RUSSIA, GERMANY & FRANCE SUPPORT 2015 IRAN DEAL – while the US is accused of repeating the moves that led to Iraq war

Iranian navy personnel stand on a Ghadir-942 submarine near the port of Bandar Abbas at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz

THE leaders of Russia, France and Germany have underscored the need to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, stressing their commitment to boosting trade ties with the Islamic Republic despite the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the accord.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron had voiced support for the agreement during a phone conversation on Tuesday.

‘During the discussion of the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, the importance of preserving this agreement, which is a key factor in maintaining international stability and security, was noted. Russia, France and Germany reaffirmed their commitment to further mutually beneficial cooperation with Iran in trade and economy,’ the statement read.

Merkel’s office also confirmed that the trio had ‘underlined the need to persuade Iran to remain in the nuclear agreement, which they agreed to maintain.’

Last year, US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the JCPOA and unleashed the ‘toughest ever’ sanctions against Tehran despite international objections.

Since then, Washington has been trying to coerce the European parties into following its lead and scrapping the multilateral accord.

The cosignatories have vowed to make efforts to compensate for Washington’s absence and make sure that Iran will be able to collect its economic dividends of the deal.

Tehran, however, complains that they have failed to take practical measures to fulfil their end of the bargain despite Iran’s full compliance.

On May 8, the first anniversary of Washington’s exit from the JCPOA, Iran announced its decision to stop exporting excess uranium and heavy water for a 60-day period, during which the remaining signatories would have to honour their promises and ensure that Iran is no more deprived of the economic benefits it was promised under the agreement.

In another development on Tuesday, Russia’s permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna said that the nuclear agreement is still in place largely due to Iran’s ‘responsible attitude’.

‘For now nobody can say that the nuclear deal with Iran is dead,’ Mikhail Ulyanov said. ‘It’s one year since the US pullout from the JCPOA, but the agreement remains effective, largely because the Iranians have taken a very responsible attitude.

‘They adhere to it scrupulously. As for the other part of the deal, which is expected to serve as an incentive for implementing the nuclear part, it has been nearly ruined.’

He also noted that the Iranians had ‘preferred to act with high precision’ by suspending some of their commitments under the accord and giving the other parties two months to make the situation right, adding that Tehran’s decisions ‘do not entail any JCPOA violations’.

‘This is easy to understand by and large, because the deal properly does reserve such a right for the Iranians: to terminate compliance with either the JCPOA altogether, or with some of its provisions in case of other participants’ default on the agreement,’ Ulyanov said.

The Russian envoy further complained about Washington’s threats of sanctions against other countries doing business with Tehran.

‘The main problem is the United States has not only stopped complying with the JCPOA, but has been trying to create hindrances to quite legal economic transactions by other countries. In fact, it uses the threat of sanctions to block what was authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 2231,’ he said, referring to the resolution that endorsed the Iran deal.

‘This is utter outrage in the international scene. It’s piracy and arbitrariness which has no legal grounds to rely on,’ he added.

  • A top American senator is comparing the Trump administration’s escalation of tensions with Iran to the period that led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said on Wednesday that there were ‘significant parallels’ between the Bush administration’s lies then compared to Trump’s today.

He was referring to former President George W. Bush’s later debunked claims that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction vis-à-vis President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

‘We got into the Iraq War because an administration lied to us about how there was a nuclear weapons programme and there wasn’t. We didn’t accept the IAEA saying there wasn’t a nuclear programme,’ Kaine said.

‘Here, we had a deal that limited Iran’s nuclear programme … The IAEA said it was working, President Trump said no it wasn’t. This is an eerie parallel.’

US national security adviser John Bolton has not yet learned lessons from the country’s invasion of Iraq in 2001, says a top US senator.

With war hawks surrounding Trump such as national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the US recently deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.

‘I’ve seen this movie before; I don’t like the ending,’ said Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. ‘I was one of the 23 senators that voted against the invasion of Iraq, when we were so fearful of imaginary weapons …

‘I think that John Bolton has made it clear long before he became part of this administration, he wants a confrontation with Iran.’

Meanwhile, there were those who disagreed there were any similarities, suggesting the US president does not actually seek war like Bush.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says the country is not after military confrontation with Iran.

‘I think that the White House was gunning for war with Iraq and was going to find a way to get there. I still don’t think this is where Trump wants to end up, but he’s put us on a path to get there by mistake,’ said Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.

During the 2016 campaigning, Trump vowed to stay away from conflicts in the world and bring back home the country’s soldiers.

‘By the time the war started, I was against it. And shortly thereafter, I was really against it,’ Trump said of the Iraq War ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Iran has criticised the US military buildup in the region, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, asserting that it does not seek war with the US but would not hesitate to defend its interests in the Middle East.

  • French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire says France, Germany and Britain are coming under immense pressure from the US to cancel out their proposed trade channel with Iran, which has yet to see the light of day.

The three countries have been tinkering with a much-hyped special trade vehicle known as INSTEX that purports to circumvent US sanctions and keep some semblance of business channels open to Iran.

Initiated with much fanfare, the special purpose vehicle has been relegated by the Europeans to handle food and medical trade which is theoretically not subject to US sanctions.

The three countries, however, have been struggling to operationalise it, raising serious doubts about their determination to compensate for last year’s unilateral US pullout from the international 2015 nuclear deal Iran.

Earlier this month, Iran stopped some commitments under the deal and notified the remaining signatories of the accord that unless they protect its economy from US sanctions within 60 days, Tehran will start enriching uranium at higher levels.

Speaking to reporters in Paris on Tuesday, Le Maire claimed that Iran’s pledge to withdraw from the agreement was making talks on creating the trade channel difficult.

‘Iran is constantly threatening to break the agreement and that doesn’t facilitate the possibility of trade,’ he said.

Le Maire also said the three European powers were facing huge pressure from the United States to drop the trade channel.

‘Yes, there is American pressure. It’s strong, very strong and very direct on this subject,’ Le Maire said. ‘There is pressure on political officials, the administration and all those who are implicated on this subject.’

The Europeans want Iran to stick to all provisions of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, even after the Trump administration started this month implementing its pledge to zero out Iranian oil exports by halting waivers to world importers.

Nathalie Tocci, the special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, acknowledged last week that US pressure was making Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal impossible.

‘What is very clear is the fact that, in fact, some of the non-renewal of the sanctions waivers of the United States actually make it impossible for Iran to comply with the JCPOA,’ she told Canada’s CBC News.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has warned Iranian officials not to be deceived by the European countries that say they want to salvage the nuclear deal.