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Iran Doubts Europe’s Efforts To Keep Nuclear Deal Alive

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence’s hard-hitting speech at Munich has triggered fears in Europe that Washington has bigger plans, says Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 17, 2019. VOA

Iran says Europe’s efforts to keep the 2015 nuclear deal are failing and there is growing support among the Iranian people to restart the country’s atomic program.

“We appreciate that Europe has done a great deal politically. But it hasn’t been prepared to make an investment. It hasn’t been prepared to pay a price,” Zarif told delegates at the Munich Security Conference Sunday.

He accused the United States and Israel of seeking war with his country.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence earlier accused Europe of helping to prop up a ‘murderous’ regime in Tehran.

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Not at all a call for ‘let’s renegotiate the deal’ but rather ‘let’s remove the regime in Tehran.’ And in that sense I think this was not interpreted as anything that Europe could accept. Pixabay

“They have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions. They call this scheme a Special Purpose Vehicle, we call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence told delegates Saturday.

That Special Purpose Vehicle — officially known as INSTEX — is a payments system designed to allow European companies to trade with Iran and bypass U.S. sanctions, explains sanctions lawyer Nigel Kushner of London-based firm “W Legal.”

“The aim is that it will get around the U.S. secondary sanctions by not involving U.S. dollars, not involving U.S. persons, and certainly at the moment only being involved in the procurement of trade which does not include products or services that are sanctioned by the U.S. authorities,” he said.

Europe is hoping that Iran will show patience, adds Kushner.

“I think on the Iranian side, they will play a waiting game and very much hope that next year Donald Trump might not be re-elected,” he said.

But Tehran says Europe’s offer is not good enough.

“INSTEX falls short of the commitments by the E3 [European three] to save the deal. Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against the dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism,” Foreign Minister Zarif said Sunday at the Munich conference.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence’s hard-hitting speech at Munich has triggered fears in Europe that Washington has bigger plans, says Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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“Not at all a call for ‘let’s renegotiate the deal’ but rather ‘let’s remove the regime in Tehran.’ And in that sense I think this was not interpreted as anything that Europe could accept,” she said.

Washington, which withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year, has not explicitly called for regime change in Iran. (VOA)

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US Hits Iran with New Sanctions; Petrochemicals Targeted

Washington is pressuring Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program

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US, Iran, Petrochemicals
FILE - A man walks past the Mahshahr petrochemical plant in Khuzestan province, southwest of Tehran, Iran. VOA

The United States on Friday imposed new sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s petrochemical industry, including its largest petrochemical holding group, over its financial support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Treasury Department said.

Washington is pressuring Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program and for waging proxy wars in other Middle Eastern countries. The new measures follow a round of sanctions imposed last month that targeted the Islamic Republic’s export revenues from industrial metals.

Tensions between the two countries worsened last month when the Trump administration ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East, citing intelligence about possible Iranian preparations to attack U.S. forces or interests.

The Pentagon has also accused the IRGC of being directly responsible for May 12 attacks off the United Arab Emirates coast that damaged two Saudi tankers, an Emirati vessel and a Norwegian tanker.

US, Iran, Petrochemicals
The United States on Friday imposed new sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s petrochemical industry. Pixabay

Friday’s sanctions target Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) for providing financial support for the economic arm of the IRGC, Iran’s elite military unit in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

The U.S. Treasury also designated the holding group’s network of 39 subsidiary petrochemical companies and foreign-based sales agents. PGPIC and its subsidiaries hold 40% of Iran’s petrochemical production capacity and are responsible for 50% of Iran’s petrochemical exports, it said.

“By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran’s petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury statement said Iran’s oil ministry last year awarded the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya, the IRGC’s economic and engineering arm, 10 projects in oil and petrochemical industries worth $22 billion, four times the official budget of the IRGC.

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President Donald Trump last year pulled out of a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for easing some sanctions, saying it did not go far enough.

The Trump administration has since taken several unprecedented steps to squeeze Iran, such as demanding the world halt all imports of Iranian oil and designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, which Iran has cast as an American provocation.

U.S. law already punished U.S. persons who deal with the IRGC with up to 20 years in prison because of the group’s designation under the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, a different sanctions program. (VOA)