy intelligently. One that is not aimed at the confrontation but at peaceful co-existence of states with various forms of government.
As for the government of Iran, it previously perceived the plans of the new President to reconsider Washington’s foreign policy rather calmly considering it to be the usual propaganda aimed at the strengthening Trump’s position. For example, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made it clear that if the USA prolonged sanctions, it would become a reason for the global community to distrust the USA. According to Tehran, the sanctions will not affect the relations between Iran and the other states that signed the so-called nuclear dossier.
Nevertheless, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani expressed his opinion on this issue once again and threatened the USA with a response if Barack Obama signed the law that prolongs the sanctions against Iran. According to Iran’s President, the USA is violating previously reached agreements which presuppose lifting a number of sanctions against Iran.
On December 4, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned the USA rather seriously about a “firm and decisive reaction” if America continued to threaten the nuclear deal. At the Conference on nuclear security, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran urged the USA to abandon its “unreasonable and provocative” measures.
After that, the subsequent actions demonstrate that the Iranian leadership became concerned with the upcoming changes in the American policy and decided to resort to other measures. Thus, Iran suddenly changed its opinion on Russia’s use of airbases on its territory. Whereas earlier, in August, Russia’s use of airbases would have caused internal political scandal in Iran, now Tehran is almost urging Moscow to use its airfields. This change in mood apparently has global political subtext related to the new President Donald Trump. “If Russia should have such a need and the issue is agreed with the Russian Party, the Russian Aerospace Forces may use the base in Hamadan to conduct its military mission in Syria,” declared the Advisor to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Sheikholislam. “If the situation in Syria requires it, we are once again ready to provide Russia with the opportunity to conduct its Aerospace Forces’ flights and refuelling at this airfield like last time” (Tehran Times, December 1).
Other combat measures have been prepared inside the country. In particular, the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran has adopted a law to prohibit the import of American consumer goods. It is notable that the Iranian deputies unanimously supported this draft law “taking into consideration the constant hostility (towards Iran) and disregard for US obligations by the US Congress under the multilateral Iranian nuclear program deal.”
It should be noted that Moscow supports the legal position of Iran and opposes the political pressure on Tehran brought about by US sanctions.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.