On May 8, Iran announced that it would stop exporting excess uranium and heavy water, setting a 60-day deadline for the five remaining parties to the deal – France, the UK, Germany, China, and Russia – to take practical measures toward ensuring Iran’s interests in the face of the American sanctions.
Given the unilateral U.S. abrogation of the deal last year and its intensification of sanctions against Iran, Iran said it has to take practical measures toward ensuring Iran’s interests. One of the measures taken by the U.S. is to revoke waivers that had permitted some countries to continue buying Iranian oil, a measure rejected by the five remaining members who signed the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In reaction, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK and EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini released a joint statement rejecting the deadline given by Iran, while reiterating their commitment to the implementation of the nuclear deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later criticized the EU statement, saying that it is unjust to demand that Iran unilaterally abide by a multilateral accord which has already been abrogated by the United States. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said in an interview on May 8, “We have not left the JCPOA so far, but we have put such a move on our agenda and that would happen step-by-step.”
“No country can accuse Iran of breaching or leaving the nuclear deal,” the minister pointed out. He added that all the measures his country has adopted so far, including this one, have been within the deal’s framework.
On May 10, the U.S. Air Force acknowledged that B-52H Stratofortress bombers the White House ordered to deploy to the Persian Gulf to counter unspecified threats from Iran had arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar the previous night. Images were released by the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command to confirm this. Trump said Iran had been “very threatening.”
“We have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening, and we just want to have – we have to have great security for this country,” Trump said.
On May 12, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the deployment of an American carrier strike group to the Middle East, citing a “credible threat” from Iran.
U.S. Aim to Provoke Confrontation with Iran
“The United States is moving dangerously forward in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to provoke a war with Iran, apparently based on threat intelligence provided by Israel,” former U.S. counter-terrorism specialist and CIA military intelligence officer Philip Giraldi wrote in an article published May 9.
“The claims made by National Security Advisor John Bolton and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there is solid evidence of Iran’s intention to attack U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region is almost certainly a fabrication, possibly deliberately contrived by Bolton and company in collaboration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” he stated.
“It will be used to justify sending bombers and additional naval air resources to confront any possible moves by Tehran to maintain its oil exports, which were blocked by Washington last week. If the U.S. Navy tries to board ships carrying Iranian oil it will undoubtedly, and justifiably, provoke a violent response from Iran, which is precisely what Bolton, Pompeo and Netanyahu are seeking,” he noted.
Scott Bennett, a former U.S. military psychological warfare officer and political commentator, also said the CIA and Israel’s Mossad are conflating and distorting intelligence to push the United States into a military conflict with Iran.
U.S. Contradiction with Europeans Regarding Sanctions and Use of Force
On May 13, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK met in the EU headquarters in Brussels to discuss Iran’s announcement. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini was also present. Before the meeting, Mogherini told reporters, “We continue to support [the JCPOA] as much as we can with all our instruments and all our political will.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled his visit to Moscow going to Brussels instead where he held bilateral meetings to share purported intelligence about Iran with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Pompeo also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Mogherini. The U.S. position is to put “maximum pressure” on Iran, with the threat of force made clear by the military deployments to the region.
State Department special representative for Iran Brian Hook said that Pompeo “shared information and intelligence with allies and discussed the multiple plot vectors emerging from Iran.” While Iran was the principle topic of the bilateral meetings, Pompeo was also reported to have discussed Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, Libya and “issues relating to NATO.”
However, reports on the May 13 meetings indicate that the U.S. was not able to sway EU countries to back its threat of military force, or even its stepped up sanctions regime. Following her meeting with Pompeo, Mogherini remarked, “The most responsible attitude to take should be that of maximum restraint and avoiding any escalation on the military side.”
“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” British Foreign Secretary Hunt stated. “What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking. Most of all, we need to make sure we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to renuclearization.”
German Foreign Minister Maas said of his meeting with Pompeo, “I once again made it clear that we are concerned about developments and tensions in the region.” He also stated that “We are concerned about the developments and the tensions in the region,” and that “We do not want it to rise to a military escalation.” Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Le Drian stated that the U.S. move to step up sanctions against Iran “does not suit us.”
(Strategic Culture Foundation, CNN, Washington Post, Radio Free Europe. Photo: M. Benjamin.)
TML Weekly, May 25, 2019