EU: Washington Does Not Have Authority to Terminate Iran Nuclear Deal


London – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed on Friday that US President Donald Trump does not have the authority to terminate the nuclear deal world powers signed with Iran in wake of his recent announcement of a new strategy against Tehran.

She said: “The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.”

Trump had announced during a speech unveiling during which he unveiled the new strategy that he could terminate the deal at any time.

In other European reactions to Trump’s stance, France, Germany and Britain said in a joint statement that preserving the nuclear deal “falls within our national interest.”

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romat said in a statement that the deal was a strong tool to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert stated: “We have a great interest in the continuation of this international unity. If … an important country like the United States comes to a different conclusion as appears to be the case, we will work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion.”

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano declared on Friday that Tehran is “subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

He added that Iran is honoring its commitments.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that FM Sergei Lavrov had telephoned his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Friday, saying that Moscow will remain completely committed to the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Lavrov told Zarif that Russia was firmly determined to implement the deal in the form in which it was approved by the United Nations Security Council, reported Reuters.

The Kremlin meanwhile warned of “negative and dire consequences” if Washington withdrew from the deal, saying that Tehran would reciprocate such a move.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that spiking the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”

Echoing Moscow’s stance, Beijing reiterated its commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hoped that all sides would continue to support and implement the agreement.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “strongly hoped” the Iran nuclear deal will remain in place, after Trump accused Iran of violating the accord.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that Guterres had long praised the 2015 pact as a very important breakthrough to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and advance global peace.

Britain Plans Billion-Pound Boost for Electric Cars


London — ِAs part of plans to invest 2.5 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) by 2021 to help meet its climate change targets, Britain will spend one billion pounds to promote electric and other low-emission vehicles, and step up spending on research and innovation, Reuters reported.

The government’s Clean Growth Strategy, which details government spending between 2015 and 2021, includes heavy investment in science, research and innovation to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Around 900 million pounds will be spent on innovation. This includes 265 million pounds for smart energy, 460 million pounds to support new nuclear technology and 177 million pounds to help develop new technology to further reduce the cost of renewables such as innovations in turbine blades for wind power.

The funding will cover programmes in the energy, transport, agriculture and waste sectors.

The government said it said it would spend one billion pounds “supporting the take-up of ultra low-emission vehicles, including helping consumers to overcome the upfront cost of an electric car,” but gave no details of how the scheme would work.

In July, the government said it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040.

Britain has a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, blamed for global warming, by 80 percent by 2050 compared with 1990.

Government data showed by the end of 2016 Britain was more than half way to meeting the target, having cut GHG emissions by 42 percent compared with 1990 levels.

The government will invest up to 100 million pounds in technology to capture, use and store carbon dioxide emissions and in industrial innovations to drive down emissions, according to the plan published on Thursday.

Former British PM Appointed to High-Profile Commercial Role

Former British prime minister David Cameron has been appointed to his first high profile commercial role, Reuters reported on Friday.

Cameron’s appointment comes amid a recent swirl of merger activity in the industry, including US credit card processor Vantiv’s acquisition of top UK payment company WorldPay in a $10 billion deal.

Cameron will take on an advisory post with the US-based First Data Corp., which handles credit- and debit-card transactions for around 6 million merchants worldwide, the company said in a statement on Friday.

In this role, Cameron will focus on consolidating First Data’s base in its key markets as well
as promoting the company’s expansion into new regions of the world, the statement said.

It also coincides with a time of deep uncertainty in financial markets over the outcome of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, a subject matter in which Cameron is particularly well-versed.

The British political scene remains volatile, with his successor Theresa May trying to face down a rebellion by some of her own lawmakers seeking to oust her.

Since leaving office soon after the June 2016 Brexit vote, Cameron has held a number of unpaid, voluntary posts, including presidency of the charity Alzheimer’s UK. More lucrative work has come through speaking engagements at a bureau that also represents former prime minister Tony Blair.

British Home Secretary Demands 15 Years in Jail for Streaming Terrorist Content


London – British Home Secretary Amber Rudd urged on Monday that stricter laws be imposed on people who stream terrorist content online.

She demanded that repeat offenders could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Britain has seen five deadly attacks this year, including vehicle and knife rampages and a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Rudd told the governing Conservative Party conference in Manchester that seven other plots had been stopped.

She said tougher laws are needed because there’s been “a shift toward crude attacks” with shorter timescales.

She stressed the need to tackle extremism over the internet and update counter-terrorism laws related to it.

According to Home Office, some 44,000 websites for ISIS terrorist propaganda have been set up in the past eight months.

“There is currently a gap in the law around material which is viewed or streamed from the internet without being permanently downloaded,” Rudd told Sky News.

“This is an increasingly common means by which material is accessed online for criminal purposes, and is a particularly prevalent means of viewing extremist material such as videos and web pages.”

She also hoped that the stricter laws would also include those who spread information about members of the armed forces, police and intelligence agencies for terrorist purposes.

Addressing ideologies that are an inspiration for this year’s terrorist attacks are without a doubt one of the biggest obstacles they are facing, but they are not the only ones, Rudd added.

The World Applauds King Salman’s Order Allowing Women to Drive

Washington, London, Berlin – Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive was widely supported around the world, as international leaders have officially welcomed the King’s order.

US President Donald Trump commended the royal order to apply the traffic system and its executive regulations – including issuance of driving licenses – for both males and females alike, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This is a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we will continue to support the Kingdom in its efforts to strengthen the Saudi society and economy through reforms like this and the implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030,” Trump said, according to the statement.

The US Department of State has also welcomed the Saudi royal order.

In the daily press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert stressed that this decision was a great step and a very positive sign.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for his part, tweeted that ending the restrictions represented an “important step in the right direction.”

In London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May described the Saudi decision as an “important step towards gender equality.”

“The empowerment of women around the world is not only an issue I care deeply about, it is also key to nations’ economic development,” she said.

From Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman welcomed Saudi Arabia’s order to grant women the right to drive as “a big step for Saudi society.”

Spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Merkel has repeatedly brought up the situation of women during visits to Saudi Arabia. “It is a particularly important issue to her,” he stated.

Meanwhile, a political researcher at Georges Washington University told Asharq Al-Awsat that King Salman’s move to allow Saudi women to drive was a “courageous decision and will open up social and economic prospects for women in Saudi Arabia.”

Police Make 7th Arrest Over London Subway Bomb

Dr. Nasser Kurdy

London-British police on Monday arrested a 20-year-old man suspected of involvement in the Sept. 15 terrorist attack on an underground train in south-west London.

The man was detained in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, and taken to a police station in London, the Metropolitan Police said.

He was the seventh suspect arrested following the attack, in which about 30 people were injured when a home-made bomb partially detonated on an underground train at London’s Parsons Green station.

The suspect, Ahmed Hassan, 18, was charged on Friday with attempted murder and causing an explosion while three suspects were released without charge.

A bucket packed with nails and the explosive Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) partially detonated on a busy train during the morning rush hour, and many of the victims suffered burns.

The attack was claimed by ISIS, but police cautioned that such claims were “routine… whether or not they’ve had any previous engagement with the individuals involved.”

On the other hand, an imam, who treated Manchester bombing victims, was rushed to hospital after he was stabbed outside a mosque by an attacker who reportedly made “anti-Muslim comments.”

Police have launched an investigation after Dr. Nasser Kurdy was attacked with a knife outside the Altrincham Islamic Center in Greater Manchester on Sunday.

Dr Kurdy, 58, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, and some people had already made their way into the mosque when he was attacked at around 6 pm.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said: ‘This is a very nasty and unprovoked attack against a much-loved local man.’

He has been discharged from hospital, according to his colleague Dr. Khalid Anis, a spokesman for the Altrincham & Hale Muslim Association, who said he was ‘very lucky’.

Dr. Anis, who was with his friend moments after the attack, said: ‘It could have been very, very serious.

“He said he noticed someone cross the road and then somebody just attacked him from behind.”

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement: ‘Officers have arrested two people after a hate crime in Hale.

“Emergency services attended and a man in his 60s has been taken to hospital with a stab wound to the back of his neck.”

Two men aged 54 and 32 were arrested nearby in connection with the incident and remain in custody for questioning.

Officers are treating this as a hate crime and are appealing for people with information to come forward, according to the Daily Mail.

Man Held in Denmark for ISIS Links


Denmark jailed on Saturday a man for 25 days for his links to the ISIS terrorist group.

He was held under Denmark’s anti-terror laws for allegedly shipping drones, components for unmanned aerial vehicles and infrared cameras that were bound for the terror group in Syria and Iraq.

Police say the 28-year-old man was held on “strong suspicion” of taking part in terrorist activities abroad by purchasing and shipping the equipment via Turkey.

A 29-year-old woman who was arrested with him on Thursday has been released. It is unclear if she remains a suspect.

Police said a 31-year-old man who is believed to be in Turkey was being sought on an international arrest warrant Friday on suspicion he received the shipped items.

The 28-year-old man denies wrongdoing.

A court order bars the suspects’ names and nationalities from being made public.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council approved the creation of a UN investigative team to collect, preserve and store evidence in Iraq of acts by ISIS that may be war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution, after a year of negotiations with Iraq, that asks Secretary General Antonio Guterres to establish a team “to support domestic efforts” to hold the militants accountable.

British Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt said Britain would provide some $1.3 million to help establish the team.

“There can never be adequate recompense for those who were forced to endure the wanton brutality of (ISIS) and the dead will not be brought back, but this resolution means that the international community is united in our belief that there should, at least, be accountability,” Burt told the council.

Use of the evidence collected by the team in other venues, such as international courts, would “be determined in agreement with the Government of Iraq on a case-by-case basis.” Evidence is for primary use by Iraqi authorities, followed by “competent national-level courts,” according to the resolution.

Thousands of foreigners have fought with ISIS and some are already being prosecuted when they return home.

Iraqi Kurdistan Referendum Beats Drums of Ethnic War


Irbil, Beirut – Unprecedented tensions have been building between Iran, Turkey and Iraq and between the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s staging of an independence referendum, the consequences of which may lead to a regional conflict against the Kurds.

The Kurds have been aspiring for their own country for a century and the first step to achieving that goal took place in 1992 when they garnered autonomous rule in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. They followed that up in 2005 by gaining federal privileges in the constitution and in 2008, then expanded their control in the region by reaching Kirkuk. Their power was further cemented by their success in combating ISIS in the region since 2014 and with western backing.

The referendum, scheduled for Monday, will likely awaken separatist sentiments in Kurds in Iran and Turkey, which is what Tehran and Ankara are trying to curb through diplomatic means. The Iraqi government in Baghdad has meanwhile warned that it may resort to military force to combat the independence vote. This has sparked fears of an ethnic conflict in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS, meaning the country may be headed to a new bloody phase, this time with nationalist undertones.

The Iraqi Kurdistan Region has stuck to its intention to hold the referendum on September 25, despite international and Iraqi demands to postpone it. This sent a message to the world that it will head towards independence regardless of the conditions and pressure.

“There is no longer time to postpone the process,” it stressed, especially after it denied that it had received a better alternative to the referendum that would appease the Kurdish people.

On June 7, all Kurdish parties, except the Change Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Group, had voted in favor for holding the referendum. The decision was made following failed negotiations between Iraq and Kurdistan on resolving pending issues between them.

Baghdad had rejected the referendum from the moment it was announced. This stance was also adopted by Iran, which had called on Irbil to cancel the vote. The United States, according to Kurdish and American officials, “does not stand against the referendum, but it believes that the timing is not right for it” because it affects the war against ISIS. This position was echoed by Russia, France and Britain, all of which had called on Kurdistan to postpone the vote, urging it to resolve problems with the Iraqi government within the framework of a unified Iraq.

Kurdish accusation against the Baghdad government

For its part, the Kurdish government believes that the independence referendum is a right granted to it by the international community and Iraqi constitution. It also accuses Baghdad of violating, since 2005, 55 constitutional articles related to the Kurds and their rights. It said that Iraq has rejected partnership, marginalizing them from all aspects of the Iraqi state.

The Kurdish political leadership has alleged in its meetings with international delegations, which have intensified their visits to Irbil recently to persuade it to delay the vote, that Baghdad and its policies have pushed Kurds to pursue independence.

Head of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party Mohammed Haci Mahmoud told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US, Britain, France and United Nations had proposed discussing the autonomous region’s affairs, including tackling the referendum at the UN, in exchange for postponing the vote for two years.

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk, as well as the ambassadors of the US, Britain, France and the UN delegation in Iraq, had made this proposal to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Thursday, but he had rejected it. They warned that the region will have to suffer the consequences of this refusal. Kurdistan had however said that it will not turn away from dialogue and negotiations with Baghdad and the international community over gaining independence in the post-referendum phase.

Kurdistan Democratic Party MP Farhan Jawhar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The idea of holding a referendum was born the moment the Iraqi government violated the rights of Kurdistan and its people. It then cut the region’s budget, as well as the salaries of employees, and it did not commit to the constitution. We therefore had no choice but the referendum.”

Asked if all Kurdish political parties backed the vote, he replied: “All the people of Kurdistan support this operation and the political parties as well, except the Change Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Group, who have asked that it be postponed. They added however that they will support the referendum if it is held.”

A statement for the higher referendum council issued on Thursday voiced its commitment to the independence vote, explaining that Kurdistan did not receive the “desired alternatives to it.” The referendum will therefore be held as scheduled.

Jawhar revealed that if the Baghdad government boycotted Kurdistan after the referendum and refused to negotiate with it, then Irbil will immediately announce the establishment of a Kurdish state. He ruled out however that Iraq or any other neighboring country would take such a measure against Kurdistan.

Disputed regions

The independence vote will not only include the Kurdish regions that enjoy autonomous rule, but also disputed areas that are covered by article 140 of the Iraqi constitution between Kurdistan and the Iraqi government. The disputed regions include the Kirkuk province and a number of cities and provinces in Mosul, Diyala and Salaheddine. These areas enjoy Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Christian populations and they have been under Peshmerga control since 2003. The Iraqi Kurdistan Region had assured the disputed regions that the upcoming Kurdish state will not be a nationalist one, but it will be based on a civic basis.

Fears remain however among the Kurds in the autonomous region and the disputed areas over the eruption of problems and violence as a result of the threats of the Iraqi government and Shi’ite militias. They also fear that Tehran and Ankara may close their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan and impose an economic siege against it.

Kurdistan Islamic Union MP Haji Karwan told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have not ruled out any possibility and we are prepared to deal with them. Some threats were made by some unofficial sides. We are dealing with the Iraqi government, not the Shi’ite militias, which we consider illegal.”

“Our borders are fortified by the Peshmerga and no force, whether Shi’ite or Sunni, will cross them,” he stressed.

Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara

It appears that the Kurdish referendum has allowed Iraq, Iran and Turkey to overcome their differences and they have been united in confronting the vote. They vowed in a joint statement released on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier this week that they “will take measures against the Iraqi Kurdistan Region if it went ahead with the independence referendum.”

They expressed a concern that the vote may squander the gains achieved by Iraq against ISIS, warning that the referendum may spark new conflicts in the region that would be difficult to contain.

Dr. Sami Nader of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Lebanon said that the joint statement was like a “declaration of a cold war in the Middle East.”

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the war will pit Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Russia against the US, Israel and Kurds in the region. Arab countries that have an interest in Turkey expanding its influence in the region and Iran limiting its power will also be involved in this cold war.

Iran and Turkey fear that the independence vote will lead their own Kurdish minorities to demand a similar vote. Russia has meanwhile adopted a cautious approach, while Saudi Arabia urged the Kurdish leadership to abandon the vote, warning of its consequences. The only regional power to support the referendum was Israel, which has long backed Kurdish goals because they represent a non-Arab buffer zone in the confrontation with Iran.

Lebanese researcher on regional and Iranian affairs, Dr. Talal Atrisi ruled out to Asharq Al-Awsat the possibility of the eruption of a direct military confrontation as a result of the Kurdish referendum. He also said that the vote for independence does not mean that independence will be automatically achieved because such a goal needs complicated procedures.

Common interests

Kurds make up a fourth of Turkey’s population of 80 million. Kurds believe that they are the largest national population in the world that has been deprived of their right to establish a state after decades of displacement in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria in wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.

Turkey currently hosts the largest Kurdish population and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has since 1984 been leading a separatist movement there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned before the UN on Tuesday Kurdish authorities against “ignoring the clear and firm Turkish stance” on the referendum.

Turkey is not alone in its fierce opposition to the establishment of a Kurdish state, but it is not clear whether it was willing to take the risk of making a tangible response to the vote.

Ankara’s stance meets that of Tehran, which has faced various rebellions led by Kurdish groups. Turkey and Iran have long cooperated in suppressing nationalist Kurdish movement.

Atrisi predicted that Ankara will likely take economic measures against Irbil. Turkey is in fact Iraqi Kurdistan’s closest ally in the region as it has allowed it to export oil through its territories and they both share an opposition to the PKK. Iraqi Kurdistan in turn has become one of the greatest importers of Turkish consumer products. Furthermore, the alliance between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds has allowed the former to expand militarily in Iraq and set up a military base in Bashiqa in the north.

British Government Spokesman: Houthis are not Cooperating, We don’t Support Kurdistan’s Referendum

Dubai – British Government’s spokesman in the Middle East and North Africa, Edwin Samuel, said his country was targeted by organizations such as ISIS, but that would not deter the British people from promoting a pluralistic and diverse lifestyle to overcome terrorism.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Samuel said: “The British government is strongly facing the extremist ideology, by supporting voices of moderation, especially in our religious communities and civil society, as well as obstructing extremists and chasing advocates of radicalism, and by seeking to build more cohesive societies.”

“We need to propose a way of life that respects tradition and religion, but also offers an opportunity so that young people are not exploited by a false doctrine. We can learn a lot about this from our allies, especially Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Asked about provocative speeches that are made under the concept of freedom of opinion, especially in Europe, Samuel said that his country was closely monitoring those who “spread the ideas of violent extremism.”

“If they break the law, they are prosecuted. If they don’t, we campaign against them openly and challenge their ideas,” he noted.

Samuel went on to say: “As Prime Minister Theresa May said, the defeat of extremist ideology is one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it cannot be defeated by military intervention alone, or by defensive operations to combat terrorism.”

In this regard, he stressed the importance of turning people’s minds away from violence and “make them understand that our values, the values of British pluralism, are superior to anything advocated by the promoters of hate and their supporters.”

The British government’s spokesman also touched on the situation in the region and the crisis between the Gulf States and Qatar, voicing UK’s concern over the ongoing rift between Doha and its neighbors.

“The United Kingdom is very concerned about the ongoing tensions in the Gulf because the GCC is our strategic partner, and we are in constant contact with our Gulf friends to encourage de-escalation, and we strongly support the Kuwaiti mediation efforts,” Samuel stated.

As for the UK position on Yemen, the British official reiterated the Kingdom’s support to the Saudi-led military intervention in the country, noting that Houthi rebels have failed so far to show goodwill and to cooperate effectively to reach a solution to the crisis.

“Houthis are not cooperating in the way they negotiate and they need to understand that the restoration of the legitimate government in Yemen is inevitable… They need to show goodwill by negotiating in good faith,” the British official said.

He stressed that the United Kingdom’s main concern was to stop the cholera epidemic and to get aid to the Yemenis.

“There is no military solution. Yemen has always suffered from a developmental and humanitarian problem; if we fix the fundamental problem, those, who might want to create problems from outside like Iran, will not find fertile ground,” Samuel said.

Underlining the British support to the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, the official said that his country was assuming a leading role in diplomatic efforts, including bringing together key international actors in an attempt to find a peaceful solution.

“The United Kingdom also plays a key role in humanitarian response as the third largest humanitarian donor to Yemen (after the United States and the European Union),” he added.

On Syria, Samuel said the situation there would remain complicated in the absence of a political solution.

“From the beginning, we were saying: The Syrian crisis needs a political solution that leads to a comprehensive transitional government that encompasses all the Syrians, excluding all those involved in shedding Syrian blood,” he stated.

“I lived in Syria when I studied Arabic in 2007 and 2008, and I knew it was a happy and varied life where all Syrians coexisted, regardless of their background. It is worse and more complicated now because of multilateral actors and the interference of foreigners, including Iran, Russia, and foreign extremists,” Samuel recounted.

“[President Bashar] Assad must leave,” he stressed, “and the Russians must help manage the transition away from Assad. We need to defeat ISIS to move to a national unity government.”

Asked about UK’s stance towards the independence referendum in Kurdistan, which is to be held on Monday, the British government’s spokesman said: “Britain’s position is clear. We do not support the aspirations of the Kurdistan Regional Government to hold a referendum on September 25; the referendum threatens to increase instability in the region at a time when the focus should be on defeating ISIS.”

He noted in this regard that the United Kingdom has proposed the resumption of a new round of talks between the governments in Baghdad and Erbil, which would address all points of disagreements between the two sides.

He also said that such talks should be held without preconditions with the support of the international community.

Sixth Arrest over London Underground Attack

British detectives have arrested a 17-year-old youth in connection with a bomb attack on a London Underground train last week, bringing the total number of arrests to six, police said on Thursday.

The young man was arrested under the Terrorism Act in the early hours of Thursday in Thornton Heath, south London. The other arrests had taken place in Dover on the south coast of England, Hounslow in west London and Newport in Wales.

“This continues to be a fast-moving investigation. A significant amount of activity has taken place since the attack on Friday,” said Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

“We now have six males in custody and searches are continuing at five addresses. Detectives are carrying out extensive inquiries to determine the full facts behind the attack,” he said.

A home-made bomb went off on Sept. 15 during the morning rush hour on a packed underground Tube train at Parsons Green station, sending flames through the carriage, although it appeared that the device did not fully explode.

The attack, which was the fifth major terrorism incident in Britain this year, left 30 people injured. Some commuters suffered burns, while others were injured in the stampede to the exit that ensued.