The European Union’s Nonsensical Quest to Preserve the Iran Deal

April 17 2018

In recent weeks, the EU’s foreign minister Frederica Mogherini has been engaged in a campaign—traveling as far afield as Burma—to pressure the U.S. not to jettison the nuclear agreement with Iran. Current and former German, French, and British diplomats have joined in. Surveying the arguments put forth in favor of maintaining the deal, Amir Taheri finds them, to say the least, lacking:

The first [argument] is that discarding the “deal” could damage the credibility of “major powers”—that is, Britain, France, Germany, and the U.S., which signed it along with China and Russia. . . . However, the EU’s argument about “respecting signatures” [is unconvincing] because nobody signed anything. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), [as the agreement is formally known], is no more than a press release stating a set of desirable moves by Iran and the other parties—which, incidentally, didn’t include the EU as such. Moreover, there are significant differences between the JCPOA’s English and Persian versions, making various imaginative re-readings, à la Roland Barthes or Jacques Derrida, possible. . . .

The second argument is that the deal is working and, thus, the dictum “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” applies. That assumption is not borne out by the facts. Iran and the other parties have either tried to circumvent or have brazenly broken their promises. [For instance], the Germans and the French still refuse to issue export guarantees to firms seeking trade with Iran. Huge memorandums of understanding are signed but put on the back-burner as Iran remains subject to sanctions by the United Nations, the EU, and U.S. . . .

Ironically, the only [country] that has partially complied with the deal is the U.S., including through the mafia-style smuggling of $1.7 billion in cash to Tehran and the transfer of $700 million a month since August 2015. Iran, for its part, asserts that there has been no change in its nuclear project. . . . More importantly, Iran has managed to block international inspection of key research and development centers by claiming they are military sites and thus off limits.

The good news, to Taheri, is that the Iranian economy is now so weak that Tehran might be vulnerable to additional economic pressures.

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Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

More about: Europe, European Union, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey