AIC Honorary Board Member to the National Interest: "Trump's Iran Policy Cannot Succeed Without Allies"

AIC Honorary Board Member to the National Interest: "Trump's Iran Policy Cannot Succeed Without Allies"

Originally published in the National Interest

by James Clapper & AIC Honorary Board Member Thomas Pickering

“Then there were none” was Agatha Christie’s most memorable mystery about a house party in which each guest was killed off one by one. Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran has resulted in much the same: a vanishing one by one of American partners who were previously supportive of U.S. leadership in curbing Iran, particularly its nuclear program.

Dozens of states, painstakingly cultivated over decades of American leadership in blocking Iran’s nuclear capability, are now simply gone. One of America’s three remaining allies on these issues, Saudi Arabia, has become a central player in American strategy throughout the Middle East region. But the Saudis, because of the Jamal Khashoggi killing and other reasons, may have cut itself out of the action. The United Arab Emirates, so close to the Saudis, may also fall away.

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Iran Digest Week of November 2nd - November 9th

Iran Digest Week of November 2nd - November 9th

US unleashes sanctions on Iran, hitting oil, banking and shipping

The US unleashed its "toughest ever" sanctions against Iran on Monday, a move that has already sparked mass protests in the oil-rich nation.

The Trump administration reinstated all sanctions removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting both Iran and states that trade with it.

They will hit oil exports, shipping and banks - all core parts of the economy. (BBC News)

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Iran Digest Week of October 26th - November 2nd

Iran Digest Week of October 26th - November 2nd

Two Iranian boats approached US ship with top general on board

Two Iranian fast attack boats came within 300 yards of USS Essex in the Persian Gulf Friday while the four star head of the US Central Command was on board, according to two US defense officials.

General Joseph Votel, commanding general of CENTCOM, was observing routine flight operations on board the Essex when the incident happened.

The encounter with the two Iranian boats was ruled to be "safe and professional" by the Navy because the Iranians did not demonstrate hostile intent, the officials said. (CNN)

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Iran Digest Week of October 19th - 26th

Iran Digest Week of October 19th - 26th

Iran accuses U.S. of imposing more sanctions to "deflect" attention from Khashoggi killing

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the U.S. Treasury of announcing new sanctions on Iran to “deflect” attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday targeted Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency with sanctions against eight individuals who were designated global terrorists, including two linked to Iran’s Quds Force, the branch of the elite Revolutionary Guards that oversees operations outside of the Islamic Republic’s borders.

“To deflect from headlines on Saudi brutality in Istanbul and across Yemen, US Treasury — while in Saudi Arabia, no less —sanctions Iran for ‘supporting’ anti-Iran Taliban. Conveniently omitting that US is negotiating with the very same Taliban now & its clients have long backed it,” Zarif wrote on Twitter. (Reuters)

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Iran Digest Week of October 12th - 19th

  Iran Digest Week of October 12th - 19th

Latest U.S. sanctions show disregard for human rights of all Iranians: foreign minister

The United States’ latest economic sanctions against Iran display a disregard for the human rights of all Iranians, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday sanctioned two Iranian banks and a handful of companies it says are linked to Iran’s Basij militia.

“Latest US sanctions violate 2 ICJ orders: to not impede humanitarian trade & to not aggravate the dispute. Utter disregard for rule of law & human rights of an entire people. US outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a Twitter post. (Reuters)

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Letter to Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees Re: Persian Gulf

Letter to Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees Re: Persian Gulf

RE:  Persian Gulf

Dear Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees:

As many of you may be aware, the stylebook and guidelines for Thomson Reuters stipulates that all articles pertaining to the Persian Gulf region be redacted to use the term “Gulf,” regardless of what the original journalist may have written or what the universally accepted name is for this body of water. As this region is often in the news, this is a persistent and readily apparent change that appears before millions of readers worldwide. There are several issues with this style change which the American Iranian Council would like to raise with the leadership of Thomson Reuters and encourage a change in policy.

First, Thomson Reuters has suggested that the term “Gulf” is used due to a naming dispute over the body of water in question. There is in fact no naming dispute at present, nor is it being challenged in any court, at the United Nations or other relevant international bodies. There are, certainly, several Arab governments who seek to abandon the historic term for political gains but it is incorrect for an internationally celebrated organization such as yours to claim that there is an international dispute. Previous disputes raised at the UN, found in favor of using the historic Persian Gulf name exclusively.

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Iran Digest: Week of October 5 - 12

Iran Digest: Week of October 5 - 12

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory today to help financial institutions better detect and report potentially illicit transactions related to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The advisory is also intended to help foreign financial institutions better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system. The advisory provides information on the threats the Iranian regime poses to the U.S. financial system as well as to institutions that have correspondent banking relationships with U.S. financial institutions, describes deceptive financial strategies that the Iranian regime uses to evade sanctions, and provides red flag indicators related to specific malign activities and typologies. (US Treasury Department)

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Iran Digest Week of September 28 - October 5th

Iran Digest

Week of September 28 - October 5th

AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Research Fellow Shiva Darian and Communications Associate Shahab Moghadam. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.


US-Iran Relations

US to end Treaty of Amity with Iran after ICJ ruling

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The US will pull out of a decades-old treaty with Iran which was used by Tehran as a basis for a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Iran took the US to court after it re-imposed sanctions on the back of abandoning a nuclear deal in May.

Iran argued that decision violated the terms of the 1955 Treaty of Amity.

But after the ICJ ordered the US to ease sanctions on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo said the treaty would be terminated. (BBC News)

Zarif: Iran can’t ‘start all over again’ with U.S.

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Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said Iran cannot “start all over again” with the United States to renegotiate a new deal after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“You remember the movie ‘50 First Dates,’ when you start all over again the following day. We can’t. This is impossible. You need to be able to have a relationship that is based on some foundations. And we have a document (the nuclear deal) that is a hundred and fifty pages long,” Zarif told the New Yorker in an exclusive interview published on Tuesday, comparing diplomacy with the U.S. to the 2004 movie about a man who keeps having first dates with a woman who has short-term memory loss and forgets him the next day. (Tehran Times)

StanChart Said to Brace for New Iran Fine of $1.5 Billion

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Standard Chartered Plc is bracing for a potential penalty of around $1.5 billion from U.S. authorities for allowing customers to violate Iran sanctions, people familiar with the matter said.

That amount is a preliminary assessment based on some of the communications between the bank and the regulators, the people said. Final discussions to resolve the matter have not yet begun, they said. The allegations relate to breaches dating from at least five years ago. (Bloomberg)


Nuclear Accord

Iran's Zarif: EU support for deal better than expected

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Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has told the BBC that support from Europe to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal in the face of US pressure has been better than expected.

Mr Zarif was speaking to the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in New York after a week in which the EU announced it would set up a special financial mechanism to allow companies to get around the sanctions reinstated by President Donald Trump, who abandoned the nuclear deal earlier this year. (BBC News)

IAEA Says It Won't Take Intelligence at Face Value After Netanyahu's Iran Speech

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The U.N. nuclear watchdog's independence is paramount and it does not take intelligence presented to it at face value, it said on Tuesday in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's description of a "secret atomic warehouse" in Iran.

Netanyahu - who vehemently opposes the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that the International Atomic Energy Agency is policing - made the statement in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week. He urged the IAEA to visit the site in Tehran.

A U.S. State Department official seconded that call, but a U.S. intelligence official called Netanyahu's assertions "somewhat misleading", adding that the facility does not contain anything that would enable Iran to accelerate activities banned under the deal. (The New York Times)


Economy

Traders bet on oil at $100 as Iran sanctions loom

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Oil traders have piled into wagers that U.S. crude oil could surge to $100 a barrel by next year, a milestone that until recently many considered unthinkable due to record U.S. production growth and relatively flat global demand.

But the imminent return of U.S. sanctions on Iran and bottlenecks keeping U.S. oil from getting to market have fueled a rally that has taken benchmark oil prices to four-year highs.

While big producing nations say supply is ample, hedge funds and speculators are increasingly skeptical of that argument, betting the market could rally further as sanctions on Iran’s crude exports return on Nov. 4. (Reuters)


Regional Politics

Iran Fires a Ballistic Missile at ISIS in Syria, Avenging an Earlier Attack

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Iran fired six medium-range ballistic missiles across Iraq and into Syria early Monday at what it said was an Islamic State base, according to Iranian news agencies, its allies and spokesmen for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Revolutionary Guards described the strike as retaliation for an attack in Ahvaz, Iran, on Sept. 22 against a military parade by its soldiers in which at least 25 people were killed, including 12 members of the elite unit plus civilian spectators and at least one young child. (The New York Times)

Iran mocks new nuclear claims by Israel's PM

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Iran has ridiculed claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it is hiding a warehouse used to store prohibited nuclear technology.

Mr Netanyahu made what he called the revelation at the UN, producing a picture of the alleged secret site.

However, Iran's foreign minister dismissed the claim as an "arts and craft show" designed to conceal Israel's own nuclear programme.

Israel says Iran is seeking atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies. (BBC News)

France points finger at Iran over bomb plot, seizes assets

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France said on Tuesday there was no doubt Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind a June plot to attack an exiled opposition group’s rally outside Paris and it seized assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals.

The hardening of relations between Paris and Tehran could have far-reaching consequences for Iran as President Hassan Rouhani’s government looks to European capitals to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran. (Reuters)


Analysis

Bolton 2.0: Trump's tough guy on Iran picks his battles

By: Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Jonathan Landay

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Hanging on a wall in John Bolton’s West Wing office is a memento of his proudest achievement as national security adviser: a framed copy of President Donald Trump’s order to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Right next to it hangs a cartoon mocking the agreement.

Bolton's choice of decor reflects his disdain for the deal secured by President Barack Obama and other world powers in 2015, and his relentless focus on trying to isolate Tehran and cripple its economy by reimposing tight sanctions.

Bolton took over as national security adviser in early April. A month later, Trump abandoned the Iran deal, meeting a promise he had made as a presidential candidate, which other wary West Wing advisers had persuaded him to put off. (Reuters)

Iran Digest Week of September 21 - 28

Iran Digest Week of September 21 - 28

A US intelligence assessment conducted in recent days has concluded that Iranian-backed militias and proxy forces could be planning a strike against US military forces or interests in the Middle East, according to three defense officials.

Officials emphasize their concern centers around the threat from those militias located in Syria and several other locations in the Middle East. They all describe the potential threat as ongoing and worrisome. However, they would not describe the specific intelligence that continues to be gathered.

These militias have increased access to ballistic missile and other advanced weapons inventories as Iran continues to move weaponry into Syria. (CNN)

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AIC Chairman Speaks with Tehran Times & Mehr News

AIC Chairman Speaks with Tehran Times & Mehr News

Q: According to some reports, Trump plans to oust Defense Secretary James Mattis after the congressional election. What are the reasons for this?

A: There are many reports that Mattis has, in effect, not followed the orders of the president.  Whether this is the real reason, or whether there is any animosity between the two is unknowable. The apparent relationship between them is friendly, but by most indications Mattis will be gone by the second term. 

Q: Why would Trump postpone this decision until after congressional elections? And how important are these elections for him?

A: Mattis is very well regarded by both democrats and republicans, so to fire him would be an unpopular thing and would probably be harmful to republicans in the midterm elections.  So, they would want to wait until after it, if he is to be fired.  

The congressional elections are very important for Trump because if the democrats take over then they have the power of investigation and the power of subpoena, and so, as frequently happens in American politics the party out of power may have the House, and therefore the ability to make life miserable for the president. 

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Iran Digest Week of September 14 - 21

Iran Digest Week of September 14 - 21

Iran dismisses U.S. offer of talks, says Washington broke last deal

Iran hit back at a U.S. offer of negotiations on Thursday, saying Washington had violated the terms of the last big deal they agreed, the 2015 nuclear accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of that nuclear accord - which curbed Iran’s atomic activities in return for sanctions relief - in May, saying it did not go far enough.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said on Wednesday that Washington now wanted to negotiate a treaty that included Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional behavior. (Reuters)

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Offside and Out of Bounds: LGBTQ Rights in Iran (Opinion)

Offside and Out of Bounds: LGBTQ Rights in Iran (Opinion)

By AIC Research Fellow Shiva Darian

When most people hear the terms “Iranian women” and “soccer,” they are reminded of Iran’s recently lifted ban on women entering sports stadiums.

A few months ago however, I discovered this hilarious and ironic 2015 news story about the Iranian women’s soccer team actually being comprised of a number of male players. The photos made for great laughs, but also sparked an interesting series of discussions and thoughts. Apparently, upon being caught using male players, the team manager defended the decision by stating the players were transgender. Unfortunately, this attempt to deflect the blatant cheating scandal by sparking dialogue on transgender rights was largely ignored, mostly due to the fact that the team had only won a single game that season.

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Iran – Turkey Relations

Iran – Turkey Relations

By: AIC Research Fellow Gabriela Billini

INTRODUCTION

Iran and Turkey have often competed with one another for regional control, with this struggle spanning many centuries, between several empires. Today, the Middle East presents the world with a picture of many competing states seeking dominance over economic, security, and political issues in the region, especially vis-a-vis the West. With high-stakes conflicts bubbling throughout the region, and borders becoming less defined, the competition for this control has become explosive, as demonstrated by various conflicts like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the struggles for a Kurdish state. Given the stakes, there is room for the emergence of a new regional leader (or leaders) capable of stabilizing and securing   the Middle East.

Despite their historical position at odds with one another, today Iran and Turkey hold mostly complementary positions on some of the most important issues in the region,which the leaders of the two nations have certainly noticed.  The result has been an evolving security relationship between the two countries, which this paper aims to explain in detail. Furthermore, given the significant number of aligned goals and interests of both countries, this paper will also explore potential areas of future cooperation and the possible benefits to both nations should they enter into a new, more substantial regional partnership.

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Iran Digest Week of June 15 - 22

Iran Digest Week of June 15 - 22

Iran insists US stop opposing Israeli nuke disarmament

Iran has announced a list of 15 demands for improving relations with the United States, including a US return to the 2015 nuclear accord, in response to a similar list of demands made by Washington last month.
In an article in a state-owned newspaper Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the US to stop providing arms to the “invaders of Yemen,” referring to Saudi Arabia, and to drop its opposition to the nuclear disarmament of Israel. (Times of Israel)

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Iran Digest Week of June 8 - 15

Iran Digest Week of June 8 - 15

World Cup: Nike boots barred for Iran footballers amid US sanctions

Sportswear giant Nike says it has withdrawn its supply of boots to Iranian footballers ahead of the World Cup because of new US sanctions.
The decision has frustrated Iranian players and head coach Carlos Queiroz, who asked Fifa to "help" his players.
Last month, President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. (BBC)

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Iran Digest Week of June 8 - 15

AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Research Fellow Shiva Darian and Communications Associate Shahab Moghadam. Please note that the news and views expressed in the articles below do not necessarily reflect those of AIC.  

 

                        US-Iran Relations

World Cup: Nike boots barred for Iran footballers amid US sanctions

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Sportswear giant Nike says it has withdrawn its supply of boots to Iranian footballers ahead of the World Cup because of new US sanctions.

The decision has frustrated Iranian players and head coach Carlos Queiroz, who asked Fifa to "help" his players.

Last month, President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. (BBC)

 

 

AIC Chairman Speaks with Tehran Times

AIC Chairman Speaks with Tehran Times

AIC's Chairman Senator Johnston was recently interviewed by journalist Javad Heiran-Nia of the Tehran Times and Mehr News.  

The Tehran Times interview is copied below.  The Persian language version in Mehr News can be found here:  https://www.mehrnews.com/news/4343377/

“I think it will be stuck in this, “rope-a-dope” - which is to say, continued negotiation and no great breakthroughs and no repudiation of the negotiation; just something that will take a very long time,” Johnston tells the Tehran Times.

The Chairman of the American-Iranian Council also adds that “the United States has broken the agreement which it signed onto.”

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Iran Digest Week of May 25 - June 1

Iran Digest Week of May 25 - June 1

Iran's Evin prison, Ansar-e Hezbollah face new US sanctions

Iran's notorious Evin prison and the paramilitary group Ansar-e Hezbollah have been hit with new US sanctions, for allegedly committing "serious human rights abuses" against its political dissidents and critics of the government.
In an announcement late on Wednesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin said the two entities, as well as six individuals and a communications technology agency, played a role in the "brutal crackdown" of demonstrators following the recent deadly protests in the country. (Al Jazeera)

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