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 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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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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If US scraps Iranian nuclear deal, it ‘could mean war’ – French President Macron

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.

 
Pro-government demonstrators wave their national flag during a march in the Iranian city of Qom on January 3, 2018. © Mohammad Ali Marizad

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.

READ MORE: ‘Bullying others’: Iranian FM slams US over its handling of nuclear deal

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.”

 

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Iran’s Khamenei: Trump ‘shows real face of America’

In his first speech since the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Republican has shown the real face of America to the world.

“We are thankful to [Trump] for making our life easy as he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei told a meeting of military commanders in Tehran, according to his website.

“During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the US ruling system,” he added.

Khamenei blasted Trump days after he imposed new sanctions against Iran over its development of ballistic missiles. Trump has also criticized a nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, which the new administration reportedly seeks to renegotiate to be more to its liking.

The Iranian leader was skeptical about the deal in the first place, but still endorsed sealing the agreement. Khamenei has since criticized the US for continuing pressure on Iran, which he believes violates the spirit of the nuclear accord.

The speech on Tuesday came in preparation for the celebration of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran later this week. Khamenei said Trump’s America will not be able to force Tehran into submission.

“No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation,” he said. “[Trump] says 'You should be afraid of me.' No! The Iranian people will respond to his words on February 10 and will show their stance against such threats.”

Trumps’ first move as US president met condemnations from many Americans as well as foreign politicians. Critics say moves like banning entry from seven predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran, which had been imposed by the White House, are inherently un-American.

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Tehran ‘unmoved’ by US threats, will use weapons ‘only in self-defense’ – Iranian FM to Trump

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has responded to US President Donald Trump’s Twitter accusations that Tehran was “playing with fire,” also taking to social media to say that Iran was “unmoved” by US threats and “will never initiate war.”

The foreign minister posted two videos on Twitter, with the tweets reading: “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.”

Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.

He also challenged those who warn Iran, accusing them of hypocrisy.

@JZarif We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.

“We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement,” Zarif wrote.

In the two videos posted on his Twitter account, Zarif is seen explaining Iran’s stance in a previous speech.

“You were not the subject of war, where your cities were showered with missiles carrying chemical warheads, and you didn’t have a single missile to retaliate, so that maybe Saddam Hussein would stop,” he said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

“We went to one country after another, begging – I insist, begging – for a single scud missile to defend our people. Now, you want us to get a few dollars, and to abandon defending our people,” he goes on to say, adding that Iran is “entitled to the rudimentary means of defense.”

On Monday, Fox News quoted US officials as saying that Iran had conducted medium-range ballistic missile tests. Iran confirmed that it had tested the missile, and that the launch was "in line" with its plans.

"We will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs," Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Tasnim news agency on Wednesday.

Zarif’s tweets came after the US President Trump attacked Tehran, saying that “Iran is playing with fire,” and warning the country’s officials that he would not be as “kind” as former President Barack Obama.

A historic deal brokered during Obama’s time in office stated that Iran would curb its nuclear potential significantly, but not completely, cutting the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds.

The deal also obliged Iran to cap its uranium enrichment program below the level necessary for bomb-grade material, and involved Tehran agreeing to reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000kg to 300kg for 15 years. In exchange, the US lifted long-standing sanctions against Tehran.

The UN has only recently said that Tehran is honoring its part of the bargain.

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Russia Refuses to Link Nuclear Reduction with Sanctions

Moscow, Jan 16 (Prensa Latina) Russia today rejected the possibility of discussing with the United States a relationship between the reduction of nuclear weapons and the suspension of unilateral sanctions against it, as Donald Trump's team would propose.

There is no such deal, the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, referring to an arrangement for further reduction of the nuclear arsenal of both nations.

Peskov recalled that Moscow was not at all the initiator of the imposition of sanctions and it is not also prepared to state its suspension in the coming meetings with foreign representatives, he said.

The issue of cutting atomic weapons in Russia and the United States could be discussed only after President-elect, Donald Trump, takes office in the White House, the spokesman said.

In statement to Times, Trump said he would pose to Russia the substantial decline of the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction of the two states, and the possibility of repealing sanctions against Russia.

I can put an end to the restrictions of the West against Moscow, after reaching an agreement on the nuclear reduction, said Trump, who as a Republican candidate defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8.

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US imperialist policy to continue under Trump: Scholar

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said that the results of the US presidential election make no difference to Iran, because both Republican and Democratic parties follow hostile policies toward the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Khamenei also emphasized that the Iranians are not worried about the election of US president-elect Donald Trump, but the Muslim nation is prepared to face any eventuality. Press TV has interviewed a political analyst to discuss the future of America’s foreign policy toward Iran.

John Steppling, author and commentator, told Press TV’s Top 5 that the US president-elect seems not to be able to change American “imperialist foreign policy” especially toward those countries who are not obedient to US demands.

“Foreign policy never changes in the United States,” Steppling said, noting, “Trump ostensibly is going to be more of an isolationist but one suspects given his cabinet choices so far that he’s going to engage in this imperialist foreign policy that has been the norm for 50 or 60 years.”

“What Trump now will do, who knows, but over the last 20 years ... the numbers of deaths and the amount of suffering that the US has inflicted just in the Middle East is incalculable.”

“Neither [US] party changes the foreign policy, it’s always imperialist,” he said, adding that “the US has 800 military bases around the world” to protect its imperialist interests.

According to the analyst, “The US sees itself as the world’s policeman and they [American officials] are policing in the interest of Western ... businesses, corporations, the defense industry, oil and gas, and its never changes.”

He further noted, “US government's policy since World War II has been to squash any socialist, communist, any alternative business-unfriendly regime or country; anybody that is no obedient, any country that is not obedient to US business demands or Western capital is going to be punished for that disobedience.”

Trump’s election campaign had been marred by his disparaging remarks on domestic and international policies of the United States. The president-elect called for adopting harsh foreign policies toward Iran, China, Europe, NATO and some other international players. His stance against a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 has drawn condemnations from not only Tehran and European signatories of the agreement but also from American politicians.

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