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Westlake Legal Group > Khamenei, Ali

As Conflict With U.S. Grows, Some Iran Hard-liners Suggest Talking to Trump

Iran’s most revered Revolutionary Guards commander says talking with President Trump would be admitting defeat. The country’s supreme leader has ruled out any dealings with Washington.

But now, in a surprising split among Iranian hard-liners, some are expressing a different opinion: It’s time to sit down and resolve 40 years of animosity with the United States, by talking directly to Mr. Trump.

And the most striking voice in that contrarian group is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, largely known in the West for his anti-American bombast, Holocaust denial, and suspiciously lopsided victory in a disputed vote a decade ago that set off Iran’s worst political convulsions since the Islamic revolution.

“Mr. Trump is a man of action,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a lengthy telephone interview with The New York Times. “He is a businessman and therefore he is capable of calculating cost-benefits and making a decision. We say to him, let’s calculate the long-term cost-benefit of our two nations and not be shortsighted.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks are among several signals from different ends of Iran’s political spectrum that Iranian officials want to talk as the risk of armed conflict with the United States has escalated.

The tensions were punctuated on Thursday by Iran’s disclosure that it had seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf and by Mr. Trump’s assertion that American naval forces in the region had downed an Iranian drone.

Iranian officials on Friday denied that the Americans had downed one of their drones. (Mr. Ahmadinejad, who spoke before the Americans first reported their claim about the drone, said through an aide on Friday that it had not changed his view that both sides should talk.)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, who had previously insisted there could be no negotiations with the United States unless it rejoined the nuclear agreement Mr. Trump abandoned last year, said Thursday he was willing to meet with American senators to discuss possible ways out of the nuclear crisis. For the first time, Mr. Zarif floated modest steps that Tehran would be willing to take in return for the simultaneous lifting of sanctions Mr. Trump reimposed.

Within the rivalries that pervade Iran’s political hierarchy, the American-educated Mr. Zarif is a big contrast to Mr. Ahmadinejad, who as president pushed Mr. Zarif out of government. Yet both are now seeking ways to communicate with the Trump administration.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_120712394_19f4eda7-0321-4299-9025-e2c44d324af5-articleLarge As Conflict With U.S. Grows, Some Iran Hard-liners Suggest Talking to Trump Zarif, Mohammad Javad Khamenei, Ali Iran Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2017. “Let’s calculate the long-term cost-benefit of our two nations and not be short-sighted,” he said.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/European Pressphoto Agency

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s self-aggrandizing demagogy in some ways makes him Iran’s version of Mr. Trump, in the view of some Iranians.

But he still commands a following in the country of 80 million, mostly among low-income people who associate his tenure with better economic times and cash subsidies from the government.

He also has a seat on the elite Expediency Council, a body appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to supervise the work of elected officials.

While he was disqualified from running for president again two years ago, he still travels around the country making speeches and writing open letters criticizing the government and the judiciary.

Unlike other hard-liners, he dares to criticize the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for its influence over Iran’s economy and the power it gives Mr. Khamenei, who has sole authority to direct the vast paramilitary force.

“Ahmadinejad is shaking things up by boldly talking about all the issues that everyone knows but nobody dares talk about publicly, and be willing to pay the cost,” said Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, an Iranian political analyst based in New York.

Lately he has become the most high-profile hard-line figure to advocate the unorthodox view of talking with Mr. Trump.

In The Times interview, which lasted more than an hour, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Tehran and Washington should directly resolve the litany of disputes that began with the 1979 revolution, the seizure of the United States Embassy, the taking of American hostages, the mutual accusations of regional meddling and all the rest.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran should scrap the approach of enlisting Europe and other intermediaries to influence Mr. Trump over his hostility to the 2015 nuclear agreement. This would be possible, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, if Mr. Trump first eased some of his “maximum pressure” tactics, most notably the onerous sanctions he reimposed after having abandoned the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, between Iran and the big powers.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday he was willing to meet with American senators to discuss ways out of the nuclear crisis.CreditCarlo Allegri/Reuters

“World peace, economy and culture would greatly benefit from us working together,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “The U.S. wants to address wider issues than the J.C.P.O.A. The issues at stake are more important and wider than whether the J.C.P.O.A. should live or die. We need to have a fundamental discussion.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had written three letters to Mr. Trump: in February 2017 to congratulate him on his election; in June 2018 after Mr. Trump had exited the nuclear deal; and last month as the forces of both countries were facing off in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he sent all three letters, which offered long philosophical musings and governing advice, via mail to the care of the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, via message to Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and to a White House email address. The Swiss Embassy looks after American interests in Iran in the absence of direct diplomatic ties.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump ever received the letters. White House officials said they needed more information about precisely how and when they were sent but pointed out that Mr. Ahmadinejad could not have directly messaged them via Twitter because Mr. Trump does not follow him. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran declined through a spokesman to comment.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had not been reprimanded for attempting to correspond with Mr. Trump and that Mr. Khamenei can change his mind and approve negotiations with Washington if the administration shifts its approach. He pointed out that Mr. Khamenei, who has the final word on Iran’s relations with the United States, had allowed nuclear talks with the Americans under President Barack Obama.

The timing of the messages of both Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Zarif were notable: The Trump administration has sent several signals in recent days that it wants to begin talks with Iran with “no preconditions.”

And for the first time since Mr. Trump abandoned the nuclear agreement, both sides are talking about the need to negotiate, even if each has set out unilateral demands that the other must meet.

There is no guarantee, of course, that both sides will find a way. Mr. Khamenei has described Mr. Trump as an evil trickster and has prohibited talks with him under any circumstances. And Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who is rumored to be a future president, has said that talking to Washington would be like surrender.

Mr. Ahmadinejad conceded that for talks to happen, in his view, the United States would need to soften its approach.

Iranian students climbing the wall of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

“If you choke the throat of anyone in the world and say come and talk it won’t be valid,” he said. “Negotiations must take place in calmer, more respectful conditions so they can be long lasting.”

In the past few weeks Iranian media have reported that besides Mr. Ahmadinejad, at least three prominent conservatives have advocated talks with the United States, underscoring the divisions in Iran’s hierarchy.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Alaei, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards joint forces and founder of its navy, said, “We must use the mechanism of negotiations and should not set aside talking.” He also criticized the decision not to sit down with Mr. Trump when he offered talks without preconditions.

Mojtaba Zonnour, a conservative cleric and head of Parliament’s national security committee, said that the “Islamic Republic is not running away from talks and the path to talking remains open,” but that it should take place within the framework of the Iran nuclear deal.

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, a prominent leader of a conservative political party, said the Islamic Republic had learned in its 40-year history how to turn “maximum threat from the enemy” into “opportunity.”

“In the current ping-pong situation between Islamic Republic and Trump’s craziness, intermediaries have entered and we’ve had some serious discussions and prepared several scenarios,” Mr. Bahonar said of the potential for negotiations.

In trying to present himself as a political alternative for Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad tried in The Times interview to walk back some of his comments and policies that are considered incendiary in the West.

On Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said that he would accept whatever Palestinians decide in a free election.

On the brutal crackdowns by his government on protesters and dissidents contesting his re-election in 2009, Mr. Ahmadinejad denounced the clashes and tensions but said that the other side should have accepted the vote. He contended it was not his decision to place his political adversaries, the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest.

Some Iran political analysts say Mr. Ahmadinejad’s eagerness to talk with a Western news organization shows that Iranian leaders are pursuing several policies simultaneously to see which one works in their standoff with the United States: escalating tensions, decreasing nuclear commitments and exploring diplomatic routes.

“Engagement with Trump directly is an idea that has gained currency in Iran,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group. “Not because they think they can get a better and broader agreement than the J.C.P.O.A., but they think it can provide them with some relief.”

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

Among Some Iranian Hard-liners, a Surprising New View: Talk to Trump

Iran’s most revered Revolutionary Guards commander says talking with President Trump would be admitting defeat. The country’s supreme leader has ruled out any dealings with Washington.

But now, in a surprising split among Iranian hard-liners, some are expressing a different opinion: It’s time to sit down and resolve 40 years of animosity with the United States, by talking directly to Mr. Trump.

And the most striking voice in that contrarian group is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, largely known in the West for his anti-American bombast, Holocaust denial, and suspiciously lopsided victory in a disputed vote a decade ago that set off Iran’s worst political convulsions since the Islamic revolution.

“Mr. Trump is a man of action,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a lengthy telephone interview with The New York Times. “He is a businessman and therefore he is capable of calculating cost-benefits and making a decision. We say to him, let’s calculate the long-term cost-benefit of our two nations and not be shortsighted.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks are among several signals from different ends of Iran’s political spectrum that Iranian officials want to talk as the risk of armed conflict with the United States has escalated.

The tensions were punctuated on Thursday by Iran’s disclosure that it had seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf and by Mr. Trump’s assertion that American naval forces in the region had downed an Iranian drone.

Iranian officials on Friday denied that the Americans had downed one of their drones. (Mr. Ahmadinejad, who spoke before the Americans first reported their claim about the drone, said through an aide on Friday that it had not changed his view that both sides should talk.)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, who had previously insisted there could be no negotiations with the United States unless it rejoined the nuclear agreement Mr. Trump abandoned last year, said Thursday he was willing to meet with American senators to discuss possible ways out of the nuclear crisis. For the first time, Mr. Zarif floated modest steps that Tehran would be willing to take in return for the simultaneous lifting of sanctions Mr. Trump reimposed.

Within the rivalries that pervade Iran’s political hierarchy, the American-educated Mr. Zarif is a big contrast to Mr. Ahmadinejad, who as president pushed Mr. Zarif out of government. Yet both are now seeking ways to communicate with the Trump administration.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_120712394_19f4eda7-0321-4299-9025-e2c44d324af5-articleLarge Among Some Iranian Hard-liners, a Surprising New View: Talk to Trump Zarif, Mohammad Javad Khamenei, Ali Iran Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2017. “Let’s calculate the long-term cost-benefit of our two nations and not be short-sighted,” he said.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/European Pressphoto Agency

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s self-aggrandizing demagogy in some ways makes him Iran’s version of Mr. Trump, in the view of some Iranians.

But he still commands a following in the country of 80 million, mostly among low-income people who associate his tenure with better economic times and cash subsidies from the government.

He also has a seat on the elite Expediency Council, a body appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to supervise the work of elected officials.

While he was disqualified from running for president again two years ago, he still travels around the country making speeches and writing open letters criticizing the government and the judiciary.

Unlike other hard-liners, he dares to criticize the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for its influence over Iran’s economy and the power it gives Mr. Khamenei, who has sole authority to direct the vast paramilitary force.

“Ahmadinejad is shaking things up by boldly talking about all the issues that everyone knows but nobody dares talk about publicly, and be willing to pay the cost,” said Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, an Iranian political analyst based in New York.

Lately he has become the most high-profile hard-line figure to advocate the unorthodox view of talking with Mr. Trump.

In The Times interview, which lasted more than an hour, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Tehran and Washington should directly resolve the litany of disputes that began with the 1979 revolution, the seizure of the United States Embassy, the taking of American hostages, the mutual accusations of regional meddling and all the rest.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran should scrap the approach of enlisting Europe and other intermediaries to influence Mr. Trump over his hostility to the 2015 nuclear agreement. This would be possible, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, if Mr. Trump first eased some of his “maximum pressure” tactics, most notably the onerous sanctions he reimposed after having abandoned the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, between Iran and the big powers.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday he was willing to meet with American senators to discuss ways out of the nuclear crisis.CreditCarlo Allegri/Reuters

“World peace, economy and culture would greatly benefit from us working together,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “The U.S. wants to address wider issues than the J.C.P.O.A. The issues at stake are more important and wider than whether the J.C.P.O.A. should live or die. We need to have a fundamental discussion.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had written three letters to Mr. Trump: in February 2017 to congratulate him on his election; in June 2018 after Mr. Trump had exited the nuclear deal; and last month as the forces of both countries were facing off in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he sent all three letters, which offered long philosophical musings and governing advice, via mail to the care of the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, via message to Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and to a White House email address. The Swiss Embassy looks after American interests in Iran in the absence of direct diplomatic ties.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump ever received the letters. White House officials said they needed more information about precisely how and when they were sent but pointed out that Mr. Ahmadinejad could not have directly messaged them via Twitter because Mr. Trump does not follow him. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran declined through a spokesman to comment.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had not been reprimanded for attempting to correspond with Mr. Trump and that Mr. Khamenei can change his mind and approve negotiations with Washington if the administration shifts its approach. He pointed out that Mr. Khamenei, who has the final word on Iran’s relations with the United States, had allowed nuclear talks with the Americans under President Barack Obama.

The timing of the messages of both Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Zarif were notable: The Trump administration has sent several signals in recent days that it wants to begin talks with Iran with “no preconditions.”

And for the first time since Mr. Trump abandoned the nuclear agreement, both sides are talking about the need to negotiate, even if each has set out unilateral demands that the other must meet.

There is no guarantee, of course, that both sides will find a way. Mr. Khamenei has described Mr. Trump as an evil trickster and has prohibited talks with him under any circumstances. And Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who is rumored to be a future president, has said that talking to Washington would be like surrender.

Mr. Ahmadinejad conceded that for talks to happen, in his view, the United States would need to soften its approach.

Iranian students climbing the wall of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

“If you choke the throat of anyone in the world and say come and talk it won’t be valid,” he said. “Negotiations must take place in calmer, more respectful conditions so they can be long lasting.”

In the past few weeks Iranian media have reported that besides Mr. Ahmadinejad, at least three prominent conservatives have advocated talks with the United States, underscoring the divisions in Iran’s hierarchy.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Alaei, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards joint forces and founder of its navy, said, “We must use the mechanism of negotiations and should not set aside talking.” He also criticized the decision not to sit down with Mr. Trump when he offered talks without preconditions.

Mojtaba Zonnour, a conservative cleric and head of Parliament’s national security committee, said that the “Islamic Republic is not running away from talks and the path to talking remains open,” but that it should take place within the framework of the Iran nuclear deal.

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, a prominent leader of a conservative political party, said the Islamic Republic had learned in its 40-year history how to turn “maximum threat from the enemy” into “opportunity.”

“In the current ping-pong situation between Islamic Republic and Trump’s craziness, intermediaries have entered and we’ve had some serious discussions and prepared several scenarios,” Mr. Bahonar said of the potential for negotiations.

In trying to present himself as a political alternative for Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad tried in The Times interview to walk back some of his comments and policies that are considered incendiary in the West.

On Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said that he would accept whatever Palestinians decide in a free election.

On the brutal crackdowns by his government on protesters and dissidents contesting his re-election in 2009, Mr. Ahmadinejad denounced the clashes and tensions but said that the other side should have accepted the vote. He contended it was not his decision to place his political adversaries, the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest.

Some Iran political analysts say Mr. Ahmadinejad’s eagerness to talk with a Western news organization shows that Iranian leaders are pursuing several policies simultaneously to see which one works in their standoff with the United States: escalating tensions, decreasing nuclear commitments and exploring diplomatic routes.

“Engagement with Trump directly is an idea that has gained currency in Iran,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group. “Not because they think they can get a better and broader agreement than the J.C.P.O.A., but they think it can provide them with some relief.”

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

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!”

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

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!”

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

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!”

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

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Iran, Adding to Tensions

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Monday that he was imposing new sanctions on Iran, stepping up a policy of pressuring the nation’s leaders and further squeezing the Iranian economy in retaliation for what the United States says are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.

The move came on top of actions taken by the administration this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy.

The new sanctions are aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries. But the Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks, if any at all, or use those institutions for transactions, and any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.

The largely symbolic nature of this round of sanctions indicates that the Trump administration is running low on arrows in its economic quiver. It now finds itself in a waiting game, as it watches for whether the latest clampdown on oil exports, which was announced in late April, will force the Iranian leaders to surrender to American demands in exchange for economic relief.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said the new sanctions order would bar Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and his office from access to the international financial system. The Treasury Department said it was also imposing sanctions on eight Iranian military commanders, including the head of a unit that the Americans say was responsible for shooting down an American drone last Thursday.

Mr. Trump acted at a time of rising concerns over Iran. Those have been prompted in part by declarations from Tehran that it is amassing more nuclear fuel, the latest evidence that Mr. Trump’s withdrawal last year from a nuclear containment deal is pushing Iranian leaders to violate terms they had been abiding by until now.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Mr. Trump said as he sat at his desk in the Oval Office preparing to sign an executive order. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

While he warned on Monday that his restraint has limits, Mr. Trump has signaled that he prefers tightening sanctions to launching an immediate military strike to try to alter Iran’s behavior and force political change in Tehran.

But critics said the new sanctions would have little substantive effect and could further inflame tensions.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156948135_f3045d89-f378-4add-8295-a7a51cd9d9ee-articleLarge Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Iran, Adding to Tensions Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Persian Gulf Khamenei, Ali Iran Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

Iranians at the old grand bazaar on Monday. The inflation rate in Iran has risen to about 50 percent.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Symbolic politics at its worst,” said Robert Malley, the president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group and a former senior Obama administration official on the Middle East. “At every level it is illogical, counterproductive or useless.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration would add Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and its top negotiator on the nuclear deal, to the sanctions list this week. (In his announcement about the sanctions on the supreme leader, Mr. Trump misspoke and said “Ayatollah Khomeini,” who died in 1989, rather than “Khamenei.”)

The inflation rate in Iran has risen to about 50 percent and many Iranians are dissatisfied with the economy, but authoritarian leaders have historically shown they can withstand stress from sanctions for many years. Some Iranian citizens also blame the United States government for the devastation of their economy, and they point to the shortage of critical medicine, even though Trump administration officials say they do not intend to limit humanitarian aid.

Iranian officials could choose to carry out nonfatal attacks on United States or international interests, as they did with the downing of the drone, to try to get the Trump administration to ease sanctions. Iran’s naval commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, said on Monday that the military was capable of shooting down other drones that violate Iranian airspace.

Mr. Trump said on Monday that he was willing to negotiate with Iran — “I think Iran, potentially, has a phenomenal future” — but insisted Iranian leaders would have to end their pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as halt uranium enrichment, “fueling of foreign conflicts” and “belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”

Mr. Trump always emphasizes the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, while his hawkish top foreign policy aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, say Iran must also make wholesale changes to its policies in the Middle East.

International nuclear experts say Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program and has been adhering to the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement that it reached in 2015 with world powers.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran said last week it would soon breach some limits on low-grade uranium in the deal, a type of fissile material used in civilian reactors. Iran would still be far from being able to make a nuclear weapon; its announcement appeared intended to pressure European nations to find ways to resume trade with Iran in order to alleviate the impact of American sanctions.

Mr. Trump’s rollout of sanctions and the effort to end all oil exports, along with an insistence by Mr. Pompeo that Tehran meet 12 expansive demands mostly unrelated to the nuclear program, “set a spark to the escalatory cycle we’re seeing today,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East expert at RAND Corporation, a research group in California.

“The administration argued maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but instead it brought provocative Iranian actions that are not likely to end without Iran getting something concrete on sanctions relief,” she said. “Talk about wanting to talk is not likely to be enough.”

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace division, speaking to the news media next to debris from a downed American drone on Friday.CreditMeghdad Madadi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China and Russia, who also signed the nuclear deal, have joined European nations in opposing the sanctions. European officials are trying to persuade Iran to stay in the agreement and are expected to speak with Mr. Trump about his Iran policy at the Group of 20 summit meeting this week in Japan.

Mr. Trump and his top foreign policy aides say further squeezing Iran will compel its leaders to buckle to demands to limit their nuclear program in ways that go beyond the terms of the 2015 deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration and opposed by many Republicans, Israel and Arab nations in the Persian Gulf.

Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, said on Twitter that the “U.S.’s claim that it wants negotiations without preconditions while it increases sanctions and pressure is not acceptable.”

If the United States wants more than the 2015 nuclear deal, he said, “it must offer us more than the deal with international guarantees.”

On Monday afternoon, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told reporters that he had been barred from a closed-door meeting of the Security Council called by the United States. He also said there was no way Iran and the United States could have a dialogue right now.

The imposition of more sanctions could provoke further actions by Iran to add to the crisis that has unfolded since early May in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, analysts say.

American officials have blamed Iran for two separate sets of explosions on six oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, saying Iran is trying to increase global oil prices in retaliation for the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Iranian officials have denied responsibility.

The downing of the drone prompted Mr. Trump to order a missile strike on Iranian military sites last Thursday, but he pulled back at the last minute after hours of debate, and instead opted for a cyberattack.

On Monday, Mr. Pompeo met at a palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with King Salman, then had lunch with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the administration has supported despite his suspected role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, and in overseeing an air war that has killed thousands of civilians in Yemen. The State Department said Mr. Pompeo talked with the king and the prince about “heightened tensions in the region and the need for stronger maritime security to promote freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Mr. Pompeo then flew to Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed over dinner. Mr. Pompeo told the prince that his nation should contribute money and military resources to a maritime security program for ships around the Strait of Hormuz. The Americans are calling it the Sentinel program, and Mr. Pompeo said it was supposed to involve 20 nations in addition to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.

“The president is keen that the United States doesn’t bear the cost of this,” Mr. Pompeo told the prince.

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

Trump Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Iran, Adding to Tensions

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Monday that he was imposing new sanctions on Iran, stepping up a policy of pressuring the nation’s leaders and further squeezing the Iranian economy in retaliation for what the United States says are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.

The move came on top of sanctions imposed by the administration this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy.

The new sanctions are aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries. But the Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks, if any at all, or use those institutions for transactions, and any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.

The largely symbolic nature of this round of sanctions indicates that the Trump administration is running low on arrows in its economic quiver. It now finds itself in a waiting game, as it watches for whether the latest clampdown on oil exports, which was announced in late April, will force the Iranian leaders to surrender to American demands in exchange for economic relief.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said the new sanctions order would bar Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and his office from access to the international financial system. The Treasury Department said it was also imposing sanctions on eight Iranian military commanders, including the head of a unit that the Americans say was responsible for shooting down an American drone last Thursday.

Mr. Trump acted at a time of rising concerns over Iran. Those have been prompted in part by declarations from Tehran that it is amassing more nuclear fuel, the latest evidence that Mr. Trump’s withdrawal last year from a nuclear containment deal is pushing Iranian leaders to violate terms they had been abiding by until now.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Mr. Trump said as he sat at his desk in the Oval Office preparing to sign an executive order. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

While he warned on Monday that his restraint has limits, Mr. Trump has signaled that he prefers tightening sanctions to launching an immediate military strike to try to alter Iran’s behavior and force political change in Tehran.

But critics said the new sanctions would have little substantive effect and could further inflame tensions.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156948135_f3045d89-f378-4add-8295-a7a51cd9d9ee-articleLarge Trump Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Iran, Adding to Tensions Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Persian Gulf Khamenei, Ali Iran Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

Iranians at the old grand bazaar on Monday. The inflation rate in Iran has risen to about 50 percent.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Symbolic politics at its worst,” said Robert Malley, the president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group and a former senior Obama administration official on the Middle East. “At every level it is illogical, counterproductive or useless.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration would add Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and its top negotiator on the nuclear deal, to the sanctions list this week.

The inflation rate in Iran has risen to about 50 percent and many Iranians are dissatisfied with the economy, but authoritarian leaders have historically shown they can withstand stress from sanctions for many years. Some Iranian citizens also blame the United States government for the devastation of their economy, and they point to the shortage of critical medicine, even though Trump administration officials say they do not intend to limit humanitarian aid.

Iranian officials could choose to carry out nonfatal attacks on United States or international interests, as they did with the downing of the drone, to try to get the Trump administration to ease sanctions. Iran’s naval commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, said on Monday that the military was capable of shooting down other drones that violate Iranian airspace.

Mr. Trump said on Monday that he was willing to negotiate with Iran — “I think Iran, potentially, has a phenomenal future” — but insisted Iranian leaders would have to end their pursuit of nuclear weapons, as well as halt uranium enrichment, “fueling of foreign conflicts” and “belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”

Mr. Trump always emphasizes the need to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, while his hawkish top foreign policy aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, say Iran must also make wholesale changes to its policies in the Middle East.

International nuclear experts say Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program and has been adhering to the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement that it reached in 2015 with world powers.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions. Iran said last week it would soon breach some limits on low-grade uranium in the deal, a type of fissile material used in civilian reactors. Iran would still be far from being able to make a nuclear weapon; its announcement appeared intended to pressure European nations to find ways to resume trade with Iran in order to alleviate the impact of American sanctions.

Mr. Trump’s rollout of sanctions and the effort to end all oil exports, along with an insistence by Mr. Pompeo that Tehran meet 12 expansive demands mostly unrelated to the nuclear program, “set a spark to the escalatory cycle we’re seeing today,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East expert at RAND Corporation, a research group in California.

“The administration argued maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but instead it brought provocative Iranian actions that are not likely to end without Iran getting something concrete on sanctions relief,” she said. “Talk about wanting to talk is not likely to be enough.”

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace division, speaking to the news media next to debris from a downed American drone on Friday.CreditMeghdad Madadi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China and Russia, who also signed the nuclear deal, have joined European nations in opposing the sanctions. European officials are trying to persuade Iran to stay in the agreement and are expected to speak with Mr. Trump about his Iran policy at the Group of 20 summit meeting this week in Japan.

Mr. Trump and his top foreign policy aides say further squeezing Iran will compel its leaders to buckle to demands to limit their nuclear program in ways that go beyond the terms of the 2015 deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration and opposed by many Republicans, Israel and Arab nations in the Persian Gulf.

Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, said on Twitter that the “U.S.’s claim that it wants negotiations without preconditions while it increases sanctions and pressure is not acceptable.”

If the United States wants more than the 2015 nuclear deal, he said, “it must offer us more than the deal with international guarantees.”

On Monday afternoon, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told reporters that he had been barred from a closed-door meeting of the Security Council called by the United States. He also said there was no way Iran and the United States could have a dialogue right now.

The imposition of more sanctions could provoke further actions by Iran to add to the crisis that has unfolded since early May in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, analysts say.

American officials have blamed Iran for two separate sets of explosions on six oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, saying Iran is trying to increase global oil prices in retaliation for the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Iranian officials have denied responsibility.

The downing of the drone prompted Mr. Trump to order a missile strike on Iranian military sites last Thursday, but he pulled back at the last minute after hours of debate, and instead opted for a cyberattack.

On Monday, Mr. Pompeo met at a palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with King Salman, then had lunch with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the administration has supported despite his suspected role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, and in overseeing an air war that has killed thousands of civilians in Yemen. The State Department said Mr. Pompeo talked with the king and the prince about “heightened tensions in the region and the need for stronger maritime security to promote freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Mr. Pompeo then flew to Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed over dinner. Mr. Pompeo told the prince that his nation should contribute money and military resources to a maritime security program for ships around the Strait of Hormuz. The Americans are calling it the Sentinel program, and Mr. Pompeo said it was supposed to involve 20 nations in addition to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.

“The president is keen that the United States doesn’t bear the cost of this,” Mr. Pompeo told the prince.

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

Trump Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Iran

Westlake Legal Group 24dc-sanctions-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Trump Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Iran Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Persian Gulf Khamenei, Ali Iran Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Monday that he is imposing new sanctions on Iran, after saying for days that he preferred tightening the pressure on a crippled Iranian economy to launching an immediate military strike in retaliation for what American officials have said are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Mr. Trump said as he sat at his desk in the Oval Office preparing to sign an executive order. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

He added that the order will bar Iranian leaders from access to financial instruments. The administration did not immediately elaborate.

The Trump administration already moved this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy, and the new sanctions are expected to be aimed at shutting down additional sources of income with the goal of forcing political change in Tehran.

Mr. Trump and his top foreign policy aides are gambling that continuing the squeeze on Iran will compel its leaders to buckle to demands to limit their nuclear program in ways that go beyond the landmark agreement that major world powers forged with Iran in 2015 — and that Mr. Trump withdrew from last year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with the rulers of Saudi Arabia on a last-minute trip on Monday, also insists Iran must curb its regional military activity and end support for partner Arab militias.

The imposition of more sanctions could provoke further actions by Iran to add to the crisis that has unfolded since early May in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, analysts say.

American officials have blamed Iran for two separate sets of explosions on six oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, saying Iran is trying to show its capabilities and increase global oil prices in retaliation for the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Iranian officials have denied responsibility. Last week, the Iranian military shot down an American drone, though the two nations debate whether the drone was in Iranian territory or over international waters.

The downing of the drone prompted Mr. Trump to order a missile strike on Iranian military sites last Thursday, but he pulled back at the last minute after hours of debate, and instead opted to launch a cyber attack. The most prominent Iran hawks in the administration, Mr. Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, had pushed for the missile strikes.

Mr. Pompeo also advocated in the White House Situation Room on Thursday for continuing sanctions and seeing whether Iran would capitulate to demands as the policy of cutting off all oil revenues, announced in late April, takes full effect.

Iranian leaders say the Trump administration is waging economic warfare on their nation, and analysts say the sanctions campaign, which has been done with no substantial diplomatic outreach, strengthens the standing of hard-line officials in Tehran who argue for taking retaliatory measures. The Trump administration has imposed more than 1,000 specific sanctions on Iran since the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in May 2018, according to the State Department.

The rollout of sanctions and attempt to end all oil exports, along with an insistence by Mr. Pompeo that Tehran meet 12 expansive demands mostly unrelated to the nuclear program, “set a spark to the escalatory cycle we’re seeing today,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East expert at RAND Corporation, a research group in California.

“The administration argued maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but instead it brought provocative Iranian actions that are not likely to end without Iran getting something concrete on sanctions relief,” she said. “Talk about wanting to talk is not likely to be enough.”

Some advocates of a hard-line approach to Iran have said Mr. Trump should double down on sanctions and not be baited into doing a military strike, which could backfire by generating support among ordinary Iranians for the anti-American policies of officials in Tehran, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.

“Now is not the time for military action,” Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on Twitter on Saturday. “Intensify the economic and political pressure. Make clear supreme leader is supreme obstacle to a better future for Iranians.”

On Monday, Mr. Pompeo met at a palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with King Salman, then had lunch with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the administration has supported despite his suspected role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and in overseeing an air war that has killed civilians in Yemen. Mr. Pompeo said on Twitter that he had talked with the king about “heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz.”

Saudi officials said an attack by a drone operated by the Houthi rebels of Yemen killed at least one person and injured seven others on Sunday.

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Trump Expected to Announce New Economic Sanctions on Iran

Westlake Legal Group 24DC-SANCTIONS-facebookJumbo Trump Expected to Announce New Economic Sanctions on Iran Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Persian Gulf Khamenei, Ali Iran Gulf of Oman Embargoes and Sanctions Cyberwarfare and Defense Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to announce on Monday that he is imposing new sanctions on Iran, after saying for days that he preferred tightening the pressure on a crippled Iranian economy to launching an immediate military strike in retaliation for what American officials have said are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.

The Trump administration already moved this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy, and the new sanctions are expected to be aimed at shutting down additional sources of income with the goal of forcing political change in Tehran.

Mr. Trump and his top foreign policy aides are gambling that continuing the squeeze on Iran will compel its leaders to buckle to demands to limit their nuclear program in ways that go beyond the landmark agreement that major world powers forged with Iran in 2015 — and that Mr. Trump withdrew from last year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with the rulers of Saudi Arabia on a last-minute trip on Monday, also insists Iran must curb its regional military activity and end support for partner Arab militias.

The imposition of more sanctions could provoke further actions by Iran to add to the crisis that has unfolded since early May in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, analysts say.

American officials have blamed Iran for two separate sets of explosions on six oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz, saying Iran is trying to show its capabilities and increase global oil prices in retaliation for the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Iranian officials have denied responsibility. Last week, the Iranian military shot down an American drone, though the two nations debate whether the drone was in Iranian territory or over international waters.

The downing of the drone prompted Mr. Trump to order a missile strike on Iranian military sites last Thursday, but he pulled back at the last minute after hours of debate, and instead opted to launch a cyber attack. The most prominent Iran hawks in the administration, Mr. Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, had pushed for the missile strikes.

Mr. Pompeo also advocated in the White House Situation Room on Thursday for continuing sanctions and seeing whether Iran would capitulate to demands as the policy of cutting off all oil revenues, announced in late April, takes full effect.

Iranian leaders say the Trump administration is waging economic warfare on their nation, and analysts say the sanctions campaign, which has been done with no substantial diplomatic outreach, strengthens the standing of hard-line officials in Tehran who argue for taking retaliatory measures. The Trump administration has imposed more than 1,000 specific sanctions on Iran since the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in May 2018, according to the State Department.

The rollout of sanctions and attempt to end all oil exports, along with an insistence by Mr. Pompeo that Tehran meet 12 expansive demands mostly unrelated to the nuclear program, “set a spark to the escalatory cycle we’re seeing today,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East expert at RAND Corporation, a research group in California.

“The administration argued maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table, but instead it brought provocative Iranian actions that are not likely to end without Iran getting something concrete on sanctions relief,” she said. “Talk about wanting to talk is not likely to be enough.”

Some advocates of a hard-line approach to Iran have said Mr. Trump should double down on sanctions and not be baited into doing a military strike, which could backfire by generating support among ordinary Iranians for the anti-American policies of officials in Tehran, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.

“Now is not the time for military action,” Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said on Twitter on Saturday. “Intensify the economic and political pressure. Make clear supreme leader is supreme obstacle to a better future for Iranians.”

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After Placing Blame for Attacks, Trump Faces Difficult Choices on Confronting Iran

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s accusation on Thursday that Iran was behind an attack on two oil tankers forces President Trump to confront a choice he has avoided until now: whether to make good on his threat that Tehran would “suffer greatly” if American interests were imperiled.

For weeks, Mr. Trump has weaved on the issue, by turns ordering a carrier group last month to head to the Persian Gulf and then distancing himself from the hawkish views of his national security adviser, John R. Bolton. Last week, the president said he was open to negotiating with Iranian leaders the way he has negotiated with North Korea. And on Thursday, with images of black smoke rising from a tanker hit with a mine, Mr. Trump seemed to reverse course, posting on Twitter that “it is too soon to even think about making a deal,” adding, “They are not ready, and neither are we!”

His equivocation reflects divisions in his administration, which has never come to an agreement on a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran — especially after it shattered the unity of the United States’ key allies, who had joined with the Obama administration to force Tehran into the 2015 nuclear deal that Mr. Trump subsequently abandoned.

Now, operating largely without allies, he faces an Iran that is escalating nuclear production and retaliating for sanctions the White House has reimposed without a diplomatic path in sight to steer the two longtime adversaries away from confrontation.

“If the Iranians were responsible for the attacks on shipping in the gulf, it is reckless and dangerous,” said William J. Burns, a former deputy secretary of state who opened the negotiations with Iran during the Obama administration.

“Sadly, that is also at least partly a predictable consequence of an American coercive diplomacy strategy that so far is all coercion and no diplomacy,” Mr. Burns said. “The risk is that hard-liners in both Tehran and Washington become mutual enablers, going up a very unsteady escalatory ladder.”

Mr. Trump seems to sense this, just as he sensed the same forces at work two summers ago, when he was threatening “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against the government of Kim Jong-un in North Korea. By early the next year, he had reversed course, starting negotiations and claiming that he now had plenty of time to solve a nuclear crisis he had once called urgent.

But North Korea and Iran are radically different political entities, with vastly different abilities. North Korea already has nuclear weapons, giving it leverage Iran can only imagine. And while Mr. Kim is an absolute ruler, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, is hardly a free actor: He would lose face, and perhaps his job, if he negotiated without first forcing the United States to rejoin the 2015 agreement that Mr. Trump has rejected as fatally flawed.

So the Iranian government has begun to respond to the tougher economic sanctions that Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo have championed by conducting its own form of escalation — beginning to edge out of the limits imposed on it by the nuclear accord. So, presumably, has the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is believed to be a player in the acts of sabotage in the gulf.

While the administration tries to find the line between deterrence and provocation, the Iranians appear to be struggling with the same problem. Mr. Rouhani did not announced a total nuclear breakout last month, but step-by-step moves to enlarge the country’s stockpile of reactor grade — not bomb grade — nuclear fuel. And Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not directly confronted American or Saudi or United Arab Emirates forces in the gulf.

“Iran’s supreme leader has to carefully calibrate his response to Trump’s maximum pressure campaign,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “If he responds insufficiently, he risks losing face. If he responds excessively, he risks losing his head.”

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The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln this month on the Arabian Sea.CreditJon Gambrell/Associated Press

Two months ago, Mr. Pompeo declared the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, and announced sanctions on the businesses that have been among its major sources of revenue. When intelligence agencies picked up threats in early May, the aircraft carrier Lincoln was directed to steam toward the oil lanes that Iran could threaten.

That is when a debate broke out in the Defense Department. American commanders in region, led by the new head of the United States Central Command, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, called for an increase of nearly 20,000 troops in the region, officials said. Some top military brass, including Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged caution, fearing that Iran would see that increase as provocative — and perhaps a sign that, despite denials, the Trump administration’s real goal was regime change.

In the end, the president ordered about 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to increase the protection of American forces already based there.

Those tensions were echoed Thursday morning in the secure meeting room at the Pentagon, called the Tank, where Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, General Dunford and other senior administration national security officials gathered in a previously scheduled meeting to discuss threats in the Middle East as well as American troop levels in the region.

Mr. Shanahan, treading carefully because his formal nomination to be defense secretary has not yet been sent to the Senate, had pared back General McKenzie’s request because he feared Mr. Trump might reject it. But since then, Central Command has modified its request for more air and naval forces to protect American forces in the region and to deter an Iranian attack, two American officials said.

Preparing for Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Shanahan and General Dunford were ready to make the case that Mr. Trump had told the Pentagon to reduce American forces and United States involvement in the current wars in Middle East, and avoid direct confrontation with Iran, one senior administration official said.

The policy choices advocated by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Bolton policy are having the opposite effect, the official said.

It was unclear how the rapidly unfolding news from the gulf on Thursday altered the tenor of the meeting, but one senior military official said afterward that attacks on the tankers represented a clear escalation in the simmering crisis.

Mr. Pompeo offered no evidence publicly that Iran was responsible — even though officials said that the United States has video of an Iranian patrol boat brazenly removing an unexploded mine from the hull of one of the tankers — but that did not stop him from stating an unambiguous conclusion.

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security,” he said, saying they were part of a 40-year pattern of terrorist activity by Iran.

The Iranians responded Thursday night with a statement, issued from their mission to the United Nations, saying that “the U.S. and its regional allies must stop warmongering and put an end to mischievous plots as well as false flag operations in the region,” and that it, too, was concerned over “suspicious incidents for the oil tankers that occurred today.” They were, in effect, charging that the United States had staged the episode — making declassification of the evidence all the more important.

It may also be important in Congress, where several members insisted Thursday that Mr. Trump would need to get congressional authorization if he ever intended to strike back at Iran.

“Going to war with Iran is not necessary,” said Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts and a presidential candidate, who served with the Marines in Iraq. “John Bolton and others in the Trump administration are trying to drag us into Iran just as they dragged us into Iraq, using the same tactics to convince a weak commander in chief — who doesn’t have the credibility to say no to war because he dodged serving in war himself — to lure us into conflict again.”

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