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Iraq Wants to Mediate in Crisis Between US and Iran

In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers

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Iraq, Crisis, Iran, US
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim in Baghdad, May 26, 2019. VOA

Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.

Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed al-Hakim, made the offer during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.

In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran. The U.S. also plans to send 900 additional troops to the 600 already in the Mideast and extending their stay.

Iraq, Crisis, Iran, Us
Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran. Pixabay

The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the U.S. says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both U.S. regional bases and Israel.

Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the U.S. pullout.

Speaking about the rising tensions with the U.S., Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.

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The Shi’ite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies Tehran and Washington descended into verbal vitriol. The country also lies on the fault line between Shiite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world, led by powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and has long been a battlefield in which the Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional supremacy played out.

The mediation offer by al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.

Iranians make up the bulk of millions of Shi’ites from around the world who come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shiite shrines and holy places and their purchasing power has slumped after Trump re-imposed the sanctions.

“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” al-Hakim said.

Iraq, Crisis, Iran, US
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed al-Hakim, made the offer during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. VOA

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested the Islamic Republic could hold a referendum over its nuclear program. The official IRNA news agency said Rouhani, who was last week publicly chastised by the country’s supreme leader, made the suggestion in a meeting with editors of major Iranian news outlets on Saturday evening.

Rouhani said he had previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when Rouhani was a senior nuclear negotiator for Iran.

At the time, Khamenei approved of the idea and though there was no referendum, such a vote “can be a solution at any time,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.

A referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal.

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Earlier last week, Iran said it quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity though Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon.

Rouhani’s remarks could also be seen as a defense of his stance following the rare public chastising by the supreme leader.

Khamenei last week named Rouhani and Zarif — relative moderates within Iran’s Shiite theocracy who had struck the nuclear deal — as failing to implement his orders over the accord, saying it had “numerous ambiguities and structural weaknesses” that could damage Iran.

Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran, did not immediately respond to Rouhani’s proposal of a referendum. The Islamic Republic has seen only three referendums since it was established in 1979 — one on regime change from monarchy to Islamic republic and two on its constitution and its amendments. (VOA)

Next Story

How is the Coronavirus Crisis Affecting the Construction Industry?

Construction, by and large, is a huge part of the world’s economy

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Coronavirus
The world is still in the early days of the global pandemic and with many countries instituting lockdowns recently, it would be unwise to try and predict the future. Pixabay

Ever since the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus a global pandemic, countries have been scrambling for their next steps.

Countries across Europe have effectively shut down, the United States has closed its borders, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently ordered a 21-day countrywide shutdown.

The world economy has become a big focus as many businesses either shut their doors voluntarily or are closed as they do not classify as a “non-essential” service. 

Some sectors, like hotels, airlines, and other travel-related industries have taken a beating. Numerous airlines such as American Airlines, Lufthansa, Delta, and British Airways are requesting government assistance in order to survive the overnight loss of flights and passengers.

Other industries, such as online entertainment, grocery stores, and eCommerce are thriving. 

Then, there are industries that seem to be stuck in the middle. Construction is one of those industries as different countries seem to have different responses to what to do with construction.

So what is in store for the construction industry?

Workers Fear for Their Safety

With nearly all countries preaching the importance of social distancing, construction is one such industry that is unable to put social distancing practices into play. With so much collaboration on the construction site, both in close contact and through the exchange of tools, it’s easy to see why construction workers might feel a bit frightened.

It’s not just the fact that workers might be in close proximity to one another at the worksite, but they are also in close proximity with hundreds if not thousands of strangers during their commute. 

coronavirus
It’s not just the fact that workers might be in close proximity to one another at the worksite, but they are also in close proximity with hundreds if not thousands of strangers during their commute.

Many countries have already classified construction workers as non-essential, but others have been a bit vague. The UK, for example, has said that if work can continue in the open air, then it should be allowed.

Projects Delayed

Many countries receive their construction materials from other countries through trade. India is one such country as the second-largest country in the world receives much of its materials from China. 

The main goods received are iron, steel, electronic equipment, plastic goods, and more. When those shipments stopped to do the virus spreading, many firms had but no choice to delay projects. 

This is a phenomenon that is also worldwide, as the United States reports that around 30% of construction projects have been put on hold with contractors saying that almost 20% of the delays were due to equipment issues or lack of products.

Projects that are continuing are making use of all tools available, getting creative with how materials are moved and consistently working towards a quick solution.

A Huge Part of the Economy

Construction, by and large, is a huge part of the world’s economy. In India, construction is responsible for roughly 15% of the working class and over 5% of the country’s GDP. 

In fact, the construction market is expected to be worth $1 trillion within the next five years, according to a report from KPMG in 2016. 

With such a large part of the economy coming to a semi-halt, how is that going to affect the nation’s economy overall?

Construction
Construction, by and large, is a huge part of the world’s economy. In India, construction is responsible for roughly 15% of the working class and over 5% of the country’s GDP.

As of now, it means that a lot of people are losing their jobs. With over 30 million people employed in the construction industry, that’s a lot of the working class that’s being told to stay at home.

The majority of India’s construction workforce are contractors, meaning they do not have the same protections and rights as employees would. Many are expecting to lose their jobs over the next few weeks.

The government is expected to unveil a multi-billion dollar stimulus package in the next coming days which will help, but many will still continue to feel the effects of the lockdown and lack of work.

A Boom in the Future?

What happens when this is all over and people start returning to work?

Unfortunately, no one knows the correct answer to that question. The world is still in the early days of the global pandemic and with many countries instituting lockdowns recently, it would be unwise to try and predict the future.

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Projects would likely start to trickle back in slowly as measures are taken to make sure there isn’t a second wave of the virus. The fight for jobs will be fierce as the market is likely to be flooded with millions looking to work again.

Eventually, though, people will start spending money again which should help the economy start to recover.

[Disclaimer: The pictures used in the article are supplied by the author, NewsGram has no intention of infringing copyrights.]