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Westlake Legal Group > Embargoes and Sanctions

The U.S. Has Joined Secret Talks With Israel and the U.A.E. The Topic? Iran.

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-diplo-facebookJumbo The U.S. Has Joined Secret Talks With Israel and the U.A.E. The Topic? Iran. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations State Department Iran Hook, Brian H Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends

WASHINGTON — The United States is participating in secret talks between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to confront threats posed by Iran, a shared adversary among the three countries.

The talks aim to broaden cooperation for military and intelligence sharing between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, two cautiously allied Middle Eastern nations, a foreign official with knowledge of the diplomacy said on Thursday.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel already share some security connections, experts said, and have held below-the-radar discussions in the past. Both view Iran as a top threat to the region, and Israel has sold fighter jet upgrades and spyware to the United Arab Emirates.

But including the United States in a new phase of security talks could signal the United Arab Emirates’s intent to demonstrate its commitment to the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran — even as Emirati officials have stepped back from some of their own hard-line policies targeting Tehran.

The three-sided talks, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, grew out of a February conference in Warsaw that was billed as a Middle East security forum but was used by the Trump administration to push its campaign against Iran. Since then, the three allies have met twice.

The foreign official confirmed the talks were being coordinated by Brian H. Hook, the senior State Department envoy on Iran issues. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the secret discussions.

Neither the State Department nor the Israeli Embassy in Washington responded to requests for comment, and Emirati officials refused to discuss the issue.

Last month, the United Arab Emirates pulled most of its forces from Yemen after years of supporting Saudi Arabia’s efforts there against Houthi rebels supported by Iran. Emirati officials also recently held maritime security talks with Tehran.

Emirati officials are trying to “strike a very careful balancing act,” said Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“They want to signal to the Trump administration and members of Congress — especially Republicans — that they aren’t walking away from the administration’s policies and the maximum pressure campaign against Iran,” he said.

The Trump administration’s campaign against Iran has been met with mixed success since the United States withdrew in May 2018 from a nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

United States sanctions have stopped Iran from exporting oil and other goods to foreign buyers, starving its economy. But the economic constraints have also irritated American allies and other nations that had sought to open markets in Iran.

On Thursday, in a sign of the diplomatic strain, the authorities in Gibraltar released an Iranian oil tanker that the United States had sought to seize. Gibraltar is a semiautonomous British territory.

The United Arab Emirates and other Arab states are generally careful to avoid appearing too close to Israel, given longstanding disputes over the rights of Palestinians and access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

Mr. Goldenberg said it was surprising that Emirati officials would agree to allow the United States into its longstanding and secretive talks with Israel.

“It is a sign they are willing to lean further forward, that they are not as worried about secrecy as they were,” said Mr. Goldenberg, who worked on regional security issues at the State Department and Pentagon during the Obama administration.

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As Saudis and Indians Grow Closer, a $15 Billion Deal Blooms

MUMBAI, India — Underscoring its desire for stronger ties to India and the country’s 1.3 billion people, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant is buying 20 percent of the petroleum-related businesses of Reliance Industries, one of India’s biggest companies.

The $15 billion investment, which Reliance announced on Monday, is a vote of confidence by the Saudis in India’s economy and its prime minister, Narendra Modi, at a time when India’s economy is flagging. Mr. Modi has recently stepped up his efforts to court the Saudis and other overseas investors as the flow of foreign money into India has declined and the country’s trade relationship with the Trump administration has deteriorated.

Saudi Arabia’s closer embrace of India also deals a blow to Pakistan, which has been trying unsuccessfully to rally support among fellow Muslim nations to oppose Mr. Modi’s decision last week to revoke the statehood and semiautonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. The region has been fought over by Pakistan and India since they both gained independence from Britain in 1947, and each country occupies portions of it.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have long been close, with the Arab nation often supporting its South Asian neighbor in disputes with India. During a February visit, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, promised to invest $20 billion in Pakistan, offering its government a crucial lifeline as it copes with an economic crisis.

But Prince Mohammed has also sought to build closer ties to other countries in Asia, including China and India.

“Saudi Arabia looks at India with much greater hope and optimism than Pakistan,” said Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the school of international affairs at O.P. Jindal Global University near New Delhi. “From the Saudi perspective, India doesn’t need aid. India is a great place where they can make money.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153682395_06250f2e-fb07-4947-9ac8-27dfe3198718-articleLarge As Saudis and Indians Grow Closer, a $15 Billion Deal Blooms Saudi Aramco Reliance Industries Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Foreign Investments Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends

“India is rising,” said Mukesh Ambani, the leader of Reliance. “No power on earth can stop India from rising higher.”CreditFrancis Mascarenhas/Reuters

[Saudi Aramco says it’s “ready” for an I.P.O. as it reports its half-year earnings.]

For Reliance, which is run by Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, the deal is a way to keep moving the company from its roots in energy and chemicals toward faster-growing sectors like telecom, television and retailing.

Using profits from the petroleum side of the empire, Mr. Ambani started an upstart cellphone carrier, Jio, three years ago, and cut prices for consumers to nearly zero. As rivals struggled to respond to the devastating price war, customers flocked to Jio, and today it is India’s biggest mobile phone provider, with 340 million subscribers. Reliance is also India’s biggest retailer, with chains selling everything from groceries to toys.

At the company’s annual meeting on Monday, Mr. Ambani told shareholders that Reliance would soon offer broadband internet services to homes and businesses, again at rates far cheaper than existing offerings. And he announced plans to challenge Amazon’s profitable web services division through a new partnership with Microsoft.

Mr. Ambani’s deal with the Saudis would allow him to reduce the billions of dollars in debt incurred to build all these new businesses while also scoring political points with Mr. Modi. The Modi administration has made several regulatory rulings that have helped Reliance. Mr. Ambani, meanwhile, has supported much of Mr. Modi’s political and economic agenda, including the prime minister’s call last week for Indian companies to invest in Kashmir’s economy.

“The government is laying the foundation of new institutions for business promotion and regulation,” Mr. Ambani told shareholders. “India is rising. No power on earth can stop India from rising higher.”

Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia has faced heavy criticism from some quarters for his leadership, including the jailing of dissidents at home and his role in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Despite that record and Saudi Arabia’s historic ties to Pakistan, Mr. Modi has adopted a practical approach to wooing the oil-rich kingdom.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in February.CreditAdnan Abidi/Reuters

The prime minister welcomed Prince Mohammed in New Delhi right after the prince’s visit to Pakistan in February. The prince told Mr. Modi that the kingdom saw at least $100 billion in investment opportunities in the country. Although no specifics were announced, the Reliance deal was already under discussion and may be one of the opportunities the prince had in mind.

P.M.S. Prasad, a top Reliance executive and board member, said that Saudi Aramco would pay about $15 billion in cash and assumed debt for 20 percent of Reliance’s petroleum and chemicals business, including its fuel stations. About half the money would be paid when the deal closed, which Reliance expected would occur by the end of March, with the remainder paid out over the next two years.

Under the arrangement, Mr. Prasad said, Aramco will supply about 500,000 barrels of oil a day to Reliance’s huge refinery and petrochemical complex in the state of Gujarat and get at least two senior management positions in the petroleum-related businesses and a seat on the parent company’s board.

“This is a strategic partnership,” he said. “We have an aligned vision for growth.”

The deal is still subject to due diligence and government approvals.

Khalid al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s senior vice president for finance, strategy and development, was more cautious. The Reliance deal is “at the very, very early stages,” he said Monday during Aramco’s first-ever conference call to discuss its finances.

Still, Saudi Arabia is keen to invest in India’s energy markets and had previously joined Abu Dhabi and state-owned Indian oil companies in announcing a planned $42 billion refinery on India’s west coast.

India, for its part, is looking to replace Iranian oil, which it can no longer import after President Trump’s embargo against Iran.

“India is a large country with large demand, and it’s a growing demand,” Mr. al-Dabbagh said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Venezuela

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-sanctions1-facebookJumbo Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Venezuela Venezuela United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Maduro, Nicolas International Trade and World Market Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an executive order on Monday imposing new economic sanctions on the government of Venezuela, escalating his campaign to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office.

The White House announced the action, which freezes the property and assets of the Venezuelan government and those of any individuals who assist Venezuelan officials affected by the order, on the eve of an international conference on Venezuela in Lima, Peru. Several Trump officials, including the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, are scheduled to attend the gathering, which will discuss ways to “restore democracy” to Venezuela, according to Peru’s government.

Mr. Trump’s order cited “the continued usurpation of power” by Mr. Maduro as well as “human rights abuses, including arbitrary or unlawful arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, interference with freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly’s exercise of legitimate authority in Venezuela.”

The Trump administration has thrown its support behind Mr. Guaidó, who has called Mr. Maduro an illegitimate leader. In April, the Trump administration supported his calls for generals to rise up against the socialist president, but Mr. Maduro retained the support of the military and squelched the immediate threat to his power. Using Mr. Trump as a foil, he has cast himself as a brave survivor against American imperial influence.

The effects of the sanctions were not immediately clear. Several sanctions experts on Monday night questioned initial news media reports that characterized the action as a total “embargo” on Venezuela. Given that Mr. Trump has repeatedly placed sanctions on Mr. Maduro’s government since taking office, some predicted a modest economic effect.

“This appears to be more light than heat,” said Richard Nephew, a former State Department official who has written a book on economic sanctions and is a scholar at Columbia. “This is not an embargo. It does not create penalties for business with Venezuela altogether, it just denies such activities with the government of Venezuela, and it is doubtful there were any of those still extant to be cut off by this action.”

Others predicted more severe consequences.

While the sanctions prohibit doing business only with the Venezuelan state, they could harm the country’s surviving private firms, which already struggle to find suppliers and make payments abroad, said Francisco Rodríguez, chief economist of the New York-based brokerage Torino Capital and former economic adviser to a Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate.

“Financial institutions will be cautious not to make dealings with Venezuelan private sector firms, which could be perceived as proxies for the Venezuelan government,” he said.

Fernando Cutz, who oversaw South America policy at the White House under Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser, said the new order, at a minimum, “puts Venezuela on a list of really horrendous regimes out there.”

The test, Mr. Cutz said on Monday night, is whether the new sanctions prevent Russia and China from receiving Venezuelan oil as part of a debt repayment program. If so, he said, “that’s a pretty significant thing, and then the question is how Russia and China will respond, more than anything else.”

He said that Russia was close to being paid in full for its debt relief to Venezuela, but that China was on pace to be receiving oil from the South American country until early 2021. “They might stand to lose more,” said Mr. Cutz, who is now at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington.

Venezuela’s imports per capita have already fallen to the lowest level since the 1950s. The country’s imports totaled just $303 million in April, down 92 percent from the same month in 2012, according to Torino Capital.

Venezuela’s economy was already forecast to decline 35 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. By the end of this year, the country’s gross domestic product will have shrunk by two-thirds since 2013, making it the largest economic collapse in a country outside of war since at least the 1970s.

The sanctions could also strain the lackluster political negotiations between Mr. Maduro and the country’s opposition, now based in Barbados and Norway, which many political analysts see as a final chance for a peaceful political transition in the country. Mr. Maduro’s negotiators have offered the opposition a prospect of presidential elections in return for the lifting of American sanctions — a possibility made more distant by the Trump administration’s action.

The order includes an exception for humanitarian goods such as food, clothing and medicine.

After Mr. Trump responded affirmatively to a reporter’s question last week about whether he was considering an embargo against Venezuela, an angry Mr. Maduro said on state television Friday that such a move would be “clearly illegal.” Mr. Maduro said he had asked Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations to protest the threat at the United Nations Security Council.

Trump officials have been frustrated by support for the Maduro government from Russia, China and Cuba, but have been able to do little to prevent it.

But Mr. Trump has happily embraced Venezuela’s socialist government as a political talking point, repeatedly citing its devastated economy as a cautionary tale of what he says Democrats would do if they were to win power in the United States. Mr. Trump’s Democratic critics say he has taken an unusual interest in the country mainly for that reason, and to impress Cuban and Venezuelan émigrés in the electorally crucial state of Florida.

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Trump Adds to Sanctions on Russia Over Skripals

Westlake Legal Group merlin_151586709_5b531eee-6c7d-4013-80a1-90b6aa4e84dd-facebookJumbo Trump Adds to Sanctions on Russia Over Skripals State Department Skripal, Sergei V Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Moscow (Russia) Embargoes and Sanctions

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Russia, responding to growing pressure from Congress to further punish Moscow after a nerve agent attack last year against a former Russian spy in Britain.

It is the second round of sanctions by the administration after a botched attempt in March 2018 to fatally poison a former Russian military intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, in the British town of Salisbury.

The attack put Mr. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, into a coma, and sickened at least three others. One of them, a British woman named Dawn Sturgess, died.

American and European intelligence officials accused Russia of staging the attack. Moscow has denied any involvement.

The sanctions came a day after Mr. Trump spoke to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a call Mr. Trump characterized on Thursday as focusing on huge wildfires in Siberia. Public readouts from the White House and the Kremlin on Wednesday made no mention of the sanctions.

Mr. Trump has been reluctant to take punitive actions against Russia, instead seeking better relations with Moscow despite its well-documented interference in the 2016 election.

But in recent weeks, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized his administration’s delay in taking what they have called legally mandated action to follow up on sanctions imposed last August.

Shortly after the nerve agent attack, believed to have been conducted by two Russian operatives posing as tourists, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russians from Moscow’s embassy in Washington in concert with similar expulsions of Russians from Britain and other European countries.

Mr. Skripal was recruited as a double-agent by British intelligence in the 1990s. He was convicted in Russia of spying but resettled in Britain after his release in a 2010 spy swap. His actions earned him the scorn of Mr. Putin, who has called him “a traitor” and “a scumbag.”

In August 2018, the State Department determined that the deadly use of the nerve agent, Novichok, had violated a 1991 law passed by Congress to stigmatize the use of chemical and biological weapons. That prompted an initial round of sanctions with little bite, given that they largely mandated penalties that the United States had already applied to Russia for other reasons.

The law, known as the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, also requires the administration to certify that a country found to have employed such weapons has stopped their use, has provided assurances it will not do so again and has allowed for on-site inspections. Because Russia continues to maintain that it was not behind the botched poisoning, the State Department notified Congress in November that it could not make such a determination.

That the Trump administration did not follow through with the additional penalties prescribed by law frustrated lawmakers. In May, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, Andrea Thompson, told a Senate panel that the State Department had “teed up” the additional sanctions.

“We’ve been extremely vocal and active in pushing back on Russia’s heinous attack on the Skripals,” Ms. Thompson insisted, suggesting that the slow action on sanctions was “part of a larger Russia strategy.”

On Monday, the top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a joint letter to the White House threatening new congressional action to force the administration’s hand.

“Failure by the administration to respond to Russia’s unabashed aggression is unacceptable and would necessitate that Congress take corrective action,” wrote the members, Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, and Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas.

The law provided the administration with numerous sanctions to choose from. The executive order released by the White House on Thursday banned loans or other assistance to Russia by international financial institutions and prohibited most loans from American banks to Russia’s government.

European officials, especially from Eastern European countries that feel more directly threatened by Russia, have been pushing the administration for months to put the chemical weapons sanctions in place.

European officials initially expected the White House to act late last year, and then early this year. But for months, the administration stalled on the sanctions, the diplomats said.

One senior administration official said that there was no intention to delay the sanctions, but that they had not been put into place earlier this year over concern that Russia would misunderstand the message.

In June, Mr. Trump had a friendly meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, with Mr. Putin, shortly after the Russian leader said in an interview with The Financial Times that the Skripal “spy story” was “not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds, for that matter.” At the same summit, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain looked disgusted as she shook hands with Mr. Putin for the cameras.

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U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker

LONDON — Britain on Saturday warned Iran that “there will be serious consequences” for seizing a British-owned oil tanker the previous evening as the government warned ships to avoid the crucial shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

The British defense minister, Penny Mordaunt, said in a television interview on Saturday that the ship had been intercepted in Omani, not Iranian, waters and called the seizure “a hostile act.”

The British government said in a statement earlier on Saturday after an emergency meeting that it had “advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.” By Saturday afternoon, Britain had summoned the Iranian ambassador to register its protest, and a second emergency cabinet meeting was set to begin.

The capture of the tanker sharply escalates a crisis between Iran and the West after three months of rising tensions that last month brought the United States within minutes of a military strike against targets in Iran. A fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran, and oil prices spiked sharply on Friday even before the British warning.

But the crisis has also caught Britain at a singularly vulnerable moment, with Prime Minister Theresa May expected to resign on Wednesday. As it seeks to craft a response to the seizure, the British government has been all but paralyzed by a leadership contest within the governing Conservative Party to determine her successor.

What’s more, the favorite in the leadership race, Boris Johnson, a former foreign minister, is famously unpredictable. He has said during his campaign that he stands with the other European powers in their desire to avoid a confrontation with Iran. But Mr. Johnson has also sought closer ties to President Trump, who set the current cycle of confrontation in motion by attempting to squeeze Iran into renegotiating a 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

Westlake Legal Group scoop-oil-tanker-attack-master-articleLarge U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

Why This Narrow Strait Next to Iran Is So Critical to the World’s Oil Supply

Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz.

That has increased speculation that the clash over the tanker may move Britain out of its current opposition to Mr. Trump over his feud with Iran. Britain has so far stood with the other European powers seeking to defy the president and preserve the accord.

“There has to come a moment where the British government, and maybe France and Germany ask, ‘Is it really worth fighting Trump on all these fronts?’” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London research institute.

Setting the stage for a prolonged standoff, Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday that all 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker would be held onboard in Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port during a criminal investigation of the ship’s actions.

None of the crew members is British or American; their nationalities include Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, the ship’s owner said in a statement.

A spokesman for Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, which oversees major foreign policy decisions, sought on Saturday to justify the seizure as “reciprocal action” after British forces had impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar two weeks earlier.

“The rule of reciprocal action is well known in international law,” the spokesman, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

But other Iranian authorities on Saturday added different new rationales for the seizure of the ship, saying for the first time that the vessel had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and that the tanker had ignored distress calls.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is in charge of Iranian naval activities in the Persian Gulf, had said on Friday that it had seized the ship for deviating from traffic patterns and polluting the waters. The Revolutionary Guards had not mentioned a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the ship, Stena Impero, said the tanker had been in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations” when it was intercepted.

In Washington on Friday, President Trump called Iran “nothing but trouble.” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, “We’ll be working with the U.K.” Referring in vague terms to the close American alliance with Britain, he added, “We have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement that is longstanding.”

United States Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, repeated in a statement late Friday that it was working on a “multinational effort” under the name Operation Sentinel to police the shipping routes.

The operation “will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” the statement said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154652511_cf8d9f3b-c400-4399-ae6a-f1642fdc1716-articleLarge U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

An anti-United States rally in Tehran in support of Iran’s decision to pull out of some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

But it emphasized that Washington would not shoulder the burden alone: “While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed.”

France in a statement on Saturday called on Iran to respect “the principle of freedom of shipping in the Gulf.” Germany strongly condemned Iran’s actions as “unjustifiable.”

“Another regional escalation would be very dangerous” and “undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis,” the German government warned in a statement.

The back-and-forth between Iran and the West has already included the imposition of sweeping new American economic sanctions. Iran has responded with the calibrated resumption of an Iranian nuclear energy program that the West fears might lead to a nuclear bomb.

The United States and Britain have accused Iran of sabotaging six tankers in a tacit threat to gulf shipping routes. The United States and Iran have each said it had shot down an unpiloted surveillance drone flown by the other side.

In a reminder that each minor collision risks the explosion of a more violent confrontation, Mr. Trump last month ordered a missile strike in retaliation for the Iranian downing of the American drone. He ultimately called the strike off only minutes before the launch.

The USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea off Oman on Tuesday. “We’ll be working with the U.K.,” President Trump told reporters Friday night, referring to the American alliance with Britain.CreditAhmed Jadallah/Reuters

Mr. Trump said the next day that he had concluded the loss of life from a missile strike would have been a disproportionate to the shooting down of a drone. But he later threatened the “obliteration” of parts of Iran if it targeted “anything American.”

At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate the 2015 accord, which the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Having pulled the United States out of the deal last year, the Trump administration added comprehensive sanctions in May that were intended to block all of Iran’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy. Iranian officials denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

Iran has sought to push back against all the major powers, forcing them to feel some cost for their effective default on the promises 2015 accord as a result of Mr. Trump’s sanctions. That set the backdrop for a parallel clash with Britain that led to the seizure of the tanker.

Two weeks ago, the British military helped impound the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on the suspicion that it was delivering oil to Syria in violation of European Union embargoes.

Iranian officials called the seizure of their ship an act of piracy and accused Washington of masterminding the capture as part of its pressure campaign. Officers of the Revolutionary Guards threatened retaliation against a British ship. Iranian boats sought unsuccessfully to stop one a few days later, but an accompanying British warship drove them away.

The old Grand Bazar in Tehran. At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, on Saturday charged that Iran’s seizure had violated international law but said that Britain had followed proper legal procedures in stopping the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, near Gibraltar.

“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Mr. Hunt wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. “As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust,” Mr. Hunt added. “We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.”

He added later that he had “expressed extreme disappointment” in a phone call with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Recounting a conversation they had a week earlier, Mr. Hunt said that Mr. Zarif had said he sought de-escalation but that “they have behaved in the opposite way.”

“This has 2 be about actions not words,” Mr. Hunt said on Twitter.

Mr. Hunt is challenging Mr. Johnson in the runoff within the Conservative Party to become Britain’s next prime minister. If Mr. Hunt loses, his role overseeing the standoff with Iran might keep him in the job for the immediate term in the interest of continuity. But the results would also put a question mark over his standing and staying power, further complicating the British response.

The fate of the Iranian tanker impounded near Gibraltar is in the hands of the courts there, and an early release of the ship to mollify the Iranians would “look very weak,” said Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute, an independent research center.

“I don’t think we are in a position where we have the luxury of backing down,” he added.

That, in turn, adds to the pressure on the nuclear accord. Britain has collaborated with the other European powers in seeking to preserve the deal, even joining efforts to set up an alternative trading platform that would allow Iran to evade the American sanctions.

If Britain joins the United States in re-imposing sanctions on Iran, that would all but snuff out any hope of saving the 2015 accord.

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U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship

LONDON — Britain on Saturday warned ships to stay out of the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping route for the world’s oil supplies, as the government pressed Iran to release a British-owned oil tanker seized the previous evening, dramatically escalating tensions in the region.

“We have advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period,” the British government said in a statement released early Saturday after an emergency meeting. “There will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved,” the government warned.

The capture of the tanker is a sharp step up after three months of rising tensions between Iran and the West that last month brought the United States within minutes of a military strike against targets in Iran.

A fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran, and oil prices spiked sharply on Friday even before the British warning.

Iranian news agencies reported that all 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker would be held onboard in the Bandar Abbas Port in Iran during a criminal investigation of the ship’s actions. The nationalities of those crew members included Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, the ship’s owner said in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group scoop-oil-tanker-attack-master-articleLarge U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

Why This Narrow Strait Next to Iran Is So Critical to the World’s Oil Supply

Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian authorities also added reasons for the seizure of the ship, saying for the first time on Saturday that the vessel had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and that the tanker had ignored distress calls.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is in charge of Iranian naval activities in the Persian Gulf, said on Friday that it had seized the ship for deviating from traffic patterns and polluting the waters, but it had not mentioned any episode with a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the ship, Stena Impero, said the tanker had been in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations” when it was intercepted.

In Washington on Friday, President Trump called Iran “nothing but trouble.”

We’ll be working with the U.K.,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. Referring in vague terms to the close American alliance with Britain, he added, “We have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement that is longstanding.”

United States Central Command, the division of the military that oversees the Middle East, repeated in a statement late Friday that it was working on a “multinational effort” under the name Operation Sentinel to police the shipping routes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154652511_cf8d9f3b-c400-4399-ae6a-f1642fdc1716-articleLarge U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

An anti-United States rally in Tehran in support of Iran’s decision to pull out of some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

The operation “will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” the statement said.

But it emphasized that Washington would not shoulder the burden alone: “While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed.”

France on Saturday called on Iran to respect “the principle of freedom of shipping in the Gulf,” according to a statement on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The German government strongly condemned Iran’s actions in a statement on Saturday, calling the seizure “unjustifiable.” “Another regional escalation would be very dangerous,” the statement said, adding it would “undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.”

Both countries urged Iran to free the ship and its crew as soon as possible.

The back-and-forth between Iran and the West has already included the imposition of sweeping new American economic sanctions followed by the calibrated resumption of an Iranian nuclear energy program that the West fears might lead to a nuclear bomb. The United States and Britain have accused Iran of sabotaging six tankers in a tacit threat to gulf shipping routes. Both United States and Iran have said it had shot down an unpiloted surveillance drone flown by the other side.

In a vivid reminder that each minor collision risks the explosion of a more violent confrontation, Mr. Trump initially ordered the missile strike last month in retaliation for the Iranian downing of an American surveillance drone. He called the strike off only minutes before the launch.

The USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea off Oman on Tuesday. “We’ll be working with the U.K.,” President Trump told reporters Friday night, referring to the American alliance with Britain.CreditAhmed Jadallah/Reuters

Mr. Trump said the next day that he had concluded the missile strike would have been a disproportionate response. Then he later threatened the “obliteration” of parts of Iran if it targeted “anything American.”

At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Having pulled the United States out of the deal last year, the Trump administration added comprehensive sanctions in May that were intended to block all of Iran’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy. Iranian officials denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

Iran has sought to push back against all the major powers, forcing them to feel some cost for their effective default on the promises 2015 accord as a result of Mr. Trump’s sanctions. The conflict with Washington has set the backdrop for a parallel clash with Britain that led to the seizure of the tanker.

This is a delicate moment for Britain. Its governing Conservative Party this coming week will pick a new prime minister — either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt — and is set to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

The old Grand Bazar in Tehran. At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

The current confrontation began this month, when the British military helped impound an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on the suspicion that it was on its way to deliver oil to Syria in violation of European Union embargoes.

Iranian officials called the seizure of their ship an act of piracy and accused Washington of masterminding the capture as part of its pressure campaign. Officers of the Revolutionary Guards threatened to retaliate against a British ship, and Iran appears to have done so on Friday.

Mr. Hunt, the British foreign secretary, on Saturday charged Iran with violating international law but asserted that Britain had followed proper legal procedures in stopping the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, near Gibraltar.

“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Mr. Hunt wrote on Twitter Saturday morning.

“As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust,” Mr. Hunt added. “We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.”

Britain has so far joined the other world powers in seeking to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran despite Mr. Trump’s opposition. European states have even attempted to set up an alternative trading platform that would allow Iran to evade the American sanctions.

But of all the European powers, Britain is the most dubious toward Iran. If Britain chooses to join the United States in re-imposing sanctions on Iran, that would all but completely snuff out any hope of saving the 2015 accord.

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Iran Announces New Breach of Nuclear Deal Limits, and Threatens Further Violations

Iran said on Sunday that within hours it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment set four years ago in an accord with the United States and other international powers that was designed to keep Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon.

The latest move inches Iran closer to where it was before the accord: on the path to being able to produce an atomic bomb.

In recent weeks, Tehran has been making deliberate but provocative violations of the accord, as part of a carefully calibrated campaign to pressure the West into eliminating sanctions that have slashed the country’s oil exports and crippled its economy.

Last week, Iranian officials broke through similar limits on how much nuclear fuel the country could stockpile. The steps Tehran has taken are all easily reversible. Yet the new move Iran vowed to take — to increase enrichment levels beyond the 3.67 percent purity that is the ceiling under the deal — is the most threatening.

Speaking at a news conference on Sunday in Tehran, the deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, said Iran would take additional steps over the limits of the accord in 60-day intervals unless international powers provide sanctions relief as detailed in the deal. President Trump withdrew the United States from the accord last year.

In violating the limits on uranium enrichment, Tehran still remains far from producing a nuclear weapon. It would take a major production surge, and enrichment to far higher levels, for Iran to develop a bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium, experts say. It would take even longer to manufacture that material into a nuclear weapon.

Westlake Legal Group iran-strait-of-hormuz-tankers-1562502231078-articleLarge Iran Announces New Breach of Nuclear Deal Limits, and Threatens Further Violations Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Energy Macron, Emmanuel (1977- ) Iran Embargoes and Sanctions

Why This Narrow Strait Next to Iran Is So Critical to the World’s Oil Supply

Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz.

But for Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who signaled in May that he would order the country’s engineers to cross both thresholds if Europe did not compensate Iran for American sanctions, the breach of the enrichment limit would be a watershed. He is betting that the United States will back away from crushing sanctions or that he can split European nations from the Trump administration, which the Europeans blame for setting off the crisis.

If he is wrong, the prospect of military confrontation lurks over each escalation.

“It is a back-to-the-future moment,” said Sanam Vakil, who studies Iran at Chatham House, a research institute in London. It has revived a vexing question that policymakers have grappled with for more than a decade: Is there a permanent way to stop Iran from developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon?

In a phone conversation on Saturday seeking to head off a confrontation, President Emmanuel Macron of France asked Mr. Rouhani to explore by July 15 whether a new negotiation was possible. Mr. Rouhani agreed, according to news reports, but said that “lifting all sanctions can be the beginning of a move between Iran and the six major powers.”

So far, Mr. Trump and his top aides have vowed to continue using “maximum pressure” to force Iran to return to the negotiating table and to accept more stringent restrictions. But some of those who had negotiated the last deal say that reaching another one may now be much harder.

The Trump administration “has discredited the very concept of negotiations, and it has strengthened the hand of those inside Iran who would argue that it is no use talking to the Americans because you can never trust them,” said Rob Malley, a former National Security Council official who helped negotiate the 2015 accord.

“We have already gone through a period of sanctions, negotiations and a deal, and this time it will be harder because the distrust is even greater than it was,” added Mr. Malley, who is now president of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that tries to defuse international conflict.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157588539_adc38059-5a07-47f3-970b-c6c11af0d4b4-articleLarge Iran Announces New Breach of Nuclear Deal Limits, and Threatens Further Violations Uranium United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Energy Macron, Emmanuel (1977- ) Iran Embargoes and Sanctions

The water facility at Arak. Iran poured cement into the core of the plutonium reactor there, preventing it from taking another path to a bomb. In recent days, however, Iranian leaders have threatened to reverse those steps.CreditHamid Foroutan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For a year after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from what he called a “terrible” deal negotiated by his predecessor, Iran stayed within the accord’s limits. It pressed Britain, France and Germany to make good on their promises to compensate the country for oil revenues and other losses resulting from American sanctions.

There were many meetings on the design of a barter system that might allow Iran to swap oil for other goods, evading American sanctions. But progress was slow; as of last week, not a single barter transaction has been completed, and European officials said the system would never fully compensate for billions of dollars in lost oil sales.

Two months ago, when the United States accelerated the sanctions and moved to cut Iran’s oil revenues to near zero, Tehran decided to begin step-by-step violations of the accord, saying the United States had taken the first move to dissolve it.

Iran has not said how far beyond the enrichment limit it plans to go. Historically, although it has never been known to have approached the 90-percent enrichment required for weapons-grade material, its move raises the prospect of a race toward that goal.

Even a move to 20 percent enrichment — the top level it hit before the deal was reached, in what Iran called an effort to make medical isotopes at a small reactor that the United States gave to Tehran more than 40 years ago — would put it within months of being able to produce weapons-grade fuel.

At first glance, Iran is much further away from that goal than it was before it agreed to the 2015 deal, which set its nuclear efforts back by a matter of years.

In a phone conversation on Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran was asked by President Emmanuel Macron of France to explore by July 15 whether a new negotiation was possible.Credit-/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Under the deal, Iran exported 98 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, chiefly to Russia, leaving it with a minimal amount. It dismantled more than two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges it was operating. It poured cement into the core of its Arak plutonium reactor, preventing it from taking another path to a bomb. (In recent days, however, Iranian leaders have threatened to reverse those steps.)

Perhaps most important, Iran agreed to comprehensive inspections by international monitors, who continue their work. They report relatively few troubles.

Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who is among the most vociferous critics of the 2015 deal, argued that despite the accord’s shortcomings, in some ways United States policy toward Iran was now working out better than anyone could have planned.

Although he faulted the 2015 deal for weaknesses such as its planned sunset over the next five to 10 years, he conceded that in the short term the Obama administration had persuaded Iran to dismantle so much of its nuclear infrastructure that it has drastically prolonged the amount of time Iran would need to develop a bomb.

That has reduced Iran’s leverage — and helps explain Mr. Rouhani’s drive to break out of some of the accord’s restrictions.

But because the Trump administration is hammering Iran with economic sanctions that are more painful than ever before, the country does not have the kind of money it once did to pour into the nuclear effort or other military activities.

So far, President Trump and his top aides have vowed to continue using “maximum pressure” to force Iran to return to the negotiating table and accept more stringent restrictions.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Crude oil exports have reportedly fallen to about 300,000 barrels a day, compared with about a million a day at the time Iran agreed to the 2015 deal. And the result has brought on a severe crisis in the Iranian economy.

“If you were a Martian who landed on the Washington Mall yesterday and you were given a briefing on Iran policy, you would think, wow, those Americans are really smart when they work together,” Mr. Dubowitz said. “The net result is that Iran is a lot worse off today in terms of nuclear infrastructure and worse off in its economic pain.”

Yet paradoxically, some analysts and former officials argue, the experience of that deal falling apart may also increase the challenge of once again thwarting Iran’s nuclear progress.

Aided in part by sanctions relief provided under the deal, Tehran has fortified itself. Its nuclear facilities, especially a centrifuge center at Natanz, are surrounded by antiaircraft guns. Its missile program has far more reach than it did previously, in part because a side agreement, negotiated at the time of the 2015 deal, weakened the wording on United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile program.

And the country’s reach is greater: It has helped allied militias build up and dig in around the region, including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and those militias may in turn help Iran retaliate against the United States.

Its cybercorps, built after an American-Israeli cyberattack on the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in the years before the 2015 accord, is capable of hitting American infrastructure — and has proved it with attacks on American banks.

Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in 2007. Aided in part by sanctions relief provided under the deal, Tehran has fortified itself. Its nuclear facilities, especially a centrifuge center at Natanz, are surrounded by anti-aircraft guns.CreditHasan Sarbakhshian/Associated Press

Because of the stronger position of Iranian allies around the region and the significant advances in Iran’s conventional missile program, “repercussion across the region could be far bigger” from the escalating conflict with the United States, said Ellie Geranmayeh, who studies Iran at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“You are probably going to see a few things go pop in the region over the summer weeks — like oil facilities being targeted,” she said, “to try to raise the cost not only for the Saudis and Emiratis, but also to try to raise the cost for Trump personally in the run up to his election.”

Mr. Trump, often caught between his desire to flex muscles and his aversion to another Middle East war, must now decide whether to negotiate, lower the sanctions pressure or consider military options.

For now, the Iranians appear to be speaking primarily to the Europeans. The European Union, Britain, France and Germany all signed the 2015 deal and, in defiance of the Trump administration, continue to support it.

Persuading the Europeans to join another American-led campaign to pressure Iran “is going to be a much harder sell,” Ms. Geranmayeh said. “The Europeans are pointing the blame for the failure of this agreement directly at the U.S. rather than Iran.”

At the same time, if the Europeans conclude that Iran has gone too far beyond the deal, they could ask the United Nations Security Council to reimpose “snapback” sanctions — swift and sweeping penalties set out under the 2015 deal that would add to Iran’s pain.

Iran appears to be emphasizing a desire to return to compliance if the United States does as well, in a bet that it can persuade the Europeans to drag their feet about imposing any penalties. But each step Iran takes makes that bet more risky.

“At some point the Europeans, too, will start wanting to show the Iranians that there is a price to be paid for their behavior, just as Iranians are now showing the U.S.,” Mr. Malley said. “If there is a cycle that emerges, then sooner or later you are heading to the unraveling of the deal.”

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He Enjoys American Coffee and Restaurants. Is He a Credible Negotiator for Iran?

Iranian hard-liners have long mocked their foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, as the make-believe American, after a character in a comic Iranian movie who puts on an accent, wardrobe and lifestyle to live out a fantasy of American life.

A resident of the United States on and off for nearly 30 years, Mr. Zarif was the Iranian most closely associated with the negotiation of the 2015 deal that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sweeping economic sanctions.

To ordinary Iranians and reformists, that made him a hero. To hard-liners, though, he was a dupe, seduced by the West into a deal that the Americans would never live up to.

Now, with the nuclear deal on the brink of collapse, with the Trump administration reimposing crushing sanctions on Iran, and Tehran threatening to restart elements of its nuclear program, Mr. Zarif is coming under renewed fire not only from hard-liners in Tehran but also from Washington. White House officials say that President Trump has requested sanctions specifically against the Iranian foreign minister, stirring debate in both countries about the administration’s intentions.

Hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, argue that Mr. Zarif’s American affectations are what make him dangerous. Mr. Zarif and his patron, President Hassan Rouhani, are “polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con artistry,” Mr. Pompeo has said, suggesting that the foreign minister uses his flawless, idiomatic American English as a ruse to mask his allegiance to the hard-line agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But critics shoot back that threatening Iran’s top diplomat makes no sense, given Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that his ultimate goal is to restart negotiations with Iran. Cutting off the intermediary for any such talks, the critics say, may ultimately leave the administration no choice other than confrontation.

“It just makes it harder or impossible for the Iranians to choose some kind of diplomacy,” said Jeff Prescott, a former senior director for Iran on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.

In an extensive email exchange, Mr. Zarif said he felt little personal risk from American sanctions. “Everyone who knows me knows that I or my family do not own any property outside Iran,” he wrote. “I personally do not even have a bank account outside Iran. Iran is my entire life and my sole commitment. So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions.”

Washington, Mr. Zarif argued, would only be hurting itself by cutting him off.

“The only impact — and possibly the sole objective — of a possible designation would be to limit my ability to communicate. And I doubt that would serve anyone,” he wrote. “Certainly it would limit the possibility of informed decision-making in Washington.”

As for the allegation of “con artistry,” Mr. Zarif said that he never asked the Americans to trust him and he never trusted them either, least of all during the negotiations of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157458888_eee3e2ce-a8e3-4a13-be22-3ef67330ed89-articleLarge He Enjoys American Coffee and Restaurants. Is He a Credible Negotiator for Iran? Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Pompeo, Mike Nuclear Weapons Khamenei, Ali Gerecht, Reuel Marc Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R

Mr. Zarif with John Kerry, the secretary of state at the time, in New York in 2016. Mr. Zarif was an on-and-off resident of the United States for nearly 30 years.CreditBryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Contrary to public statements by its detractors on all sides, JCPOA was not built on trust,” Mr. Zarif wrote in the email, referring to the agreement. “It was indeed based on explicit recognition of mutual mistrust. That is why it is so long and detailed.”

Mr. Zarif’s status in Tehran has already suffered severely with the waning fortunes of the nuclear deal. After pulling out of the agreement last year, the Trump administration in May tightened its sanctions to penalize anyone in the world who seeks to buy Iranian oil, slashing Iranian exports and plunging the economy into a tailspin.

Mr. Khamenei has said without naming Mr. Zarif or Mr. Rouhani that those who persuaded him to negotiate with Washington had made a grave mistake.

Other hard-liners have argued that Mr. Zarif should now resign, face impeachment, or be put on trial for the crime of leading Iran into an agreement that dismantled years of nuclear research and investment for no ultimate benefit.

“Mr. Zarif and his government put all their eggs in the basket of foreign policy and the nuclear deal,” Abdul Reza Davari, a conservative adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, said in a telephone interview from Tehran. “It has been a spectacular failure, and now they are hanging on life support, hoping a change of administration in the U.S. would save them.”

Iranian officials have often said that they have sought only peaceful uses of nuclear power, not a nuclear weapon — a claim widely disputed in the West. But with the 2015 deal now all but dead, many conservatives in Tehran are pushing for Iran to resume its programs for the enrichment of nuclear material “as a sign of strength,” Mr. Davari said.

Some in his hard-line faction remain open to negotiations with Mr. Trump, Mr. Davari said, but no longer through Mr. Zarif.

Mr. Zarif briefly resigned in February after conservatives in the Iranian military failed to include him in a visit to Tehran by the president of Syria. (Mr. Khamenei interceded to keep Mr. Zarif at work.)

[By email, Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses his hopes for the nuclear deal, as well as his own future.]

Iranian moderates, while defending Mr. Zarif, are also preparing political eulogies. “We have never had a foreign minister like Zarif in the history of Iran,” said Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician. “What he achieved with the nuclear deal — gaining the trust of both Americans and Mr. Khamenei — was nothing short of a miracle.”

At the top echelons of the Iranian political system, where knowledge of the United States is generally shallow and suspicions run deep, Mr. Zarif stands out for his ease among Americans. He came to the United States at 17 to attend college, and was an undergraduate at San Francisco State University in 1979 when the Islamic revolution broke out in Tehran. (He pitched in by helping lead a group of student revolutionaries who took over the Iranian consulate in San Francisco.)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Mr. Zarif a “polished front man” for the hard-line policies of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.CreditPool photo by Jacquelyn Martin

He remained in the United States, first as a student and then as a diplomat, for much of his adult life. With his command of American English, he comes off to Westerners as urbane and at times even wry.

“Seriously?” he quipped this week by Twitter, quoting a White House news release claiming that “even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”

His friends say he prefers American coffee to the typical Iranian tea, and he also enjoys dining out in American restaurants — although he is careful never to allow himself to be photographed in a setting where alcohol is visible, which the hard-liners could use against him at home in Tehran.

American supporters of imposing sanctions on Mr. Zarif argue that his effectiveness at passing for one of their countrymen is what makes him so dangerous. It helps him hide the fundamentally anti-American and expansionist character of the government he serves, they say.

“I would call him the whitewasher-in-chief,” said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a former C.I.A. official who studies Iran. “Zarif has gotten away, almost, with murder, because he has been depicted as something he is not — a moderate — when he is totally loyal to the Supreme Leader and totally loyal to the revolution.”

Mr. Gerecht added that the sanctions would send a message to the American public about Mr. Zarif and his patron, Mr. Rouhani.

“It is important to the narrative, to dispatch the notion that Zarif or Rouhani is part of this ‘moderate’ wing that will bring about normalcy,” Mr. Gerecht said.

But Mr. Zarif, in an email, said that the issue of the moment was not about him or the Iranian government, but about the nuclear deal, which he said was never intended to “resolve all our differences.”

“It was negotiated by all with open eyes about what as possible and what was not,” he wrote, and it “remains the best POSSIBLE agreement on the nuclear issue.”

As for the hard-liners who deride him as “Mamal Amricayi”— the make-believe American — Mr. Zarif said he had never seen the movie.

“But I do not mind if people have a good laugh about me,” he added. “That is another way of making myself useful!”

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In His Own Words: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif

Westlake Legal Group 04zarifqna-facebookJumbo In His Own Words: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States International Relations Nuclear Weapons Iran Embargoes and Sanctions

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian most closely associated with the 2015 nuclear agreement, has come under fire in Tehran and Washington as the deal approaches collapse. Hard-liners in Tehran accuse him of falling for false promises from the Americans. Trump administration officials call him a trickster who acts like a moderate while remaining steadfastly loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

Trump administration officials have talked of imposing economic sanctions on Mr. Zarif, even though he remains essential to any negotiated settlement of the current standoff between the countries.

In an exclusive interview conducted by email, Mr. Zarif talked about these issues at length. His remarks are reproduced here, edited slightly for length and clarity.

The nuclear deal you negotiated, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is now in jeopardy. Do you regret trusting the United States and the West?

I believe JCPOA was and remains the best POSSIBLE agreement on the nuclear issue. None of the participants were happy with all elements of the deal, but it addressed the major concerns of all. It was negotiated by all with open eyes about what was possible and what was not. We did not neglect anything. We accepted the reality that we could not resolve all our differences in this deal and we agreed to leave them out.

It is also important to note that, contrary to public statements by its detractors on all sides, JCPOA was not built on trust. It was indeed based on explicit recognition of mutual mistrust. That is why it is so long and detailed. Paragraph 36 of JCPOA is a clear example that we negotiated this deal with the full understanding that we could not trust the commitment of the West. We are exercising that option within the deal right now, which can indeed prevent the deal from total collapse, which will be detrimental to the interest of all including the United States.

(Paragraph 36 provided a mechanism to resolve disputes and allows one side, under certain circumstances, to stop complying with the deal if the other side is out of compliance.)

Do you think that the nuclear deal can be salvaged? Or do you anticipate continued erosion since President Trump withdrew from the agreement?

We will remain committed to the deal as long as the remaining participants (E.U., France, Germany, U.K., Russia and China) observe the deal. Survival or collapse of the JCPOA depends on the ability and willingness of all parties to invest in this undertaking. In a nutshell, a multilateral agreement cannot be implemented unilaterally.

Has this turn of events jeopardized your career as Iran’s top diplomat?

My preferred career has always been teaching. I will resume that sooner or later, with more to share with my students.

[Mohammad Javad Zarif finds himself mistrusted by both sides as the nuclear deal appears ready to collapse.]

Have you seen hard-liners tweeting and joking and comparing you to the 1970s movie about an Iranian who tries live out a fantasy of American life? What do you say to this?

I did not see that movie, so I do not know. But I do not mind if people have a good laugh about me. That is another way of making myself useful!

Officials of the Trump administration have talked about designating you as a target of economic sanctions. What will it mean if Washington sanctions you?

Everyone who knows me knows that I, or my family, do not own any property outside Iran. I personally do not even have a bank account outside Iran. Iran is my entire life and my sole commitment. So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions.

The only impact — and possibly the sole objective — of a possible designation would be to limit my ability to communicate. And I doubt that would serve anyone. Certainly, it would limit the possibility of informed decision making in Washington.

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As the Nuclear Deal Totters, So Do the Fortunes of Iran’s Foreign Minister

Iranian hard-liners have long mocked their foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, as the make-believe American, after a character in a comic Iranian movie who puts on an accent, wardrobe and lifestyle to live out a fantasy of American life.

A resident of the United States on and off for nearly 30 years, Mr. Zarif was the Iranian most closely associated with the negotiation of the 2015 deal that limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sweeping economic sanctions.

To ordinary Iranians and reformists, that made him a hero. To hard-liners, though, he was a dupe, seduced by the West into a deal that the Americans would never live up to.

Now, with the nuclear deal on the brink of collapse, with the Trump administration reimposing crushing sanctions on Iran, and Tehran threatening to restart elements of its nuclear program, Mr. Zarif is coming under renewed fire not only from hard-liners in Tehran but also from Washington. White House officials say that President Trump has requested sanctions specifically against the Iranian foreign minister, stirring debate in both countries about the administration’s intentions.

Hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, argue that Mr. Zarif’s American affectations are what make him dangerous. Mr. Zarif and his patron, President Hassan Rouhani, are “polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con artistry,” Mr. Pompeo has said, suggesting that the foreign minister uses his flawless, idiomatic American English as a ruse to mask his allegiance to the hard-line agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But critics shoot back that threatening Iran’s top diplomat makes no sense, given Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that his ultimate goal is to restart negotiations with Iran. Cutting off the intermediary for any such talks, the critics say, may ultimately leave the administration no choice other than confrontation.

“It just makes it harder or impossible for the Iranians to choose some kind of diplomacy,” said Jeff Prescott, a former senior director for Iran on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.

In an extensive email exchange, Mr. Zarif said he felt little personal risk from American sanctions. “Everyone who knows me knows that I or my family do not own any property outside Iran,” he wrote. “I personally do not even have a bank account outside Iran. Iran is my entire life and my sole commitment. So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions.”

Washington, Mr. Zarif argued, would only be hurting itself by cutting him off.

“The only impact — and possibly the sole objective — of a possible designation would be to limit my ability to communicate. And I doubt that would serve anyone,” he wrote. “Certainly it would limit the possibility of informed decision-making in Washington.”

As for the allegation of “con artistry,” Mr. Zarif said that he never asked the Americans to trust him and he never trusted them either, least of all during the negotiations of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157458888_eee3e2ce-a8e3-4a13-be22-3ef67330ed89-articleLarge As the Nuclear Deal Totters, So Do the Fortunes of Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Pompeo, Mike Nuclear Weapons Khamenei, Ali Gerecht, Reuel Marc Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R

Mr. Zarif with John Kerry, the secretary of state at the time, in New York in 2016. Mr. Zarif was an on-and-off resident of the United States for nearly 30 years.CreditBryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Contrary to public statements by its detractors on all sides, JCPOA was not built on trust,” Mr. Zarif wrote in the email, referring to the agreement. “It was indeed based on explicit recognition of mutual mistrust. That is why it is so long and detailed.”

Mr. Zarif’s status in Tehran has already suffered severely with the waning fortunes of the nuclear deal. After pulling out of the agreement last year, the Trump administration in May tightened its sanctions to penalize anyone in the world who seeks to buy Iranian oil, slashing Iranian exports and plunging the economy into a tailspin.

Mr. Khamenei has said without naming Mr. Zarif or Mr. Rouhani that those who persuaded him to negotiate with Washington had made a grave mistake.

Other hard-liners have argued that Mr. Zarif should now resign, face impeachment, or be put on trial for the crime of leading Iran into an agreement that dismantled years of nuclear research and investment for no ultimate benefit.

“Mr. Zarif and his government put all their eggs in the basket of foreign policy and the nuclear deal,” Abdul Reza Davari, a conservative adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, said in a telephone interview from Tehran. “It has been a spectacular failure, and now they are hanging on life support, hoping a change of administration in the U.S. would save them.”

Iranian officials have often said that they have sought only peaceful uses of nuclear power, not a nuclear weapon — a claim widely disputed in the West. But with the 2015 deal now all but dead, many conservatives in Tehran are pushing for Iran to resume its programs for the enrichment of nuclear material “as a sign of strength,” Mr. Davari said.

Some in his hard-line faction remain open to negotiations with Mr. Trump, Mr. Davari said, but no longer through Mr. Zarif.

Mr. Zarif briefly resigned in February after conservatives in the Iranian military failed to include him in a visit to Tehran by the president of Syria. (Mr. Khamenei interceded to keep Mr. Zarif at work.)

[By email, Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses his hopes for the nuclear deal, as well as his own future.]

Iranian moderates, while defending Mr. Zarif, are also preparing political eulogies. “We have never had a foreign minister like Zarif in the history of Iran,” said Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician. “What he achieved with the nuclear deal — gaining the trust of both Americans and Mr. Khamenei — was nothing short of a miracle.”

At the top echelons of the Iranian political system, where knowledge of the United States is generally shallow and suspicions run deep, Mr. Zarif stands out for his ease among Americans. He came to the United States at 17 to attend college, and was an undergraduate at San Francisco State University in 1979 when the Islamic revolution broke out in Tehran. (He pitched in by helping lead a group of student revolutionaries who took over the Iranian consulate in San Francisco.)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Mr. Zarif a “polished front man” for the hard-line policies of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.CreditPool photo by Jacquelyn Martin

He remained in the United States, first as a student and then as a diplomat, for much of his adult life. With his command of American English, he comes off to Westerners as urbane and at times even wry.

“Seriously?” he quipped this week by Twitter, quoting a White House news release claiming that “even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”

His friends say he prefers American coffee to the typical Iranian tea, and he also enjoys dining out in American restaurants — although he is careful never to allow himself to be photographed in a setting where alcohol is visible, which the hard-liners could use against him at home in Tehran.

American supporters of imposing sanctions on Mr. Zarif argue that his effectiveness at passing for one of their countrymen is what makes him so dangerous. It helps him hide the fundamentally anti-American and expansionist character of the government he serves, they say.

“I would call him the whitewasher-in-chief,” said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a former C.I.A. official who studies Iran. “Zarif has gotten away, almost, with murder, because he has been depicted as something he is not — a moderate — when he is totally loyal to the Supreme Leader and totally loyal to the revolution.”

Mr. Gerecht added that the sanctions would send a message to the American public about Mr. Zarif and his patron, Mr. Rouhani.

“It is important to the narrative, to dispatch the notion that Zarif or Rouhani is part of this ‘moderate’ wing that will bring about normalcy,” Mr. Gerecht said.

But Mr. Zarif, in an email, said that the issue of the moment was not about him or the Iranian government, but about the nuclear deal, which he said was never intended to “resolve all our differences.”

“It was negotiated by all with open eyes about what as possible and what was not,” he wrote, and it “remains the best POSSIBLE agreement on the nuclear issue.”

As for the hard-liners who deride him as “Mamal Amricayi”— the make-believe American — Mr. Zarif said he had never seen the movie.

“But I do not mind if people have a good laugh about me,” he added. “That is another way of making myself useful!”

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