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Westlake Legal Group > MATTHEW LEE

Nuclear changes, more troops heighten US-Iran tensions

The U.S. and Iran edged toward a flashpoint Monday as Tehran announced it was breaking compliance with the accord that keeps it from making nuclear weapons and the Trump administration followed by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

The Pentagon said the deployment includes security forces and troops for additional surveillance and intelligence gathering in the region. While the number is small, it represents an escalation of U.S. military might aimed at deterring Iran and calming allies worried that transit through key shipping lanes could be in jeopardy.

Tehran’s announcement earlier Monday means it could soon start to enrich uranium to just a step away from weapons-grade levels, challenging President Donald Trump’s assurances to allies that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place.

The developments are bound to inflame tensions in the Middle East and pose a test of resolve and credibility for both adversaries.

Iran said it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by the 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.

After Trump withdrew from the agreement, signed by his predecessor, he reinstated punishing economic sanctions, leaving the European and other partners in the accord struggling to keep Iran on board.

On Monday, the U.S. administration found itself in the awkward position of demanding that Iran comply with a nuclear accord that the president derided as the worst deal in history.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

The move comes as Washington accuses Iran of attacking two tankers near the Persian Gulf and the Iranians deny responsibility. With details murky and no one owning up to the attacks, the Pentagon released new photos intended to bolster its case that Iran carried out the attacks.

The State Department spokeswoman said Iran’s uranium announcement amounted to “extortion” and a “challenge to international norms,” as well as to the 2015 agreement known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“It’s unfortunate that they have made this announcement today,” Ortagus said. “It doesn’t surprise anybody and this is why the president has often said that the JCPOA needs to be replaced with a better deal.”

Trump appeared to say the deal should not be violated in a tweet: “Iran to defy Uranium Stockpile Limits.”

In announcing the new deployment, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the forces are “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East.”

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” Shanahan said. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.” He added that the U.S. will continue to adjust troop levels as needed.

On the unravelling of the multinational nuclear deal, some of its supporters blamed the Trump administration for Iran’s provocative announcements, saying they were predictable given the renewed U.S. pressure.

“While Iran’s frustration with Trump’s reckless and irresponsible pressure campaign is understandable, we strongly urge Iran to remain in compliance with the nuclear deal,” the Arms Control Association said in a statement. “It remains in Iran’s interests to abide by the limits of the agreement and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s more intrusive monitoring and verification.”

Iran has shown no willingness to negotiate another deal and vowed not enter into talks with the United States while the administration maintains its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions.

Administration officials found themselves Monday grappling with whether to press the remaining parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, to demand that Iran stay in compliance. They must also consider if such a stance would essentially concede that the restrictions imposed during the Obama administration, while short of ideal, are better than none.

Under the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency, said it would pass that limit June 27.

A senior U.S. official said the administration is most concerned about any violation of the deal that would reduce the breakout time that Iran would need to produce a nuclear weapon. The deal aimed to keep the breakout time at one year.

The official said certain violations, while they should be not accepted, would not necessarily reduce that time. But other violations, such as enriching uranium to 20%, should be addressed immediately if they occur, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said it would be up to the Europeans to decide if Iran was in violation of the deal and whether to initiate a dispute resolution mechanism that could bring the Iranians back into compliance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet this week with E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, a leading deal proponent, at which this issue is likely to be raised.

Pompeo, who was a leading critic of the deal while he was in Congress, has said in the past that Iranian compliance is not really an issue as the administration sees the agreement as fundamentally flawed because over time it eases many limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Yet, just last week, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog accused Iran of violating a provision of the deal that relates to advanced centrifuges and called on the Europeans to ensure that Iran remains in compliance.

Westlake Legal Group c0776dac-ContentBroker_contentid-6d371c278e804742948276b704916c7c Nuclear changes, more troops heighten US-Iran tensions MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69   Westlake Legal Group c0776dac-ContentBroker_contentid-6d371c278e804742948276b704916c7c Nuclear changes, more troops heighten US-Iran tensions MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69

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US-Iran move closer to a flashpoint as tensions spike

The U.S. and Iran edged toward a flashpoint Monday as Tehran announced it was breaking compliance with the accord that keeps it from making nuclear weapons and the Trump administration followed by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

The Pentagon said the deployment includes security forces and troops for additional surveillance and intelligence gathering in the region. While the number is small, it represents an escalation of U.S. military might aimed at deterring Iran and calming allies worried that transit through key shipping lanes could be in jeopardy.

Tehran’s announcement earlier Monday means it could soon start to enrich uranium to just a step away from weapons-grade levels, challenging President Donald Trump’s assurances to allies that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place.

The developments are bound to inflame tensions in the Middle East and pose a test of resolve and credibility for both adversaries.

Iran said it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by the 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.

After Trump withdrew from the agreement, signed by his predecessor, he reinstated punishing economic sanctions, leaving the European and other partners in the accord struggling to keep Iran on board.

On Monday, the U.S. administration found itself in the awkward position of demanding that Iran comply with a nuclear accord that the president derided as the worst deal in history.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

The move comes as Washington accuses Iran of attacking two tankers near the Persian Gulf and the Iranians deny responsibility. With details murky and no one owning up to the attacks, the Pentagon released new photos intended to bolster its case that Iran carried out the attacks.

The State Department spokeswoman said Iran’s uranium announcement amounted to “extortion” and a “challenge to international norms,” as well as to the 2015 agreement known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“It’s unfortunate that they have made this announcement today,” Ortagus said. “It doesn’t surprise anybody and this is why the president has often said that the JCPOA needs to be replaced with a better deal.”

Trump appeared to say the deal should not be violated in a tweet: “Iran to defy Uranium Stockpile Limits.”

In announcing the new deployment, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the forces are “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East.”

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” Shanahan said. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.” He added that the U.S. will continue to adjust troop levels as needed.

On the unravelling of the multinational nuclear deal, some of its supporters blamed the Trump administration for Iran’s provocative announcements, saying they were predictable given the renewed U.S. pressure.

“While Iran’s frustration with Trump’s reckless and irresponsible pressure campaign is understandable, we strongly urge Iran to remain in compliance with the nuclear deal,” the Arms Control Association said in a statement. “It remains in Iran’s interests to abide by the limits of the agreement and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s more intrusive monitoring and verification.”

Iran has shown no willingness to negotiate another deal and vowed not enter into talks with the United States while the administration maintains its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions.

Administration officials found themselves Monday grappling with whether to press the remaining parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, to demand that Iran stay in compliance. They must also consider if such a stance would essentially concede that the restrictions imposed during the Obama administration, while short of ideal, are better than none.

Under the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency, said it would pass that limit June 27.

A senior U.S. official said the administration is most concerned about any violation of the deal that would reduce the breakout time that Iran would need to produce a nuclear weapon. The deal aimed to keep the breakout time at one year.

The official said certain violations, while they should be not accepted, would not necessarily reduce that time. But other violations, such as enriching uranium to 20%, should be addressed immediately if they occur, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said it would be up to the Europeans to decide if Iran was in violation of the deal and whether to initiate a dispute resolution mechanism that could bring the Iranians back into compliance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet this week with E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, a leading deal proponent, at which this issue is likely to be raised.

Pompeo, who was a leading critic of the deal while he was in Congress, has said in the past that Iranian compliance is not really an issue as the administration sees the agreement as fundamentally flawed because over time it eases many limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Yet, just last week, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog accused Iran of violating a provision of the deal that relates to advanced centrifuges and called on the Europeans to ensure that Iran remains in compliance.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-33774f4db3d640d4a0c8e38d55e23d91 US-Iran move closer to a flashpoint as tensions spike MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-33774f4db3d640d4a0c8e38d55e23d91 US-Iran move closer to a flashpoint as tensions spike MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69

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US: Iran should still comply with nuke deal Trump derided

The Trump administration found itself in the awkward position Monday of demanding that Iran comply with a nuclear accord that the president has derided as the worst deal in history.

Iran announced Monday it would break a limit on uranium stockpiles established by a 2015 agreement with world powers that was intended to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.

President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, signed by his predecessor, and reinstated punishing economic sanctions, resulting in sharply rising tensions that deteriorated further with the Iranian warning that it could soon start to enrich uranium to just a step away from weapons-grade levels.

That put the State Department in the position of defending the limits set by the 2015 deal that was so maligned by Trump and his national security team.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

The Iranian announcement seemed likely to further inflame Mideast tensions as the U.S. was working with allies on a response to attacks on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said was carried out by Iranian forces.

The State Department spokeswoman said Iran’s uranium announcement amounted to “extortion” and a “challenge to international norms,” as well as to the 2015 agreement known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“It’s unfortunate that they have made this announcement today,” Ortagus said. “It doesn’t surprise anybody and this is why the president has often said that the JCPOA needs to be replaced with a better deal.”

Trump appeared to say the JCPOA should not be violated in a tweet that said “Iran to defy Uranium Stockpile Limits.”

Supporters of the deal, meanwhile, blamed the administration for Iran’s provocative announcements, saying they were entirely predictable given the renewed U.S. pressure.

“While Iran’s frustration with Trump’s reckless and irresponsible pressure campaign is understandable, we strongly urge Iran to remain in compliance with the nuclear deal,” the Arms Control Association said in a statement. “It remains in Iran’s interests to abide by the limits of the agreement and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s more intrusive monitoring and verification.”

Iran has shown no willingness to negotiate another deal and vowed not enter into talks while the United States while the administration maintains its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions.

Administration officials found themselves Monday grappling with whether to urge the remaining parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, to demand that Iran stay in compliance. They must also consider if such a stance would essentially concede that the restrictions imposed during the Obama administration, while short of ideal, are better than none.

Under the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium. Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency said it would pass that limit on Thursday, June 27.

A senior U.S. official said the administration is most concerned about any violation of the deal that would reduce the breakout time that Iran would need to produce a nuclear weapon. The deal aimed to keep the breakout time at one year.

The official said certain violations, while they should be not accepted, would not necessarily reduce that time. But other violations, including enriching uranium to 20% should be addressed immediately if they occur, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said it would be up to the Europeans to decide if Iran was in violation of the deal and whether to initiate a dispute resolution mechanism that could bring the Iranians back into compliance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet this week with E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, a leading deal proponent, at which this issue is likely to be raised.

Pompeo, who was a leading critic of the deal while he was in Congress, has said in the past that Iranian compliance is not really an issue as the administration sees the agreement as fundamentally flawed because over time it eases many limits on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Yet, just last week, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog accused Iran of violating a provision of the deal that relates to advanced centrifuges and called on the Europeans to ensure that Iran remains in compliance.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-33774f4db3d640d4a0c8e38d55e23d91 US: Iran should still comply with nuke deal Trump derided MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-33774f4db3d640d4a0c8e38d55e23d91 US: Iran should still comply with nuke deal Trump derided MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 7d907bc4-c69c-5588-bea3-30cf57e01b69

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Pompeo, Swiss FM in talks likely dominated by Iran tensions

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-c63b7c0f63a344d39ad22ec0e31793bb Pompeo, Swiss FM in talks likely dominated by Iran tensions MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 995c1702-71d7-5765-91ff-1e377786d0d4

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is holding talks with his Swiss counterpart that are expected to focus on Iran.

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran that have sparked fears of conflict, Pompeo was meeting Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in the southern Swiss town of Bellinzona. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran.

Although the U.S. says it won’t relent in its campaign to pressure Iran, President Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to talk with Iran’s leadership.

Pompeo has been coy about communicating with Iran through Switzerland, but the U.S. has previously relied on Swiss discretion to do so.

The two were meeting at Castelgrande, a medieval castle in Cassis’ home canton of Ticino, an Italian-speaking area of Switzerland near Italy’s lakes region.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-c63b7c0f63a344d39ad22ec0e31793bb Pompeo, Swiss FM in talks likely dominated by Iran tensions MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 995c1702-71d7-5765-91ff-1e377786d0d4   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-c63b7c0f63a344d39ad22ec0e31793bb Pompeo, Swiss FM in talks likely dominated by Iran tensions MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 995c1702-71d7-5765-91ff-1e377786d0d4

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Pompeo in London to discuss the UK-US ‘special relationship’

Westlake Legal Group pompeo-in-london-to-discuss-the-uk-us-special-relationship Pompeo in London to discuss the UK-US 'special relationship' MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/united-kingdom fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world/religion fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc e900c7c9-1b04-5781-972e-49052077d7bf Associated Press article

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in London for talks with British officials on the status of the special relationship between the nations amid heightened tensions with Iran and uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Pompeo will meet Wednesday with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and will later deliver a speech on the potential for improved U.S.-U.K. ties after Brexit.

At his first event in the British capital, a meeting about religious freedom with Hunt and British faith leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pompeo told participants that the Trump administration is committed to the rights of all people to worship as they please.

“In the United States it’s in our Constitution, the First Amendment, it’s central to our founding,” he said.

Welby thanked Pompeo for the administration’s attention to the matter, noting that Christians in the Middle East and Africa and religious minorities everywhere are under threat. But he also sounded a note of caution by telling Pompeo that foreign military inventions often have severe consequences for religious freedoms.

“Where the interests of religious minorities are concerned, foreign interventions can often have very serious, long-term (impacts),” he said.

Pompeo didn’t address Welby’s comment.

Pompeo arrived in London after canceling a trip to Germany to make an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he warned Iraqi officials about what he called imminent threats to American interests in the Middle East.

Iran said earlier Wednesday that it would partially suspend its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew last year. Britain remains a party to the deal and has been working with the other European participants, France and Germany, on ways to salvage the accord in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-23292cd2f68b4a2a833406e15d2c3bc1 Pompeo in London to discuss the UK-US 'special relationship' MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/united-kingdom fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world/religion fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc e900c7c9-1b04-5781-972e-49052077d7bf Associated Press article   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-23292cd2f68b4a2a833406e15d2c3bc1 Pompeo in London to discuss the UK-US 'special relationship' MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/united-kingdom fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world/religion fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc e900c7c9-1b04-5781-972e-49052077d7bf Associated Press article

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US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Iraq

Westlake Legal Group us-secretary-of-state-pompeo-makes-unannounced-trip-to-iraq US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Iraq MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc de9d2bd3-c54c-5c0b-b34f-9349d04848cb Associated Press article

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made an unannounced trip to Iraq as Washington warns Iran against any action against American interests in the Middle East.

Pompeo was in Baghdad briefly Tuesday night before flying out.

Pompeo says his visit was meant to show U.S. support for “a sovereign, independent” Iraq, free from the influence of neighboring Iran. He met with Iraq’s president and prime minister.

Pompeo’s visit comes amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran. The U.S. is rushing an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East to deter or respond to any Iranian attack. U.S. officials have said there are indications Iran is planning to retaliate for the Trump administration’s stepped-up sanctions on the country, although the threat information remains vague.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-00843492adeb415fafcf6e9743b40970 US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Iraq MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc de9d2bd3-c54c-5c0b-b34f-9349d04848cb Associated Press article   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-00843492adeb415fafcf6e9743b40970 US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced trip to Iraq MATTHEW LEE fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc de9d2bd3-c54c-5c0b-b34f-9349d04848cb Associated Press article

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North Korea nuclear impasse looms over US-Japan talks

Westlake Legal Group north-korea-nuclear-impasse-looms-over-us-japan-talks North Korea nuclear impasse looms over US-Japan talks MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 156d0904-2d2a-5af0-93ad-304b3a2f076b
Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news North Korea nuclear impasse looms over US-Japan talks MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 156d0904-2d2a-5af0-93ad-304b3a2f076b

Stalled negotiations over dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program are looming over high-level talks between the U.S. and Japan.

Just a day after North Korea called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed as President Donald Trump’s top negotiator, he and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan were meeting at the State Department Friday with their Japanese counterparts to plot a way forward.

U.S. officials say they remain open to resuming the talks with North Korea but Pompeo has not yet reacted to the North Korean demand, which followed what it said was a test of a new tactical weapon.

The nuclear talks have been at an impasse since Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to reach an agreement in Vietnam in late February.

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US labels elite Iran force a foreign terrorist organization

Westlake Legal Group us-labels-elite-iran-force-a-foreign-terrorist-organization US labels elite Iran force a foreign terrorist organization MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/terror fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 083c9e15-440a-52bc-9f3e-3375a4ac5356

The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government that may prompt retaliation and make it harder for American diplomats and military officers to work with allies in the region.

It is the first time that the U.S. has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization, placing a group with vast economic resources that answers only to Iran’s supreme leader in the same category as al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said in announcing the measure.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation is intended to increase pressure on Iran, isolating it further and diverting some of the financial resources it uses to fund terrorism and militant activity in the Middle East and beyond. But, in addition to the potential for Iranian retaliation, it complicates a delicate balance for U.S. personnel in at least two key countries.

Pompeo said the move is part of an effort to put “maximum pressure” on Iran to end its support for terrorist plots and militant activity that destabilizes the Middle East. Speaking to reporters, he rattled off a list of attacks dating to the 1980s for which the U.S. holds Iran and the IRGC responsible, beginning with the attacks on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983.

No waivers or exceptions to the sanctions were announced, meaning U.S. troops and diplomats could be barred from speaking with Iraqi or Lebanese authorities who have dealings with Guard officials or surrogates. Such contact occurs now between U.S. officials in Iraq who deal with Iranian-affiliated Shiite militias and in Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement is in parliament and the government.

The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies had raised concerns about the impact of the designation if the move did not allow contact with other foreign officials who may have met with or communicated with Guard personnel. Those concerns have in part dissuaded previous administrations from taking the step, which has been considered for more than a decade.

The Justice Department said Monday it would prosecute violations but officials declined to say how broadly they would interpret the provision barring “material support” to the IRGC. A strict interpretation would leave hundreds of European companies and executives at risk for U.S. travel bans or criminal penalties in addition to limiting American officials’ ability to deal with foreign counterparts who have links to the guard.

The designation “raises the question of whether a non-U.S. company or individual could be prosecuted for engaging in commercial transactions with an Iranian company controlled by the IRGC,” said Anthony Rapa, an international trade and national security attorney with Kirkland and Ellis.

Critics of the hardline policy also see it as a prelude to conflict.

“This move closes yet another potential door for peacefully resolving tensions with Iran,” said Trita Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council. “Once all doors are closed, and diplomacy is rendered impossible, war will essentially become inevitable.”

National Security Action, a group made up of mainly former Obama administration officials, said it would put U.S. troops at risk while jeopardizing the 2015 nuclear accord with which Iran is still complying.

“We need to call out today’s move for what it is: another dangerous and self-defeating tactic that endangers our troops and serves nothing but the Trump administration’s goal of destroying the Iran deal,” it said.

The designation could also open hundreds of foreign companies and business executives to U.S. travel bans and possible prosecution for sanctions violations.

The IRGC is a paramilitary organization formed in the wake of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend the government. The force answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, operates independently of the regular military and has vast economic interests across the country. The U.S. estimates it may control or have a significant influence over up to 50% of the Iranian economy, including non-military sectors like banking and shipping.

Iran has long been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the U.S. and the State Department currently designates more than 60 organizations as “foreign terrorist organizations.” But none of them is a state-run military.

Iran immediately responded to the designation with its Supreme National Security Council designating the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as terrorist, and labeling the U.S. a “supporter of terrorism.”

The Council denounced the U.S. decision as “illegal and dangerous” and said the U.S. government would be responsible for all “dangerous repercussions” of its decision. It defended the IRGC, which has fought Islamic State fighters, as being a force against terrorism.

American military commanders were planning to warn U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region of the possibility of retaliation. Aside from Iraq, where some 5,200 American troops are stationed, and Syria, where some U.S. 2,000 troops remain, the U.S. 5th Fleet, which operates in the Persian Gulf from its base in Bahrain, and the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, are potentially at risk.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, and the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, said the decision was reached after consultation with agencies throughout the government but would not say in a news conference if the military or intelligence concerns had been addressed.

“Doing this will not impede our diplomacy,” Hook said, without elaborating. He noted that the U.S. has at various times had contact or even formal negotiations with members of groups that are subject to sanctions.

Reaction from those who favor tougher engagement with Iran was quick and welcoming.

“Thank you, my dear friend, US President Donald Trump,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a tweet, a day before what could be a close election. “Thank you for answering another of my important requests that serves the interests of our countries and of countries in the region.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the action an “overdue” but essential step that should be followed by additional sanctions.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the designation “ends the facade that the IRGC is part of a normal military.”

And, the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called it “an imperative for Middle East security, peace, and stability, and an urgent and necessary step to end war and terrorism throughout the region and the world.”

___

Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

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US declares Iran force a foreign terrorist organization

The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government that may prompt retaliation and make it harder for American diplomats and military officers to work with allies in the region.

It is the first time that the U.S. has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization, placing a group with vast economic resources that answers only to Iran’s supreme leader in the same category as al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said in announcing the measure.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation is intended to increase pressure on Iran, isolating it further and diverting some of the financial resources it uses to fund terrorism and militant activity in the Middle East and beyond. But, in addition to the potential for Iranian retaliation, it complicates a delicate balance for U.S. personnel in at least two key countries.

No waivers or exceptions to the sanctions were announced, meaning U.S. troops and diplomats could be barred from contact with Iraqi or Lebanese authorities who interact with Guard officials or surrogates.

The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies had also raised concerns about the impact of the designation if the move did not allow contact with other foreign officials who may have met with or communicated with Guard personnel. Those concerns have in part dissuaded previous administrations from taking the step, which has been considered for more than a decade.

Critics of the hardline policy also see it as a prelude to conflict.

“This move closes yet another potential door for peacefully resolving tensions with Iran,” said Trita Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council. “Once all doors are closed, and diplomacy is rendered impossible, war will essentially become inevitable.”

National Security Action, a group made up of mainly former Obama administration officials, said it would put U.S. troops at risk while jeopardizing the 2015 nuclear accord with which Iran is still complying.

“We need to call out today’s move for what it is: another dangerous and self-defeating tactic that endangers our troops and serves nothing but the Trump administration’s goal of destroying the Iran deal,” it said.

The designation could also open hundreds of foreign companies and business executives to U.S. travel bans and possible prosecution for sanctions violations.

It blocks any assets that IRGC entities may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from any transactions with it. When it takes effect next week, it will allow the U.S. to deny entry to people found to have provided the Guard with “material support” or prosecute them for sanctions violations. That could include European and Asian companies and businesspeople who deal with the Guard’s many affiliates.

“It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

The IRGC is a paramilitary organization formed in the wake of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend the government. The force answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, operates independently of the regular military and has vast economic interests across the country. The U.S. estimates it may control or have a significant influence over up to 50% of the Iranian economy, including non-military sectors like banking and shipping.

Iran has long been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the U.S. and the State Department currently designates more than 60 organizations as “foreign terrorist organizations.” But none of them is a state-run military.

Iran immediately responded to the designation with its Supreme National Security Council designating the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as terrorist, and labeling the U.S. a “supporter of terrorism.”

The Council denounced the U.S. decision as “illegal and dangerous” and said the U.S. government would be responsible for all “dangerous repercussions” of its decision. It defended the IRGC, which has fought Islamic State fighters, as being a force against terrorism.

American military commanders were planning to warn U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region of the possibility of retaliation. Aside from Iraq, where some 5,200 American troops are stationed, and Syria, where some U.S. 2,000 troops remain, the U.S. 5th Fleet, which operates in the Persian Gulf from its base in Bahrain, and the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, are potentially at risk.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, and the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, said the decision was reached after consultation with agencies throughout the government but would not say in a news conference if the military or intelligence concerns had been addressed.

“Doing this will not impede our diplomacy,” Hook said, without elaborating.

Reaction from those who favor tougher engagement with Iran was quick and welcoming.

“Thank you, my dear friend, US President Donald Trump,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a tweet, a day before what could be a close election. “Thank you for answering another of my important requests that serves the interests of our countries and of countries in the region.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the action an “overdue” but essential step that should be followed by additional sanctions.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the designation “ends the facade that the IRGC is part of a normal military.”

And, the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called it “an imperative for Middle East security, peace, and stability, and an urgent and necessary step to end war and terrorism throughout the region and the world.”

Pompeo said the move is part of an effort to put “maximum pressure” on Iran to end its support for terrorist plots and militant activity that destabilizes the Middle East. Speaking to reporters, he rattled off a list of attacks dating to the 1980s for which the U.S. holds Iran and the IRGC responsible, beginning with the attacks on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983.

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Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

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US declares Iran’s guard force a ‘terrorist organization’

Westlake Legal Group us-declares-irans-guard-force-a-terrorist-organization US declares Iran's guard force a 'terrorist organization' MATTHEW LEE fox-news/us/terror fox-news/us/military fnc/us fnc Associated Press article 083c9e15-440a-52bc-9f3e-3375a4ac5356

The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization” in a move to increase pressure on the country that could also have significant military, diplomatic and economic implications throughout the Middle East and beyond.

It is the first time that the U.S. has designated a part of another government as a terrorist organization. The designation could spark Iranian retaliation as well as potentially open hundreds of foreign companies and business executives to U.S. travel bans and possible prosecution.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move is part of an effort to put “maximum pressure” on Iran to end its support for terrorist plots and militant activity that destabilizes the Middle East.

The designation blocks any assets that IRGC entities may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from any transactions with it. When it takes effect next week, it will allow the U.S. to deny entry to people found to have provided the Guard with “material support” or prosecute them for sanctions violations. Those could include European and Asian companies and businesspeople who deal with the Guard’s many affiliates.

“It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

Pompeo said the action should serve as a warning to corporate lawyers to ensure any business their companies do in Iran is not with any entity affiliated with the Guard.

The IRGC is a paramilitary organization formed in the wake of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend the government. The force answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, operates independently of the regular military and has vast economic interests across the country. The U.S. estimates it may control or have a significant influence over up to 50% of the Iranian economy, including non-military sectors like banking and shipping.

The State Department currently designates more than 60 organizations, including as al-Qaida and the Islamic State, Hezbollah and numerous militant Palestinian factions, as “foreign terrorist organizations.” But none of them is a state-run military.

Iran threatened to retaliate for the decision, and shortly after it was announced foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on President Hassan Rouhani to include Mideast-based U.S. forces on Iran’s own terrorist list, the official IRNA news agency reported. Zarif also sent a protest note over the U.S. designation to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which looks after the U.S. interests in Iran.

In addition to potential retaliation, the designation may also complicate U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East. No waivers or exceptions to the sanctions were announced, meaning U.S. troops and diplomats could be barred from contact with Iraqi or Lebanese authorities who interact with Guard officials or surrogates.

The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies had raised concerns about the impact of the designation if the move did not allow contact with foreign officials who may have met with or communicated with Guard personnel. Those concerns have in part dissuaded previous administrations from taking the step, which has been considered for more than a decade.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, and the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, said the decision was reached after consultation with agencies throughout the government but would not say in a news conference if the military or intelligence concerns had been addressed.

“Doing this will not impede our diplomacy,” Hook said.

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