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Westlake Legal Group > Embargoes and Sanctions

France, Germany and U.K. Serve Notice on Iran Under Nuclear Deal

Westlake Legal Group 14eu-iran-facebookJumbo France, Germany and U.K. Serve Notice on Iran Under Nuclear Deal United States International Relations United Nations Nuclear Weapons Iran Great Britain Germany France Embargoes and Sanctions

BRUSSELS — Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a tough warning to Tehran and the first step toward reimposing further United Nations sanctions on Iran.

The move, which had been expected for more than a week, was delayed when the United States killed a top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with repercussions that are still playing out in Iran and across the region.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism will set the clock running on what could be some 60 days of negotiations with Iran about coming back into full compliance with the deal, and could end up with a “snapback” of United Nations sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has imposed several rounds of American sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has repeatedly moved beyond the limits that the agreement had placed on its nuclear program, raising fears that it could be close to building an atomic bomb.

The Europeans want to save the deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities, a senior European official said.

But the three European countries, all signatories to the deal, clearly felt that they had to respond to Iran’s progressive movement away from compliance with the deal’s limits on centrifuges and uranium enrichment.

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Iran’s Grim Economy Limits Its Willingness to Confront the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group xxiranecon-facebookJumbo Iran’s Grim Economy Limits Its Willingness to Confront the U.S. United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Middle East Iran International Trade and World Market Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Banking and Financial Institutions

LONDON — Iran is caught in a wretched economic crisis. Jobs are scarce. Prices for food and other necessities are skyrocketing. The economy is rapidly shrinking. Iranians are increasingly disgusted.

Crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have severed Iran’s access to international markets, decimating the economy, which is now contracting at an alarming 9.5 percent annual rate, the International Monetary Fund estimated. Oil exports were effectively zero in December, according to Oxford Economics, as the sanctions have prevented sales, even though smugglers have transported unknown volumes.

The bleak economy appears to be tempering the willingness of Iran to escalate hostilities with the United States, its leaders cognizant that war could profoundly worsen national fortunes. In recent months, public anger over joblessness, economic anxiety and corruption has emerged as a potentially existential threat to Iran’s hard-line regime.

Only a week ago, such sentiments had been redirected by outrage over the Trump administration’s Jan. 3 killing of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. But protests flared anew over the weekend in Tehran, and then continued on Monday, following the government’s astonishing admission that it was — despite three days of denial — responsible for shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner.

The demonstrations were most pointedly an expression of contempt for the regime’s cover-up following its downing of the Ukrainian jet, which killed all 176 people on board. But the fury in the streets resonated as a rebuke for broader grievances — diminishing livelihoods, financial anxiety and the sense that the regime is at best impotent in the face of formidable troubles.

Inflation is running near 40 percent, assailing consumers with sharply rising prices for food and other basic necessities. More than one in four young Iranians is jobless, with college graduates especially short of work, according to the World Bank.

The missile strikes that Iran unleashed on American bases in Iraq last week in response to Gen. Suleimani’s killing appeared calibrated to enable its leaders to declare that vengeance had been secured without provoking an extreme response from President Trump, such as aerial bombing.

Hostilities with the most powerful military on earth would make life even more punishing for ordinary Iranians. It would likely weaken the currency and exacerbate inflation, while menacing what remains of national industry, eliminating jobs and reinvigorating public pressure on the leadership.

Conflict could threaten a run on domestic banks by sending more companies into distress. Iranian companies have been spared from collapse by surges of credit from banks. The government controls about 70 percent of banking assets, according to a paper by Adnan Mazarei, a former I.M.F. deputy director and now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. Roughly half of all bank loans are in arrears, Iran’s Parliament has estimated.

Many Iranian companies depend on imported goods to make and sell products, from machinery to steel to grain. If Iran’s currency declines further, those companies would have to pay more for such goods. Banks would either have to extend more loans, or businesses would collapse, adding to the ranks of the jobless.

The central bank has been financing government spending, filling holes in a tattered budget to limit public ire over cuts. That entails printing Iranian money, adding to the strains on the currency. A war could prompt wealthier Iranians to yank assets out of the country, threatening a further decline in the currency and producing runaway inflation.

In sum, this is the unpalatable choice confronting the Iranian leadership: It can keep the economy going by continuing to steer credit to banks and industry, adding to the risks of an eventual banking disaster and hyperinflation. Or it can opt for austerity that would cause immediate public suffering, threatening more street demonstrations.

“That is the specter hanging over the Iranian economy,” Mr. Mazarei said. “The current economic situation is not sustainable.”

Though such realities appear to be limiting Iran’s appetite for escalation, some experts suggest that the regime’s hard-liners may eventually come to embrace hostilities with the United States as a means of stimulating the anemic economy.

Cut off from international investors and markets, Iran has in recent years focused on forging a so-called resistance economy in which the state has invested aggressively, subsidizing strategic industries, while seeking to substitute domestic production for imported goods.

That strategy has been inefficient, say economists, adding to the strains on Iran’s budget and the banking system, but it appears to have raised employment. Hard-liners might come see a fight with Iran’s archenemy, the United States, as an opportunity to expand the resistance economy while stoking politically useful nationalist anger.

“There will be those who will argue that we can’t sustain the current situation if we don’t have a war,” said Yassamine Mather, a political economist at the University of Oxford. “For the Iranian government, living in crisis is good. It’s always been good, because you can blame all the economic problems on sanctions, or on the foreign threat of war. In the last couple of years, Iran has looked for adventures as a way of diverting attention from economic problems.”

How ever Iran’s leaders proceed, experts assume that economic concerns will not be paramount: Iran’s leaders prioritize one goal above all others — their own survival. If confrontation with outside powers appears promising as a means of reinforcing their hold on power, the leadership may accept economic pain as a necessary cost.

“The hard-liners are willing to impoverish people to stay in power,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a research institution in London. “The Islamic Republic does not make decisions based on purely economic outcomes.”

But Iran’s leaders need only survey their own region to recognize the dangers that economic distress can pose to established powers. In recent months, Iraq and Lebanon have seen furious demonstrations fueled in part by declining living standards amid corruption and abuse of power.

As recently as November, Iran’s perilous economic state appeared to pose a foundational threat to the regime. As the government scrambled to secure cash to finance aid for the poor and the jobless, it scrapped subsidies on gasoline, sending the price of fuel soaring by as much as 200 percent. That spurred angry protests in the streets of Iranian cities, with demonstrators openly calling for the expulsion of President Hassan Rouhani.

“That’s a sign of how much pressure they are under,” said Maya Senussi, a Middle East expert at Oxford Economics in London.

In unleashing the drone strike that killed General Suleimani, Mr. Trump effectively relieved the leadership of that pressure, undercutting the force of his own sanctions, say experts.

Within Iran, the killing resounded as a breach of national sovereignty and evidence that the United States bore malevolent intent. It muted the complaints that propelled November’s demonstrations — laments over rising prices, accusations of corruption and economic malpractice amid the leadership — replacing them with mourning for a man celebrated as a national hero.

A country fraught with grievances aimed directly at its senior leaders had seemingly been united in anger at the United States.

“The killing of Suleimani represents a watershed, not only in terms of directing attention away from domestic problems, but also rallying Iranians around their flag,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

Mr. Trump had supplied the Iranian leadership “time and space to change the conversation,” he added. Iranians were no longer consumed with the “misguided and failed economic policies of the Iranian regime,” but rather “the arrogant aggression of the United States against the Iranian nation.”

But then came the government’s admission that it was responsible for bringing down the Ukrainian passenger jet. Now, Iran’s leaders again find themselves on the wrong end of angry street demonstrations.

For now, the regime is seeking to quash the demonstrations with riot police and admonitions to the protesters to go home. But if public rage continues, hard-liners may resort to challenging American interests in the hopes that confrontation will force Mr. Trump to negotiate a deal toward eliminating the sanctions.

Iran may threaten the passage of ships carrying oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for more than one-fifth of the world’s consumption of liquid petroleum. Disruption there would restrict the global supply oil, raising the price of the vital commodity. That could sow alarm in world markets while limiting global economic growth, potentially jeopardizing Mr. Trump’s re-election bid, as the logic goes.

Iran previously had a different pathway toward gaining relief from the sanctions: Under a 2015 deal forged by President Barack Obama, the sanctions were removed in exchange for Iran’s verified promise to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program.

But when Mr. Trump took office, he renounced that deal and resumed sanctions.

The Iranian leadership has courted European support for a resumption of the nuclear deal, seeking to exploit divergence between Europe and the United States. The Europeans have been unhappy about Mr. Trump’s renewed sanctions, which have dashed the hopes of German, French and Italian companies that had looked to Iran for expanded business opportunities.

Whatever comes next, Iran’s leadership is painfully aware that getting out from under the American sanctions is the only route to lifting its economy, say experts.

The nuclear deal was intended to give Iran’s leaders an incentive to diminish hostility as a means of seeking liberation from the sanctions. Mr. Trump’s abandonment of the deal effectively left them with only one means of pursuing that goal — confrontation.

“They see escalation as the only way to the negotiating table,” said Ms. Vakil. “They can’t capitulate and come to the negotiating table. They can’t compromise, because that would show weakness. By demonstrating that they can escalate, that they are fearless, they are trying to build leverage.”

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New E.U. Trade Chief on a Quest to Fix Relations With U.S.

Europe’s new trade commissioner arrived in Washington on Monday on a mission to prevent the Trump administration from ruining the European economy.

But with trans-Atlantic relations already at a low point, Phil Hogan, a blunt-talking, physically imposing Irishman, will probably do well if he can simply prevent things from going any further downhill.

As Mr. Hogan begins a four-day visit, his first as trade commissioner, the list of reasons for the United States and Europe to be angry at each other is long and getting longer.

The United States, upset at France’s plans to tax technology companies, is threatening tariffs that would double the price of imported French wine. The European Union accuses the administration of paralyzing the system for resolving trade disputes, ushering in an era of conflict and disorder.

Punishing tariffs on European steel and aluminum remain in place. The administration continues to dangle the threat of duties on European cars, which would be economically devastating for the Continent. Europeans are deeply alarmed by what they regard as the president’s recklessness in the Middle East.

“The current state of E.U.-U.S. relations isn’t good and I don’t think it’s likely to get better anytime soon,” said Peter Chase, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels.

Mr. Hogan brings a different set of skills than Cecilia Malmstrom, whom he succeeded as the European Union’s top trade official at the beginning of December. Some in Brussels think his rawer style will make him a better match for the current occupant of the White House.

Mr. Hogan recently said, for example, that by leaving the European Union, the British people were trading in a Rolls-Royce for a used sedan. The statement was seen as particularly cheeky coming from an Irishman who will also be responsible for negotiating a trade deal with Britain as part of its withdrawal from the European Union, a herculean task.

“He is more direct,” said Luisa Santos, the director for international relations at BusinessEurope, an industry group. Gender may also play a role, Ms. Santos said. There is a widespread perception in Washington and Brussels that Trump officials were not comfortable with Ms. Malmstrom, an assertive Swede.

“The fact that he is a man” works in Mr. Hogan’s favor, Ms. Santos said. “He is probably the right person for this moment.”

But it’s unclear whether Mr. Hogan, who declined requests for an interview, will have any more success than Ms. Malmstrom at repairing the largest trade partnership in the world, worth $1 trillion a year.

His agenda includes meetings with Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative; Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary; and Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce. To varying degrees, all support the president’s hard line on trade relations.

A 6-foot-5 former farmer from Kilkenny in southern Ireland, Mr. Hogan spent much of his political career in the trenches of Irish domestic politics, helping to build the centrist Fine Gael party into Ireland’s strongest bloc. He was Fine Gael’s director of organization in the early 2000s, and later head of the party’s national election campaign.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 13euhogan-2-articleLarge New E.U. Trade Chief on a Quest to Fix Relations With U.S. World Trade Organization United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Juncker, Jean-Claude ireland International Trade and World Market European Union Europe Embargoes and Sanctions Customs (Tariff) County Kilkenny (Ireland) Agriculture and Farming

Phil Hogan in Brussels in 2018. He succeeded Cecilia Malmstrom as the European Union’s top trade official at the beginning of December. Credit…John Thys/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Phil knew every candidate, he knew every constituency,” said Ciaran Conlon, a former Fine Gael spokesman who is now director of public policy for Microsoft in Ireland.

Mr. Hogan’s feel for retail politics served him well, Mr. Conlon said, when he later became the European commissioner responsible for agriculture, the job he held until December.

Mr. Hogan organized town meetings with farmers around Europe, and attended funerals of prominent farm leaders. His approach helped to combat the European Commission’s reputation for aloofness.

“Politics is about personal relationships and Phil understands that,” Mr. Conlon said.

As agriculture commissioner, Mr. Hogan was often involved in trade talks, and gained a reputation for being canny and well prepared. Farm products are typically the most politically sensitive component of trade deals. A plan to reach a more comprehensive trans-Atlantic trade deal early on in Mr. Trump’s tenure fell apart over disagreements about how to address agriculture.

“He’s a very, very good negotiator,” said Sorin Moisa, a former member of the European Parliament from Romania and former European trade official.

Ms. Malmstrom managed to prevent the president from carrying through on a threat to penalize European car imports, which would be devastating for the Continent’s economy.

But little remains of the optimism that followed a meeting in July 2018 between Mr. Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, then the president of the European Commission.

The two men said they would work to reduce tariffs to zero and eliminate regulations that hinder trans-Atlantic trade. The European Union and the United States are each other’s largest trading partners, and there is general agreement that both sides would benefit from lower trade barriers.

Progress has been modest at best. In July, they agreed to recognize each other’s inspections of factories that produce pharmaceuticals. The agreement eliminates the need for duplicate inspections and should cut the cost of drug production.

But in most other ways, the relationship has only turned more sour.

The Europeans accuse the United States of crippling the World Trade Organization by blocking appointments of new members to a crucial panel that hears appeals in trade disputes. The panel effectively ceased to function in December when several members’ terms expired.

Without a system to enforce trade rules, Mr. Hogan told members of the European Parliament last year, “Well, then, there isn’t any point in having agreements.”

“We have asked the U.S. to engage with us and they have refused to do so,” he said.

As the norms that have governed world trade crumble, countries are responding to disputes with tit-for-tat retaliation and displays of power.

After France said it would impose a so-called digital tax on technology companies — a measure clearly aimed at Silicon Valley — the United States threatened 100 percent tariffs on French wine, handbags, cookware and other products.

“When sides take unilateral actions that harm the other side, that are inconsistent with international norms, the other side has a right to be angry,” said Clete Willems, a partner at the law firm Akin Gump who was an economic adviser in the White House until last year. “That’s where we are with the E.U. now.”

There is plenty of ire to go around. The Europeans are angry at the United States for imposing sanctions on companies helping to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

Both sides are mad about what they say are illegal subsidies to their flagship aircraft manufacturers. The United States is putting $7.5 billion in tariffs on European products in retaliation for illegal aid to Airbus, and the Europeans are expected to retaliate in kind for what they say are illegal subsidies to Boeing.

Mr. Hogan will try to convince his American counterparts that Europe and the United States should work together to rein in China, in part by fixing the W. T.O. He also plans meetings on Capitol Hill, where his Irish-ness is likely to play well.

Nobody is expecting a major breakthrough, but there is some hope that the trip could signal the start of a gradual improvement in the trade relationship.

“I don’t think either side wants this to go back into a deep hole again and spiral into negativity,” said Susan Danger, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. “Both sides want to kick off in a positive way.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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As U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare, Iraq Is Caught in the Middle

Westlake Legal Group 10iraq-middle2-facebookJumbo As U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare, Iraq Is Caught in the Middle United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Pompeo, Mike Politics and Government Middle East Mahdi, Adel Abdul Legislatures and Parliaments Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Iran international crisis group Great Britain France Federal Reserve System Europe Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces Baghdad (Iraq)

BAGHDAD — The walls of the American Embassy in Baghdad were still on fire and members of pro-Iranian armed groups were chanting threats outside, when Iraq’s prime minister tried to explain the situation to President Trump.

“Iraq is between friends who are 5,000 miles away from us and a neighbor we’ve had for 5,000 years,” Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a New Year’s Day telephone call with Mr. Trump, according to a close adviser, Abdul Hussain al-Hunain. “We cannot change geography and we cannot change history, and this is the reality in Iraq. ”

Iraq is caught in a vise.

Many Iraqis were furious that the United States violated their country’s sovereignty by carrying out airstrikes on Iraqi soil. A spate of strikes in December killed at least two dozen members of a pro-Iranian Iraqi military unit, provoking the assault on the American Embassy.

But acceding to the political pressure to rid the country of American troops would be a “disaster” for Iraq, militarily and economically, a senior Iraqi official said.

The main mission of the roughly 5,200 American troops stationed at a handful of bases around Iraq is to help the country fight the Islamic State. If they leave, the official said, it would not only hamper that battle, but it would have a host of knock-on effects, from the departure of troops from other coalition countries to dire financial hardship if, as President Trump has threatened, the United States were to impose economic sanctions.

“Yes, there is big pressure from our people to have the troops leave,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “But we can bear this big pressure much better than we can bear the departure of the Americans.”

For now, however, Mr. Abdul Mahdi seems to be moving ahead with plans to implement Parliament’s will. On Friday, he said that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation from the United States to discuss steps for withdrawal.

Mr. Pompeo fired back that the United States would do no such thing, despite the military’s frequent refrain that it is a guest of the Iraqi government and will comply with its host’s demands.

“We are happy to continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is,” he said at a news conference on Friday. But the American mission in Iraq is to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State, he said, and “we’re going to continue that mission.”

After the Iraqi Parliament vote on Sunday, President Trump threatened to impose “very big sanctions” on Iraq if it ousted American forces — “sanctions like they’ve never seen before.” He also said that Iraq would have to reimburse the United States for billions of dollars it had invested in a major air base there.

But for many Iraqis, booting out the Americans was long overdue. Although many remain grateful that the United States ousted the longtime dictator Saddam Hussein, and fought alongside Iraqi forces to drive out the Islamic State, they are still pained by American military mistakes and decisions, including massive civilian casualties during the war that followed the American invasion and the humiliating abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The recent American airstrikes killed Iranian proxy fighters who were also members of the Iraqi security forces — and considered heroes by many Iraqis for their role in helping fight the Islamic State. The final straw appears to have been the American drone strike last week that killed the Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani and the deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, the armed groups that have fought against the Islamic State.

“We are in a state of enthusiasm in Iraq,” Mr. al-Hunain said. “The process of the U.S. withdrawal reclaims a part of Iraq’s dignity after the airstrikes and violations of Iraqi sovereignty.”

The feeling is especially strong among Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority in Iraq; many have ties to Iran’s Shiite theocracy. Iran has long sought the ouster of American troops, which it views as a threat on its border.

But the unanimous vote in Parliament — taken in the heat of the moment, with no consideration of the potential consequences and costs to the country — suggests more unity than may be the case. Only 170 out of 328 members voted, with most Sunni Muslim and Kurdish members refusing to attend.

One of the few Sunni members who did attend the session, Ahmed al-Jarba, raised a red flag, saying that the departure of American troops might benefit Iran.

After the Americans leave, he asked, “Are our neighbors our friends or our masters?” referring to Iran. “Are we going to hand the country’s wealth and decisions into the hands of neighboring countries?”

Mr. al-Hunain, the senior adviser to the prime minister, said that Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s hope was that if the American forces left, Iran would no longer have security concerns about them and would leave Iraq alone.

Senior Iraqi government officials, diplomats and scholars laid out the opposite scenario: Iraq, they said, could be forced into the arms of Iran, deprived of American dollars, and isolated from the West.

As worrying — even for Iran — is the risk that the Islamic State might return if there are no Americans to help fight it. The Sunni extremist group no longer controls territory in Iraq and is much diminished, but it still launches near-daily attacks.

A second senior Iraqi official and a senior Western diplomat said that if the Americans left, so would European and other coalition forces because they depend on American logistical and technical support. The American hospital at the Baghdad International Airport, for instance, treats the personnel of all 30 countries in the international coalition.

The economic sanctions that Mr. Trump threatened would be intended not only to punish Iraq, but also to effectively extend the administration’s pressure campaign against Iran. The two countries’ economies are closely entwined.

Iraq would risk being cut off from its main source of dollars because its account at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York could be frozen. Iraq deposits the proceeds of its oil sales there, withdrawing them to pay government salaries and contracts.

The United States could also end the waivers that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel its electricity generators in the south, which supply at least 35 percent of the country’s power. Iraq could seek another source, but it could be difficult to find one on short notice. The other option — making do with less electricity — could spawn unrest in the south as soon as the weather heats up, as electrical shortages did in 2018.

American and other foreign companies might reduce or suspend operations if they become concerned about safety. A number of American contractors left in the days after General Suleimani’s death because they wanted to stay out of the line of fire.

So far, Mr. Abdul Mahdi appears willing to face those potential consequences. If he harbors any thoughts of compromise, he has kept them to himself, perhaps wary of the anti-American political climate.

“It looks like the decision making and opinion in the prime minister’s office is turning eastward,” a senior Iraqi official said. “They are almost in denial about what a drastic path they are going down.”

The problem, said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group, is that no one in the government is seriously considering possible compromises.

“The Iraqis don’t want either the United States or Iran, but if they have to have one, they would rather have both because they balance each other out,” he said. “The U.S. is a counterweight to Iran.”

There are a few glimmers of potential ways out.

Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s adviser, Mr. al-Hunain, said that while the American forces are not welcome now, the government does want other international forces to stay. Talks with other coalition countries could open the door to keeping at least some Americans, those arguably needed to sustain the coalition and help fight the Islamic State.

The Europeans, for their part, would like to preserve the ability to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, fearing that any relaxing of pressure would allow the group to reconstitute.

A senior Western diplomat said the British and French were working to outline an alternative mission for the international forces relying on a smaller number of troops focused on ensuring that “the gains made against ISIS are not lost.”

Perhaps the most promising sign that Mr. Abdul Mahdi might be open to compromise was his request for a briefing paper from Iraq’s National Security Council on the options for proceeding with the parliamentary mandate. Mr. Abdul Mahdi is an economist and has served as finance minister, a background that gives him an understanding of the price of economic isolation even if he now seems more swayed by political concerns.

The council provided three options, according to a senior official who works closely with the council: The first was to require American troops to leave as quickly as possible, an approach that could at least deter Iranian-backed armed groups from attacking them.

The second option was a negotiated withdrawal, which would slow the drawdown and potentially allow the fight against the Islamic State to go on in some places even as troops were withdrawing from others.

The third was a renegotiation of the agreement with the American-led coalition that might allow for some troops to stay, which would open the door to having other international forces stay as well.

The National Security Council recommended option three.

Falih Hassan contributed reporting.

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Pompeo Imposes Sanctions on Iran, Sticking to Assertion That U.S. Faced Imminent Threat

Westlake Legal Group 10dc-attacks-sub2-facebookJumbo Pompeo Imposes Sanctions on Iran, Sticking to Assertion That U.S. Faced Imminent Threat United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration slapped another round of sanctions on Iran on Friday and, brushing aside demands from Democrats for evidence, elaborated on its assertions that the decision to kill a top Iranian commander was justified by an imminent threat to United States embassies and other American interests.

“We had specific information on an imminent threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news conference at the White House. “And those threats included attacks on U.S. Embassies. Period, full stop.”

Mr. Pompeo stopped short of repeating what President Trump said a day earlier about a specific plot against the American Embassy in Baghdad, but dismissed criticism, including from members of Congress, that the administration had failed to share any intelligence that backs up its case for the killing early Friday of Maj Gen. Qassim Suleimani in an airstrike.

“I don’t know exactly which minute,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear, Qassim Suleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests and those attacks were imminent.”

Mr. Pompeo said information about the threat had been shared with members of Congress, contradicting some members of both parties who said they had received few specifics. Lawmakers from both parties described the briefings as historical lectures as opposed to the typical presentation about classified matters. One lawmaker said the information was “something you could go on Wikipedia and get. It was that basic.”

Asked how he defined an imminent threat, Mr. Pompeo replied: “This was going to happen. And American lives were at risk. And we would have been culpably negligent, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff said, we would have been culpably negligent had we not recommended to the president he take this action on Qassim Suleimani.”

Mr. Pompeo spoke about the threats after he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the latest round of economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were the first substantive response by the United States since Iran launched missiles this week at American forces in Iraq.

Iran is already under crippling sanctions from the United States and the latest round was narrowly targeted at industries including steel, construction, textiles and mining. They also apply to eight senior Iranian officials who were involved in a recent ballistic missile attack on bases where American troops were stationed.

The damage to Iran from the additional measures will be negligible, said Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security. “When it comes to putting materially more economic pressure on Iran, the Trump administration is something of a victim of its own success — and I think we are reaching the end of the road for what ‘maximum pressure’ can achieve when it comes to Iran’s economy,” Mr. Harrell said.

One area of Iran’s economy where the sanctions could have an impact is deterring investment from nations like China and Russia, said Ryan Fayhee, a sanctions expert at the law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

Mr. Fayhee said the latest round of penalties appeared intended to tamp down the situation with Iran. And the Trump administration does not have a lot of other options for how to respond unless it publicly discloses the justifications for killing General Suleimani, he said.

“This attempt to de-escalate could avoid the need to build domestic and international support for further military action — that would only come with a public disclosure the underlying factual support for strike targeting Suleimani,” said Mr. Fayhee, who previously worked on sanctions issues at the Justice Department’s national security division.

Mr. Fayhee said the administration could also ask the United Nations to pursue sanctions, but doing so would require the United States to publicly share intelligence that justified the strike.

In December, the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on the largest shipping company in Iran and a major airline. The United States believes both companies had roles in transporting material to ballistic missiles and nuclear programs. And in June, the Trump administration imposed sanctions meant to prevent top Iranian officials from using the international banking system — a retaliatory move in response to Tehran’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The newest round of sanctions was the latest move in the weekslong clashes between Washington and Tehran that started in late December when Iran attacked an Iraqi compound, killing an American civilian contractor.

The United States responded by striking Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, which drew outrage from pro-Iranians who then stormed the American Embassy compound in Baghdad, chanting “Death to America.”

Three days later, an American airstrike near the Baghdad airport took out Iran’s most powerful commander. Less than a week later, Iran responded by attacking two bases in Iraq where American troops were stationed. No Americans were killed.

Michael D. Shear, Zach Montague and Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

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Trump’s Iran Strategy: A Cease-Fire Wrapped in a Strategic Muddle

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President Trump opened a small window for diplomacy with Iran on Wednesday, but combined his words with bald threats that made it hard to see how the two countries could break out of their cycle of confrontation and revenge.

The speech was, in many ways, the sound of muddled policy. It showed that after three years in office, Mr. Trump has yet to resolve the two conflicting instincts on national security that emerge from his speeches and his Twitter feed: bellicosity and disengagement.

And he included all the other requisite elements of a Trump policy speech on Iran: burning resentment of President Barack Obama, critiques of his predecessor’s nuclear deal, dubious factual claims and campaign-year self-congratulation.

Mr. Trump did pull back from the brink of war, at least for now. He made clear that he did not plan to respond to the missile attacks on two bases where American troops operate, which seemed calibrated by the Iranians to make a point without creating more human carnage.

But the president also promised to double down on sanctions against Iran, turning again to the economic tool he remained convinced would eventually force the country to choose between ruin and survival. Beyond saying the United States “is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he presented no path forward for the two adversaries of 40 years.

“It certainly sent mixed messages to Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-American strategist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Sadjadpour called the speech “initially triumphant” as Mr. Trump celebrated his order to kill the most famous military leader in Iran, a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops. “It was then dismissive toward Iran,” he said, “and then there was an almost throwaway line at the end about what a bright future the Iranians have if they only reshape themselves as the United States demands.”

The risk now is that the uneasy halt after Iran fired 16 missiles early Wednesday at American forces in Iraq will prove temporary. History is filled with examples where missed signals led countries down a path to conflict profoundly not in their interests, notably the cascade of events that led to World War I. Rarer are the examples where a quiet accommodation of each other’s national interests prevailed, as they did when President John F. Kennedy secretly traded Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey in 1962.

Unlike the Soviets, Iran cannot reach American shores with its arsenal. But the mere fear in the West that Iran could seek revenge by pushing ahead with a nuclear weapon remains its greatest leverage. There was an uneasy sense in the Pentagon on Wednesday that while Iran may not shoot more missiles from its own territory, it will almost certainly return to its specialties of shadow wars and cyberattacks.

Mr. Sadjadpour called the speech “strategically incoherent.” But that can be said about much of Mr. Trump’s Middle East policy in the past few months. The president pulled a small, fairly safe American force out of Syria that was primarily engaged in fighting the Islamic State with Syrian Kurdish allies, claiming it was time to halt “endless wars.” He decided not to respond when Iran first shot down an unmanned American drone and then executed a precision attack on Saudi oil facilities, leaving the impression inside the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that America’s Middle East ally was not worth defending.

And then, surprising everyone, including his own military advisers, he ordered the targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important commander, saying that he was planning attacks on American targets, although the administration has offered few details.

Already that decision has led to a host of unintended consequences, including the sending of thousands more United States troops to the Middle East to defend American assets and interests that Mr. Trump only a few months ago suggested are not worth defending.

His answer to that contradiction seems to be to ask NATO to do the job. Presumably he wants allied forces to patrol the Persian Gulf at a time that tanker companies are halting their shipments across the Strait of Hormuz and airlines are avoiding Iraqi and Iranian airspace.

It seems unlikely they will heed his call. NATO’s leading members argue that it was Mr. Trump who picked this fight with Iran, by dumping the 2015 nuclear deal reached during the Obama administration that, in their mind, was working. And, as Mr. Trump himself complains, they do not have the military capability to play the role the United States has played.

“His failure to consult the allies or take their interests into consideration will make it extremely difficult to get their support,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the former American ambassador to NATO during the early days of the Afghanistan war, when Europe did come to America’s aid. “Very few of the allies trust him and will not follow blindly the most anti-NATO president in seven decades.”

The Iranians are betting on exactly that. Their strategy has been to peel Europe, China and Russia — the other nations involved in negotiating the accord — away from the United States. For a long while, they succeeded as European powers kept devising complex plans to counteract American sanctions on Iran.

But the Europeans were eventually outmaneuvered by the United States Treasury Department and unable to convince European companies that doing business with Tehran was worth the risk of losing their access to the American banking system. As a result, Iran’s effort to make up its lost oil revenue all but collapsed.

The Iranians have now resumed producing nuclear material, effectively abandoning the restrictions they agreed to under Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump used his speech on Wednesday to urge the Europeans to recognize that the Obama-era nuclear accord was over, and to get back on board with the United States.

“The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality,” he said.

The reality Mr. Trump does not want to recognize is that since he dismantled the agreement, Iranian nuclear scientists are months closer to nuclear breakout than they were when they were abiding by the deal’s restrictions.

Mr. Trump now says the new strategy is the old strategy: On Wednesday, he promised “powerful” new sanctions that would “remain until Iran changes its behavior.” He never explained why the sanctions enacted so far — the most severe in modern history, he often says — have failed to prompt that change over the past 18 months.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a hawk on Iran, had a label for the administration’s Iran policy: “confront and contain.” It is a phrase meant to invoke the Cold War, when the United States faced a much larger and more dangerous enemy in the Soviet Union.

But it is not clear that classic containment works in a world where terrorists and cyberweapons easily cross borders, where attacks are deniable and Western allies at odds with each other.

And containment begets resistance. That seemed clear on the Twitter feed of one of Iran’s leading nuclear negotiators, Saeed Jalili.

Mr. Trump had posted an American flag in the minutes after the killing of General Suleimani. Mr. Jalili waited until the missiles had hit the bases in Iraq with Americans. Then he posted an Iranian flag.

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Trump’s Iran Strategy: A Cease-Fire Wrapped in a Strategic Muddle

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-assess-facebookJumbo Trump’s Iran Strategy: A Cease-Fire Wrapped in a Strategic Muddle United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Pompeo, Mike North Atlantic Treaty Organization Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Embargoes and Sanctions

President Trump opened a small window for diplomacy with Iran on Wednesday, but combined his words with bald threats that made it hard to see how the two countries could break out of their cycle of confrontation and revenge.

The speech was, in many ways, the sound of muddled policy. It showed that after three years in office, Mr. Trump has yet to resolve the two conflicting instincts on national security that emerge from his speeches and his Twitter feed: bellicosity and disengagement.

And he included all the other requisite elements of a Trump policy speech on Iran: burning resentment of President Barack Obama, critiques of his predecessor’s nuclear deal, dubious factual claims and campaign-year self-congratulation.

Mr. Trump did pull back from the brink of war, at least for now. He made clear that he did not plan to respond to the missile attacks on two bases where American troops operate, which seemed calibrated by the Iranians to make a point without creating more human carnage.

But the president also promised to double down on sanctions against Iran, turning again to the economic tool he remained convinced would eventually force the country to choose between ruin and survival. Beyond saying the United States “is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he presented no path forward for the two adversaries of 40 years.

“It certainly sent mixed messages to Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-American strategist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Sadjadpour called the speech “initially triumphant” as Mr. Trump celebrated his order to kill the most famous military leader in Iran, a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops. “It was then dismissive toward Iran,” he said, “and then there was an almost throwaway line at the end about what a bright future the Iranians have if they only reshape themselves as the United States demands.”

The risk now is that the uneasy halt after Iran fired 16 missiles early Wednesday at American forces in Iraq will prove temporary. History is filled with examples where missed signals led countries down a path to conflict profoundly not in their interests, notably the cascade of events that led to World War I. Rarer are the examples where a quiet accommodation of each other’s national interests prevailed, as they did when President John F. Kennedy secretly traded Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey in 1962.

Unlike the Soviets, Iran cannot reach American shores with its arsenal. But the mere fear in the West that Iran could seek revenge by pushing ahead with a nuclear weapon remains its greatest leverage. There was an uneasy sense in the Pentagon on Wednesday that while Iran may not shoot more missiles from its own territory, it will almost certainly return to its specialties of shadow wars and cyberattacks.

Mr. Sadjadpour called the speech “strategically incoherent.” But that can be said about much of Mr. Trump’s Middle East policy in the past few months. The president pulled a small, fairly safe American force out of Syria that was primarily engaged in fighting the Islamic State with Syrian Kurdish allies, claiming it was time to halt “endless wars.” He decided not to respond when Iran first shot down an unmanned American drone and then executed a precision attack on Saudi oil facilities, leaving the impression inside the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that America’s Middle East ally was not worth defending.

And then, surprising everyone, including his own military advisers, he ordered the targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important commander, saying that he was planning attacks on American targets, although the administration has offered few details.

Already that decision has led to a host of unintended consequences, including the sending of thousands more United States troops to the Middle East to defend American assets and interests that Mr. Trump only a few months ago suggested are not worth defending.

His answer to that contradiction seems to be to ask NATO to do the job. Presumably he wants allied forces to patrol the Persian Gulf at a time that tanker companies are halting their shipments across the Strait of Hormuz and airlines are avoiding Iraqi and Iranian airspace.

It seems unlikely they will heed his call. NATO’s leading members argue that it was Mr. Trump who picked this fight with Iran, by dumping the 2015 nuclear deal reached during the Obama administration that, in their mind, was working. And, as Mr. Trump himself complains, they do not have the military capability to play the role the United States has played.

“His failure to consult the allies or take their interests into consideration will make it extremely difficult to get their support,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the former American ambassador to NATO during the early days of the Afghanistan war, when Europe did come to America’s aid. “Very few of the allies trust him and will not follow blindly the most anti-NATO president in seven decades.”

The Iranians are betting on exactly that. Their strategy has been to peel Europe, China and Russia — the other nations involved in negotiating the accord — away from the United States. For a long while, they succeeded as European powers kept devising complex plans to counteract American sanctions on Iran.

But the Europeans were eventually outmaneuvered by the United States Treasury Department and unable to convince European companies that doing business with Tehran was worth the risk of losing their access to the American banking system. As a result, Iran’s effort to make up its lost oil revenue all but collapsed.

The Iranians have now resumed producing nuclear material, effectively abandoning the restrictions they agreed to under Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump used his speech on Wednesday to urge the Europeans to recognize that the Obama-era nuclear accord was over, and to get back on board with the United States.

“The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality,” he said.

The reality Mr. Trump does not want to recognize is that since he dismantled the agreement, Iranian nuclear scientists are months closer to nuclear breakout than they were when they were abiding by the deal’s restrictions.

Mr. Trump now says the new strategy is the old strategy: On Wednesday, he promised “powerful” new sanctions that would “remain until Iran changes its behavior.” He never explained why the sanctions enacted so far — the most severe in modern history, he often says — have failed to prompt that change over the past 18 months.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a hawk on Iran, had a label for the administration’s Iran policy: “confront and contain.” It is a phrase meant to invoke the Cold War, when the United States faced a much larger and more dangerous enemy in the Soviet Union.

But it is not clear that classic containment works in a world where terrorists and cyberweapons easily cross borders, where attacks are deniable and Western allies at odds with each other.

And containment begets resistance. That seemed clear on the Twitter feed of one of Iran’s leading nuclear negotiators, Saeed Jalili.

Mr. Trump had posted an American flag in the minutes after the killing of General Suleimani. Mr. Jalili waited until the missiles had hit the bases in Iraq with Americans. Then he posted an Iranian flag.

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Oil Prices Are Slow to Reflect U.S.-Iran Tensions

Westlake Legal Group 07oil2-facebookJumbo Oil Prices Are Slow to Reflect U.S.-Iran Tensions United States International Relations Suleimani, Qassim Strait of Hormuz Ships and Shipping Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran International Trade and World Market Embargoes and Sanctions

The most surprising thing about the oil market’s initial response to the American killing of an Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, was that it appeared to be so muted. Although prices jumped soon after the killing, the upward momentum quickly eased.

But oil can be a highly volatile commodity, and crude oil prices rose by roughly 4 percent on initial reports Tuesday night that Iran had launched missiles on two United States bases in Iraq. Since the attack was not directed at oil facilities, it was impossible to assess whether the spike was a hasty reflex or the beginning of a lasting climb.

Oil flows have not been disrupted — so far — and there is no sign that Iran will seek to hobble trade in the fuel by, for example, closing the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel that many oil tankers have to pass through when they leave the Persian Gulf.

The markets are “pricing in just a low probability of something happening,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil market research at Rystad Energy, a research firm.

By Tuesday evening, the American benchmark, West Texas intermediate, was trading around $65.50, up from $61 last week and $62.70 earlier in the day.

The standoff between the United States and Iran follows several years of downward pressure on prices because of a gusher of supplies, largely from the shale boom in the United States.

American oil production has more than doubled over the last decade to more than 13 million barrels a day, and the United States is now the world’s biggest producer. It imports about four million fewer barrels of oil a day than in 2008 because of its production surge and greater use of more fuel efficient vehicles.

Concerns about growing restrictions on the use of fossil fuels because of their role in climate change have also weighed on prices, said Gary Ross, chief executive of Black Gold Investors, a trading firm. People “don’t want to be invested in oil,” he said.

Markets have become so accustomed to a surplus of oil in the global market that they are not as worried about tensions in the Persian Gulf region as they once were.

“Oil has become a broken barometer for gauging Middle East tensions,” said Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank. “It now only reacts after something seismic happens.”

Ms. Croft said the markets had largely ignored the steps Iran had taken to respond to the reinstatement of American economic sanctions by the Trump administration. The United States and Saudi Arabia have said Iran was behind naval mines that damaged oil tankers and was behind an aerial attack on key facilities that temporarily cut Saudi oil production by more than half. These moves were apparently intended to demonstrate that Tehran would make it difficult or impossible for American allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to export oil if the Trump administration hemmed in Iranian exports.

“I do not know how anyone can be sanguine about Iran’s disruptive capabilities after that drone/cruise missile attack,” Ms. Croft said. Saudi Aramco, the national oil company, managed to restore production remarkably quickly, but Ms. Croft said it was not clear that the company would be able to respond as fast to future attacks.

Analysts also say the drone strike on General Suleimani in Iraq may well worsen an already tumultuous political environment in that country. The killing has already sent ripples including calls from the Iraqi Parliament and government for the United States to withdraw its troops. Those in turn drew threats of sanctions from President Trump.

Iraq is the second-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, and its oil fields have been largely unaffected. But there would be serious consequences if the turmoil spread to those fields, analysts say. For instance, the prolonged loss of half of Iraq’s exports, which amount to close to 4 percent of world supplies, could propel prices toward $90 a barrel, Mr. Tonhaugen said. And Iraq might not have the backup systems and other safeguards that allowed the Saudis to recover from the September attacks.

Mr. Tonhaugen and other experts are skeptical that Iran would resort to the “worst-case type of scenario” by trying to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which around 18 million barrels a day of oil is transported. Occupying much of the eastern side of the narrow strait, the Iranians can easily tamper with ship traffic there, but analysts are skeptical that they would do more than seize or target the occasional vessel, as they have in recent months.

Anything more could “invite a very muscular response from the U.S.,” said Antoine Halff, chief analyst at Kayrros, a market research firm, and a senior scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

David Fyfe, chief economist at Argus, a research firm, said Tehran would be wary of responses that raised oil prices substantially or jeopardized supplies for China, a key supporter, which buys much of the oil Iran sells and is heavily dependent on the Middle East for fuel.

“I don’t think a major blockage of the Strait of Hormuz is really much more likely than a week ago,” Mr. Fyfe said.

Of course, investors could quickly bid up the price of oil if the strait was closed or hostilities between the United States and Iran boiled over into a major conflict.

That’s because the world’s oil producers have a small buffer of around two million barrels a day of potential output that they could quickly add. Most of that spare capacity is in Saudi Arabia.

If millions of barrels a day of oil production were suspended, that would quickly draw down storage tanks and send oil prices soaring, analysts say, although the United States government could seek to calm markets by releasing fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

A big oil price increase would have a much more modest impact on the United States economy than in the past, though it could hurt other countries like China and India more.

The United States remains an importer of oil, but it roughly exports as much oil as it buys from other countries. Higher prices at the pump would hurt consumers, especially lower-income families in regions like the Northeast that do not produce oil.

But higher prices would help parts of the country that produce oil, such as Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Higher prices would potentially expand employment and consumer demand in those states.

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Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-nukes-facebookJumbo Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions Zarif, Mohammad Javad Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Nuclear Weapons Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

That, at least, appeared to hold open the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp to the major escalation in hostilities since the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful official in Iran and head of the Quds Force.

But some leading experts declared that the effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy was over. “It’s finished,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview. “If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal.”

To some of the Iran deal’s most vociferous critics, the announcement was a welcome development. Among them was John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser who was ousted by Mr. Trump last summer because, the president said, he was concerned Mr. Bolton was forcing him into conflict with Iran.

“Another good day,” Mr. Bolton wrote on Twitter. “Iran rips the mask off the idea it ever fully complied with the nuclear deal, or that it made a strategic decision to forswear nuclear weapons. Now, it’s on to the real job: effectively preventing the ayatollahs from getting such a capability.”

But to much of the world — especially the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, who were partners in the nuclear deal — Mr. Trump’s decision to back out of the accord led to the crisis.

The president’s unilateral action started a sequence of events — the re-imposition of American sanctions, Iran’s gradual return to nuclear activity over the past year, actions that led to the targeting of General Suleimani — that could be speeding the two countries toward conflict.

Iran’s announcement means that it will no longer observe any limits on the number of centrifuges it can install to enrichment uranium or the level to which it enriches it.

Iran did not say if it would resume production at 20 percent, a major leap toward bomb-grade uranium, or beyond. But by allowing inspectors to remain in the country, as the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Tehran would, Iran will have witnesses to its own “maximum pressure” campaign against the West.

The primary American objective in the 2015 agreement was to keep Iran at least a year away from getting enough fuel to fashion a warhead.

Even before Sunday’s announcement, a series of steps by Tehran discarding elements of the agreement had reduced that warning time to a matter of months. The risk now is that uncertainties about how close the Iranians are to their first weapon will grow, and perhaps become fodder for calls in the United States and Israel to take military action.

In essence, Iran is saying it now can produce whatever kind of nuclear fuel it wants, including bomb-grade material.

Now, the United States and Israel must confront the big question: Will they take military or cyberwarfare action to try to cripple those production facilities?

More than a decade ago the United States and Israel cooperated on a mission code-named Olympic Games, the most sophisticated cyberattack in history, to get into the computer code driving the centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear enrichment site and make them blow up.

The Iranians recovered, and rebuilt the facility, tripling the number of centrifuges that existed before the cyberattack and opening a new centrifuge center deep in a mountain called Fordow, which is far harder to bomb. Israel repeatedly considered bombing the facilities, but was stopped by the United States and internal warnings about starting a war.

Now, after the killing of General Suleimani, those restraints could evaporate.

The nuclear deal also laid out unusually stringent scrutiny for all of Iran’s main nuclear facilities — “including daily access” if international atomic inspectors requested it.

Sunday’s announcement left unclear whether Tehran intends to obey that heightened scrutiny or will lower its adherence to the standard level. In a Twitter post, Mr. Zarif, the foreign minister, said “Iran’s full cooperation” with the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency “will continue.”

Mr. Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said that reduced visibility into the Iranian nuclear program could end up increasing fears of worst-case scenarios — and, perhaps, miscalculations — related to military strikes and war.

“They were added to gain comfort,” Mr. Albright said of the strengthened inspections. “Having daily access reduced suspicions and the chance of conspiracy theories taking root.”

For example, Mr. Albright said, new ambiguity could darken views in the West on how long it would take Iran to make enough fuel for a single atomic bomb — what nuclear experts call “breakout.” Such estimates are based on the number and efficiency of the whirling machines that concentrate a rare isotope of uranium to levels high enough to make weapon fuel.

The Iran deal was designed to keep Tehran a year or more away from getting enough highly enriched uranium to fashion a single warhead — what international inspectors call “a significant quantity.”

Mr. Albright said his group’s worst-case estimate for an Iranian breakout is four to five months. But some experts, he added, have estimated as little as two months.

He noted that the international inspectors still would have regular access to Iran’s nuclear facilities as part of the safeguard agreements of nuclear nations.

But if “the high level of transparency that the nuclear deal provided” should come to an end, Mr. Albright added, “it could undermine confidence” in the West’s assessments of Iran’s nuclear acts and intentions.

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Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General

Westlake Legal Group 04iran-suleimani5-facebookJumbo Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Rouhani, Hassan Quds Force Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Baghdad (Iraq)

In cities across Iran, tens of thousands packed the streets to mourn Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Black-clad women and men beat their chests and clutched photos of him. A black flag went up on the golden dome of Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam.

Just a few weeks earlier, the streets were filled with protesters angry with their leaders over the flailing economy and the country’s international isolation.

But at least for now, Iran is united — in anger at the United States.

For years, it has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population with no memory of the Shah, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and with a thirst to live in a more normal nation integrated into the world.

Suddenly, with one targeted assassination, the nation rallied behind its leaders.

Young and old. Rich and poor. Hard-liner and reformer, General Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military leader, was almost universally admired and had near cult figure status. After being killed in Baghdad on Friday in a drone strike ordered by President Trump, his image is now plastered across Tehran, shrouded in black drapes.

“Without doubt, the people of Iran will take revenge for this horrific criminal act,” tweeted the president, Hassan Rouhani, a leader who once advocated diplomacy and integration with the West.

In Iraq on Saturday, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through the capital, Baghdad, vowing to exact revenge on the United States at a funeral procession for two revered Iraqi military figures who were also killed in the attack on General Suleimani.

And back in Iran, politicians and ordinary people of all stripes voiced support for the vow by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that “severe revenge awaits those criminals” who killed the general.

The assassination appears to have solidified the hard-liners’ grip on power, neutralizing at least for the moment those who had called for talks with the West, experts inside and outside of Iran said.

Iran’s relative moderates like Mr. Rouhani have been on the defensive since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed an array of sanctions, contributing to Iran’s sharp economic decline.

That reversal bolstered hard-line critics who said it discredited those who had accepted American assurances. Moderates had nurtured fading hopes of renewed talks with Washington — possibly between the two presidents.

Any talk of outreach or liberalization seems more dangerous than it has in years and is likely to fade from public debate for the time being. The prospect of negotiations with the United States, tweeted Sara Masoumi, a prominent reformist journalist, is now “below zero.”

“At least in the short term, this will create a rally to the flag; Suleimani was personally popular,” said Vali R. Nasr, a Middle East scholar and former dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He predicted “an outpouring of emotion,” both organic and whipped up by the government.

Iran is bestowing honors on Mr. Suleimani as if he were a combination of statesman and saint. His body will circulate around shrines in all the holy cities of Shiite Islam from Samarra, Kadhimiya, Karbala and Najaf in Iraq to Mashhad and Qom in Iran.

As his body makes its way to four Iranian cities over the next few days, large crowds are expected to attend and display their solidarity and defiance. This show of unity, however, could be short-lived.

The deep grievances that ignited protests against the government in November still remain in place: economic hardship, international isolation and social oppression. Some Iranian opposition supporters have praised the assassination and are in favor of Washington increasing its maximum pressure policy on Iran’s rulers.

Just last month, mass anti-government protests shook Iran, showing deep discontent — which only grew with a brutal crackdown that killed as many as 1,000 people. Fury at the United States is now expected to deflect attention from the country’s economic suffering and the recent protests.

And the assassination may well provide Iran’s leaders with an excuse to intensify its repression of dissenters and critics.

General Suleimani’s killing “was the worst thing that could happen to civic movements in Iran and Iraq,” said Amir Rashidi, an Iranian cybersecurity expert based in New York.

“It means more pressure on people who are already being squeezed politically and economically.”

In just a few days, the conflict between the United States and Iran has escalated dramatically. A rocket attack on a military base in Iraq killed an American on Friday; the United States blamed it on an Iran-backed militia and carried out airstrikes Sunday that killed some two dozen militia fighters. On Tuesday, militias swarmed the American embassy compound in Baghdad, breached the outer wall and set fire to some structures.

General Suleimani led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which conducts Iran’s foreign military operations. He commanded Iranian forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also headed Iran’s role in arming, training and directing anti-ISIS Shiite militias; the American attack that killed him also killed the powerful leader of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In addition, the general directed Iran’s involvement with forces like the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and others that are in conflict with the United States and its regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The United States had labeled him a terrorist since 2007 and imposed economic sanctions on him.

But in Iran, the government built up his public image as the person keeping the country safe. He went from a commander in the shadows to a household name, regularly seen in news videos directing troops in battle, meeting with allied leaders and reciting poetry about martyrdom.

“Qassim Suleimani has been seen as the public face of Iran’s regional policy,” said Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow and leader of the Iran Forum at Chatham House, an international affairs institute based in London. “Since the fight against ISIS, you’ve seen this surge of support for him.”

Iranians who are usually outspoken in support of human rights have turned to national solidarity and sorrow at his death.

“How soon we forget how close ISIS was to us and who defeated this monster,” the actress Bahareh Rahnama posted on her Instagram account. One of Iran’s biggest celebrities, she is well known for her support of women’s rights.

General Suleimani was broadly thought of as a conservative, but he took care not to align himself with any political faction in Iran or take sides in domestic disputes, allowing him to be seen as above politics.

“He’s someone who had a depth and breadth of relationships within the Iranian system that allowed him to work with all key players,” Ms. Tabatabai said. She cited his close working relationship with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is seen as a moderate.

“Every major political actor within Iran, from reformist to hard-liner, is saying this is a great loss,” she said.

Iran announced a three-day funeral procession for General Suleimani which began on Saturday in Baghdad and then moves to other cities in Iraq. The procession will continue in Mashhad, Iran on Sunday and Tehran on Monday, where Ayatollah Khamenei will pray over the general’s body at Tehran University.

Then on Tuesday it will go to his hometown, Kerman, for burial. Iranian media reported that he left a will asking for a simple burial there.

An enormous turnout is expected, and leaders of militant groups from across the region are expected to attend the services, several people with knowledge of the planning said.

“Many Iranians, whether they like the regime or not, did consider Suleimani as a sort of national symbol,” said Raz Zimmt, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, and they see his assassination “as something that hurts national pride. ”Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, a prominent Iranian author who has spoken out for artistic freedom, wrote that “Iran once again lost one of its most honorable children.”

Since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran has revived its nuclear program in stages, amid escalating conflicts with the United States. The European signers of the agreement promised to find a way to offset the effects of the sanctions, but so far have failed. Hints at renewed negotiations with Washington have gone nowhere.

“The moderates were already on life support” before the killing of General Suleimani, Mr. Nasr said, and Iran will hold legislative elections next month. “I would guess the hard-liners are going to do very well. This kind of pressure on Iran, just like in any country, plays into the hands of the security forces.”

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