Ormuz Strait in Iran's Sight due to U.S. Sanctions

Tehran, Aug 3 (Prensa Latina) Iran repeated the possibility of closing the Strait of Ormuz, waterway moving 20 percent of the world''s oil, in response to the threats and sanctions of the United States.

'If the tap of oil and petrodollars is opened, they only go to the pocket of those threatening Iran. It will logically affect the security of the Strait', stressed the chief of Iran's Navy, Counteradmiral Hosein Janzadi, quoted by the IRNA News Agency.

This week, Janzadi launched a similar warning that the 'unjust sanctions (of the U.S.) against Iran' can have consequences on the navigation through the geographic accident separating this nation from Oman.

That point is the sea outlet of the countries with coasts in the Persian gulf, great producers of oil and gas.

At the beginning of last month, the deputy chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, general Ismail Kosari, declared that if restricted the Iranian oil exports, they will not allow the extraction of crude through the Strait of Ormuz.

In a similar sense spoke Iranian deputy minister of Foreign Relations, Abbas Araqchi.

Tension in the zone escalated after the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump, to abandon unilaterally the nuclear pact signed with Tehran three years ago, and imposing new sanctions against Iran, actions rejected by the international community.

Among them, stand out the pressures of Washington on other nations to stop buying Iranian oil, main export item of this nation.

Recently, during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, threatened with a military response if Iran closes the strait.

'We will make sure that maritime routes stay open, this is a long-standing U.S. policy and we are prepared to keep it', underlined Pompeo in an interview with the Emirate newspaper The National.

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Iran Rejects Trump Offer Of Talks As A Dream, Without Value

LONDON: Senior Iranian officials and military commanders on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and "a dream", saying his words contradicted his action of reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump's repudiation of an international nuclear deal reached in 2015 was "illegal" and Iran would not easily yield to Washington's renewed campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports.

In May, Trump pulled the United States out of the multilateral deal concluded before he took office, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran's favour. On Monday, he said that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations.
Iran's foreign minister said that Washington should blame itself for ending talks with Tehran when it withdrew from the nuclear deal.

"U.S. can only blame itself for pulling out and leaving the table...Threats, sanctions and PR stunts won't work," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet.

The foreign ministry spokesman said Trump's offer to negotiate with Tehran contradicted his actions as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic Republic.

"Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue," Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Tuesday.

The head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards equally dismissed Trump's tentative offer, saying the Islamic Republic was not North Korea.

"Mr Trump! Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting," Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Fars News agency.

"Even U.S. presidents after you will not see that day," he added.

The head of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations said Tehran saw no value in Trump's offer, made only a week after he warned Iran it risked dire consequences if it made threats against Washington.

"Based on our bad experiences in negotiations with America and based on U.S. officials' violation of their commitments, it is natural that we see no value in his proposal," Kamal Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The Strategic Council on Foreign Relations was set up by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to help formulate long-term policies for Iran.

NO MEETING PLANNED

Trump's move to force Iran into new negotiations has for now reunited Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal and pragmatists like Rouhani who championed it to Iran's economically crippling stand-off with Western powers.

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of parliament who is seen as part of the moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now "would be a humiliation".

"If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America," he told state news agency IRNA.

A senior State Department official said on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not meet with his Iranian counterpart during a meeting of Southeast Asian nations in Singapore this weekend.

Israel, which opposed the nuclear deal and encouraged Trump to withdraw from it, seems not concerned with the U.S. offer to meet Iranian leaders.

A senior Israeli official told Reuters on Tuesday: "Israel is in continuous contact with the American administration. Senior American officials have stated that there is no change in America's firm policy on Iran."

Under the 2015 deal, the fruit of Rouhani's efforts to ease Iran's international isolation to help revive its economy, Iran curbed its nuclear programme and won relief from U.N. and Western sanctions in return.

NUCLEAR PACT IN JEOPARDY

Trump condemned the deal in part because it did not cover Iran's ballistic missile programme and involvement in Middle East conflicts. He reactivated U.S. sanctions, the most all-encompassing measures against Iran, and warned countries to stop importing Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or risk U.S. penalties.

European signatories to the deal have been searching for ways to salvage it but cautioned Tehran that they may not be able to persuade many investors not to bolt from business with Iran to avoid U.S. punishment.

Rouhani said during a meeting with Britain's ambassador on Tuesday that after what he called the "illegal" U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, "the ball is in Europe's court now".

He added, "The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil."

Rouhani and some senior military commanders have said Iran could disrupt oil shipments from Gulf states through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to choke off Iranian oil exports.

Reiterating Tehran's official stance, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency that the strait would remain open "if Iran's national interests are preserved".

Iran's OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, told Reuters on Tuesday that Trump was mistaken if he expected Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to compensate for losses of Iranian oil caused by U.S. sanctions.

"It seems President Trump has been taken hostage by Saudi Arabia and a few producers when they claimed they can replace 2.5 million barrels per day of Iranian exports, encouraging him to take action against Iran," Ardebili said.

"Now they and Russia sell more oil and more expensively. Not even from their incremental production but their stocks."

He said oil prices, which Trump has been pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to bring down by raising output, will instead rise unless the United States grants waivers to buyers of Iranian crude.

Iran's currency plumbed new depths on Monday, dropping past 120,000 rials to the dollar, but Trump's expressed willingness to negotiate with Tehran sparked a minor recovery on Tuesday to 110,000 rials on the unofficial market.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of people rallying in Isfahan in central Iran, and Karaj near Tehran, in protest at high prices caused in part by the rial's devaluation under heightened U.S. pressure.

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Iran threatens to cut cooperation with nuclear body after Trump move

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran could reduce its co-operation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, President Hassan Rouhani told the body’s head on Wednesday, after he warned U.S. President Donald Trump of “consequences” of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.

In May, Trump pulled out of a multinational deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Washington has since told countries they must stop buying Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face financial measures.

“Iran’s nuclear activities have always been for peaceful purposes, but it is Iran that would decide on its level of cooperation with the IAEA,” Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying after meeting IAEA head Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

“The responsibility for the change of Iran’s cooperation level with the IAEA falls on those who have created this new situation,” he added.

Rouhani said earlier in the day Tehran would stand firm against U.S. threats to cut Iranian oil sales.

“The Americans say they want to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero ... It shows they have not thought about its consequences,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by IRNA.

On Tuesday, Rouhani hinted at a threat to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if Washington tries to cut its exports.

He did not elaborate, but an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander explicitly said on Wednesday Iran would block any exports of crude for the Gulf in retaliation for hostile U.S. action.

“If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Ismail Kowsari was quoted as saying by the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website.

Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds force, in charge of foreign operations for the Revolutionary Guards, said in a letter published on IRNA: “I kiss your (Rouhani’s) hand for expressing such wise and timely comments, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”

“SELF HARM”

Rouhani, in Vienna trying to salvage the nuclear deal, said U.S. sanctions were a “crime and aggression”, and called on European and other governments to stand up to Trump.

“Iran will survive this round of U.S. sanctions as it has survived them before. This U.S. government will not stay in office forever ... But history will judge other nations based on what they do today,” he said.

Rouhani told reporters that if the remaining signatories - the Europeans Britain, France and Germany as well as China and Russia - can guarantee Iran’s benefits: “Iran will remain in the nuclear deal without the United States.”

Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said on the Iranian oil ministry news agency SHANA:

“Trump’s demand that Iranian oil should not be bought, and (his) pressures on European firms at a time when Nigeria and Libya are in crisis, when Venezuela’s oil exports have fallen due to U.S. sanctions, when Saudi’s domestic consumption has increased in summer, is nothing but self harm.

“It will increase the prices of oil in the global markets,” he said. “At the end it is the American consumer who will pay the price for Mr. Trump’s policy.”

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, has vowed to keep the 2015 deal alive without the United States by trying to keep Iran’s oil and investment flowing. But European officials acknowledge that U.S. sanctions make it difficult to give Tehran guarantees.

Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories will meet Iranian officials in Vienna on Friday to discuss how to keep the accord alive.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; additional reporting Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle in Vienna; Editing by Toby Chopra and Robin Pomeroy.

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Cuba and Iran want to expand their economic, commercial and cooperation ties

The Iranian president, Hasan Rohani, moved a message to the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, through his first deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Morteza Sarmadi, who makes a working visit to the Island. 

Sarmadi delivered the message -of whose content details have not been given- to the Vice President and Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas, who received it on Wednesday in Havana.

During the meeting, the Cuban vice president and the Iranian deputy minister discussed the potential to expand the economic, commercial and cooperation ties that exist between both countries, said the Cuban News Agency (ACN).

Cabrisas and Sarmadi also They congratulated the "good march" of the bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran, according to the report.

Cabrisas and Sarmadi also congratulated themselves for the "good a march "of bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran

In the meeting participated by the Iranian side, the director of the regional office of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Chancery of the Persian nation, Ahmad Pabarja, and the ambassador in Cuba, Kambiz Sheikh Hassani

In addition, the general director of bilateral affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Island, Emilio Lozada, was present. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, also greeted Sarmadi.

Cuba and Iran maintain a close bilateral relationship, which led in February 2017 to the signing of twelve agreements for the exemption of diplomatic and service visas, and other areas.

In September 2016, the island received the visit of Iranian President Hasan Rohaní, who met with the then-president of the country, Raúl Castro, with whom he signed a cooperation agreement in the health, education, research, medicine and medical technology.

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Quds Day ceremony held in Cuba

The ceremony held in cooperation with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) was attended by several Cuban officials, representatives of Palestinian organizations as well as foreign ambassadors and diplomats residing in the country.

The Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples Jose Prieto appreciated Iran’s Embassy for holding the event and said that Quds Day is an international day.

Condemning the Zionist regime’s crimes against the Palestinian nation, he reiterated his country’s support for the cause of Palestine.

Iran’s Ambassador to Cuba also described the Palestinian nation’s plight as a 70-year wound, condemning the Zionist regime’s crimes against Palestinian demonstrators in the past two months.

Referring to illegal relocation of US Embassy to Quds which runs counter to international regulations, he said that the move escalated the situation in Palestine.

International Quds Day—which is marked on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan—was initiated by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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US exit from Iran nuclear deal could trigger instability, Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the U.S. exit from the Iranian nuclear deal could trigger dangerous instability and raise new threats for Israel if Tehran resumes a full-fledged nuclear program.

"We can't sort things out with North Korea. Do we want another problem on the same scale?" Putin asked at a business forum.

The Russian leader said the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 agreement came even as the international nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran was fulfilling its obligations. "What should it be punished for, then?" Putin asked.

President Donald Trump's administration has demanded that Iran stop the enrichment of uranium and end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan in order to negotiate a new deal.

"If international agreements are revised every four years it would offer zero horizon for planning," Putin said. "It will create the atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust."

While Israel hailed the U.S. withdrawal, Putin warned that the move could eventually hurt Israeli security if the deal completely falls apart.

"Would it be better for Israel if Iran opts out of the deal or is pushed out of it?" he asked. "In that case, its nuclear activities would become totally non-transparent. What kind of risks will it entail?"

The Iran deal was the first time Russia, France, Germany and others had agreed on a major international issue since relations between Russia and the West chilled over Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Moscow's hopes for better ties with Washington under Trump have fizzled amid investigations into alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Speaking at the panel, Putin again denied any meddling in the U.S. election in 2016.

While criticizing the U.S. policy on Iran, Putin had some warm words for Trump and held out hope for holding a summit with him.

"We certainly can't be happy with the level and nature of Russia-U.S. relations," Putin said. "We are ready for dialogue. It long has become overdue."

He also suggested that Trump might have won a few points domestically by exiting the Iran deal. "He fulfilled his campaign promises and in that sense he might have won in terms of domestic politics," Putin said.

The Russian leader also engaged in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying with a smile that Russia could help protect Europe if its rift with the U.S. widens over Iran.

"Don't you worry, we will help ensure your security," Putin said. Macron responded on a serious note that France and its allies could stand for themselves.

In his speech at the forum and during talks with Putin on Thursday, Macron called for closer ties between France and Russia despite their differences.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the forum and called for closer cooperation with Russia.

The presence of Macron and Abe and their statements in favor of cooperation with Moscow were important for Putin, indicating that the U.S.-led efforts to isolate Russia face increasing obstacles.

The U.S. and its allies have hit Russia with several waves of sanctions that badly hurt its economy.

Putin sharply criticized the sanctions, saying they signal "not just erosion but the dismantling of a system of multilateral cooperation that took decades to build."

In a later meeting with top editors of international news agencies, Putin said he would observe constitutional term limits that would prevent him from running for a new term in 2024. However, some observers have suggested he might seek to have the constitution changed.

On tensions with Britain over allegations that Russia was behind the March poisoning of a Russian former spy in Britain, Putin said there should "either be a joint, full-value, objective investigation or simply stop talking about this subject because it doesn't lead to anything except worsening relations."

Russia has repeatedly demanded that Britain let it take part in investigating the case.

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Cuba slams U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

Cuba on Wednesday condemned the withdrawal of the United States from a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its "profound rejection of the decision of the United States government to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Nuclear Agreement with Iran and to reimpose sanctions on that country."

The statement added, "The failure to comply with these international commitments violates the rules of coexistence between states and can have serious consequences for the stability and security of the Middle East."

Cuba's government said it was opposed to the application of unilateral coercive economic measures against any country and said it recognized the legitimate right of every country to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Cuba also called on the United Nations Security Council to fulfill its responsibility to preserve international peace and security, and demanded the fulfillment of UN resolution 2231 on the Iranian nuclear issue, which was unanimously approved by the council.

Despite opposition from the other signatories and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the United States will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, a landmark agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and six major powers.

Cuba and Iran established diplomatic ties in 1975. A year later the then-government decided to break them, but they were restored in 1979, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Tehran and Havana maintain cooperation agreements in agriculture, education, engineering, biotechnology and other areas.

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Will Donald Trump kick the can over Iran nuclear deal?

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?

 
FILE PHOTO: Iran's President Hassan Rouhani © Eduardo Munoz

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.

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