- Iran announced Wednesday that they will limit their commitments to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
- Iran’s decision was prompted by stringent U.S. sanctions against the country, which the Trump administration re-imposed after the U.S. withdrew from the Iran deal last year.
- The declaration comes a just days after the U.S. announced it would be sending a strike force carrier and bombers to the region “In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday that the country will stop complying with some of its commitments under the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
The announcement comes exactly one year after Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. entirely from the agreement, which he referred to as “the worst deal in history.”
The agreement, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, intended to limit Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Iran has never formally said that it has a nuclear weapons program. However, the U.S. and others were concerned that Iran’s nuclear efforts, like enriching uranium, were not for peaceful purposes.
After years of intense negotiations led by the Obama administration, the JCPOA was finally struck in 2015. The JCPOA set restrictions on Iran’s nuclear problem in exchange for loosening some of the economic sanctions that were destroying Iran’s economy.
In addition to the U.S. and Iran, the deal was also signed by the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany. Additionally, a resolution was passed by the U.N. Security Council, effectively making the deal international law.
Many considered the agreement a massive step in the right direction. Trump, however, did not. He and other Republicans argued the deal was bad because it gave too many concessions to Iran and did not get enough in return.
As a result, the U.S. withdrew from the deal and re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran. However, the US was alone in these efforts, and the five other signatory countries that crafted the deal lashed out at Trump for undermining the accord and called his actions a “mistake.”
After the U.S. withdrew, many wondered if the deal would remain intact, but Iran and the five others stuck to it. That is, until today.
What Iran’s Decision Really Means
What exactly does Iran decision to stop complying with parts of the deal involve? There are two key parts of Iran’s decision.
First of all, Iran is not withdrawing from the deal like the U.S. did– at least not just yet. Basically, they are saying that they will no longer respect certain restrictions under JCPOA. Specifically, the restrictions on building stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, which are used in nuclear reactors.
Second, Iran is giving the remaining countries in the deal 60 days to make a choice: either they ease the restrictions imposed by the U.S. on Iran’s oil and banking sectors– effectively violating U.S. sanctions, or Iran will slowly stop their compliance with the restrictions outlined in the deal piece by piece.
Iran’s reason for this course of action all goes back to that last point: U.S. sanctions.
In an official statement, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said that the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iran after they withdrew from the JCPOA were “illegal.” The statement goes on to say that the other members of the agreement promised to help ease the impacts of the sanctions, but they have not followed through, leaving Iran with “no option other than ‘reducing commitments’.”
“Now, it is the remaining countries’ turn to prove their goodwill and take serious and practical steps to preserve the JCPOA,” the statement concluded.
“The window that is now open to diplomacy will not remain open for a long time, and the United States and the remaining members will be fully responsible for the failure of the JCPOA and any possible consequences.”
Iran’s announcement Wednesday was neither unexpected nor unprovoked.
Over the last few months, the U.S. has significantly ramped up its hard-line policies against Iran. Last month, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. was designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, marking the first time Tthe U.S. labeled part of another country’s government a foreign terrorist organization.
Following the announcement, Iran acted swiftly in response by designating U.S. Central Command as a terrorist organization. Last week, Iran’s parliament passed a piece of legislation labeling the entire U.S. military as a terrorist organization. A move that came just one day after the U.S. increased pressure on Iran by announcing they would no longer allow countries that buy Iranian oil to be exempt from U.S. sanctions.
On Sunday, United States National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the U.S. was deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East in an effort to counter Iran.
In a statement, Bolton said that the move was “In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” but did not elaborate.
While the White House and Pentagon have not formally confirmed what triggered the move, U.S. defense officials that spoke on the condition of anonymity have told numerous outlets that the deployments are in response to reports that Iran was preparing to attack U.S. forces in the region.
According to the officials, recent intelligence indicated that Iran’s was planning to use proxies to attack U.S. forces both at sea off the coast of Yemen and on land in Iraq. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, made an unannounced trip to Iraq, reportedly to discuss the situation in Iran.
Currently, it seems like the tensions between the U.S. and Iran will continue to escalate, and many are worried about what will come from this.
If the JCPOA falls apart, it could put Iran on the pathway to building a bomb by essentially just resuming the activity the deal restricted. Already the U.S. is using hard power to counter against Iran, which has many experts wondering if the U.S. will consider military intervention.
However, numerous other countries, including the signatory countries in JCPOA, do not agree with what the Trump administration is doing.
European leaders criticized the U.S.sanctions again over the weekend, arguing that Iran has complied with the nuclear deal. China blamed the confrontation on the Trump administration, claiming that it was the U.S. that had escalated tensions, and reiterating their opposition to the sanctions.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also criticized the U.S. in a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. “The Americans are trying to create chaos in the region as it is evident from their moves,” Lavrov said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s state news outlet.
Even internally, it seems like people are worried about the Trump administrations actions.
In an exclusive report on the deployment of the strike force and bombers, the Daily Beast said they spoke to “multiple sources close to the situation” who reportedly told them that the administration exaggerated the situation, “characterizing the threat as more significant than it actually was.”
“It’s not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, so much as overreacting to it,” an anonymous official told the Daily Beast.
For now, it seems as though the U.S. and Iran are both committed to engaging in tit-for-tat tactics, and any hopes for de-escalation appear to be optimistic given the current trajectory.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Daily Beast)
India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People
The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.
After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people.
According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125.
During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.
“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.
Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government.
In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.
“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.
The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.
“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.
Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters.
Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals
Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.
Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies
Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.
Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.
The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.
For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.
An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”
Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.
As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.
Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.
The Arc of History Bends Toward China
Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.
Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.
Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.
Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.
Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.
Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.
Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service
Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.
Let Them Eat Satellites
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.
“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”
SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.
At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.
SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.
The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.
Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.
On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”
He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.
On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.
Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded
Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.
The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.
“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.
The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.
One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.
As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.
Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.
Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”