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Is the Iran Nuclear deal in jeopardy?

A new round of sanctions could be levied against Iran, and the US could still withdraw from the agreement

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Several European players are mulling the idea of adding additional sanctions against Iran in the hopes that such actions would placate Washington into remaining a part of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Given that the deal doesn’t address the sort of missiles that Iran can develop and possess, and that it doesn’t address the possible levying of additional sanctions on any pretexts other than nuclear based pretexts, this technically leaves the way wide open for additional sanctions to be put in place against Tehran, therefore Iran’s missile program can be used as an excuse to introduce sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, and hopefully Washington will provide a thumbs up for them and decide to stay in the deal.

Part of what makes the missile program pretext look so appealing to the agreement’s European signatories is that Tehran has said that it will not consider taking action to address its missile program as long as the US and EU continue to maintain their own such programs. Ergo, since it is already plain that Tehran won’t budge on the issue,  Europe can demand such action, knowing that such demands would be fruitless, and therefore justify introducing a fresh round of sanctions. RT reports:

France, Germany and the UK have proposed new sanctions targeting Iran in an apparent attempt to keep the US within the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. New restrictions would target Iran’s missile program and activity in Syria.

The sanctions would be particularly imposed against Iranian nationals involved in the development of the country’s ballistic missile progam, Reuters reported, citing a document it obtained.

“We will therefore be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles,” the document said, referring to the people involved in the Iranian missile program and support of the Syrian government, as reported by Reuters.

The confidential document also says that the three European nations have been engaged in “intensive talks with the Trump administration to achieve a clear and lasting reaffirmation of US support for the (nuclear) agreement beyond May 12.” Diplomats familiar with the issue told Reuters that the European powers held several rounds of talks with the US on the issue this week.

The text of the document was also sent to EU capitals on Friday to garner support for the decision to impose new sanctions, which would require the backing of all 28 EU member states.

The three nations believe that the measure is justified by the 2015 nuclear agreement. The document says that the signatories of the agreement are legally “entitled to adopt additional sanctions against Iran” as long as these new measures are not nuclear-related or are not similar to the restrictions which were previously lifted under the JPCOA.

According to Reuters, the list of sanctions could potentially include travel bans and asset freezes on individuals, as well as a ban on doing business or financing public and private companies. The document proposes building on the existing restrictions imposed by the EU against Syria.

The news came as the signatories to the deal attended a regular meeting aimed at reviewing the implementation of the agreement, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The representatives of the US, Russia, China, France, Germany, the UK and Iran met in Vienna on Friday.

Earlier, European diplomats said they were desperate to save the deal from potential collapse by discouraging US President Donald Trump from pulling out of it in May. On May 12, Trump is expected to extend the waivers of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. He has said, however, that he would not do so if the deal is not “fixed.”

The JCPOA was negotiated in the summer of 2015 with provisions that were meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program by reducing the number of its enrichment facilities by two-thirds, cutting its enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent and keeping enrichment below the weapons-grade level. In exchange, the six powers agreed to lift sanctions that were imposed on the Islamic Republic over a decade due to its nuclear program.

However, the deal never covered Iran’s missile activities or any other actions. Iran repeatedly refused to discuss its missile program with the Western powers, adding that its missile program was being developed solely for defensive purposes.

In early March, Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri said that Tehran would enter into negotiations over the issue of the Iranian missile programs only after the US and European states destroyed the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles they possess. At the same time, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said that “it is the Islamic Republic [that] would decide on the type of missile it can possess.”

Tehran also refuses to re-negotiate the 2015 deal and said it will not accept any supplementary agreements to it. “The JCPOA is a product of long negotiations and a package of exchanges which have (already) taken place,” Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, told the IRNA news agency on Friday, as he ruled out any changes or amendments to the document.

Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 agreement was then repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN nuclear watchdog. Trump, however, repeatedly called the agreement the “worst deal ever negotiated,” and demonstrated apparent aspiration to “dismantle” it on many occasions.

Russia and China relentlessly warned the US against unilaterally revising the agreement, which they argue would hurt global security. In late January, Moscow warned that Washington “blackmails” European nations into changing or amending the deal with threats to withdraw from the agreement and demands that the deals “flaws” to be fixed.

Of Course, a new round of sanctions could be passed against Iran, and for whatever reason, the US could still withdraw from the agreement. Of course the JCPOA’s European parties would still be party to the agreement, if the US applied a sufficient degree of pressure on them to further dismantle the deal, two possible outcomes could be the result.

First, they could capitulate to Washington’s demands, effectively ending the deal and leading to the further destabilization of relations with Iran, likely leading to the resumption of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program without Western oversight.

Second, they could refuse to do so, which would further damage America’s political clout on the world stage in a manner even more detrimental than the potential trade wars that are possible as a result of newly imposed tariffs and the Jerusalem embassy issue that occurred this past December, which would further damage the possibility of any accord being struck through talks with North Korea.

Of course, with the appointment of Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State, the JCPOA’s prospects become even more endangered due to his ‘hawkish’ approach towards Iran. Between the possible introduction of new sanctions by the UK, France, and Germany, as well as the potential withdrawal of the US from the nuclear deal in May, the prospects for Iran and the rest of the Middle East could become considerably more capricious.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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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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