CHINA and Russia say the United States should immediately lift the sanctions it has re-imposed on Iran and fulfil its obligations in order to preserve the multilateral deal of 2015.
In recent weeks, Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads over which side should first return to compliance with the nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
Iran says the US should first lift all the sanctions put in place under the Trump administration before the Islamic Republic returns to full compliance. Tehran believes it was the White House that complicated the circumstances by the pullout, which in turn prompted Iran to take remedial measures.
A year after the withdrawal, the Islamic Republic began a set of countermeasures that saw it gradually suspending its commitment to the JCPOA.
Since then, Tehran has consistently reassured the international community that it will return to full compliance as soon as other parties begin to honour their commitments.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a message on Twitter in that regard on Friday.
‘The US needs to return to the JCPOA unconditionally ASAP and lift all sanctions on Iran,’ the post read. It also urged Iran to consequently ‘resume full compliance with’ the nuclear accord.
The US rejoining the JCPOA is the only correct approach to resolve the impasse on the Iranian nuclear issue. All parties should work together to implement agreements reached at last December’s foreign ministers’ meeting— Spokesperson(@MFAChina February 19, 2021.
‘We call on all sides to remain calm, avoid escalating tension and leave room for diplomatic efforts.’
The ministry emphasised that the US return to the JCPOA would be the ‘only correct approach to resolve the impasse on the Iranian nuclear issue’.
It urged all the JCPOA parties to work for the implementation of agreements reached during a ministerial meeting of the E3/EU+2, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia plus Iran, in December.
In that meeting, chaired by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell, the remaining member states to the nuclear deal reiterated their commitment to preserving the agreement.
The remaining member states to the JCPOA say the deal should be preserved and all parties should fulfil their commitments.
Russia on Friday welcomed initial steps taken by the administration of President Joe Biden of the United States to reach a compromise on the nuclear deal.
‘Sanctions pressure did not help the implementation of the agreement and brought the situation to a dead-end,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He added that it was a ‘good thing’ that the US does not call for international sanctions on Iran anymore, but emphasised that ultimately more work was needed.
‘It is the restoration of the JCPOA regime that is important.’
Meanwhile, the administration of US President Joe Biden has reversed two measures adopted by his predecessor Donald Trump against Iran and offered to rejoin negotiations with the Islamic Republic and other parties to a nuclear agreement Washington left over two years ago.
The Biden administration on Thursday reversed two measures adopted by Trump against Iran and offered talks with Iran led by European allies.
In reaction to the offer, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday urged the Biden administration to ‘unconditionally and effectively lift all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labelled by Trump.’
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the number of NATO troops in Iraq would increase eightfold, claiming that the move is intended to fight terrorism and ensure that the Daesh terrorist group does not return.
‘Today, we decided to expand NATO’s training mission in Iraq,’ Stoltenberg said at a Thursday press conference, adding that the ‘size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000.’
He said training activities will include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad.
‘We will do this in incremental steps and in, what should I say, and based on demand from the Iraqi authorities. But there are several bases already in Iraq that we can use. Partly bases where NATO allies already operate under the umbrella of the US Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh and partly other Iraqi bases,’ Stoltenberg stated.
Some 2,500 US troops are already stationed in Iraq. Back in January 2020, the Iraqi Parliament voted to demand that US troops leave the country.
The vote came after the US assassination of Iran’s legendary commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi comrade Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. The two commanders were key figures in the final defeat of Daesh in Iraq in 2017.
The US assassination led to the incremental growth of anti-American sentiments in Iraq and other regional countries.
However, the new American government which has announced a review of whether changes need to be made to US military deployments worldwide appears to get entrenched in Iraq.
One sign is an abnormal rise in the number of attacks on US troops across Iraq, which Washington usually uses as a justification to keep its forces in other countries.
Last Friday, Russia’s Sputnik news agency said Western intelligence services and Daesh commanders had held a series of meetings to coordinate their future plans.
Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV also reported last month that the US military had transferred Daesh prisoners to the Iraqi-Syrian border in order to provide a pretext for its continued presence in the region and for future attacks.
On Friday morning, Iraqi sources reported that a US military logistics convoy was targeted in southern Iraq.
According to the Saberin news channel, the convoy was attacked while passing through the city of Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar Governorate.
Another US military logistics convoy was attacked in Iraq’s Al Diwaniyah province on Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, a number of Iraqi lawmakers warned of Washington’s interference in the domestic affairs of the Arab country, especially in the upcoming parliamentary election as well as military and security issues in Iraq.
They called for an end to the US interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs, IRNA reported on Friday.
They also cited illegal and diplomatic actions by the US embassy in Baghdad, including its fear-mongering among Iraqi citizens, and called on the Iraqi government to stop such illegal actions
- Large swathes of farmland in the besieged Gaza Strip have been flooded after Israeli officials deliberately emptied out nearby rainwater storage, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to agricultural areas in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.
Farmers east of Zeitoun and Shajayeh districts of Gaza City told official Palestinian Wafa news agency that agricultural crops were completely destroyed on more than 500 dunmas (123.5 acres) of flooded land.
They argued that Israeli authorities open up the gates of nearby rainwater storage only a few days before harvest season, effectively flooding Gaza crops and causing a great deal of losses.
Meanwhile, a group of Palestinian non-governmental organisations has condemned Israel over flooding Palestinian-owned farmlands in the Gaza Strip.
‘We hold the Israeli regime fully responsible for the direct and indirect damage inflicted on Gaza and its residents’ the group said in a statement.
Israeli settlers have reportedly flooded Palestinian vineyards with wastewater in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.
‘We call on the international community as well as humanitarian and human rights organisations to intervene immediately to prevent Israeli attacks on Palestinian farmers and their lands, to protect them and to ensure that the occupiers do not repeat their aggression,’ the NGOs said.
The Palestinian group also called for an international mechanism in order to compensate Gaza farmers, especially as agricultural products are the main food basket of people in the Strip.
The NGOs argued that Israeli authorities intentionally open up the gates of dams and rainwater storage, damaging agricultural crops, infrastructure and various facilities in the Palestinian territory.
The agricultural lands in the Israeli-imposed ‘buffer zone’ near the separation barrier constitute a source of livelihood for hundreds of Palestinian families and serve as Gaza’s main source of fruits and vegetables.
The flooding comes amid other measures Palestinians say are being deliberately applied by Israeli forces to affect the impoverished besieged territory’s food supply and push farmers off their lands.
It is estimated that that Israeli practices, such as flooding, the levelling of lands by army vehicles, and the spraying of chemical herbicide, have cost Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Israeli army regularly claims that herbicides are used to clear vegetation in the buffer zone on the Gaza side of the border fence in order to have a clearer view of the area for military purposes.
But Palestinians say the policy inflicts wide-ranging damage on residents of Gaza.
‘The chemicals and herbicides they spray not only damage the farmlands, they also have catastrophic consequences if people eat the sprayed crops,’ Aref Shamali, a farmer, said.
Palestinian agriculture and environmental expert Nizar al-Wahidi said Israel’s damaging of Palestinian agriculture has political, economic, environmental and social consequences.
Wahidi highlighted the chemicals sprayed not only damage the crops, but also affect the soil, harm farmers and animals, and pollute the groundwater.
‘Even if Israel wants to spray perfume into Gaza, they do not have the right to do so without coordinating with the affected party to mutually agree on the substance, its amount, and the way it is sprayed.
‘Why do they not at least coordinate with the Red Cross so that farmers and their children are not affected?’ he asked.