- 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)
Al Jazeera Suspends Journalists for Controversial Holocaust Video
- Al Jazeera posted a video on their youth-focused channel AJ+ that said Jewish people had intentionally misrepresented how bad the Holocaust was for them, and claimed that “Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”
- The video, which was in Arabic, attracted widespread condemnation after a U.S.-based nonprofit called The Middle East Media Research Institute posted a translated version of it.
- Al Jazeera removed the post and suspended two journalists involved with making the video.
Qatar-based multination publication Al Jazeera suspended two journalists who published a video that claimed Jewish people deliberately exaggerated the Holocaust so that Israel could benefit.
The video was posted on May 18 by AJ+ Arabic, Al Jazeera’s youth-focused channel that creates short video explainers designed for social media. It was reportedly posted on the Twitter and Facebook accounts for AJ+ and received hundreds of thousands of views before it was taken down.
The video was posted in Arabic, but it started to get backlash after the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a U.S.-based nonprofit, posted an English translation of the video.
After the video started receiving criticism, Al Jazeera tweeted that they deleted the video because it “violated the editorial standards of the Network.”
The following day, the publication said in a statement that it “has taken disciplinary action and suspended two of its journalists” over the video.
“Dr. Yaser Bishr, Executive Director of Digital Division, stated that Al Jazeera completely disowns the offensive content in question and reiterated that Al Jazeera would not tolerate such material on any of the Network’s platforms,” the statement said. “In an email to staff he also called for the mandatory bias training and awareness program.”
The statement also said that Dima Khatib, the Managing Director of AJ+ Channels, claimed that “the video was produced without the due oversight,” and added that workflows were being reviewed.
According to MEMRI’s, the video was posted with the caption, “The Gas Chambers Killed Millions of Jews – That’s How the Story Goes. What Is the Truth behind the Holocaust and How Did the Zionist Movement Benefit from It?”
Based on MEMRI’s translations, the video starts out with the narrator saying, “The narrative that six million Jews were killed by the Nazi movement was adopted by the Zionist movement.” The narrator then goes on to explain what happened in the Holocaust, describing the persecution of Jews and other groups.
Then the narrator says that the Jews were only part of the many groups murdered by the Nazis and asks, “So why is there a focus only on them?”
“Jewish groups had financial resources, media institutions, research centers, and academic voices that managed to put a special spotlight on the Jewish victims of the Nazis,” she continued.
She then claims that the number of people who died in the Holocaust is still being debated today and asks the question: “How did Israel benefit from the Holocaust?”
The narrator goes on to discuss the 1933 Transfer Agreement, where Zionist groups negotiated with Nazis to allow thousands of German Jews to leave for Palestine, and then makes the argument that Israel greatly benefited from this.
“Israel is the biggest winner from the Holocaust, and it uses the same Nazi justifications as a launching pad for the racial cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinians,” the narrator said.
She concludes the video by asserting that the idea behind the “State of Israel” comes from concepts “that suckled from the Nazi spirit and its main notions.”
Following the incident, numerous people took to Twitter to condemn Al Jazeera.
Emmanuel Nahshon, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry called the video “the worst kind of pernicious evil” in a tweet, and argued that it “perpetuates hatred of Israel and the Jews.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic media spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, also expressed disdain in a tweet, writing that the video was “spreading lies about it & about Israel, specifically on #Ramadan in order to incite the masses.”
Others outside of Israel also criticized Al Jazeera. Donald Trump Jr. joined in on Twitter, writing, “Al-Jazeera is now openly publishing Holocaust Denial videos on their facebook page. Will @facebook take action & ban them for this like they’ve done to conservatives for far less?“
Al Jazeera English v. Al Jazeera Arabic
Others who criticized Al Jazeera on Twitter highlighted the differences between the publication’s English networks, like Al Jazeera English and AJ+ English, and their Arabic-language networks and content.
One user posted screenshots of the video posted to AJ+ Arabic next to a video about a Holocaust survivor posted on AJ+ English the same day.
“Don’t be fooled by AJ‘s polished facade for its gullible Western audience,” another user wrote on Twitter. “AJ isn’t news, it’s state-controlled propaganda.”
This discussion was also hit on in an article published by BBC. In the article, BCC notes that Al Jazeera English is known for its “varied coverage,” and shining a light on “underreported stories.”
However, that reporting “comes in stark contrast to Al Jazeera Arabic,” the article stated, continuing that Al Jazeera’s Arabic networks often include “friendly coverage of Islamist groups – particularly favouring those aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
This compare and contrast is interesting because Al Jazeera is considered a very reliable source among U.S. audiences, but at the end of the day, it is a multinational media network that is funded by the Qatari government.
If Al Jazeera’s Arabic coverage is catered so differently to its Middle Eastern audiences, it inevitably raises questions about its legitimacy and reporting in the U.S.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Haaretz) (The Guardian)
Taiwan Becomes First in Asia to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
- Taiwan’s Parliament passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Friday, making it the first in Asia to do so.
- The decision comes after a 2017 ruling by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court which found that disallowing same-sex marriage violated the country’s constitution, and gave the government two years to pass a law legalizing it.
- Supporters of the bill are optimistic it will set an example for other Asian nations, while opponents say it does not support the will of the people, who overwhelmingly voted against legalization in a referendum last November.
Parliament Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill
Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after the country’s Parliament approved a bill Friday.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, in anticipation of Friday’s vote. Gathered outside the Parliament building, supporters cheered when the decision was announced.
The Parliament’s announcement came after lawmakers considered three separate bills and ultimately decided on the most progressive of the three, which was passed with a vote of 66-27. The legislation chosen was the only one that defined a same-sex relationship as “marriage,” while the other bills used terms like “same-sex union.”
The bill will take effect after Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, signs it into law. Ing-wen campaigned on marriage equality in 2016, and praised the passage of the bill on Twitter, writing, “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”
Once the law goes into effect, it will give same-sex couples many of the same tax, insurance, and child custody benefits that are allowed to heterosexual married couples. It will also allow limited adoption rights, though it is unclear if those rights will extend to the adoption of non-blood relatives.
Taiwan’s Progressive History
Taiwan has been applauded as a champion and leader of gay rights in the region, well before the passage of the new bill.
Its annual gay pride parade in Taipei is known for attracting tens of thousands of people from all over the continent, making it the largest pride parade in East Asia.
In 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that the laws that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying violated the Taiwanese constitution. The court then gave the government two years to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage.
However, same-sex marriage remained a divisive subject in Taiwan. Following the 2017 ruling, conservative and religious opponents stalled the passage of a new law legalizing gay marriage. Opponents also pressured the government into holding a referendum on whether or not the public wanted gay marriage to be legal.
The referendum, which was held in Novemeber, showed that Taiwanese voters overwhelmingly opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage, and favored the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.
Taiwan’s ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), responded to the referendum by drafting two competing bills that would align with both the Constitutional Court’s decision and the results of the referendum. Unsurprisingly, those bills were strongly opposed by the LBGTQ+ community.
Taiwan’s Parliament ultimately did not choose those two bills, instead opting for the bill supported by the LGBTQ+ community, as represented by the vote on Friday. While marriage equality advocates have criticized the limits on adoption rights for same-sex couples, they still favored the bill that was passed over the other versions.
While supporters celebrated the bill’s passage, opponents of legalizing gay marriage expressed their anger. “How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?” said John Wu, a lawmaker who is part of the opposition Kuomintang party. “Can we find an appropriate compromise solution? We need more dialogue in society.”
Potential Implications for the Region
Taiwan’s decision to legalize gay marriage makes it the first to do so in a region where gay rights have fallen wayside.
With the new law, many hope that Taiwan will set an example for other countries in the region. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, applauded Taiwan for leading the way for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia “amid growing authoritarianism and rights abuses in other countries throughout the region.”
However, it remains unclear if other Asian nations will follow suit. While countries like China and Vietnam have decriminalized homosexuality, gay marriage still remains illegal.
Other Asian nations still are slow to embrace change concerning LGBTQ+ rights.
Until last year, gay sex was considered a criminal offense in India which was punishable by up to ten years in jail. Just last month, Brunei implemented new laws that made gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death.
Brunei later walked back on the law after massive international protest. It now claims it will not enforce the death penalty, though gay sex will still be punished by jail time in the country.
That said, others are optimistic about strides some Asian nations are taking. Thailand has proposed a law that would recognize same-sex partnerships, and last year a Hong Kong court ruled that same-sex couples that live in the city would be allowed the same rights to visas as heterosexual couples who are married.
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Hong Kong, but public opinion polls show that support for marriage equality is gaining traction.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (BBC) (The Washington Post)
Modern Day Gold Rush?! What You Need To Know About This Illegal Mining Town
Imagine living in the highest elevation human settlement in the world. A place where the climate and living conditions are unlike any other. There are no roads. There is no plumbing, no running water, and no sewage disposal system.
What there is, however, is gold, tons of it. So much, in fact, that over the years, thousands of people have moved to the city with the hope of striking it rich. But even so, over 68 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. Why? Watch the video to find out and learn more about the city that’s been coined, “The White Hell.”