- Published in Cuba
US President Donald Trump has used a bombastic approach to gain the attention of European nations, using them as leverage as he bids to alter the Iran nuclear deal, former Pentagon official Michel Maloof tells RT.
Despite international pressure, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says his country plans to stay in the agreement even if the United States backs out – as long as the other members agree to honor the agreement.
Meanwhile, Trump has left the world waiting after firing off a tweet saying he would decide on the fate of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson paid a last-minute visit to Washington in a bid to sway his thinking on the matter. Johnson met with newly-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and appeared on Trump's favorite TV show Fox & Friends.
RT discussed the current situation over Iran with former Pentagon official Maloof.
RT: UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson appeared on American news programs saying that Trump should not “junk the deal” but rather fix those issues that he doesn't agree with in order to keep Iran in line and not to start an arms race in the Middle East. Do you see Mr Johnson's request as an accurate characterization of the problems here?
Michael Maloof: I think he does reflect the European point of view. And I think, on the other hand, you have President Trump who has shown a bombasity initially, and then he seeks to leverage other countries, to do what he wants them to do in order to gain control. He has the attention of the Europeans, that's for sure. And I think that the Europeans all of a sudden say, “Yeah, the deal is not perfect. We will work on it.” The question is will Iran go along with it? And so far they don't appear to be forthcoming with any fixes, whatsoever, at this point. And that has to be weighed into the equation when Trump makes his decision…
RT: President Rouhani said: “What we want for the deal is that it's preserved and guaranteed by the non-Americans. And then the US pullout will be okay. We would get rid of the mischievous element that always causes trouble. And if what we want is not fulfilled, we have our own legal and lawful path and have our own plans.” He said they have their own plans, they're going to go through with it anyway, we don't know what those are. But we do know that a little over a week ago the French President Emmanuel Macron was in the US, Angela Merkel was in the US. They paid a visit to the White House. We know that the Iran nuclear deal was a major topic to be discussed when they were in the US. It's not a secret that all the other five world powers want the US to stay: Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. They all say that even if the US withdraws, they are still going to move forward with it. Rouhani did say he has a plan…
MM: His plan is to stay with the Europeans, at this point. That is what he has announced so far and so has Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. It really benefits them to do that because any sanctions imposed, if all the other countries dropped out, it would severely cripple an already serious economic problem that Iran has. They don't want to do that. I think Iran is playing both sides at this point. They know that if Trump does something economically, it could really affect them – particularly if he imposes sanctions should he drop out. We don't know yet. My personal view is, he is going to kick the can, give the Europeans another three-months to try to improve the existing arrangement, although he is under severe pressure from the neocons to abandon it.
There is a lot of pressure on Trump to make a decision one way or another. Boris Johnson went there to try to speak to him and maybe talk some sense into him so he doesn’t pull out of the deal…Trump is being pressured by Benjamin Netanyahu and the hawks in the White House such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to push the state forward, to pull out of the deal. Essentially, these war hawks just want to start a war somewhere because it is what these people thrive on – political analyst Shabbir Hassanaly
RT: Trump tweeted that he is going to make a major announcement about Iran Tuesday afternoon, so I guess we have to see what he is going to say there. But you know what else he tweeted about was former Secretary of State John Kerry. And he is saying that he has allegedly been meddling with the deal that was brokered under Kerry's watch and Obama's watch. President Trump is calling this “shadow diplomacy,” blasting Kerry on Twitter. What do you make of this ex-statesman still communicating with Iranian officials?
MM: It is not unusual for former secretaries of state to continue relationships, to talk to their foreign counterparts. There's nothing wrong with it. He is not trying to change anything per se, to come under the purview of the so-called Logan Act which has never been violated by anybody. From Kerry’s standpoint, he is trying to preserve what he has worked so hard to accomplish. Even though it's limited in scope.
France has tried, Germany has tried, no one seems to get through to Trump except Netanyahu and the war hawks…Now, they will be pushing harder and harder to get a war with Iran. With the deal dead, there is going to be a lot more warmongering, you’ll have accusations of WMD’s like we had in 2002-2003 in the run up to Iraq – political analyst Shabbir Hassanaly
RT: You don't see this as a taboo move given that he's not a part of the administration?
MM: No, it's really not. You've seen (Madeleine) Albright when she was a former secretary of state, she was involved in talking to counterparts to try to maintain a certain amount of diplomacy. The question is will Trump go along with any of this? That is the big question.
French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the US pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran “could mean war.” Trump has until May 12 to either re-certify the deal or dump it, as he has repeatedly threatened.
Scrapping the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran “would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war,” according to an undated quote from Macron provided in the latest Der Spiegel magazine edition.
However, the worst-case scenario may not in fact materialize, as the French leader said he does not believe that US President Donald Trump is really seeking a military conflict.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), branding it the “worst deal ever” and urging parties to “fix” it. Following the recent visit of Macron to the US, Trump boasted that he changed the French President’s stance on the deal, stating that “he is viewing Iran a lot differently than he did before he walked into the Oval Office.”
While France, the UK and Germany, the European signatories to the deal, who had firmly opposed Trump’s attempts to “fix” it, did not join Trump’s drive against it, they seemingly have amended their position. They now want to address “important elements that the deal does not cover,” including Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as its activities in the region.
Tehran, however, maintains that the 2015 agreement is not subject to re-negotiation, as it fully adheres to it. Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, which obliged the country to drastically curb its nuclear activities, has been repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the JCPOA’s implementation. Trump however, argued, that Tehran somehow violated “the spirit” of the deal.
As the deadline for Donald Trump to recertify the deal or withdraw from it approaches (it’s set for May 12), the situation around the JCPOA gets more and more heated. Earlier this week, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu presented a large batch of materials, said to be documents on the Iranian nuclear program, acquired by the country’s intelligence.
Netanyahu claimed that the documents proved that Tehran has preserved a military nuclear program within the confines of the JCPOA. The premier summarized the intelligence findings as “Iran lied, big time.” Tehran firmly rejected the allegations, calling Netanyahu himself a “broke and infamous liar.”
On Sunday, Iran once again warned the US against breaking the nuclear deal, with President Hassan Rouhani saying that “if the United States leaves the nuclear agreement, you will soon see that they will regret it like never before in history.”
Iran's President Rouhani has sent a message to Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez to offer congratulations on his election as the President of the Council of State of Cuba and expressed hope that amicable ties between the two countries continue.
President Hassan Hassan Rouhani's message is as follows:
"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Your Excellency Mr Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez,
President of the Council of State of Cuba,
I express my sincerest congratulations to your Excellency on your election as the President of the Council of State of Cuba.
The government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Cuba have always attempted in hard times to create a safe world based on justice and moderation and I hope these deep, amicable bonds between the two countries continue in the new government.
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran"
The 57-year-old bureaucrat Díaz-Canel, was elected by the Cuban National Assembly with a vote of 603-1 on Thursday. He becomes president of the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers.
Although Russia, Iran and Turkey have different objectives in Syria, the summit in Ankara showed that they all seek the territorial integrity of the country, experts told RT, warning however that the region is in serious turmoil.
Three of the power brokers of peace in Syria met in Ankara on April 4 in an effort to reduce the violence in the war-torn country: Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani met for a trilateral summit hosted by their Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
RT discussed the results of the summit with Middle East experts.
Asked about the three-way cooperation and how it is going to work, given that Russia, Iran and Turkey have their own plans and are supporting different sides in the conflict, Abdel Bari Atwan, an author and Middle East analyst, said “there is a common ground which makes three leaders work together, especially on Syria.”
“I have looked at the final communiqué of their meeting during the summit in Ankara. It was very clear that they have agreed on a lot of things,” he said.
In particular, the joint statement says that the three leaders “rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism and expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”
According to Atwan, this means that there is no chance for a Kurdish entity to be established in Syria.
Another important point mentioned in the statement was that “they agreed that there should be stability and security in Syria in order to allow the Syrian refugees to go back to Syria.”
“The third one, which is also extremely important, [is] not to use the terrorist as a pretext to keep foreign forces in northern Syria, which is a clear reference to the American 2,000 troops based there,” he added.
Emre Caliskan, co-author of ‘The 'New Turkey' and its Discontents,’ told RT that although three countries have different agendas, in terms of the future of Syria, they agreed on one thing: “They all want to respect the territory unification of Syria, they all want not to have American influence in the region.”
Joshua Landis, director at the Center of Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma, argues “it is going to be very difficult” for these trilateral efforts to rebuild Syria, considering US troops are still stationed there.
“What we are seeing today is that Syria is increasingly being divided into three zones: a Russian and Assad zone, an American and Kurdish zone and a Turkish zone where the rebel militias hold sway,” he noted. Landis said that “this is a period of great turmoil.”
“As we’ve seen, President Trump wants to bring the troops out of Syria, he doesn’t believe that America has long-term interests in Syria. Of course, America’s allies have a lot of interests: Saudi Arabia, Israel, they do not want to see the US leave Syria. They want the US to turn up the pressure on Iran and to hurt Persia as much as they possibly can,” he explained.
“The US holds about 50 percent of Syria’s oil and much of its best agricultural lands. To give those back in a sense to the Syrian government or to allow Turkey and Syria to take over its northern section of Syria would be a blow to those two countries who don’t want to see Syria back on the stage, particularly, now that Assad and Iran still have influence there, and now that Russia has influence there,” Landis pointed out, adding that “they want to hurt Russia.”
“And we saw McMaster, the national security adviser, who was just fired, say the Russia has not paid a high enough price. There are many policy advisers who want the US to make Russia pay a higher price, to make Iran pay a higher price. This confusion goes right through the policy-making community in the US. And it does make the US look very disorganized indeed.”
According to political analyst Seyyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm, “the US has grown so weak in Syria and in the region that we heard just very recently that Donald Trump said that they want to pull out unless the Saudis pay for their stay in Syria.”
“The US has grown so weak that they cannot have any major say or any say in Syria, so what they are doing is that they are playing negativism, they are trying to sabotage peace and welfare of the Syrian nation. And they are trying to sabotage the restoration of stability in Syria and in the region in order to be given a part in there,” he told RT.
Alexis Bandrich Vega, Havana’s ambassador to Tehran, believes that U.S. President Donald Trump is ignorant of the realities in Cuba.
“This president of the United States is not interested in Cuba, nor knows anything, neither of Cuba nor of the Cubans,” Ambassador Bandrich Vega tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How do you evaluate bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran, especially in the economic area?
A: In the political area they are very good. We were honored to receive the official visit of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in 2016. There is a good level of exchanges of messages and communications between our governments.
Each year the number of Iranians who travel to Cuba increases for different reasons, including tourism.
In the economic area, although there are many MOUs between both countries, neither of us is satisfied with the level of exchanges. Many reasons influence, such as the distance, the asymmetries of our economies and the difficulties imposed by the United States to realize our commercial operations not only with them, but with the rest of the world.
I can assure you that there is the political will of both governments to advance in this field and we will achieve it.
Q: What about cultural cooperation between Cuba and Iran?
A: The good political relations coupled with economic ones will facilitate the increase of cultural cooperation. Iran has always had a good participation in the International Book Fair in Cuba every year. Iranian films enjoy good acceptance among the Cubans, as well as some programs facilitated by the Spanish-speaking channel Hispan TV.
We have just celebrated a Cuban Culture Week in the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran, which was very well accepted among the attendees.
The cultures of both nations have transcended our borders and there´s no doubt that more and more bridges will unite us.
Q: How about scientific cooperation between Cuba and Iran, especially in the area of medicine?
A: Undoubtedly, this is an area where both countries have experienced important advances and where more opportunities for cooperation have been found.
Cuba has made, and will make, important technological transfers to Iran in the area of vaccine production.
We have developed important medications, some unique as Heberprot P, against diabetic foot ulcers, which helps reduce the need for amputation in more than 70% of treated cases and is registered in more than 20 countries. In the same way Cuba has also developed important vaccines against different types of cancer, which have shown high effectiveness. We look forward to achieve a possible agreement on med´s registration.
We have a vast network of facilities for health tourism, with a growing number of people coming to our country every day to undergo surgical operations and enjoy the hospitality of the Cubans and the benefits of our island.
Recently, a nanotechnology laboratory donated by Iran was inaugurated in Cuba, which predicts a promising collaboration in that area, with mutual benefits.
There is so much to do.
Q: Would you explain about Iran-Cuba cooperation at international level?
A: In the international arena we have excellent cooperation. Cuba will always appreciate Iran's support for the Resolution against the blockade of the United States. We have always had the Iranian vote and we hope that we can also count on your denunciation in the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations later this year.
We frequently exchange support for the candidatures of our representatives for positions in international organizations.
On several occasions, the Cuban government has expressed its full support for the nuclear agreement, as well as demanding its strict compliance.
Q: Donald Trump is trying to roll back what Obama did. It is true in the case of Cuba. What is the motivation behind such moves?
A: Totally true. On June 16, 2017, President Trump signed the Presidential National Security Memorandum on the strengthening of the U.S. policy towards Cuba, which increases the prohibitions on economic, commercial and financial transactions of U.S. companies and entities with Cuban companies and entities, restricts the trips of North
Americans to the Island, expands the list of government officials and Cuban citizens who cannot receive visas, remittances or engage in transactions with U.S. entities, and repeals the Presidential Policy Directive for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba (Obama 14.10.2016).
The motivations are purely political, of domestic politics, because this president of the United States is not interested in Cuba, nor knows anything, neither of Cuba nor of the Cubans. The U.S. government ignores the majority support of American public opinion, the international community and Cuban emigration in the U.S. to the lifting of the blockade and the normalization of relations between the two countries, meanwhile satisfies the interests of a small minority of the American and Cuban-American extreme right of South Florida, whose interest is to provoke a confrontation between the two countries.
Cuba is willing to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual interest, and negotiate pending bilateral issues with the United States on the basis of equality, reciprocity, respect for sovereignty and national independence, without anyone expecting us to make concessions, or renounce one of our principles.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is after broadening of ties with the Cuban government," President Rouhani said during the meeting in Tehran today.
The Iranian president said that Tehran-Havana relations have been constructive since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, adding that Iran and Cuba encountered similar antagonistic plots in their post-revolutionary eras and there is no doubt that among the world revolutions, the names of Imam Khomeini and Fidel Castro will be remembered as outstanding revolutionary leaders.
Rouhani stressed that Tehran is against imposing sanctions as an outdated, wrong method, and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran is against enforcing oppressive sanctions on the independent nations such as Cuba."
The new Cuban ambassador to Tehran, for his part, submitted a copy of his credentials to the president and highlighted the influential role of Tehran in maintaining stability and security in region and the world.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys a special place in the foreign relations of Cuba and we are determined to expand our relations and cooperation with Iran in economic as well as political areas day by day," he added.
“Cuba believes that engaging in wide-ranging relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is the best means to oppose unfair sanctions against both countries, and at present, when the US is after imposing its policies on the world by force, the development of independent, free countries such as Iran and Cuba can be very influential,” Bandrich Vega added.
In relevant remarks in earlier this month, President Rouhani in a message to his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro underlined the need for enhancing mutual cooperation between the two countries in different fields.
"I hope relations between Tehran and Havana will expand in political, economic, social and cultural fields soon," President Rouhani said in his congratulatory message to President Castro on the occasion of the 59th Anniversary of the Victory of the Cuban Revolution.
He pointed to the age-old relations between Tehran and Havana, and said that the two countries have worked hard to boost their cooperation in the field of anti-Imperialism cooperation.
The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement and its allies against the authoritarian government of the deposed Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on January 1, 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state.
Attorney General Montazeri on Thu. revealed that the mastermind behind the eruption of protests in the country was a US-Israeli-Saudi think tank that had been plotting for the rallies since four years ago.
Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General, revealed the details about a think tank responsible for the week-long protests in several cities across the country, saying “the mastermind of the project was an American named Michael D’Andrea, former Chief of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center [current head of the Agency’s Iran Mission Center], and an operations room composed of three sides, namely the United States, Zionist regime and Al Saud, was formed for leading the unrest. The project was funded by Saudi Arabia and mainly planned by D’Andrea and an intelligence officer affiliated with [Israel’s intelligence agency] Mossad.”
He went on to add that the think tank conducted years of research and finally decided on launching campaigns inside Iran under the titles, ‘no to price hikes’, ‘no to paying bills’, and the campaign of the retired and those who lost their money in bankrupt financial institutes.
The think tank finally decided on executing the Libyan plan, i.e. moving from the margins toward the center, he added. …”
Last June, The New York Times ran an article about Michael D’Andrea called “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance”:
“WASHINGTON — He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians.
Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.
Mr D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants. …
But he has invoked his hard line on Iran in other ways. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has described the deal as a failure, and Mr. Trump has appointed to the National Security Council hawks eager to contain Iran and push regime change, the groundwork for which would most likely be laid through C.I.A. covert action.”
Asked whether Mr. D’Andrea’s appointment was a sign that the C.I.A. planned to take up a more aggressive line toward Iran, Mr. Eatinger said, “I don’t think it’s the wrong read.”