Trump: Total Termination of Nuclear Deal is a ‘Very Real Possibility’


Washington – US President Donald Trump said on Monday that a total termination of the Iran nuclear deal was a very real possibility.

“It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting.

“I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation,” Trump said, calling Iranian leaders “great negotiators” who “negotiated a great deal for themselves, but a horrible deal for the US.”

“We’ll see what happens,” the president concluded.

The president leaves a 60-day period for Congress to promote implementation of the agreement and address the flaws in the nuclear deal to ensure that Iran is completely prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons or developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and making all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity under the law.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton are leading efforts to review the nuclear deal and automatically reinstate sanctions if Iran breaches a number of red lines that were amended.

Sixty votes are required to pass the amendments desired by the Trump administration, which means that the new legislation will need all Republican votes in the Senate (52 votes) and eight votes from Democrat members.

“We are working with the offices of members of Congress, whether in the Republican or the Democratic side, to reach a consensus to pass the legislation,” a senior aide to the office of Senator Tom Cotton said. He noted that the new amendments would take into account Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its support for terrorist groups in the region.

Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker urged Trump to block a multibillion-dollar deal between Boeing and Iran Air.

Illinois Congressman Peter Roskam wrote in a letter to Trump Friday that while President Barack Obama’s administration lifted its sanctions on Iran Air and permitted commercial jet sales to Iran under the nuclear deal, the airline has not stopped its illicit activities.

“Iran Air continues transporting troops and weapons to Syria, while remaining sanction-free and able to buy hundreds of new aircraft to bolster its terror-supporting operations,” he said.

“Iran Air serves as a lifeline to the Assad Regime,” he added.

Head of Egypt Stock Exchange Expects to Attract New Investors in Coming Period


Washington – Head of the Egyptian Stock Exchange Mohammed Farid said that preliminary measures have already been taken to establish a futures contracts market in the country after international financial institutions have shown their desire to sign contracts on certain Egyptian products.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, Farid explained that “most emerging markets have contracts markets, as demonstrated by the request from some international financial institutions to sign contracts on Egyptian products.”

He added that the Egyptian stock exchange will attract new investors during the coming period in light of the new proposals that will be received by the primary market soon, but the volume and value of liquidity will witness a leap.

He pointed out that before starting to prepare for the contracts markets, they are “activating the sale of borrowed securities, which is important in contributing to the pricing of contracts markets in general and increasing trading rates.”

Efforts are being made to reduce the suspension time from 30 to 15 minutes in cases of temporary suspension of securities, in order to increase the liquidity rates so that the market can build contracts market with good transactions in the future, he revealed.

“The steps we are currently preparing for are to first have the legislative framework. We already have amendments to the level of the capital market law, which is supposed to be discussed in the parliament. It proposes the regulating legislative framework for the different markets and bourses.”

“Then, we have start to work on the different requirements, whether technological at the level of trading, or in regards to the settlement of these contracts or others associated with financial risk management and settlement of these securities,” Farid added.

Farid, who took office last August, is considering raising the 250-share capital increase and demanding that these increases be recorded.

Trump Punishes Iran over Regional Behavior

Washington- US President Donald Trump has slammed Iran’s behavior and support of terrorism, threatening to rip up the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Tehran and six major countries after accusing it of violating the deal.

In a speech he made at the White House on Friday, Trump took a procedural step of “decertifying” the agreement, giving the Congress 60 days to fix a series of deficiencies in the deal, mainly Iran’s ability in eight years to resume its nuclear program.

“We cannot and will not make this certification” that Iran is complying with the accord, he said. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

The accord has lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions regarding its nuclear program. But without the fixes, Trump warned, he would likely pull the US out of the deal.

The US president also said he was hitting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards with sanctions for supporting terrorism.

He backed away from designating the IRGC as a terror group. Instead, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Guards under a 2001 executive order to hit sources of terror funding and added four companies that support the group to its sanctions list.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin contended the group has “played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror.”

Trump opened his speech by reciting a long list of grievances with Iran dating back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the seizure of the US Embassy and American hostages in Tehran.

“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks. It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies. It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military,” he said.

Trump also accused Iran of fueling civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

“Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions,” he said.

“But the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA,” he added.

World Bank Vice President: Our Priorities are Education, Promoting the Private Sector


Washington – IMF and World Bank meetings come at a time when global growth rates are on the rise after almost 10 years of financial crisis, while growth in the Arab region is witnessing a decline due to the drop in oil prices, continuing conflicts, and geopolitical problems.

In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President of the World Bank for Sustainable Development, reviews key issues raised at the 2017 Annual Meetings in Washington, new directions in financing and the means to stimulate the private sector to engage in projects traditionally undertaken by governments, as well as the association of funding with sustainable development goals.

“In 2016, the global growth rate was 3.2 percent and reached 3.6 percent in 2017; next year, it is expected to slightly improve to 3.7 percent,” according to Mohieldin.

However, he noted that international institutions have advised not to rush with optimism about a rising trend in growth rates for several factors, including the spread of “protectionist policies” in trade and investment.

“There are also non-economic factors that have been highlighted in some studies, including the impact of political disturbances and conflicts in some cities, the geopolitical dimensions of some areas and the high cost of fighting terrorism,” the World Bank official said.

As for the Middle East, a recent report by the IMF and the World Bank forecasts growth rates in the region at around 2.2 percent, Mohieldin noted.

He said that next year growth is expected to be close to 3 percent, which means that growth rates in the Arab region are below global growth rates.

“The reasons are varied, either because of issues related to the decline in oil prices of the oil-exporting countries, or to the Arab countries that made gains out of the decline in oil prices and did not compensate for the losses incurred by other countries, in addition to conflicts and crises in a number of Arab countries,” he explained.

Asked about this year’s focus on education, healthcare and the strengthening of the private sector, Mohieldin said that the World Bank has published the World Development Report, which includes a presentation on the education crisis.

He noted in this regard that the current crisis had three dimensions: “First, countries lose much when they do not measure well the outcomes of education. The old system of evaluation based on success and failure is a traditional method. There are international standards for measuring the quality of education and its degree of excellence in some fields, in particular when it comes to applied sciences.”

The second dimension, according to Mohieldin, is the means to make schools an adequate arena for learning.

He underlined the importance of going beyond school buildings by promoting the use of information technology, developing sciences to meet challenges of the present century, and competing with the digital economy that may reduce employment opportunities.

“The third dimension relates to the measures required by a country to invest in education. Not only in infrastructure, but also in human structure, health and nutrition, and there is evidence that malnutrition at early stages affects the child’s capacity to absorb, and thus his ability to work,” Mohliedin explained.

As for the strategy to reinforce the private sector, the World Bank official said: “The World Bank wants to encourage the private sector to undertake projects because any country has a ceiling in its financial portfolio. If the state runs out of funds in private sector projects, this will be at the expense of other vital projects that the private sector cannot or will not provide, such as rural girls’ education projects or rehabilitation projects for the poor. The World Bank will focus heavily on this area in the coming period.”

Asked whether Arab countries have moved towards the new era of technological intelligence and behavioral information and whether they had room for new investments, Mohieldin said: “In my view, Arab countries that were late to catch up with the old technology have a better chance of catching up with the new technology if good investment spending is made; it is important not to be a mere user or consumer, but to acquire the ideas behind this technology.”

US Lifts Sudan Sanctions 20 Years after Imposing them

Washington- The US State Department announced on Friday that it has lifted a large number of sanctions that it had imposed on Sudan 20 years ago, saying the decision was the result of Khartoum’s cooperation in fighting terrorism and easing humanitarian distress.

“The lifting of sanctions is a very important step,” a State Department official told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. “But there is a long way ahead for Sudan to reach to where we aspire.”

“There is still too much work to be done,” the official said.

The next step is for the administration of President Donald Trump to notify the Congress about the decision so that it takes the necessary steps to lift the sanctions and suspend the trade and economic embargo and other penalties that the US had imposed on Sudan.

Senior administration officials said at a press conference they held at the State Department on Friday that Sudan continued to make progress in several fields including combating terrorism, improving human rights conditions and consolidating cessation of hostilities in areas of conflict.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the order would come into effect on October 12.

It came, she said, “in recognition of the Government of Sudan’s sustained positive actions to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan.”

And she cited Sudan’s sustained commitment to “improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan and maintain cooperation with the United States on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism.”

But the spokeswoman said much more progress is needed to fully and sustainably achieve peace in Sudan and to cooperate with the United States on a range of administration priorities, including further expanding humanitarian access, improving human rights practices, and ensuring that Sudan is committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.

The lifting of sanctions came after efforts were exerted by Saudi Arabia with the US administration.

Sudan was added to the US list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993. Last month, it was also placed on a list of states not doing enough to combat human trafficking.

The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking government assets.

Trump has ‘Total Confidence’ in Tillerson after Resignation Reports

Washington- US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he has “total confidence” in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson following media reports that the top diplomat intended to resign.

In his turn, appearing before reporters at a hastily organized news conference in the State Department following reports of huge differences with the president, Tillerson denied his intention to resign.

“There’s never been a consideration in my mind to leave,” the Secretary of State said.

“I serve at the appointment of the president and I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.”

Tillerson also sought to rebut a report that claimed Vice President Mike Pence had to talk him out of resigning.

Asked whether he had once dubbed the president a “moron,” Tillerson said: “We don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.”

“Let me tell you what I’ve learned about this president, whom I did not know before taking this office,” Tillerson said. “He loves his country. He puts Americans and America first. He’s smart. He demands results wherever he goes.”

According to an NBC News story, which cited “multiple senior administration officials”, Tillerson had referred to Trump as a “moron” at a July 20 Pentagon meeting.

Afterwards, the report said, Tillerson met with Pence, who urged him to show more respect, and with other senior officials who urged him not to resign.

The US media has revealed on many occasions that there are differences between the President and the Secretary of State.

On Sunday, as Tillerson flew home from meeting with top Chinese officials, Trump tweeted that his envoy was “wasting his time” in trying to probe North Korea’s willingness to talks.

US House Committee Approves Sanctions against Hezbollah

Washington – Members of the US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday in favor of two draft-laws that impose further sanctions on Hezbollah.
The first bill restricts Hezbollah’s ability to fundraise and have access to the international financial system and deal with financial institutions, while the second bill condemns Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields during warfare.
The two bills, which were introduced by the committee’s chairman Ed Royce along with Democrat Representative Eliot Engel, are expected to receive bipartisan support when they reach the US House.
“Hezbollah and Iran are reportedly introducing game-changing facilities into the region—independent factories that can produce rockets to be used against Israel and our allies. We also have reports of missile factories opening up in Lebanon near mosques, homes, hospitals, and schools … So today the Committee is taking action against Hezbollah and its sponsor Iran, by passing legislation that tightens the screws on Hezbollah’s financial operations globally,” Royce said.
Bill number HR 3329 suggests imposing mandatory sanctions with respect to fundraising and recruitment activities of Hezbollah.
Article 101 of the bill imposes sanctions on any foreign person who assists, sponsors, or, provides significant financial, material, or technological support for Hezbollah’s Bayt al-Mal, Jihad al-Bina, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, the Foreign Relations Department of Hezbollah, the External Security Organization of Hezbollah, al-Manar TV, al-Nour Radio, or the Lebanese Media Group, or any successor or affiliate.
HR 3342 imposes sanctions on foreign persons who are responsible for gross violations of the use of civilians as human shields by Hezbollah.
The bill dictates: “Identification of foreign persons who are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hezbollah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.”

US House Committee to Vote on Hezbollah Sanctions Bill

Washington– US House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on Thursday on legislation that tightens sanctions against Hezbollah, which is highly supported by both the Republican and the Democratic parties, according to informed sources.

Two bills were introduced by the committee’s chairman Ed Royce along with Democrat Representative Eliot Engel.

The first bill restricts Hezbollah’s ability to fundraise and have access to the international financial system and deal with financial institutions, while the second bill condemns Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields during warfare.

The bills enjoy wide bipartisan support and are expected to pass unanimously. The committee passed a bill in 2015 to sanction Hezbollah without any opposition, and it is unlikely for the new bills to be protested.

Bill number HR 3329 suggests imposing mandatory sanctions with respect to fundraising and recruitment activities of Hezbollah.

Article 101 of the bill imposes sanctions on any foreign person that can be determined knowingly assists, sponsors, or, provides significant financial, material, or technological support for Hezbollah’s: Bayt al-Mal, Jihad al-Bina, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, the Foreign Relations Department of Hezbollah, the External Security Organization of Hezbollah, al-Manar TV, al-Nour Radio, or the Lebanese Media Group, or any successor or affiliate.

The bill also dictates that any foreign person determined by the US President to be engaged in fundraising or recruitment activities for Hezbollah or a foreign person owned or controlled by a foreign person should be sanctioned.

Whereas HR 3342 imposes sanctions on foreign persons that are responsible for gross violations of the use of human civilians as human shields by Hezbollah.

The bill dictates: “Identification of foreign persons that are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hezbollah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.”

The bill also indicated that throughout the 2006 conflict between Hebzbollah and Israel, Hezbollah utilized human shields to protect themselves from Israeli counterattacks, including storing weapons inside civilian homes and firing rockets from inside populated civilian areas.

Hezbollah has rearmed itself to include an arsenal of over 150,000 missiles provided by the Syrian and Iranian governments. Hezbollah conceals the weapons in Shi’ite villages in southern Lebanon, according to HR 3342.

The bill requires the US administration to consider the use of human shields by Hezbollah as a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights and to officially and publicly condemn the use of innocent civilians as human shields by Hezbollah. It also asks the government to take effective action against those that engage in the breach of international law through the use of human shields.

It also asks the President to direct the US Permanent Representative at the UN to secure support for a resolution that would impose multilateral sanctions against Hezbollah for its use of civilians as human shields. 

Washington Plans to Call for Negotiations between Baghdad, Erbil

Washington- The United States has reiterated its rejection of the independence referendum held in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, calling for “constructive” talks between Baghdad and Erbil.

“One of the things we would do is call on all sides to engage constructively. We want the – both sides to come together and have some conversations and be able to move things forward, but do it in a constructive fashion,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

“We know that the turnout was obviously quite high and we certainly would understand why, a lot of enthusiasm, certainly, for that,” she said in her press briefing.

But Nauert stressed that the US government “did not support that referendum.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken with Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi by phone.

“We expressed our deep concern about that (the referendum), and also our disappointment that they decided to go ahead and conduct that vote,” said the State Department spokesperson.

“I think our conversations will be ongoing. We will continue to have conversations both with our friends in Baghdad as well as our friends in the north,” she told reporters.

“The United States government and the coalition’s concern about this and the timing of this referendum was we didn’t want to splinter Iraq. We see the primary issue as taking on ISIS, defeating ISIS, annihilating ISIS,” Nauert added.

Monday’s vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan — Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk — and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Revised Travel Ban Includes 3 New Countries

Immigration activists rally outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington

New York– On Sunday, US President Donald Trump issued a new executive order to replace last year’s controversial temporary ban on travelers from Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia and Libya.

North Korea, Chad and Venezuela were added to the list because they were not willing to cooperate, improve information-sharing and identity-management protocols and procedures, and address both terrorism-related and public-safety risks.

Sudan was dropped from the list of banned countries after the Sudanese government provided information required under the new criteria set out by the US administration earlier this year.

The new restrictions on travel vary by country and include a phased-in approach beginning next month.

Trump tweeted just after his administration released the details of the restrictions saying: “Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”

In a statement Sunday night, the White House said the new restrictions are a critical step toward establishing an immigration system that protects US safety and security in an era of dangerous terrorism and transnational crime.

“We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country,” Trump said in the White House statement, adding: “my highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”

The Presidential Proclamation also indicated that out of nearly 200 evaluated, a small number of the countries remain deficient at this time with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices. In some cases, these countries also have a significant terrorist presence within their territory.

The proclamation excluded: foreign nationals who had been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity, and those who have previously established significant contacts with the United States but are outside the United States on the applicable effective date under section 7 of this proclamation for work, study, or other lawful activity.

White House National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster commented saying: “If you can’t screen people effectively to know who’s coming into your country, then you shouldn’t allow people from that country to travel.”

A White House official pointed out that these limitations are vital to the national security, but can be lifted if security measures improved as with the case of Sudan.

The official also stated that Iraq was not on the list even though it did not meet its baseline security requirements. However, Baghdad is a close ally and supports the presence of large numbers of US troops and civilians, reported AFP.

Meanwhile, state officials said that the addition of North Korea and Venezuela showed that the measure was based on security standards and was not a Muslim ban as opposers claim.

A senior government official told reporters that religion was not a factor.

“The inclusion of those countries, Venezuela and North Korea, was about the fact that those governments are simply not compliant with our basic security requirements,” he explained.

The official proclamation stated that even though Chad had shown a clear willingness to improve in these areas, it didn’t adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and failed to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.

In addition, there are several active terrorist groups in the country such as Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Venezuela, undergoing critical economic and political crisis, was added to the list for not cooperating with the vetting process. However, the ban only includes several Socialist government officials, officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and their immediate families.

Trump’s previous ban was issued in March and sparked international outrage and was quickly blocked by federal courts as unconstitutional discrimination or a violation of immigration law. It also created chaos in airports and immigration offices.

The new restrictions with the added three countries will take effect on October 18.