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  1. TEHRAN: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday dismissed US President Donald Trump´s aggressive criticism as "rants and whoppers" while vowing that Tehran would stick to its nuclear commitments. "I don't want to waste my time on answering the rants and whoppers of the brute US president," Khamenei said in a speech to students in Tehran, published on his Telegram channel. It was his first response to Trump's bellicose speech last Friday in which he called for tougher sanctions to curb Iran´s "destabilising activities" in the Middle East. "They are angry as today the Islamic Republic of Iran has disrupted their plans in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq," Khamenei said. "Everyone be assured that this time, too, America will be slapped and defeated by the nation of Iran." Khamenei said the world should not be fooled by Trump's public persona. "The US president displays stupidity, but this should not cause us to ignore America´s mischief," he said. He said Iran would stick by its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to "terminate" unless the US Congress tightens sanctions on the country. Khamenei welcomed Europe´s strong support for preserving the nuclear agreement but also urged it not to follow the same line as Washington. He rejected suggestions, notably from French President Emmanuel Macron, that more negotiations were needed on Iran's ballistic missile programme and regional operations. Europe "must refrain from entering into our defence issues", Khamenei said. "To ask the same thing (as the Americans) about why Iran is present in the region ? well, deal with it. "Or to ask why Iran has missiles ? well, why do you have missiles? Why do you have nuclear weapons? We will not accept the Europeans going along with America´s bullying."
  2. Just days after US President Donald Trump called for further isolation of Iran, a Norwegian solar company signed a deal to invest 2.5 billion euros in the country over the next five years. "Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and this is proof that we have taken the opening very seriously, and we will see more investment very soon," Norwegian ambassador Lars Nordrum told AFP. He was hosting the signing at his residence in Tehran between Norway's Saga Energy, which will work with Iran's Amin Energy Developers to install two gigawatts of solar panels in multiple sites around the central desert region. It comes just days after Trump gave a bellicose speech, imposing further sanctions on Iran and calling for European allies to curb their financial dealings with the country. The new solar project is being financed by a consortium of European private and state investors, and backed by a sovereign guarantee from the government of Iran. "We hope to build a factory in Iran to build the panels so that we are also generating jobs," said Saga's development manager Gaute Steinkopf at the signing. "I'd like to thank Norway, which has always been one of the best friends to Iran, for this exciting opportunity," said Saeid Zakeri, head of international affairs for Amin.
  3. Total´s Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in an interview with International Oil Daily that the company would wait to see the consequences of Trump´s decision, and if there are any laws that obliges it to withdraw from Iran, then it will comply. Photo: Reuters file PARIS: French oil and gas major Total will push ahead with its Iran gas project if the United States decides to slap unilateral sanctions on Teheran after President Donald Trump said he will not certify the landmark Iran nuclear deal. Total´s Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in an interview with International Oil Daily that the company would wait to see the consequences of Trump´s decision, and if there are any laws that obliges it to withdraw from Iran, then it will comply. "If Iran is compliant, if the European Union and China and Russia continue to consider that the JCPOA can be applied, then that means the US would have to take unilateral sanctions and we see what the situation is," Pouyanne said in the interview published on Tuesday. "But we will try on our side to obtain the comfort that we can continue the project, which will be our priority," he added.
  4. Just days after US President Donald Trump called for further isolation of Iran, a Norwegian solar company signed a deal to invest 2.5 billion euros in the country over the next five years. Photo: AFP file TEHRAN: Just days after US President Donald Trump called for further isolation of Iran, a Norwegian solar company signed a deal to invest 2.5 billion euros in the country over the next five years. "Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and this is proof that we have taken the opening very seriously, and we will see more investment very soon," Norwegian ambassador Lars Nordrum told AFP. He was hosting the signing at his residence in Tehran between Norway´s Saga Energy, which will work with Iran´s Amin Energy Developers to install two gigawatts of solar panels in multiple sites around the central desert region. It comes just days after Trump gave a bellicose speech, imposing further sanctions on Iran and calling for European allies to curb their financial dealings with the country. The new solar project is being financed by a consortium of European private and state investors, and backed by a sovereign guarantee from the government of Iran. "We hope to build a factory in Iran to build the panels so that we are also generating jobs," said Saga´s development manager Gaute Steinkopf at the signing. "I´d like to thank Norway, which has always been one of the best friends to Iran, for this exciting opportunity," said Saeid Zakeri, head of international affairs for Amin.
  5. WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Monday that a "total termination" of the Iran nuclear deal remains possible, after refusing to certify the 2015 accord and leaving its fate to Congress. His comments came as the EU announced it was sending its chief diplomat to Washington next month to try to save the agreement that saw Tehran dramatically scale back its nuclear ambitions in return for an end to punishing sanctions. Speaking to reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting, he said: "I feel strongly about what I did. I'm tired of being taken advantage of." "It might be total termination, that's a real possibility, some would say that's a greater possibility." But he also appeared to leave the door open for a new deal, while praising the negotiation skills of his Iranian counterparts. "It also could turn out to be very positive. We'll see what happens," he said. "I thought the tone of the Iranian leaders was very modified and I was happy to see that but I don't know if that means anything. "They're great negotiators, they negotiated a phenomenal deal for themselves, but a horrible deal for the United States." Trump alarmed allies across the Atlantic with a belligerent speech on Friday in which he stopped short of pulling out of the agreement but warned he could do so at any time, restating his belief the deal was letting Iran off the hook. EU ministers have warned that ditching the deal when Iran has repeatedly been certified as keeping up its end of the bargain would send a signal to North Korea that negotiating with the international community is a waste of time. Federica Mogherini, the EU´s foreign policy head, said Monday she would "be in Washington in early November" to urge US lawmakers not to pull out of the deal, known as the JCPOA, which was negotiated with Iran by the US, Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia. There is broad support among US lawmakers for fresh pressure on Iran over its continued missile development and subversive activities in the region - factors that Trump says violate the "spirit" of the agreement. Western diplomats say European powers share some of these concerns but believe they should be dealt with in other forums and warn it would be a mistake to sacrifice the nuclear deal. Tehran has warned such action would mean Washington had broken its end of the bargain, and thus likely signal the end of their own compliance. Trump's Iran statement on came four months after he moved to pull out of the 196-nation Paris agreement on climate change, signaling a widening gulf between Washington and its closest European allies.
  6. Nikki Haley ? the US Ambassador to the United Nations ? delivers remarks at a security council meeting at UN headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, US, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/Files WASHINGTON: Senior Trump administration officials said on Sunday that the United States was committed to remaining part of the Iran nuclear accord for now, despite President Donald Trump?s criticisms of the deal and his warnings that he might pull out. Nikki Haley ? the US ambassador to the United Nations ? said that Tehran is complying with the 2015 nuclear accord intended to increase Iran?s accountability in return for the lifting of some economic sanctions. ?I think right now, you?re going to see us stay in the deal,? Haley told NBC?s Meet the Press. In a speech on Friday, Trump laid out an aggressive approach regarding Iran and said he would not certify it is complying with the nuclear accord, despite a determination by the United Nations? nuclear watchdog that Tehran is meeting its terms. The Republican president threw the issue to the US Congress, which has 60 days to decide whether to reinstate US sanctions. He warned that if ?we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated?. So far, none of the other signatories to the deal ? Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran, and the European Union (EU) ? have cited serious concerns, leaving the United States isolated. In her Meet the Press interview, Haley said the United States was not saying that Iran was in breach of the agreement, but she raised concerns about its activities that are not covered by the pact, including weapons sales and sponsorship of militant groups such as Hezbollah. Haley said that other countries were ?turning a blind eye? to these Iranian activities in order to ?protect? the nuclear agreement. She said the United States needed to weigh a ?proportionate? response to Tehran?s actions on the world stage. ?The goal at the end of the day is to hold Iran accountable,? Haley said in the interview, which mainly focused on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is formally known. Haley and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hammered away at the need to address what they see as shortcomings in the two-year-old international accord while simultaneously placing pressure to rein in Iranian activities outside the scope of that deal. A second pact? Tillerson, alluding to other signatory countries? opposition to reopening the Iran pact, raised the possibility of ?a second agreement? to run parallel to the existing one. Among the ?areas of concern,? he mentioned were its sunset provisions and Tehran?s ballistic missile program. Haley also said the reason the United States was looking closely at the Iran nuclear deal was due to escalating tensions over North Korea?s nuclear weapons development. ?What we?re saying now with Iran is don?t let it become the next North Korea.? On Friday, Trump also said he was authorizing the US Treasury to sanction Iran?s Revolutionary Guards, and on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was planning to move ahead. Mnuchin ? interviewed on Fox News? Sunday Morning Futures ? said he has spoken about Iran with his counterparts attending World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in recent days. He did not provide any details on possible sanctions. US Senator Susan Collins ? appearing on ABC?s This Week ? noted that Trump could have taken a more extreme step by withdrawing from the agreement. But in words of support for Trump, the moderate Republican lawmaker said, ?Instead, he put a spotlight on two troubling deficiencies in the agreement,? referring to a lack of limitations on Iran?s tests of ballistic missiles and a ?pathway to developing a nuclear weapon? down the road. While many US allies strongly criticized Trump?s decision not to recertify the Iran deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the move, saying the current terms of the Iran nuclear accord would allow it to have a nuclear stockpile within a decade. ?We cannot allow this rogue regime 30 times the size of North Korea?s economy to have a nuclear arsenal,? Netanyahu said on CBS? Face the Nation.
  7. Oil markets opened up strong into the new week, with Brent crude up by one percent as concerns over renewed US sanctions against Iran drove prices up. A falling US rig count also supported prices there. Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $57.79 at 0033 GMT, up 62 cents, or 1.1 percent, from the previous close. Traders said that concerns over renewed US sanctions against Iran were pushing prices up. US President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Friday, defying both US allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is. Under US law, the president must certify every 90 days to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal. The US Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact. During the previous round of sanctions against Iran, some 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil supplies were cut off global markets. While analysts said they did not expect renewed sanctions to have such a big impact again, especially as the United States would likely act alone, they did warn that such a move would be disruptive. ?If Iran (were) found breaching their nuclear agreement and had their trade agreement revoked, (that) would be the biggest catalyst for upward momentum on crude prices,? said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers. Within the United States, crude prices were also up as drillers cut back the number of rigs tapping new production. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading at $51.88 per barrel, up 43 cents, or 0.8 percent. Drillers cut five oil rigs in the week to Oct. 13, bringing the total count up to 743, the lowest since early June, General Electric Co?s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report late on Friday. RIG-OL-USA-BHI
  8. TEHRAN: US President Donald Trump´s speech outlining an aggressive new strategy against Iran violated Tehran´s nuclear agreement with world powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. Trump´s virulent speech contravened three articles of the 2015 deal, Zarif said in televised remarks broadcast late on Saturday. The clauses he referred to mandate the signatories to implement the accord "in good faith" and the US administration and Congress to "refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing" sanctions related to Iran´s nuclear programme. "I have already written nine letters (to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini) listing the cases where the United States has failed to act on or delayed its commitments under the JCPOA," Zarif added, calling the nuclear deal by its technical name. Zarif said he was going to write a new letter regarding Trump´s speech on Friday. He called on the United States to prolong sanctions relief, otherwise "the Islamic Republic of Iran will definitely take a similar and reciprocal measure." In his speech, Trump refused to "certify" Tehran´s compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal. He warned he could rip up the agreement "at any time," saying it had failed to address Iran´s influence in its region and its illegal missile programme. Trump said he supported efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats. The remarks triggered swift condemnation from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of what he called "baseless accusations and swear words". Responding to US threats of new sanctions against Tehran´s missile programme, Zarif repeated that Iran would not tolerate interference in its defence policy. "Our achievements in the field of ballistics are in no way negotiable," he said. "We live in a region into which hundreds of billions of dollars of lethal American weapons have poured, turning it into a gunpowder storehouse... so we have the right to have defensive means," he said. The nuclear agreement was signed in July 2015 between Iran and six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Mogherini helped to negotiate the nuclear deal. It lifted some Western and UN sanctions and in return Tehran curtailed a large part of its atomic programme to assure the world that a nuclear bomb -- which Iran denies seeking -- would remain well out of its reach.
  9. US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it. Trump announced the major shift in US policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East. He accused Iran of ?not living up to the spirit? of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress. ?We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran?s nuclear breakout,? Trump said. Trump?s hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran?s arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies. The move by Trump was part of his ?America First? approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union - some of which have benefited economically from renewed trade with Iran. Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations. ?The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,? he said. ?Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.? European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines US's credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord. The chief of the UN atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world?s ?most robust nuclear verification regime.? ?The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,? Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said, referring to the deal by its formal name. US Democrats expressed scepticism at Trump?s decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: ?At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the president has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.? CONGRESS DECIDES While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact. If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker was working on amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act law to include ?trigger points? that if crossed by Iran would automatically reimpose US sanctions. The trigger points would address strengthening nuclear inspections, Iran?s ballistic missile programme and eliminate the deal?s ?sunset clauses? under which some of the restrictions on Iran?s nuclear programme expire over time. Trump directed US intelligence agencies to probe whether Iran might be working with North Korea on its weapons programs. The president, who took office in January, had reluctantly certified the agreement twice before but has repeatedly blasted it as ?the worst deal ever.? It was negotiated under his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Trump warned that if ?we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.? ?We?ll see what happens over the next short period of time and I can do that instantaneously,? he told reporters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.
  10. ANKARA: Iran will abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers if it failed to serve the country?s national interests, President Hassan Rouhani said in a harsh reaction to Donald Trump?s decision not to certify the 2015 accord. Trump said in an address at the White House that he would not continue to certify the multinational agreement and warned he might ultimately terminate it. Growing strains with the United States will intensify a power struggle among Iran?s faction-ridden elite by boosting Rouhani?s anti-Western hard-line rivals who feared losing power if the deal ended the country?s political and economic isolation. ?No president can revoke an international deal. ... Iran will continue to honour its commitments under the deal,? Rouhani said in a live television address, saying Trump?s speech had nothing new but ?fake accusations and insults? against Iranians. ?However, if one day our interests are not served, we will not hesitate even one moment and will respond.? While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted in 2016. That increases tension with Iran as well as putting Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, who say the United States cannot unilaterally cancel the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. ?The agreement will remain intact and no article or paragraph would be added or taken away from it, ... The nuclear deal cannot be renegotiated,? Rouhani said. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, has warned Washington over any ?wrong move,? saying Iran would stop implementing it if any sanctions were reimposed. EXPANDING MISSILE WORK In his speech, Trump also detailed a more confrontational approach to Iran over its ballistic missile programme and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East. The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Tehran over its ballistic missile tests for what it said was in violation of a U.N. resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal. ?The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure... our missiles are for our defence. ... We will double our efforts from now to expand our defence capabilities,? Rouhani said. Trump also announced plans to take action against Iran?s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which he said was Khamenei?s ?corrupt personal terror force and militia.? Defying Trump, Iran?s pragmatist Rouhani backed the IRGC , saying the elite force will continue its fight against ?regional terrorists.? ?The IRGC has always protected our nation against terrorists. ... It will continue to help oppressed nations in the region,? Rouhani said. The IRGC is Iran?s most powerful security entity and wields control over large swathes of Iran?s economy as well as considerable influence within its political system. The escalating regional tensions will increase the nervousness of potential foreign investors, many of whom were already keeping Iranian ambitions on hold due to worries about remaining unilateral US sanctions or a possible restoration of sanctions.
  11. French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (R) at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), New York, September 18, 2017. AFP/Ludovic Marin/Files PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is considering visiting Iran after speaking by phone with his Iranian counterpart as US President Donald Trump said he was "decertifying" the nuclear deal with Tehran, the Elysee presidential office said Friday. Macron told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that France remained committed to the 2015 nuclear agreement, which, besides the United States, was also negotiated with Britain, China, Russia, and Germany. "A trip to Iran by the president, at the invitation of President Rouhani, has been considered," the Elysee said, while the Iranian presidential website said the visit would happen next year. Macron said the US decision "will not put an end to the Iranian nuclear accord and that together all the parties in France and its European partners will continue to meet their commitments". Rouhani assured Macron that Iran in turn "will continue to carry out its commitments" in the nuclear accord, the Elysee said. The French leader added that it was also necessary to have a dialogue with Iran on other strategic issues including Tehran's ballistic missile programme and stability in the region. Macron also spoke to Rouhani of his "wish to work with Iran for a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis". Tehran is a supporter of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Macron's visit to Iran would be the first by a French head of state or government since 1971. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is set to travel to the Islamic Republic in the next few weeks. Earlier Friday, the leaders of France, Germany, and Britain issued a joint statement saying they were "concerned" about Trump's decision while reiterating their commitment to the deal.
  12. ICAN Asia-Pacific Director Tim Wright (L), Executive Director Beatrice Fihn (C), and Steering Group member Ray Acheson (R) were awarded the 20 Nobel Peace Prize. AFP/Kevin Hagen GENEVA: The nuclear weapons disarmament campaigners awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize denounced US President Donald Trump's decision on Friday to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, saying it makes proliferation more likely. "President Trump's rejection of the JCPOA is an incitement to proliferation, makes achieving further agreements to rein in the nuclear threat more difficult, and increases global risk of nuclear use," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said in a statement. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has curbed Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. "The JCPOA is a demonstration of how well diplomacy can work, and like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it reflects the urgent global imperative to eliminate nuclear weapons and the grave threat they pose," Beatrice Fihn ? the executive director of ICAN ? commented. The nuclear agreement was struck in July 2015 by Iran and permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany ? establishing controls to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb. Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the 2015 accord, but "decertified" his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of the US Congress. The US leader said the nuclear agreement had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile program and warned the agreement was under continuous review and could be terminated, a stance which ICAN decried as a policy liable to ramp up the threat of conflict. "President Trump's attempt to disrupt the Iran deal, despite the fact that the IAEA has repeatedly certified that Iran is complying with its terms, is a jarring reminder of the immense nuclear danger now facing the world and the urgent need for all states to prohibit and eliminate these weapons," Fihn said. "If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now," she added. ICAN had on Monday urged Trump to uphold the deal with Iran which the US leader has dismissed as "the worst deal ever", saying it saw no evidence that Tehran is not in compliance. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said Monday that the UN nuclear watchdog believed Iran was respecting the deal. Last week ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to consign the atomic bomb to history.
  13. WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump launched a tougher strategy to check Iran?s regime on Friday and warned that a landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time. In a much-anticipated White House speech, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the 2015 accord, but "decertified" his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress. And, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran´s "aggression" in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran?s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program. Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran?s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile program. The US president said he supports efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal. "However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated," Trump said, in a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. "It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time," he warned. Simultaneously, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and added four companies that allegedly support the group to its sanctions list. Trump?s criticism of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- the nuclear control accord reached between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- had raised global concerns. World governments feared any US move to sabotage the arrangement could dash Washington?s diplomatic credibility and relaunch Iran?s alleged quest for a nuclear weapon, in turn provoking a new Middle East arms race. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear ahead of the president?s speech that his decision does not necessarily mean an end to the accord. ?The worst deal? "The intent is that we will stay in the JCPOA, but the president is going to decertify," Tillerson said. "We?re saying, fine, they?re meeting the technical compliance," he said, indicating that the broader agreement would remain intact for now, and that US lawmakers will have an opportunity to revisit the US sanctions regime. Trump had repeatedly pledged to overturn one of his predecessor Barack Obama?s crowning foreign policy achievements, deriding it as "the worst deal" and one agreed to out of "weakness." The agreement stalled Iran?s nuclear program but opponents, and even some supporters, say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence across the Middle East. But since coming to office, Trump has faced intense lobbying from international allies and much of his own national security team, who argue the JCPOA should remain in place. Both the US government and UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. US concerns about the Guards could also weaken the deal. Trump stopped short of designating the powerful military faction a global terror organisation, as some hawks demanded, but his announcement of targeted sanctions is still likely to trigger an angry Iranian response. "We have considered that there are particular risks and complexities to designating an entire army, so to speak, of a country," Tillerson said. Instead the US will squeeze those directly supporting the corps? ?activities, whether it?s weapons exports or it?s weapons components, or cyber activity, or it?s movement of weapons and fighters around." Snap back Still, Trump?s tough-guy approach could yet risk undoing years of careful diplomacy and increasing Middle East tensions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at his US counterpart saying he was opposing "the whole world" by trying to abandon the landmark nuclear agreement. "It will be absolutely clear which is the lawless government. It will be clear which country is respected by the nations of the world and global public opinion," he added. Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by "snapping back" sanctions, which Iran demanded be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment. Trump will not ask Congress to do that, Tillerson said. "A re-imposition of the sanctions," he said, "would, in effect, say we?re walking away from the deal." But lawmakers may yet decide to torpedo the agreement. Proposals by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Bob Corker to introduce "trigger points" for new sanctions and extend sanctions beyond a pre-agreed deadline have spooked allies, who believe it could breach the accord. But it remains unclear if their proposals can garner the 60 votes need to pass the Senate.
  14. WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will unveil a more aggressive strategy to check Iran's growing power Friday, but will stop short of withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal or declaring the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation. During a speech at the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Trump is expected to declare the 2015 agreement - which curbed Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief - is no longer in the US national interest. Officials say he will not kill the international accord outright, instead "decertifying" the agreement and leaving US lawmakers to decide its fate. Trump had repeatedly pledged to overturn one of his predecessor Barack Obama's crowning foreign policy achievements, deriding it as "the worst deal" and one agreed to out of "weakness." The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US - at talks coordinated by the European Union. It stalled Iran's nuclear program and marginally thawed relations between Iran and what Tehran dubs the "Great Satan." But opponents, and even some supporters, say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence across the Middle East. In his speech, Trump will rail against Iran's "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East, "particularly its support for terrorism and militants," according to a fact sheet released by the White House. The strategy will seek to shield Israel from Iran's "unrelenting hostility" and counter the threat to all US interests and allies from Iran's proxy forces, ballistic missile development, and eventual nuclear ambitions. Trump has railed against the deal since he was a presidential candidate, and told aides earlier this year he will not recertify it. But since coming to office, he has faced intense lobbying from international allies and his own national security team, who argued it should remain in place. Both the US government and UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. In another partial climbdown, Trump is also expected to levy limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, rather than invite retaliation by designating it as a terrorist organisation. The outcome "probably reflects more some of the divisions and debates within the administration," said former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. Apart from running swaths of Iran's economy and Iran's ballistic program, the corps is also accused of guiding bellicose proxies from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Houthi in Yemen to militia in Iraq and Syria. Snap back Still, Trump's tough-guy approach could yet risk undoing years of careful diplomacy and increasing Middle East tensions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at his US counterpart saying he was opposing "the whole world" by trying to abandon the landmark nuclear agreement. "It will be absolutely clear which is the lawless government. It will be clear which country is respected by the nations of the world and global public opinion," he added. Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by "snapping back" sanctions, which Iran demanded to be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment. A full snap back seems unlikely, but many lawmakers are waiting to see how Trump presents the choice before deciding whether to keep or torpedo the agreement. Leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio has called for Congress to respond with legislation that has "trigger points" for new sanctions. "I support @POTUS decision to decertify. Now Congress must either fix #IranDeal by creating triggers for sanctions or deal should end," he tweeted. Much now rests on whether these sanctions would be seen by Iran and partners as a breach of US commitments under the nuclear deal. "#IranDeal is only on nukes. It can´t be that it requires us to ignore #Iran sponsorship of terror or advances in missiles," said Rubio. Allies pleading Right up until the last minute, the other signatories to the deal have urged Washington not to let it fall apart. "We believe this deal is important to ensuring the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and regional peace and stability. We hope all parties can continue to preserve and implement this deal," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. The Kremlin warned that ditching the agreement could "unequivocally damage the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent much of the week on the telephone, talking through a decision that is deeply unpopular with allies. Europe fears not only that Iran will resume the quest for the bomb but that the US is relinquishing its leadership role in a stable, rules-based international system.
  15. TEHRAN: US President Donald Trump was expected on Friday to declare a more aggressive strategy on a nuclear deal signed on July 14, 2015, by Iran and major world powers. Struck in Vienna by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany, the deal established controls to prevent Tehran from developing an atom bomb. It was a breakthrough that ended a 12-year standoff with the West over Iran´s disputed nuclear programme and led to a partial lifting of international sanctions on Tehran. But in a White House speech later on Friday, Trump is expected to declare the agreement no longer in the US national interest. Here is some background about the deal: 21 months of talks Talks on Iran´s nuclear programme started in 2013 after newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives the go-ahead, with the agreement of the country´s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. By November, an interim deal is agreed, freezing some of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for minor sanctions relief. It was finalised in April 2015 and signed in Vienna on July 14 that year, ending 12 years of crisis and 21 months of negotiations. The deal was adopted by the UN Security Council on July 20, 2015, and came into force on January 16, 2016. Main points The accord brings to a minimum of one year, for at least 10 years, the "breakout time" that Iran needs to produce enough fissile material to make an atom bomb. Tehran agreed to slash the number of uranium centrifuges, which can enrich uranium for nuclear fuel as well as for nuclear weapons, from more than 19,000 to 5,060, maintaining this level for 10 years. All enrichment is to take place at the Natanz facility only and Iran's pre-deal stockpile of 12 tonnes of low-enriched uranium -- enough for several nuclear weapons if further enriched -- was to be reduced to 300 kilogrammes (660 pounds) for 15 years. Only enrichment to low purities was allowed, also for 15 years. Iran's Arak reactor was to be redesigned so that it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium, the alternative to highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Controls The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with regular inspections of facilities such as uranium mines and centrifuge workshops for up to 25 years. The agency says in September that Tehran is sticking to the terms of the deal. Its staff had conducted at least 400 inspections of sites in Iran and 25 snap inspections, it says. Sanctions eased The deal paved the way for a partial lifting of international sanctions on Iran, opening the door for foreign investors, with French energy giant Total and carmakers PSA and Renault quick to strike deals. UN embargoes on conventional arms and on ballistic missiles have been maintained up to 2020 and 2023 respectively. 'The worst deal'? Trump has railed against the deal struck by his predecessor and vowed to tear it up, deriding it as "the worst deal" and one agreed to out of "weakness". On Thursday, he again said of Iran: "They have not lived up to the spirit of the agreement." Trump is expected on Friday to declare the agreement no longer in the US interest, though it will be up to US lawmakers to decide its fate.
  16. Trump could have a last minute change of heart before he outlines his administration?s new approach toward Iran in speech at the White House-File Photo (Reuters) US officials said Trump was expected to announce that he will not certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, believing the agreement is not in the national interests of the United States. He had certified it twice before but aides said he was reluctant to do so a third time. Trump could have a last minute change of heart before he outlines his administration?s new approach toward Iran in speech at the White House at 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT) on Friday. The step would not withdraw the United States from the deal but would give the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose the sanctions on Tehran that were suspended under an agreement that was negotiated by the United States and other world powers during the administration of former President Barack Obama. International inspectors say Iran is in technical compliance with the accord, but Trump says Tehran is in violation of the spirit of the agreement and has done nothing to rein in its ballistic missile program or its financial and military support for Hezbollah and other extremist groups. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the US approach toward Iran is to work with allies in the Middle East to contain Tehran?s activities. ?We have footprints on the ground, naval and Air Force is there to just demonstrate our resolve, our friendship, and try to deter anything that any country out there may do,? Kelly said. European allies are warning of a split with the United States on the issue. This week, Trump has heard appeals from British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron for the United States to certify the deal for the sake of allied unity. ?It?s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,? German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the RND German newspaper group. ?We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.? Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Trump has called the accord ?an embarrassment? and ?the worst deal ever.? European officials have categorically ruled out renegotiating the deal, but have said they share Trump?s concerns over Iran?s destabilizing influence in the Middle East. The threat of new action from Washington has prompted a public display of unity from the rival factions among Iran?s rulers. CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday kept up a steady drumbeat of Trump administration criticism of Iran, saying Tehran is ?mounting a ruthless drive to be the hegemonic power in the region.? Iran?s intelligence service and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ?are the cudgels of a despotic theocracy, with the IRGC accountable only to a Supreme Leader. They?re the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East,? Pompeo said in remarks at the University of Texas in Austin. In Tampa, Florida, the head of US Central Command said he was concerned about Iran?s long-term activities in the region and he would continue to focus on protecting US troops, even as Iran has said US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed. ?Iran is kind of a long-term destabilizing actor in the region and so we remain concerned about their activities as well,? US General Joseph Votel told reporters.
  17. Trump is expected to back away from endorsing the agreement, opening the door for Congress to re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Photo: AFP WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will Friday unveil the US position with regard to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the White House said. "At 12:45 tomorrow, the president will deliver remarks announcing the strategy to the country," said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump is expected to back away from endorsing the agreement, opening the door for Congress to re-impose sanctions on Tehran.
  18. PARIS: Having spent months lobbying US President Donald Trump unsuccessfully over the Iran nuclear deal, European countries are now scrambling behind the scenes to save an agreement negotiated through painstaking diplomacy. Trump is set to announce his position on the 2015 accord as early as Thursday having spent the past two years disparaging a key foreign policy breakthrough of his predecessor, Barack Obama, as "the worst deal ever." Most analysts expect him to declare that Tehran is failing to live up to its commitments - a view not shared by the other five world powers involved in the talks. A decision by Trump to "decertify" the deal would leave it at grave risk with the US Congress having 60 days to decide whether to re-impose specific sanctions on Tehran that were lifted because of the diplomatic pact. "At a legal level the deal would not - yet - be dead, but politically the signal is very strong," said one European diplomat speaking about Trump's expected decision to de-certify. "This agreement is also a deal that depends on confidence," the diplomat said, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly. The deal, which formally took force in January 2016, was designed to stop Iran gaining atomic weapons - an objective Tehran has always denied pursuing. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to mothball large parts of its nuclear programme. Unwilling to listen? Trump's comments on the Iran deal have reinforced perceptions of his administration as unpredictable and deaf to the views of Europe's main powers, which have historically been America's closest allies. Both British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron used the United Nations General Assembly in September to try and change the 71-year-old US leader´s mind on Iran -- to little effect. "Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States," Trump told the General Assembly. Europe's efforts recall the fruitless campaign to persuade Trump to respect the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, which also saw concerted efforts in private and public from France, Britain and Germany. Finding the White House impervious to their reasoning, European diplomats are now focusing their attention on members of the Republican-dominated US Congress. "Our embassy is working with the legislature," German foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said earlier this week. "We are looking for dialogue, to explain our arguments and why in our opinion the Iranian deal is a success." Blow to trade European companies have moved into Iran over the last year, keen to tap a growing and potentially lucrative market but still wary about some US financial sanctions which remain in place. French firms have been at the forefront, with oil group Total and carmakers Renault and Peugeot announcing investments of several billion euros. German industrial giant Siemens has also announced new deals there, while European aircraft maker Airbus bagged orders in June from two Iranian airlines for 73 planes which would be worth several billion euros. "If Congress reimposes sanctions, I don´t see many chief executives proposing to their boards ´hey, let´s invest in Iran,´" said the European diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. Thierry Coville, an analyst at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in Paris, said he expected the Europeans to club together with Russia and China, the other two powers who helped craft the deal. "If there are new sanctions, it's going to be very complicated," he explained. As well as re-opening an international crisis with Iran that European countries thought had been resolved, diplomats also worry about the message sent by Trump to other states, particularly North Korea. Tensions have soared between Washington and Pyongyang, a secretive and totalitarian state that insists it needs to develop an atomic weapon to defend itself against US aggression. "The message you give if you don't stick to the agreement would be: don't negotiate, don't negotiate with the West particularly because agreements are not honoured," said another senior European diplomat on condition of anonymity. David Patrikarakos, a journalist and author of the book "Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State", said that the 2015 deal was "that rarest of things: a concrete result of European unity." "One thing is clear. Even if Trump were to withdraw, it would not necessarily spell the end of the deal. The EU will fight alongside Iran´s moderates to keep it alive," he wrote for the online news site Politico this week.
  19. Iranian revolutionary guard corps chant slogans during Friday prayers in Tehran in 2006. Photo: Reuters TEHRAN: Iran said Tuesday that the United States would be siding with Daesh if it designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation. "The Guards are the defender of the nation," government spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht told reporters, adding that if the US wants to put the Guards on the terrorist list, it puts itself in the camp of terrorists. "Any country that wants to have such a position about the Guards will share this view with the Daesh terrorists." Reports in the Financial Times and other media have suggested US President Donald Trump may call for the Guards to be designated a terrorist group as part of a tougher strategy against Iran to be announced in the coming days. Analysts say such a move would have a very limited impact on the Guards, who are already subject to a wide range of sanctions. But Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi threatened a "firm, decisive and crushing" response if it went ahead. The threat also appears to have unified Iran's establishment, which have often been bitterly divided over the current government's efforts to improve ties with the West. On Monday night, there was the rare sight of Iran's urbane, globe-trotting foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, alongside Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari appearing together for reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran. "Diplomatic language is different to the language of defence forces but the content and the objective is the same," Jafari said. "Americans would isolate themselves" if they designated the Guards as a terrorist group, Zarif chimed in. "If American officials make such a strategic mistake, the Islamic Republic of Iran will definitely take a reciprocal action. Of course, some measures have been planned which we will announce in due time," he added. Trump must decide by October 15 whether to recertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal it signed with world powers in 2015. It is widely expected that Trump will not recertify Iran, saying it is no longer in the US national interest, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. All the other signatories to the agreement ? Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia ? have urged the US to stick with the deal, saying Iran has so far stuck to its commitments to restrict its nuclear programme.
  20. LONDON: A top aide to Iran?s Supreme Leader warned the United States on Tuesday against designating the elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group, saying Tehran has ?all options on table?, news agency ISNA reported. ?The Americans are supporting Daesh (Islamic State). That?s why they are angry with the Revolutionary Guards. But they are too small to be able to harm the Revolutionary Guards,? Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iran?s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by ISNA. ?Whatever they do we will take reciprocal measures. We have all options on the table,? he added.
  21. LONDON: Iran said on Tuesday that the United States would be ?joining the terrorists? camp? if it chose to designate its elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organization. US President Donald Trump is expected to announce this week his final decision on how he wants to contain Iran?s regional influence. He is also expected to designate Iran?s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp as a terrorist organization. ?The world should be thankful to the Revolutionary Guards for its fight against terrorists, especially against Daesh (Islamic State),? Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said in a weekly news conference broadcast live on state television. ?So by taking a stance against the Revolutionary Guards and designating it a terrorist group, the Americans would be joining the terrorists? camp,? he added. Trump is expected to ?decertify? a landmark 2015 deal Iran struck with world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions. Trump?s announcement would stop short of pulling out of the agreement but give Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. US sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State militant group. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday that if Washington designated the Guards a terrorist organization, they ?will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.? Iran?s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Monday that Tehran would give a ?firm, decisive and crushing? response if the United States goes ahead with such a plan.
  22. ROME: The UN atomic agency chief on Monday affirmed Iran's commitment to a 2015 nuclear deal, in a statement that came as US President Donald Trump said Tehran was not living up to the "spirit" of the agreement. "I can state that the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the (nuclear agreement) are being implemented," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said in prepared remarks during a conference in Rome. An IAEA report released last month had also affirmed Iran's compliance with the programme, which froze some of Tehran's nuclear activities. Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium - used for peaceful purposes, but when further processed for a weapon - did not exceed the agreed limit of 300 kilos (661 pounds), the report said. It added that Iran "has not pursued the construction of the Arak... reactor" - which could give it weapons-grade plutonium - and has not enriched uranium above low purity levels. The landmark deal was signed in July 2015 by Iran and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany -- establishing controls to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb. The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Iran's compliance with the accord had been verified on at least eight separate occasions. It is time to "invest in international cooperation" and "open new channels and not destroy the ones we already have," she said by video conference. It is "certainly not the time to dismantle them". 'Worst deal ever' Faced with the growing threat from North Korea, "we cannot afford to open a new front," Mogherini added. Trump is a fierce critic of the 2015 accord, which he has called "the worst deal ever", and he is expected to announce that he is "decertifying" Iran´s compliance with it. US officials insist this will not sink the deal itself but open the way for Congress to possibly develop new measures to punish other aspects of Iran's behaviour. Congress requires the president to certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days. The next certification date is October 15. Under the law, Congress would then have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted by the deal.
  23. TEHRAN: Iran?s judiciary confirmed on Sunday the five-year prison sentence given to a Canadian-Iranian member of its nuclear negotiating team on spying charges. ?Mr Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani... was among some who were accused of spying and providing information for foreigners and had links with two espionage services,? judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie told reporters. Some reports have also said Dorri Esfahani has British citizenship. ?The court sentenced him to five years in prison and the verdict is final,? Ejeie said. ?He also has a financial corruption case for which a bail has been issued but no indictment has been issued yet.? Dorri Esfahani has a background in the banking sector and was a member of the supervisory board overseeing implementation of the nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015. Since mid-2016, conservative websites and members of parliament have repeatedly accused Dorri Esfahani of spying for Britain. This was flatly denied by Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi in October 2016, but the case remained open. The conservative-dominated judiciary has jailed a number of dual nationals and foreigners since the nuclear deal came into force, highlighting the ongoing concern within parts of the establishment over improving ties with the West. Iran does not recognise dual nationals, which means they cannot receive diplomatic protections such as consular visits.
  24. Iranian revolutionary guard corps chant slogans during Friday prayers in Tehran May 26, 2006. Photo: Reuters BEIRUT/DUBAI: Iran warned the United States against designating its Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group and said US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed. The warning came after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would announce new US responses to Iran?s missile tests, support for ?terrorism? and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy. ?As we?ve announced in the past, if America?s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran?s missiles,? Guards? commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, according to state media. Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the United States, according to state media, and issued a stark warning to American troops. ?If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Daesh all around the world particularly in the Middle East,? Jafari said. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are Iran?s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC?s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not. On June 7, Daesh claimed an attack on Tehran?s parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 18 people. The Guards fired missiles at Daesh bases in Syria on June 18 in response. Guards commanders have framed their military involvement in Iraq and Syria, where they are fighting to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, as a fight against Daesh. Dozens of members of the Guards, including senior commanders, have been killed in Syria and Iraq. Missile program The website for state TV reported Jafari as adding that the United States was mistaken if it thought it could pressure Iran into negotiating on regional issues. Jafari also said that Tehran would ramp up its defence capabilities, including its missile program if the US undermined a nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions. However, Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the deal, a senior administration official has said, in a step that potentially could cause the accord to unravel. ?The Americans should know that the Trump government?s stupid behaviour with the nuclear deal will be used by Daesh as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defence program,? Jafari said, according to state media. The prospect of Washington backtracking on the deal has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis in the shape of North Korea. If Trump does not certify that Iran is in compliance, the US Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal. UN inspectors have verified Iranian compliance with the terms. The Guards navy was also carrying out a military exercise on Sunday in the Gulf, an area of tension with the US Navy in recent months. More than 110 vessels were involved in the exercise, including some that have rocket and missile capabilities, a state media report quoted a Guards commander as saying.
  25. US President Donald Trump speaks after meeting with police at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran?s nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump is also expected to roll out a broader US strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational. The Trump administration has frequently criticized Iran?s conduct in the Middle East. Trump ? who has called the pact an ?embarrassment? and ?the worst deal ever negotiated? ? has been weighing whether it serves US security interests as he faces an October 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with its terms. ?We must not allow Iran? to obtain nuclear weapons,? Trump said during a meeting with military leaders at the White House on Thursday. ?The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran?s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement,? he added. Asked about his decision on whether to certify the landmark deal, Trump said, ?You?ll be hearing about Iran very shortly.? Supporters say its collapse could trigger a regional arms race and worsen Middle East tensions, while opponents say it went too far in easing sanctions without requiring that Iran end its nuclear program permanently. Iranian authorities have repeatedly said Tehran would not be the first to violate the accord, under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions that had crippled its economy. If Trump declines to certify Iran?s compliance, US congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement. Whether Congress would be willing to reimpose sanctions is far from clear. While Republicans ? and some Democrats ? opposed the deal when it was approved in 2015, there is little obvious appetite in Congress for dealing with the Iran issue now. The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact ? which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union, and Iran ? has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it. ?We, the Europeans, we have hammered this: the agreement is working,? said a European diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. ?We as Europeans, have repeated? it?s impossible to reopen the agreement. Period. It?s impossible.? French President Emmanuel Macron said last month there was no alternative to the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A senior Iranian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday the end result of Trump?s expected move would be to isolate the United States since the Europeans would continue to support it. ?Many foreign investors told us that they will not be scared away from Iran?s market if Trump de-certifies the deal,? the diplomat said. Trump has long criticized the pact, a signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. The administration was considering October 12 for Trump to give a speech on Iran but no final decision had been made, an official said previously. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ? a close ally of Trump ? last month said that unless provisions in the accord removing restrictions on Iran?s nuclear program over time are eliminated, it should be cancelled. ?Fix it, or nix it,? Netanyahu said in a speech at the UN General Assembly annual gathering of world leaders on September 19. Many of Trump?s fellow Republicans who control Congress also have been critical of the deal. ?Cannot abide? Trump blasted the deal in his speech to the UN General Assembly, also on September 19. ?We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,? Trump said, adding that Iran?s government ?masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy?. Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive US responses to Iran?s forces, its proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups. Jim Mattis ? Trump?s defence secretary ? told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that Iran was ?fundamentally? in compliance with the agreement. He also said the United States should consider staying in the deal unless it were proven that Tehran was not abiding by it or that it was not in the US national interest to do so. When Mattis was asked by a senator whether he thought staying in the deal was in the US national security interest, he replied, ?Yes, senator, I do.? Last week, Iran?s foreign minister said Tehran may abandon the deal if Washington decides to withdraw. A State Department official said the Trump administration was ?fully committed to addressing the totality of Iranian threats and malign activities and seeks to bring about a change in the Iranian regime?s behaviour?. The official said that behavior includes ballistic missiles proliferation, ?support for terrorism,? support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ?unrelenting hostility to Israel,? ?consistently threatening freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf,? cyber attacks against the United States and its allies, human rights abuses, and ?arbitrary detentions of US citizens.? ?The JCPOA was expected to contribute to regional and international peace and security, and Iran?s regime is doing everything in its power to undermine peace and security,? the State Department official added. The move also would represent another step by Trump that would undo key parts of Obama?s legacy. If Trump moves to decertify the accord, it would mark another example of walking away from international commitments as he pursues his nationalist ?America First? agenda. He previously announced plans to abandon the Paris climate accord and the ambitious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, two key Obama achievements.