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Westlake Legal Group > Tehran (Iran)

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 

Iran Breaches Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Set by 2015 Deal

WASHINGTON — Iran on Monday violated a key provision of the 2015 international accord to restrict its nuclear program and signaled that it would soon breach another as it seeks more leverage in its escalating confrontation with the United States.

International inspectors confirmed that Iran had exceeded a critical limit on how much nuclear fuel it can possess under the agreement, which President Trump abandoned more than a year ago. By itself, the move does not give Iran enough material to produce a single nuclear weapon, though it inches it in that direction.

Hours later, Iran’s foreign minister said his nation now intended to begin enriching its nuclear fuel to a purer level, a provocative action that, depending on how far Tehran goes with it, could move the country closer to possessing fuel that with further processing could be used in a weapon.

The moves completed a sharp shift in strategy for Iran, which for the past 14 months had continued to respect the terms of the complex deal it struck with the Obama administration, even after Mr. Trump reimposed sanctions in an effort to strangle Iran’s economy by driving its oil revenues to zero. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran signaled the change in approach in May, but Tehran did not actually breach a central element of the agreement until Monday.

But while the moves appear to return Iran to its two-decade pursuit of the technology necessary to develop a nuclear arsenal, the real goal may have been to gain a diplomatic advantage for any future negotiations. Iranian leaders are betting they can force European countries, who were deeply critical of Mr. Trump’s scrapping of the nuclear deal, to deliver on promises to help compensate Tehran for the effects of American sanctions.

Mr. Trump, who has vowed that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon, told reporters that Iran was “playing with fire,” and in a statement the State Department criticized Iran’s moves as an effort “to extort the international community and threaten regional security.”

The administration has insisted that Iran continue to abide by the 2015 deal’s terms, even though Mr. Trump was the first to repudiate it, imposing escalating sanctions that are spurring high inflation and deep budget cuts in Iran.

But the administration made no overt threats of military action. Iran’s bit-by-bit violations of the accord are all reversible, and it is not clear how much either side wants to further escalate given that tensions have already been running high after the downing of an American surveillance drone by Iran last month nearly resulted in military strikes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154544277_9ffef66e-15c0-42f2-bbfa-5a115bb2569b-articleLarge Iran Breaches Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Set by 2015 Deal Zarif, Mohammad Javad Uranium United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Stockpiling Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces Cyberwarfare and Defense

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, second from left, blamed the Europeans for Tehran’s move, saying that they “have failed to fulfill their promises of protecting Iran’s interests.”CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria

Iran’s moves nonetheless brought expressions of concern from American allies, some of whom fear Washington and Tehran are on a collision course.

“Deeply worried by Iran’s announcement that it has broken existing nuclear deal obligations,” Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign minister and a contender for prime minister, said in a tweet. He said that Britain “remains committed to making deal work & using all diplomatic tools.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who lobbied Congress hard to defeat the deal four years ago, put the move in far more dire terms.

“Iran is taking a significant step toward producing nuclear weapons,” he said at a ceremony honoring reserve units of the Israel Defense Forces. “Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”

He urged Europe to impose “snapback” sanctions against Iran, under provisions that were written into the arrangement to deal with violations.

But European officials have long argued that Mr. Trump essentially pushed the Iranians into the violations, and they are likely to be divided on the question of whether to pursue sanctions that would most likely terminate the arrangement entirely. The Iranians argue that they are under no obligations to adhere to the deal’s terms since Mr. Trump abandoned the pact.

“The E.U. remains fully committed to the agreement as long as Iran continues to fully implement its nuclear commitments,” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Union, adding that Iran had complied with the deal for 14 months after the United States’ withdrawal. “We urge Iran to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal,” she said.

The 2015 agreement with Iran was negotiated by the United States under President Barack Obama along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The European powers have been trying to keep Iran in the deal even after the withdrawal of the United States, but negotiations on a possible agreement for Europe to help Iran financially by coming up with a workaround to some American sanctions ended inconclusively last week.

The breach of the limit on how much nuclear fuel Iran can possess restricted its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to about 660 pounds. The decision was the strongest warning yet that Iran may be willing to rebuild the far larger stockpile that it agreed to send abroad under the deal.

Shortly after Iranian news agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had exceeded the stockpile limit, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the country’s foreign minister and the man who negotiated the agreement with the Obama administration, said Iran would now turn to enriching the nuclear fuel.

President Trump, who has vowed that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon, told reporters that Tehran was “playing with fire.”CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“Our next step will be enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent allowed under the deal,” he said, according to a state-run Iranian broadcaster. He blamed the Europeans, who he said “have failed to fulfill their promises of protecting Iran’s interests” by compensating for billions of dollars in losses to the Iranian economy caused by the American sanctions.

The enrichment level limit in the 2015 deal was set to assure that Iran’s small amount of fuel could be useful only in producing nuclear energy, not a bomb. Higher enrichment levels take Iran closer to making the kind of material needed for a bomb — which requires something closer to 90 percent purity.

Iran has consistently denied that it has any intention of making a nuclear weapon, but a trove of nuclear-related documents, spirited out of a Tehran warehouse by Israeli agents last year, showed extensive work before 2003 to design a nuclear warhead.

Mr. Trump said last month that any effort by Iran to race to build a bomb might prompt him to take military action. But the move signaled by Iran on Monday fell far short of that threshold, and could have been intended to impress on the Europeans the importance of returning to negotiations over giving Tehran some relief from the sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May that the United States would never allow Iran to get within one year of possessing enough fuel to produce a nuclear weapon.

His special envoy for Iran, Brian H. Hook, has often said that under a new deal, the United States would insist on “zero enrichment for Iran.” Mr. Hook has estimated that the sanctions have cost Iran $50 billion in lost oil sales, far more than the system the Europeans are putting in place would generate.

Iran has so far rejected beginning any negotiation with Washington, saying that the United States must first return to the 2015 agreement and comply with all of its terms.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that Mr. Trump pushed Iran into exceeding the stockpile limit. Among the recently imposed sanctions was one that threatened action against any country that bought low-enriched uranium from Tehran. To comply with the stockpile limits, Iran shipped low-enriched uranium to Russia in return for natural uranium. With that exchange now barred, it was only a matter of time before Iran exceeded the limits.

Even before the announcement, the Pentagon and the United States’ intelligence agencies — led by the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency — were beginning to review what steps to take if the president determined that Iran was getting too close to producing a bomb.

But any operation against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, with either conventional arms or cyberweapons, would be highly risky. And some administration officials warn that acting now would be premature. Even if Iran possesses 800 or 900 kilograms of uranium, it would be insufficient for a single bomb. That threshold is not likely to be crossed until later this summer.

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Iran Breaches Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Under 2015 Deal

WASHINGTON — Iran has exceeded a key limitation on how much nuclear fuel it can possess under the 2015 international pact curbing its nuclear program, effectively declaring that it would no longer respect an agreement that President Trump abandoned more than a year ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Monday.

The breach of the limitation, which restricted Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium to about 660 pounds, does not by itself give the country the material to produce a nuclear weapon. But it is the strongest signal yet that Iran is moving to abandon the limits and restore the far larger stockpile that took the United States and five other nations years to persuade Tehran to send abroad.

The developments were first reported by the semiofficial Fars news agency, citing an “informed source.” Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister of Iran, was later quoted confirming the news, according to another semiofficial outlet, the Iranian Students’ News Agency, or ISNA.

The report from Fars said that representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency determined last week that Iran had passed the threshold, and a spokesman for the agency said on Monday that it had confirmed that the stockpile had surpassed the limit laid out in the deal.

It was unclear how much the action would escalate the tensions between Washington and Tehran after the downing of an American surveillance drone in June nearly resulted in military strikes.

But it returns the focus to Iran’s two-decade pursuit of technology that could produce a nuclear weapon — exactly where it was before President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran struck their deal four years ago.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154544277_9ffef66e-15c0-42f2-bbfa-5a115bb2569b-articleLarge Iran Breaches Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Under 2015 Deal Zarif, Mohammad Javad Uranium United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Stockpiling Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces Cyberwarfare and Defense

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, second from left, in Vienna in 2015.CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria

While the Trump administration had no immediate reaction to the announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the United States would never allow Iran to get within one year of possessing enough fuel to produce a nuclear weapon. His special envoy for Iran, Brian H. Hook, has often said that under a new deal, the United States would insist on “zero enrichment for Iran.”

Iran has so far rejected beginning any negotiation, saying that the United States must first return to the 2015 agreement and comply with all of its terms.

“Now the inevitable escalation cycle seems well underway,” Philip H. Gordon, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Obama administration national security official, wrote in an article this spring for Foreign Affairs magazine shortly after Mr. Rouhani telegraphed that he intended to walk away from the deal’s restrictions. Iran was on a “slippery slope” to fully pulling out of the agreement, Mr. Gordon added.

On June 28, after meeting in Vienna with European officials who had promised to set up a barter system with Iran to compensate for the effects of American sanctions that Britain, France and Germany say are unwise, Iranian officials said the effort was insufficient. Mr. Hook has estimated the sanctions have cost Iran $50 billion in lost oil sales, far more than the system the Europeans are putting in place would generate.

As they left the meeting, Iranian officials hinted that the breaking of the limit would go forward, though it could just as easily be reversed in the future.

For now, however, Iran seems on a pathway to step-by-step dissolution of key parts of the accord. Mr. Rouhani has said that Iran will begin raising the level of uranium enrichment this month.

It is possible that exceeding the stockpile limit is largely a negotiating tactic, a way for Tehran to impose costs on Washington after enduring more than a year of sanctions. But the move is risky. Mr. Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the deal with the secretary of state at the time, John Kerry, are betting that the Europeans will declare that Mr. Trump, not Iran, is responsible for the collapse of the nuclear accord.

That may prove the case. European officials, in their most vivid split from Mr. Trump, are scrambling to preserve the agreement, fearful that if it falls apart, the United States and Iran could be headed toward military conflict — and perhaps war.

Advocates of the Iran deal, including former members of the Obama administration, say President Trump pushed Tehran to violate a key part of it.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

But a section of the pact allows the Europeans to invoke a so-called snapback of sanctions if Iran violates the terms. The Iranians say they are within their rights because the reimposition of sanctions last year by the United States gave them the grounds to halt their commitments, as well.

For advocates of the 2015 deal, like former members of the Obama administration, Mr. Trump pushed Iran into the announcement. Among the recently imposed sanctions was one that threatened action against any country that bought low-enriched uranium from Tehran. To comply with the stockpile limits, Iran shipped low-enriched uranium to Russia in return for natural uranium. With that exchange now barred, it was only a matter of time before Iran exceeded the limits.

Even before the announcement, the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence agencies — led by the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency — were beginning to review what steps to take if the president determined that Iran was getting too close to producing a bomb.

A decade ago, the Obama administration conducted a highly classified cyberattack, code-named Olympic Games, at the Natanz enrichment site. The breach neutralized Iran’s centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium, and destroyed about 1,000 of the 5,000 machines then in operation. But after two years, Iran rebounded, and when the nuclear accord came into effect, it had more than 17,000 centrifuges, most of which were dismantled under the agreement.

If the United States targets Iran’s uranium enrichment operations, experts say, it is likely to take aim again at the Natanz site. But this time, the Iranians appear far better prepared. Other major nuclear sites, including the primary production facility for converting raw uranium to a gas form, and factories that produce next-generation centrifuges, are also likely targets, according to former officials.

In the weeks before the announcement, Saudi Arabia’s state news media has called for “surgical strikes” against Iran, as has Senator Tom Cotton, who pressed for military action after the downing of the drone. Mr. Trump initially agreed, then pulled back.

But any operation against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, either with conventional arms or cyberweapons, would be highly risky. And some administration officials warn that acting now would be premature. Even if Iran possesses 800 or 900 kilograms of uranium, it would be insufficient for a single bomb. That threshold is not likely to be crossed until later this summer.

“If there is conflict, if there is war, if there is a kinetic activity, it will be because the Iranians made that choice,” Mr. Pompeo said last week during a visit to New Delhi. “I hope that they do not.”

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Iran Has Breached Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Under 2015 Pact, State Media Reports

WASHINGTON — Iran has exceeded a key limitation on how much nuclear fuel it can possess under the 2015 international pact curbing its nuclear program, effectively declaring that it would no longer respect an agreement that President Trump abandoned more than a year ago, state media reported on Monday.

The breach of the limitation, which restricted Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium to about 660 pounds, does not by itself give the country enough to produce a nuclear weapon. But it signals that Iran may be willing to abandon the limits and restore the far larger stockpile that took the United States and five other nations years to persuade Tehran to send abroad.

The developments were reported by the semiofficial Fars news agency, citing an “informed source.” It was unclear how much the action would escalate the tensions between Washington and Tehran after the downing of an American surveillance drone in June nearly resulted in military strikes.

But it returns the focus to Iran’s two-decade pursuit of technology that could produce a nuclear weapon — exactly where it was before President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran struck their deal four years ago.

While the Trump administration had no immediate reaction to the announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the United States would never allow Iran to get within one year of possessing enough fuel to produce a nuclear weapon. His special envoy for Iran, Brian H. Hook, has often said that under a new deal, the United States would insist on “zero enrichment for Iran.”

Iran has so far rejected beginning any negotiation, saying that the United States must first return to the 2015 agreement and comply with all of its terms.

“Now the inevitable escalation cycle seems well underway,” Philip H. Gordon, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Obama administration national security official, wrote in an article this spring for Foreign Affairs magazine shortly after Mr. Rouhani telegraphed that he intended to walk away from the deal’s restrictions. Iran was on a “slippery slope” to fully pulling out of the agreement, Mr. Gordon added.

On June 28, after meeting in Vienna with European officials who had promised to set up a barter system with Iran to compensate for the effects of American sanctions that Britain, France and Germany say are unwise, Iranian officials said the effort was insufficient. Mr. Hook has estimated the sanctions have cost Iran $50 billion in lost oil sales, far more than the system the Europeans are putting in place would generate.

As they left the meeting, Iranian officials hinted that the breaking of the limit would go forward, though it could just as easily be reversed in the future.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157046697_a5c3490c-9226-48ae-9983-d4c95409c12a-articleLarge Iran Has Breached Critical Limit on Nuclear Fuel Under 2015 Pact, State Media Reports Zarif, Mohammad Javad Uranium United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Stockpiling Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces Cyberwarfare and Defense

Advocates of the Iran deal, including former members of the Obama administration, say President Trump pushed Tehran to violate a key part of it.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

For now, however, Iran seems on a pathway to step-by-step dissolution of key parts of the accord. Mr. Rouhani has said that Iran will begin raising the level of uranium enrichment this month.

It is possible that exceeding the stockpile limit is largely a negotiating tactic, a way for Tehran to impose costs on Washington after enduring more than a year of sanctions. But the move is risky. Mr. Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the deal with the secretary of state at the time, John Kerry, are betting that the Europeans will declare that Mr. Trump, not Iran, is responsible for the collapse of the nuclear accord.

That may prove the case. European officials, in their most vivid split from Mr. Trump, are scrambling to preserve the agreement, fearful that if it falls apart, the United States and Iran could be headed toward military conflict — and perhaps war.

But a section of the pact allows the Europeans to invoke a so-called snapback of sanctions if Iran violates the terms. The Iranians say they are within their rights because the reimposition of sanctions last year by the United States gave them the grounds to halt their commitments, as well.

For advocates of the 2015 deal, like former members of the Obama administration, Mr. Trump pushed Iran into the announcement. Among the recently imposed sanctions was one that threatened action against any country that bought low-enriched uranium from Tehran. To comply with the stockpile limits, Iran shipped low-enriched uranium to Russia in return for natural uranium. With that exchange now barred, it was only a matter of time before Iran exceeded the limits.

Even before the announcement, the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence agencies — led by the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency — were beginning to review what steps to take if the president determined that Iran was getting too close to producing a bomb.

A decade ago, the Obama administration conducted a highly classified cyberattack, code-named Olympic Games, at the Natanz enrichment site. The breach neutralized Iran’s centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium, and destroyed about 1,000 of the 5,000 machines then in operation. But after two years, Iran rebounded, and when the nuclear accord came into effect, it had more than 17,000 centrifuges, most of which were dismantled under the agreement.

If the United States targets Iran’s uranium enrichment operations, experts say, it is likely to take aim again at the Natanz site. But this time, the Iranians appear far better prepared. Other major nuclear sites, including the primary production facility for converting raw uranium to a gas form, and factories that produce next-generation centrifuges, are also likely targets, according to former officials.

In the weeks before the announcement, Saudi Arabia’s state news media has called for “surgical strikes” against Iran, as has Senator Tom Cotton, who pressed for military action after the downing of the drone. Mr. Trump initially agreed, then pulled back.

But any operation against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, either with conventional arms or cyberweapons, would be highly risky. And some administration officials warn that acting now would be premature. Even if Iran possesses 800 or 900 kilograms of uranium, it would be insufficient for a single bomb. That threshold is not likely to be crossed until later this summer.

“If there is conflict, if there is war, if there is a kinetic activity, it will be because the Iranians made that choice,” Mr. Pompeo said last week during a visit to New Delhi. “I hope that they do not.”

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Airlines Divert Flights Around Iran After U.S. Drone Is Shot Down

Several international airlines were diverting planes from flying over the Strait of Hormuz and parts of Iran on Friday, a day after the Iranian military shot down an American surveillance drone and the United States went to the brink of launching a retaliatory strike.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order early Friday that prohibited all American flights in Tehran-controlled airspace above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman because of “heightened military activities and increased political tensions.”

United Airlines said in a statement that it had suspended flights between Newark Airport in New Jersey and Mumbai, India, that typically fly through Iranian airspace after a security assessment.

The German airline Lufthansa said in an emailed statement that its planes would not fly over the Strait of Hormuz and that the diversion area was likely to expand.

The Dutch airline KLM has also diverted flights as a precautionary measure because of the “incident with the drone,” it said in an emailed statement. Qantas Airlines of Australia said in a statement that it would be rerouting flights to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which would affect its flights to and from London. British Airways said it was taking similar measures.

On Thursday, President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of the drone, but then abruptly pulled back from launching them.

Officials said President Trump had initially approved strikes on targets that included radar and missile batteries before walking back the decision.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 21iran2-articleLarge Airlines Divert Flights Around Iran After U.S. Drone Is Shot Down United States Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Politics and Government Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes)

An RQ-4 Global Hawk drone test flight over Maryland in 2010.CreditErik Hildebrandt/EPA, via Shutterstock

United States officials maintain that the drone — a RQ-4 Global Hawk — was flying in international airspace when it was struck by Iran. Iranian officials said the aircraft had flown into Iranian territory when it was shot down in Hormozgan Province, along the country’s southern coast.

Iranian officials have insisted that the actions were a defensive move. The foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted what he said were the exact coordinates of where the drone was targeted “near Kouh-e Mobarak,” within Iranian airspace.

The Iranian military later released video to state-run news outlets that it said showed the moment its missile defense system shot down the American drone.

In the clip, a missile can be seen being fired from the Khordad 3 air defense system of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and a few seconds later, an explosion can be seen in the sky.

Later, the state-run broadcaster released images that it said showed pieces of the downed drone.

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador, Markus Leitner, to a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Friday, according to the semiofficial Mehr News outlet. Switzerland represents United States interests in Iran as there is no American Embassy in the country.

In an emergency call Thursday night, the deputy foreign minister of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, told the Swiss ambassador that there was “indisputable” evidence that the American drone had violated Iran’s airspace, according to the news report.

Diplomats from other nations have been urging calm.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told Russian news outlet TASS called the situation “a balancing act on the edge of war.”

“It is absolutely evident from the incoming information that the situation is extremely dangerous,” he said. “The menace of a conflict is not gone, and we once again are calling on responsible parties, if any are still left in Washington, to weigh all the consequences. We warn against incautious steps.”

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Iranian president: Iran isn’t seeking war against any nation

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-4a8ece544ec04563a6c78f3411d03ba2 Iranian president: Iran isn't seeking war against any nation Tehran (Iran) fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 6bef7828-a9a9-5707-ae58-a6c6e4e0e345

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says his country is not seeking to wage war against any nation while at the same time stressing that it will withstand mounting U.S. pressure and emerge victorious.

Rouhani’s remarks on Tuesday came as Tehran and Washington are edging toward a flashpoint after Tehran announced it was breaking compliance with the nuclear deal with world powers and the Trump administration ordered 1,000 more troops to the Middle East.

Rouhani says the “entire Iranian nation is unanimous in confronting” U.S. pressures and that “the end of this battle will see victory of the Iranian nation.”

The escalation follows apparent attacks last week on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, assaults that Washington has blamed on Iran. Tehran has denied being involved in the attacks.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-4a8ece544ec04563a6c78f3411d03ba2 Iranian president: Iran isn't seeking war against any nation Tehran (Iran) fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 6bef7828-a9a9-5707-ae58-a6c6e4e0e345   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-4a8ece544ec04563a6c78f3411d03ba2 Iranian president: Iran isn't seeking war against any nation Tehran (Iran) fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 6bef7828-a9a9-5707-ae58-a6c6e4e0e345

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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.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_155880870_74ee57b5-84b2-424d-ab0f-7ce99623582c-articleLarge After Placing Blame for Attacks, Trump Faces Difficult Choices on Confronting Iran United States Politics and Government United States Navy United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Tehran (Iran) Pompeo, Mike Khamenei, Ali Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces Bolton, John R

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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Iran considers releasing Lebanese detainee

Westlake Legal Group og-fox-news Iran considers releasing Lebanese detainee Tehran (Iran) fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/americas fox-news/world fox-news/us fnc/world fnc Associated Press article 43f26ca5-c55b-5870-a661-133f25abf2d7

Iran is considering releasing a Lebanese resident of the United States who is serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges following a request from Lebanese officials.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Sunday quoted Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying that authorities were conducting a “special review” of the request by Nizar Zakka and “Lebanese political officials,” without elaborating.

Zakka is a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was arrested in September 2015.

The request could be part of a Lebanese effort to ease recent tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that the head of general security left for Tehran to follow up on efforts to release Zakka.

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