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ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General
Kelsey Davenport

Expert: Trump’s better nuclear deal is an ‘illusion’

News Source: 
Tehran Times
News Date: 
September 11, 2018 -04:00

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 7, 2018

Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Aug. 29 that “hope should be abandoned” for the multilateral nuclear deal that Iran reached with six countries and the European Union in 2015 and he seemed to dismiss European efforts to sustain the deal as insufficient. Khamenei and other Iranian officials contend that the remaining P4+1 parties to the nuclear deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are not doing enough to counteract sanctions reimposed by the United States. With U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector set to...

Trump Faces Resistance on Iran Sanctions

Other countries want to maintain the Iran nuclear deal that the United States abandoned.


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

The first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect Aug. 7 as the remaining parties to the nuclear deal with Iran committed themselves to maintaining economic ties despite U.S. threats of “severe consequences” for any entity that defies the U.S. policy.

Pedestrians glace at the depressed value of the Iranian rial posted at a currency exchange shop in Tehran on August 8, the day after the reimposed U.S. sanctions took effect. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)Although the sanctions were reimposed in May, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States allowed entities 90 or 180 days to wind down their activities in the Islamic republic before the U.S. restrictions would enter into full effect. (See ACT, June 2018.)

The remaining states-party to the nuclear deal—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—and the European Union said they will stand by the accord and will not abide by the U.S. measures as long as Iran meets its commitments under the agreement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, reflecting the strains between the United States and its closest European allies, warned on Aug. 8 that U.S. actions against Iran may lead to further turmoil in the Middle East.

The Aug. 7 sanctions target the purchase of U.S. dollars; trade in aluminum, steel, coal, and precious metals; and the automotive sector. The Trump administration also revoked licenses allowing the United States to import certain foodstuffs from and export commercial aircraft parts to Iran.

In an Aug. 6 statement, Trump said that the United States is fully committed to enforcing all sanctions and that entities that fail to comply “risk severe consequences.” He later tweeted that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States” and said he was seeking “world peace, nothing less.”

While acknowledging sanctions pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranians to “overcome this with unity” and said Washington “will regret imposing sanctions on Iran.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement pledging to do “everything necessary” to maintain the nuclear deal, including measures to protect trade with Iran. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing will protect its commercial cooperation with Iran.

The foreign ministers of the EU, France, Germany, and the UK said on Aug. 6 that they were “determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran” in accordance with EU law and the 2016 UN Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal.

Before the U.S. sanctions went into effect, the EU adopted an update to its so-called blocking regulation to cover U.S. sanctions on Iran. Nathalie Tocci, a special adviser to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on Aug. 7 that the EU will sanction European companies that abide by U.S. secondary sanctions.

It is unclear whether the regulation will provide EU companies enough protection from U.S. sanctions penalties for them to risk continuing to do business with Iran. A number of EU companies have announced that they are suspending operations in Iran.

In a July letter to the European officials, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the United States would not grant sanctions exemptions requested by the EU.

Following the Pompeo letter, 10 Republican senators hinted at retaliation if European states tried to block or get around the application of the U.S sanctions. The Republican letter, addressed to the French, German, and UK ambassadors in Washington, said it would be “particularly troubling if you sought to evade or undermine” U.S. law and steps to do so “could well prompt Congressional action” to ensure the integrity of the sanctions.

 It is unclear why the senators would describe actions to block the sanctions as “evasion” when the three countries have no legal obligation to abide by U.S. sanctions and have stated that sustaining the nuclear deal is in their national security interests.

A more significant set of sanctions, which primarily target states purchasing oil from Iran, is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 5. Oil revenue constitutes 70 percent of Iran’s total exports, and it remains to be seen how significantly oil exports will be hit, particularly given that China, Iran’s top oil purchaser, does not appear to be planning any cutback.

The U.S. law providing for the oil sanctions does not require a complete cutoff of Iranian oil purchases. A country can apply for a waiver if it makes a “significant reduction” every 180 days. The law does not define “significant reduction,” and initially the Trump administration was insisting that states completely end Iranian oil imports. Pompeo said on July 22 that the goal is to get “as close to zero as possible.”

Rouhani warned on July 22 that if Iranian oil exports are blocked, no other country in the region will be able to export oil. He appeared to be referring to Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of all oil shipped by sea passes.

Rouhani also said that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all war,” a statement that drew a threatening Trump tweet in all capital letters: “Never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

The Trump administration continues to maintain that the goal of sanctions is to get a “better deal” with Iran that addresses not only the nuclear program but all of Iran’s ballistic missile and provocative regional activities.

Certain statements, however, suggest a broader goal of triggering major political change in Iran, although the administration denies a policy of regime change. Before joining the administration, Pompeo and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had publicly favored U.S. policies to press for regime change.

“Anyone who’s hoping for regime change must not forget that whatever follows could bring us much bigger problems,” Mass said in a German press interview.

Trump maintains that he is willing to meet with Rouhani without preconditions, but Pompeo outlined a dozen requirements that would require Tehran to unilaterally change policies and actions before sanctions relief is granted.

For his part, Rouhani said on Aug. 6 that the United States must return to compliance with the nuclear deal before talks could occur. He said that “if you stab someone with a knife and then say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.”

 

U.S., North Korea at Odds Over Talks

The Trump administration seeks rapid steps toward denuclearization.


September 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

With the United States and North Korea at odds over how negotiations should proceed, the next steps will be critical to the diplomatic process.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during an August 15 ceremony in Seoul marking the 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Moon said that his planned September visit to Pyongyang will be a “bold step” towards formally ending the decades-old war with the North. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at their Singapore summit, called for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and for “efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the peninsula.

Yet, in failing to set out detailed steps or sequencing, the two leaders set the stage for misread signals and faulty expectations, as now seems to be the case. Both sides are showing some impatience with their diplomatic engagement, although it is unclear whether that is a bid for negotiating advantage or a danger sign from the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

Washington is seeking concrete action toward denuclearization by Pyongyang. North Korea complains that the United States is demanding unilateral disarmament while dragging its feet on steps to end the Korean War and build a peace regime on the peninsula. Trump told Reuters on Aug. 20 that he anticipates holding another meeting with Kim, but did not say when.                  

Before the June 12 summit, North Korea voluntarily announced a moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests and destroyed tunnels at a site used for nuclear testing. Since the summit, Pyongyang has begun dismantling a test stand used for satellite launches at a missile test site.

Pyongyang describes these actions as “practical denuclearization steps” that demonstrate North Korea’s goodwill and commitment to the process. But these actions have a limited impact, are quickly reversible, and have not been verified by on-site inspectors.

U.S. officials, including White House national security adviser John Bolton, have called on North Korea to do more. Bolton said the United States is still looking for “performance on denuclearization,” not rhetoric. In another interview, he said North Korea has not taken “effective steps” toward denuclearization.

Reporting on the negotiations, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s July visit to Pyongyang, suggests U.S. proposals may be asking for too much, too soon. Vox reported on Aug. 8 that Pompeo has repeatedly proposed that North Korea give up 60 to 70 percent of its nuclear arsenal within six to eight months.

Given the uncertainty about the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, it is unclear how the United States would verify that North Korea met such a target, even in the case that Pyongyang were to agree.

A North Korea Foreign Ministry statement Aug. 9, while not specifically mentioning the Pompeo proposal, denounced the “unilateral demand of denuclearization first” made by U.S. officials during a July visit to Pyongyang. The statement also asserted that North Korea had taken “practical denuclearization steps” but the United States had failed to deliver on other elements of the Singapore statement.

The Trump administration appears to prioritize getting a nuclear declaration from North Korea that provides information about the scope of North Korea’s nuclear program and activities. Such a disclosure is needed for verification although, given the loose talk of preventive strikes by members of the Trump administration, Pyongyang may fear that providing such a declaration so early in the process would amount to handing over a targeting list to the United States.

An Aug. 18 statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) called for “bold action” by Trump to break the “current deadlock.” KCNA said the lack of progress is “clearly attributable to the political scramble” in the United States, as “those opposed to dialogue” are trying to derail it with “a fiction” about secret North Korean nuclear facilities.

Some sites are well known, such as the Yongbyon facility where North Korea’s five-megawatt plutonium-production reactor is located, but evidence points toward additional uranium-enrichment facilities at undisclosed locations. Using open sources, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and The Diplomat publicly located in August what the United States suspects is a covert uranium-enrichment facility at Kangson.

Unsurprisingly, North Korea continues to produce fissile material, a fact confirmed by Pompeo at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 25.

Securing a verifiable halt in fissile material production would be a logical next step for the Trump administration. Not only would that prevent Pyongyang from further expanding its stockpile of weapons-usable materials, it would also test whether Kim will abandon his Jan. 1 call for North Korea to ramp up mass production of nuclear weapons and missiles.

While the Trump administration is pushing for additional steps on denuclearization, North Korea wants to see progress on formally ending the Korean War.

A KCNA statement on July 25 said that “adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations” between North Korea and the United States. The agency said that the issue “should have been settled long before,” given the Singapore summit and inter-Korean dialogue.

There are some indications that South Korean President Moon Jae-in intends to proceed toward ending the war, regardless of progress in U.S.-North Korean negotiations.

In an Aug. 15 speech, Moon said that, at the next inter-Korean summit, scheduled for September, the two sides will “take an audacious step to proceed toward the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty, as well as the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Moon said advances in inter-Korean relations will drive denuclearization.

North Korea also has lashed out against continued implementation of sanctions as poisoning the prospects for further talks. North Korea accused the United States of responding to its “practical steps” on denuclearization with “highly despicable actions,” including increased sanctions and hindering the activities of international aid organizations working in North Korea.

A KCNA statement on Aug. 10 called out enforcement of U.S. sanctions on North Korea as “beyond common sense and so outrageous” when Pyongyang has showed “sincere goodwill” by repatriating the remains of U.S. troops July 27 and shutting down its nuclear test site. The statement argued that sanctions are illegal and unlawful because Pyongyang has suspended the nuclear tests and missile launches that prompted UN Security Council sanctions.

The Security Council passed additional sanctions in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests, but the resolutions clearly require North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in a “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” manner. The resolutions also demand that North Korea return to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

China has supported North Korea’s bid to reduce sanctions pressure, and there are signs that other states are backing off enforcement of sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea may need to request waivers on certain sanctions to go forward with inter-Korean projects referenced in the Panmunjom Declaration reached by Kim and Moon at their first meeting in April. Moon said on Aug. 15 that he wants to reconnect the railroads between the two countries by the end of 2018.

Although Trump declared an end to the U.S. “maximum pressure” approach after the Singapore summit, U.S. officials have consistently maintained that sanctions will remain in place and be fully implemented pending denuclearization.

North Korea strategy shift raises questions about denuclearization

News Source: 
CIRCA
News Date: 
August 27, 2018 -04:00

Cancellation of US-N. Korean meeting shows China spillover

News Source: 
Stars and Stripes
News Date: 
August 26, 2018 -04:00

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 24, 2018

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package During an Aug. 19-22 trip to Israel, National Security Advisor John Bolton said U.S. sanctions reimposed on Iran are having economic effects “even stronger than we anticipated” and that the United States expects that Europeans will see that the “choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear.” Iran figured prominently in discussions between Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a joint Aug. 20 press conference , Netanyahu again thanked the Trump administration for...
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