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Everything you need to know about Trump’s de-certification of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)

Trump decertifies the JCPOA – while the EU robustly supports it minutes later

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Donald Trump has just given a speech in which he confirmed that the US will de-certify the JCPOA, often called the “Iran nuclear deal”, especially in the United States. The move is far more complex than a traditional withdrawal from a formal agreement, but nevertheless, indicates that the Trump administration remains firmly fixated on at the very minimum, undermining Iran and the international community’s confidence in the deal. In doing so the United States is ultimately hedging its bets on the deal collapsing before the US formally withdraws from its commitments under the JCPOA. However, this is a gamble that may ultimately backfire in a manner that Trump himself would describe as “big league”.

What is the JCPOA? 

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed upon between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, the European Union and EU members Germany, France and the UK individually on 16 January 2015.

The terms of the deal were certified in UN Security Council Resolution 2231 on 20 July 2015. All members of the Security Council voted in favour of the resolution at the time.

While the UN is the highest international body to formalise the JCPOA, the agreement was also ratified by each party to the agreement using the particular legal mechanisms of each state (and in the case of EU, a bloc of states).

The JCPOA prohibits Iran from taking the measures needed to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of multiple sanctions which had previously hindered the ability of Iran to do business not only with the US and EU, but other states whose transactions are often dependent on financial institutions which use Dollars and Euros as a means of exchange.

While the United States has passed unilateral sanctions against Iran subsequent to the JCPOA being agreed upon, it is important to note that the JCPOA only prohibits specific sanctions which are said to relate to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Current status of the JCPOA: 

According to the United Nations, Russia, Iran, China, Germany, France, Britain and the EU, Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA. Even the US State Derpartment and US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis recently said that Iran remains technically compliant with the JCPOA.

Internationally, the Israeli regime was alone in condemning the JCPOA while continually challenging the fact that Iran is in compliance with the agreement.

Today, however, Donald Trump formally announced that it is his view that Iran is not in compliance with the deal. Additionally, Trump offered a list of increasingly absurd allegations about Iran that are not directly related to the letter of the JCPOA.

The following are Trump’s stated grievances, followed as necessary by a factual explanation of the grievances:

–Trump stated that Iran supports terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban:

FALSE: Iran is both ideologically and militarily an opponent of both groups and has been since their respective inceptions. Iran, furthermore, has been a victim of Takfiri terrorism.

–Trump expressed concern that Iran is developing ballistic missiles  

True: However, Iran’s missile program is not a violation of the JCPOA in any way, shape or form. The United Nations even clarified this point as did the European Union. 

Trump stated the the JCPOA’s sunset clause is reason enough for the US to consider it a bad deal

Logical Fail: This would imply that the US should want to extend the deal, not tear it apart and lose the confidence of Iran and other international partners

–Trump stated that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a terrorist group and will be sanctioned as such

False: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is one of the three main branches of Iran’s armed forces. Far from being a terrorist group, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been instrumental in fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria. 

What happens next for the United States: 

As the European Union’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini correctly stated, Trump’s decision triggers a domestic legal mechanism which does not immediately trigger any change to the JCPOA’s status at an international level. Of course, the implications are very international and very dangerous, but this shall be addressed separately.

According to the unique mechanism that the US has created to monitor the JCPOA, a US President is responsible for certifying the deal’s legitimacy based on Iran’s alleged compliance or lack thereof, every 90 days. On the 15th of October, 2017, Trump will now formally de-certify the JCPOA at an Executive level.

This means that under the appliable laws, the JCPOA will now be debated in Congress. Congress can negate the deal which would lead to a formal US withdrawal, can attempt to impose further sanctions on Iran which could lead to Tehran calling the JCPOA null and void or the Congress could simply do nothing, meaning that the deal would stand unless Trump decides to use his executive power to formally withdraw the United States, something that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, the US does not currently plan to do.

What happens next for Iran: 

Iran has publicly indicated that if Washington withdraws from the JPCOA the deal with be null and void as a matter of fact. While such statements are highly serious, they are not technically official statements. They merely indicate Iran’s clear disgust with the United States and Donald Trump’s clearly anti-Iranian sentiments.

In reality there are three possibilities for Iran, many of which depend on the attitude and capablities of Iran’s other JCPOA partners.

1. Iran claims the deal to be null and void and begins to renegotiate new business deals with partners whose financial transactions are not dependant on the US Dollar. This would likely include Russia, China, Venezuela and very certainly Turkey as well. It could also include the EU, if as many EU figures have suggested, they would like to continue cooperating commercially with Iran irrespective of what the US does with the JCPOA.

2. The US formally withdraws from the JCPOA, but the deal remains in place with all the other parties to the deal including Europe. In this sense, the status quo would continue, only with the re-imposition of US sanctions.

Here, Europe would have to decide how much it is willing to do, in order to help Iran skirt US sanctions. In respect of Russia and China, there will be far fewer problems regarding skirting sanctions as both countries are becoming highly independent of Dollar based transactions and seek to further this process ever more rapidly.

3. The US formally withdraws from the JCPOA while Europe grudgingly follows along so as not to incur the wrath of the US which Europe is still largely dependent on in many respects. In such a scenario, Iran would focus almost all of its business endeavours on Russia, China and their partners, which still may well include neighbouring Turkey.

In summary:

Iran’s President Rouhani spoke shortly after Donald Trump and offered a highly measured response to Trump’s aggressive rhetoric. After encouraging Trump and his fellow Washingtonians to learn more about Iran’s history, he indicated that Iran’s position on the JPCOA as of today, is similar to that of Europe.

Rouhani stated,

“The EU and Iran must cooperate with each other to stand up to the destructive and improper moves concerning the JCPOA (the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

He continued, saying,

“The JCPOA is not negotiable at all and all sides must remain committed to their obligations under it and the US President or this country’s Congress must not be allowed to carry out a wrong measure against the JCPOA”.

What happens next for Europe: 

The European Union’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini offered one of the most robust European rebuttals of a statement from a US President since Germany and France opposed George W. Bush’s war on Iraq in 2003. Crucially, in spite of Brexit talks, the UK government has aligned itself with mainstream European opinion over Iran, while in 2003, a deeply pro-European British leader, Tony Blair followed the US into Iraq.

Mogherini reminded journalists that Trump’s decision is a domestic one which effects the US Congress rather than the status of the JCPOA internationally. She also stated that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 is the highest authority on the JCPOA and that no US President has the right to cancel a UN Resolution.

She affirmed Europe’s commitment to the JCPOA and Europe’s view that Iran is in full compliance with the deal. The words from both Brussels and Tehran would indicate that there is an increasing chance that the JCPOA could continue, even if the US formally withdraws or otherwise violates the deal in the eyes of the wider united international community.

Furthermore, Mogherini’s statement indicates that if the US either violates the JCPOA or formally withdraws (or both), that the US could be in violation of a UN resolution. While technically UNSC resolution 2231 is non-binding, the US could technically be named and shamed in the Security Council, should the three European countries with veto power decide to carry through with their robust support of the JCPOA.

What happens next for Russia: 

Russia is not only a strong supporter of the JCPOA, but Russia and Iran have been enjoying historically good bilateral relations. In addition to multiple commercial ventures, Russia and Iran, along with Turkey formed the Astana Peace Group for Syria. Russia continues to cooperate with Iran against terrorism in Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement saying,

“Russia remains committed to the JCPOA, is interested in preserving it, and will continue to fulfill its obligations under it. We call on all other participants to do the same”.

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said,

“The task is to prevent the collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we are calling on all sides to adhere to its statutes. We think that this agreement has large potential and should be fully implemented”.

As Russia is the closet partner to Iran, among all the parties to the JCPOA, Moscow and Tehran will almost certainly hold intensive talks to attempt to either salvage the JCPOA or come up with a backup proposal among willing partners.

Yesterday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel stated,

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue. We also have to tell the Americans that their behaviour on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA”.

This statement indicates that Russia and China could work with Europe to either preserve a post-US JCPOA, convince the US to change its position on the JCPOA or else formulate a new similar proposal which excludes the United States.

What happens next for China: 

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying spoke earlier today and said,

“China’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue has been consistent. The JCPOA has played a key role in upholding international nuclear non-proliferation regime and the peace and stability of the Middle East region. We hope that all relevant parties will continue to uphold and implement the JCPOA”.

China’s position, like that of Russia has been totally consistent towards Iran and what’s more is that China presents Iran and Iran’s wider region substantial economic opportunities via One Belt–One Road. If anything, today’s announcement will only galvanise further Sino-Iranian cooperation efforts.

CONCLUSION: 

Donald Trump’s administration has been plagued with allegations of colluding with a foreign government from the moment he entered office and even before. The allegations have been true only with the caveat that it is not Russia with whom Trump is colluding but instead, that place is Israel.

Donald Trump’s speech about Iran was in parts almost identical to the speech Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave weeks ago before the UN General Assembly.

Fact checking Benjamin Netanyahu’s General Assembly speech

Furthermore, less than 24 hours prior to Trump’s speech, both the US and Israel withdrew their memberships of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) virtually simultaneously, in a clear sign of policy coordination that stinks of a concerted effort which is now being aimed directly at Iran.

In challenging the JCPOA so brazenly, Donald Trump has shown that he is willing to put an Israeli paranoia about Iran, a paranoia which frequently crosses a line into all out hate, above the interests of both his own country and that of America’s most loyal European allies.

The fate of the JCPOA is now in the hands of the other parties to the agreement, but for the United States, all credibility as a negotiating partner has been lost. This applies not only to Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela and China, but also to the European Union.

“America first”, has effectively become: America last.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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