MOSCOW, May 15 -- Talks between US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrate the serious approach of both Washington and Moscow to maintaining bilateral dialogue, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club Andrey Bystritsky said Wednesday.
"These meetings and Pompeo's visit to Sochi itself represent an important signal. From the political point of view, the significance of this meeting is that it actually took place. Even if they reached some practical agreements, they will try to not disclose them publicly because those agreements will gradually show in what the parties in this discussion will do in the future," Bustritsky said. "In this case, Russia and the US demonstrated that are having a serious meeting, that the US secretary of state is ready to go to Sochi and spend a lot of time there in talks. Both sides demonstrate readiness to negotiate," he added. The talks also confirmed US President Donald Trump's intention to fulfill the promises he made during the election campaign, the expert noted. "In some sense, Trump is fulfilling his plans which he talked about before becoming president - he thinks that it is better to negotiate and reach agreements with Russians, as opposed to not talking and not reaching any agreements," the expert said.
Bystritsky said that one of the most important signals after Putin-Pompeo talks was the fact that the sides did not discuss the situation in Ukraine. "I would interpret this statement in the following manner: the basis formula is not being reconsidered. The Minsk Agreements remain in force. What is there to discuss? The agreements need to be implemented. Whether Ukraine is ready to fulfill them is another story," he explained. Among the topics on the international agenda discussed at the meeting, the most important issue is the situation around the Iranian nuclear deal, Bystritsky said. "Other issues, such as Venezuela and Syria, are important as well but also routine. It is clear that those are old conflicts, and it will be hard to overcome them completely. It is not clear how to resolve these problems," he concluded.
RIYADH, May 13 -- Saudi Arabia says two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels.
One of the ships was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States, Saudi Energy MinisterKhalid al-Falih said on Monday. The announcement by al-Falih came as the UAE's regional allies condemned the reported sabotage on Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah. On Sunday, Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired reports of explosions at the city's port but UAE authorities said the reports were inaccurate. Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage to the ships or say who might have been responsible. The reports come as the US warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as the US is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter what it called "threats from Tehran".
UAE says four ships subjected to 'sabotage' off east coast
Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran's Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the Saudi tankers. The ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident. Mousavi also warned against any "conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers" and "adventurism by foreigners" to undermine the maritime region's stability and security. Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring US sanctions that have pushed Iran's economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal. In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6am on Sunday. "One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco's customers in the United States," al-Falih said. "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels." Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved, nor did it say whom it suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage.
Underlining the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a "serious escalation" in an overnight statement. "Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger," Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen's internationally recognised government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage. A statement on Sunday from the UAE's Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating "in cooperation with local and international bodies." Earlier on Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources", reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah's port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved. AP news agency, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated. Fujairah's port is about 140km south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo.
MOSCOW, May 13 -- US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has cancelled his visit to Moscow scheduled for Monday but plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi on Tuesday as planned.
Reuters reported citing a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. On Monday, instead of Moscow, Pompeo will arrive in Brussels, where he will discuss the situation concerning Iran with EU officials. According to Reuters, he has departed from Washington and is heading to Europe. Earlier reports said that Pompeo would come to Moscow on Monday. The US secretary of state is expected to arrive in Sochi on Tuesday afternoon and hold talks with Lavrov. Kremlin did not rule out that Russian President Vladimir Putin would receive Pompeo in Sochi.
BRUSSELS, May 9. -- The European troika of UN mediators (the UK, Germany and France) has rejected Iran’s ultimatum under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), according to a joint statement released on Thursday.
The Europeans also denounced new US sanctions against Iran. The UK, Germany and France pledged to continue work on creating the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) with Iran to bypass US trade sanctions. "We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPoA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons)," the statement reads. "In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments." "We note with great concern the statement made by Iran concerning its commitments under the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). We remain fully committed to the preservation and full implementation of the JCPoA, a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all. We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPoA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps," the document says. "We recall our own firm commitments under the agreement including as regards sanctions-lifting for the benefit of the Iranian people. In this regard, we regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal from the JCPoA," according to the document.
On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington would unilaterally quit the landmark accord inked in 2015 aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. Anti-Iranian sanctions, including a ban on purchasing oil, were reinstated in November. On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would suspend compliance with its obligations under two JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) clauses for 60 days. Iran will resume work to enrich uranium and upgrade the Arak reactor, if the parties to the deal fail to honor their commitments. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, was signed between Iran and six international mediators (the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, the United States, and France) on July 14, 2015.
TEHRAN, May 8. -- Tehran decided to partially suspend the execution of some of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iran nuclear program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
Rouhani said Iran stops the implementation of its commitments under two items of the JCPOA. They concern the suspension of sales of enriched uranium and heavy water that Iran has to other countries for 60 days, under Sections 26 and 36 of the deal, according to Press TV. Iran expects the other members of the deal to take measures for preserving it and fulfilling their obligations within 60 days. Rouhani said that the JCPOA does not stop its operation and Iran does not withdraw from the deal. On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump declared Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA - a deal that was inked in 2015 and restricted Tehran’s nuclear developments in exchange for the abolishment of the sanctions introduced by the UN Security Council and the unilateral restrictive measures launched by the US and the EU. In November last year the US’ sanctions against Iran’s oil sector were restored. On April 22, Trump decided not to prolong the exceptions to the oil sanctions against Iran, which renewed operation in November 2018. Then Washington introduced a ban for importing Iranian oil but allowed major importers to continue purchases during six months.
WASHINGTON, May 8 -- U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Monday that the deployment of U.S. military assets was to counter a "credible threat" from Iran.
The deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region of responsibility represented "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces," Shanahan tweeted Monday. "We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation," the acting Pentagon chief noted, adding "we will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said late Sunday that his country is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, aiming "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force." The New York Times on Monday cited senior U.S. officials that new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq were behind the sudden deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf. Following the exit from the Iran nuclear deal in May last year, the U.S. government has kept piling up pressure on Iran through a series of sanctions.
On April 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the 180-day U.S. waivers for major importers of Iran's oil formally expired on May 2, which aggravates the impacts of tough pressures on Iran. Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Tehran would soon announce a set of retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington has flared up in recent months, following U.S. decisions to designate Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" and to reimpose sanctions on Iran. In response to the U.S. moves, the Iranian parliament also passed a bill blacklisting the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces in West Asia as a "terrorist group," pledging to fight back any provocation by Washington.
BRUSSELS, May 6 -- The European Union (EU), France, Germany and the United Kingdom said on Saturday, in a forceful response to the United States, that they are determined to continue legitimate trade with Iran, highlighting a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to pour money for operation.
The EU's foreign policy chief and foreign ministers of the three countries released a statement, reiterating their support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and "take note with regret and concern of the decision by the United States not to extend waivers with regards to trade in oil with Iran." The JCPOA is an agreement, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, on the Iranian nuclear program reached in 2015 between Iran, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany and the European Union. The U.S., under President Donald Trump, withdrew from the deal and put sanctions on Iran, albeit with initial waivers for some economies. In April, the U.S. announced that it decided to end the waivers from sanctions for countries still buying oil from Iran, aiming to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue. "We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal from the JCPOA," read the statement.
The European powers also said they are determined to pursue efforts, together with other European partners, to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran. But in a show of defiance towards U.S. sanctions that will almost certainly infuriate Washington, the European powers dug deep with the operationalisation of the special purpose vehicle "INSTEX". "In this regard, the shareholders are committed to significantly increasing their financial contributions to INSTEX's operational budget," read the statement. Details from official channels for INSTEX, short for the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, are limited, but the SPV aimed to sidestep U.S. sanctions is generally believed to function like a central clearing house, allowing buyers and sellers to trade without making transfers into and out of Iran. "We encourage all countries, including Russia and China as JCPOA participants, to make their best efforts to pursue the legitimate trade that the agreement allows for, through concrete steps," the statement added.
TORONTO, March 20 -- Leftist elites in Canada have launched a campaign to normalize Sharia law – the illiberal and often barbaric set of laws enforced in Islamic dictatorships.
In Ottawa, the Trudeau government is in the middle of what feels like a show-trial designed to make “Islamophobia” illegal – a term the government itself has failed to define. After the controversial M-103 was passed in Parliament, leftist media and the Trudeau government insisted that the critics were wrong, that it’s just a motion – symbolic! – and that M-103 will have no legislative impact. When the Heritage Committee began its hearings last week, however, critics who expressed concern over the motion were proven right. One of the first experts to testify implied police should prosecute Canadians over social media posts that police deem offensive or incorrect. Yes, prosecute.
Orwell would be rolling in his grave
More than just Orwellian, these official suggestions are reminiscent of theocratic tyranny. That’s not Canadian law. That’s Sharia law. In the background of this charade, the mainstream media joined in and is doing its part to support Trudeau’s agenda. The CBC ran a news story defending Sharia law, with a headline saying that Sharia is “not to be feared.” The article quoted a Liberal MP and several spiritual leaders who defended M-103, without providing balance or skepticism over the motion or towards Sharia. The article explained how Sharia is already in Canada, that it only governs religious practices and only applies to people inside the Muslim community. It included a quote from an advocate saying that those who oppose M-103 and fear Sharia are motivated by “bigotry, plain and simple.” Pretending Sharia is already here and no big deal is incorrect; vilifying those who oppose it is both dishonest and dangerous. Back in 2003, the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice proposed that Muslims have their own tribunals and a parallel legal system – Sharia law – in Ontario. It was then Muslim activists who took a stand and launched campaigns against these proposed Sharia courts. Iranian-born Homa Arjomand argued that Sharia tribunals would undermine women’s rights and “push back Canadian law by 1,400 years.”
“Keep Sharia Law out of Canadian judicial system,” Sun columnist Tarek Fatah wrote at the time, arguing that religious tribunals trespass upon the public domain. Activist Nasrin Ramzanali said that if these Sharia courts materialized, “I (would) feel threatened here.” Ultimately the Liberal government in Ontario rejected the bid to allow Sharia courts. We shouldn’t pretend that Sharia already governs in Canada; we should fight against it at every opportunity. That’s because Sharia is not just a set of religious rules, it is a totalitarian ideology that enforces a sexist and outdated worldview. Sharia insists that there is no separation between mosque and state, and that Islamic rules dictate both the private and public lives of the people. Sharia law replaces Canadian law, it doesn’t live alongside it – but that’s not where the trouble with Sharia ends. Even if Sharia only applied to Muslims in Canada, how would we feel about a set of laws that permits a man to beat his wife? How about a legal system that allows a man to divorce his wife simply by saying the word “divorce” three times aloud? Sharia is not consistent with our way of life in Canada – despite what Liberals and the CBC want us to believe.
OTTAWA, March 1 -- Canada was likely to announce on Friday that an extradition hearing involving a Huawei Technologies executive can proceed, legal experts said, worsening already strained relations with China.
Police arrested Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, the telecommunication company’s chief financial officer, in Vancouver in December at the request of the US. In January, the US Justice Department charged Huawei and Meng with conspiring to violate sanctions on Iran. Ottawa has until midnight local time on Friday (0500 GMT on Saturday) to announce whether it will allow a court in British Columbia to begin a formal extradition hearing. Joanna Harrington, a law professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said officials were most likely to approve the move.
“I have no reason to see why they wouldn’t,” she said. “There is an ongoing, long-standing extradition relationship between the United States and Canada. “The United States is a country with which we share a legal culture” and which Canada trusted, said Harrington, a human rights law specialist. After Meng’s arrest Canadian officials said that the vast majority of US requests for extradition were approved. It could be years before she is sent to the United States, as Canada’s justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.
Meng, under house arrest, was expected to appear in a Vancouver court on March 6 to show authorities she was keeping to the terms of the December deal that allowed her to stay out of prison.
US President Donald Trump said in December he would intervene in the matter if it served national security interests or helped close a trade deal with China, prompting Ottawa to stress the extradition process should not be politicised. Last week, Trump played down the idea of dropping the charges. Beijing is demanding Meng be released. After her detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court later sentenced a Canadian man who had been jailed for drug smuggling to death. Two Canadian lawyers believe that Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou will face an extradition hearing but one is not convinced of the wisdom of the decision. Canada was likely to announce on Friday that an extradition hearing involving a Huawei Technologies executive can proceed, legal experts said, worsening already strained relations with China.
Beijing is demanding Meng be released. After her detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court later sentenced a Canadian man who had been jailed for drug smuggling to death. Vancouver criminal defence lawyer Gary Botting, an expert in extradition law, also said he expected officials to issue the authority to proceed.
“I have little doubt that they probably will but it would be very foolish,” he said, and added that an approval would “invite a whole pile of grief” and possible economic retaliation from China. The Canadian justice ministry declined to comment. David Martin, a lawyer for Meng, made no comment.
BAGHDAD, February 4 -- Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that President Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to "watch Iran."
Speaking at a forum in Baghdad, Salih was responding to a question about Trump's comments to CBS about how he would ask troops stationed in Iraq to "watch" Iran. U.S. troops in Iraq are there as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih said, and that they should stick to that. Trump said it was important to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran "because Iran is a real problem," according to a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday. "Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues," Salih said. "The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here." Iraq is in a difficult position as tensions between its two biggest allies, the United States and Iran, increase. "It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran" and other neighbouring countries, Salih said.