UAE says Khamenei meeting proves Houthis are Iran’s proxy

Time: August 15, 2019  

Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Mohammed Abdul-Salam of the Houthi militants in Tehran on Tuesday. (AP)
  • State TV showed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praising the militants Tuesday, as he met a Houthi negotiator
  • ‘The Houthis are a proxy and that is the correct terminology,’ said UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash

LONDON: A meeting between a Houthi official and Iran’s Supreme Leader proves “in black and white” that the Yemeni militants are an Iranian proxy, a senior Emirati said Wednesday.

State TV showed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praising the militants Tuesday, as he met the Houthi negotiator, Mohammed Abdul-Salam. Iran has long been accused of supporting the group, which sparked the war in 2014 when they seized the capital Sanaa.

 

د. أنور قرقاش

@AnwarGargash

Houthi relations with Iran, for long in search for proper designation, is clearer following their leadership’s meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei. Stated in black & white in their statement of fealty the Houthis are a proxy and that is the correct terminology.

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Houthi relations with Iran are “clearer following their leadership’s meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter. The relationship was “stated in black and white in their statement of fealty,” he added. “The Houthis are a proxy and that is the correct terminology.”

Iran’s support for the Houthis and supply of weapons is regarded as one of the key reasons the war in Yemen has lasted so long. An Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, is supporting troops loyal to the internationally recognized government against the Houthis.

The meeting in Tehran is the first time Khamenei has held talks with a senior Houthi representative, Reuters reported.

“I declare my support for the resistance of Yemen’s believing men and women … Yemen’s people… will establish a strong government,” Khamenei said.

Yemen’s government and the Arab coalition accuse the Houthis of collapsing previous UN-sponsored talks to find a political settlement to the conflict.

Saudi Arabia and its allies say Iran’s support of proxy militias in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and groups in Iraq, is the main cause of instability in the region.

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Saudi crown prince, Pompeo discuss maritime security, Iran

Time: August 08, 2019  

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (File/SPA)
  • Tensions have heightened after attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed maritime security, Iran and Yemen with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call on Wednesday.
“The secretary discussed heightened tensions in the region and the need for stronger maritime security in order to promote freedom of navigation,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Iran has seized three tanker ships in strategic Gulf waters in less than a month, and the United States has accused it of carrying out multiple attacks on ships in the region.
The US has been struggling to piece together an international coalition to protect cargo ships traveling through the Gulf, with allies concerned about being dragged into conflict with Iran.
Ortagus also said that the top US diplomat and the crown prince “discussed other bilateral and regional developments, including countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities.”

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Iranian pilgrim’s sight saved by Saudi doctors in Makkah

Time: August 03, 2019

A surgical team at King Abdullah Medical City has restored the eyesight of a 58-year-old Iranian pilgrim. (Photo/Asharq Al-Awsat)
  • King Abdullah Medical City’s neurosciences center carries out numerous rare operations with a high success rate

JEDDAH: A surgical team at Makkah’s King Abdullah Medical City (KAMC) has successfully removed a tumor from a 58-year-old Iranian pilgrim.

The tumor was discovered in the pilgrim’s pituitary gland. It was severely affecting his sight and required urgent surgery. It was performed by surgical teams from the neurology department and the otorhinolaryngology department, the Ministry of Health reported.

The patient was received at King Faisal Hospital, where he underwent a series of medical tests to identify the type of tumor he had and to measure his hormone levels.

The results confirmed the presence of visual impairment in both eyes, a damaged third cerebral nerve and a damaged sixth cerebral nerve in both eyes.

“During the surgery, the tumor was completely removed without complications” the ministry said. “The patient recovered and his eyesight improved with partial improvement in the nerves’ condition. He will be transferred from the intensive care unit to a room after his condition becomes stable.”

The pilgrim, Mehdi Mueen, spoke to Al-Ekhbariya News after the successful operation.

“I had a headache and could not open my left eye,” he said. “Thank God I feel better now.”

Only three days have passed since Mueen’s condition was identified as critical by doctors and he was operated on.

BACKGROUND

  • The Saudi government has provided many services to pilgrims to facilitate their pilgrimage.
  • It has equipped the hospitals of Makkah and the holy sites with highly qualified medical and technical personnel.
  • The Ministry of Health is providing all medical services and improve existing ones in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision.

Dr. Sultan Al-Seiari, neurosurgery consultant at King Abdullah Medical City, carried out the surgery with a team of specialists.

He said that the pituitary tumor was a bleeding type of growth that had affected the man’s sight and caused visual impairment.

“The case was accepted expeditiously, and within two to three hours the patient was in intensive neurological care,” he told Al-Ekhbariya News.

“The surgery was performed immediately, and the tumor was removed almost completely.”

A doctor with the Iranian Hajj campaign, Dr. Kamal Nazer, said that the patient’s family was worried and had discussed with the doctors if the surgery could be postponed until Mueen was back in Iran. “We reassured his family and wife, and they accepted making the operation in Makkah, thankfully,” he said.

The Saudi government has provided many services to pilgrims to facilitate their pilgrimage.

It has equipped the hospitals of Makkah and the holy sites with highly qualified medical and technical personnel.

The Ministry of Health is providing all medical services and improving existing ones in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision.

KAMC’s neurosciences center carries out numerous qualitative and specialized rare operations, similar to those performed around the world, with a high success rate.

It is capable of dealing with the most complex and difficult cases during the Hajj season.

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Tehran blamed for Yemen carnage after scores die in parade attack

Time: August 02, 2019  

Yemeni security forces carrying a body at the scene of a missile attack on a military camp west of Yemen’s government-held second city Aden. (AFP)
  • Two separate attacks killed and wounded dozens in Aden
  • One claimed by the Houthis and the other believed to be by militants

The two separate attacks in Aden – one claimed by the Houthis – killed and wounded dozens on Thursday, security sources reported.

A Reuters witness saw nine bodies on the ground after an explosion hit a military camp belonging to the Yemeni Security Belt forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, which is a member of the Saudi-led military coalition battling the Houthis.

The attack killed at least 49 people, a health ministry official said. Medecins Sans Frontieres tweeted that tens of wounded people were hospitalized.

Soldiers screamed and ran to lift the wounded and place them on trucks. Red berets lay on the ground in pools of blood.

The Houthi’s official channel Al Masirah TV said the group had launched a medium-range ballistic missile and an armed drone at the parade, which it described as being staged in preparation for a military move against provinces held by the movement.

The parade “was being used to prepare for an advance on Taiz and Dalea”, Masirah cited a Houthi military spokesman as saying.

A pro-government military source and security sources said a commander, Brigadier General Muneer Al-Yafee, a leading figure of the southern separatists, was among those killed.

“The blast occurred behind the stand where the ceremony was taking place at Al Jalaa military camp in Buraiqa district in Aden,” the Reuters witness said. “A group of soldiers were crying over a body believed to be of the commander.”

Yafee had just stepped off the stage to greet a guest when the explosion took place. Flags of the former South Yemen and those of leading coalition members were fluttering as the military band was waiting for its cue to start playing.

In a separate attack in another district of Aden on Thursday, an explosives-laden car blew up at a police station in the city’s Omar al-Mokhtar neighborhood, killing three soldiers.

Sources say at least 20 people were wounded, including three civilians.

The bomber drove into the police station’s gates shortly before the morning police lineup before the start of the workday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to reporters and the witnesses declined to identify themselves for fear of reprisals.

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Yemen accused Iran of being behind the attack on the military parade.

Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jabir, in a Twitter post, also blamed Iran for the attack on a police station.

The Houthi attack on Aden is a strong indicator of their unified goals with Daesh and Al-Qaeda, the envoy said.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, in separate tweets, said the attacks were coordinated under “Iran’s administration”.

He addded that the Houthis continue to implement the agendas of Iran.

It was not clear if the incidents were related. Previous car attacks in Yemen have been carried out by militant groups like Al-Qaeda.

In February last year, twin suicide bombings claimed by Daesh hit a base of an Aden counter-terrorism unit, killing five people, including a child.

Five months later, two people were killed when an attacker blew himself in the city.

Aden is the seat of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which has been at war with the Houthis since 2015.

(With Agencies)

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Iran forces Algerian tanker into its waters

Time: July 21, 2019  

The Iranian coast guard forced an Algerian tanker to head into Iranian waters on Friday. (File/ AP)

LONDON: The Iranian coast guard forced an Algerian tanker to head into Iranian waters on Friday before a confrontation ended, the Algerian state oil and gas company Sonatrach said.
Algeria’s state-run news agency APS, quoting Sonatrach, said Saturday the empty tanker “MESDAR” was forced into Iranian waters Friday night as it moved through the Strait of Hormuz.
An emergency hotline between Algeria’s energy and foreign ministries was quickly put into place and the incident concluded an hour and 15 minutes later. APS quoted Sonatrach as saying that “no human or material incident was registered.”
It said that the tanker was heading to Tanura in Saudi Arabia to onload oil for the Chinese company UNIPEC when it was forced into Iranian territorial waters.

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Saudi Arabia does not want war with Iran: Al-Jubeir

Time: July 01, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second from left, told leaders at the G20 in Osaka that they need to take a strong stance toward Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia has called on world leaders to form a united front against Iran’s aggression in the region
  • The Kingdom plays a significant role in the G20

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told leaders of the G20 countries that the Kingdom does not want a war with Iran, said a senior official.
The crown prince is currently touring Japan, after heading the Kingdom’s delegation at the 14th G20 summit in Osaka.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the crown prince told the leaders of the summit they need to take a strong attitude toward Iran, reported Al Arabiya.
Shedding light on the crown prince’s visit, Al-Jubeir said Mohammed bin Salman stressed that Iran must not be allowed to continue its aggressive policy and that an international position must be taken to halt Tehran’s practices.
“The Iranian regime should not be allowed to continue its aggressive policies, such as targeting ships carrying oil and oil pipelines,” pointing out that this is a target against energy security and the global economy.
Al-Jubeir was speaking in Tokyo during a joint meeting with the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, and Minister of Information, Turki Al-Shabana, and their Japanese counterparts, as part of the crown prince’s accompanying delegation during his Asia tour.
“The Kingdom should not allow the Iranian regime to continue its aggressive policies, such as targeting ships carrying oil and targeting oil pipelines,” he said. “This is a target for energy security and the global economy,” he said.

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One dead, several injured in Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport

Time: June 24, 2019  

Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said on Sunday that one person was killed and several others injured in a Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport. (Screenshot/Al-Arabiya)
  • Coalition spokesman Al-Maliki did not say what type of weapon was used in the attack
  • Person killed was Syrian resident in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said on Sunday that one person was killed and 21 others injured in a Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha Airport.

A terrorist attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia took place at Abha international airport, through which thousands of civilian passengers pass daily. A Syrian national died and 21 civilians were wounded,” the coalition spokesperon said in a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Maliki did not say what type of weapon was used in the attack.

(From Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Twitter account)

Earlier this month, at least 26 people were injured when a Houthi missile fired from Yemen hit the same airport.

After the attack, the coalition vowed a firm response and said the attack proved Tehran’s support for cross-border terrorism.

The coalition said the injured in the first attack were all civilians of different nationalities and included two Saudi children and three women – a Saudi, a Yemeni and an Indian.

Human Rights Watch denounced the June 12 strike as an apparent “war crime”, urging the Houthis to immediately stop all attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

The attacks come amid heightened regional tensions with Iran, which Saudi Arabia has accused of supplying sophisticated weapons to the Houthis. Tehran denies the charge.

* with agencies

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with Donald Trump on Iran

Time: June 21, 2019  

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with US President Donald Trump on Friday to about Middle East stability and the oil market.
  • Two leaders spoke a day after Trump confirmed that he canceled a military strike against Iran
  • Trump has been stepping up a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran

WASHINGTON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with US President Donald Trump on Friday to about Middle East stability and the oil market, the White House said, after tensions with Iran prompted a rise in oil prices.
“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behavior,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

The White House says the two leaders spoke a day after Trump confirmed that he canceled a military strike against Iran on Thursday after Iran downed a US drone that it says was operating over Iranian airspace. The US says the drone had been flying over international waters when it was attacked.
Trump has been stepping up a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers moving through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

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Facing up to Iran’s growing maritime threat

Time: June 20, 2019  

Black smoke billows from an oil tanker after an attack in the Gulf of Oman. (Reuters)

The maritime remedies necessary to tackle the threats posed by Iran and its proxies in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula need to be forward-looking and have an edge. With a growing threat to maritime logistics, it is time to think about the broader picture. The Iranian proxy threat network in the maritime arena is a clear and present danger. Aggressive asymmetrical attacks and the spread of advanced drone and engine proliferation are making these Arabian seas highly dangerous.

Lessons learned from previous maritime threats can be taken into consideration. The manner in which states responded to piracy in key maritime routes — from the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa and the Strait of Malacca — established a model for contending with maritime threats.  Convoys in specific sea lanes are a popular method of protection. It should also be recalled that the EU Naval Force launched airstrikes on pirate enclaves in 2012.

The causes of piracy across the regions mentioned above are tied to local socioeconomic conditions. The resulting efforts in macro and micro-financing projects and local maritime training helped to stop the demand for pirate activity by substituting illicit revenue with improvements in infrastructure. The security protection industry that developed around maritime security grew too, and specialized maritime security protection services are now part of the industrial landscape as a means of protecting marine transport.

But the Iranian threat against maritime shipping now involves asymmetrical tools such as short-range missiles, drones and limpet mines. The requirements to guard against such threats require an appreciation of other factors when mitigating threats across three plains or aspects.

The first aspect involves the maritime environment itself. The waters around the Arabian Peninsula — the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and, of course, the Strait of Hormuz — contain thousands of dhows of various sizes, as well as medium and large vessels and tankers. It is the dhow traffic that is the most difficult part of the puzzle, because the sheer number of such vessels currently outweighs the capability to monitor them. The ability for Iran and its proxies to deliver support to the Houthis to increase their technical capability and allow them to strike Saudi and American targets on land, at sea and in the sky is only possible because of the continuing ability for this network to exist. In this sense, maritime security begins on land and the sources of the threat’s capabilities need to be severed. A greater use of surveillance capabilities and monitoring, plus an increase in information sharing on specific port and maritime sea lanes, would certainly be a good start as aggressive reconnaissance is required. A regional port operators security group is key.

The second aspect goes beyond the additional deployment of US, UK and other forces into the region for maritime security, with additional observation and protection capabilities. The time is now to put all those maritime exercises between the US, UK and Gulf states to use. The reason why is that regional navies need to step up their efforts to fill the gaps in coastal protection, and also to become more fully integrated into the maritime security picture. Part of the remedy here is better use of technology: Filling those gaps requires additional solutions involving unmanned underwater vehicles and other advanced acoustic devices for forensic collection and identification. Here a coordinated effort must be used to bring about the desired results, such as better mapping of maritime assets in the region to identify threats faster. The flow of logistical chains around the Arabian Peninsula must be kept moving. This step is part of the emerging picture regarding escorting high-value vessels and protecting energy platforms, bunkering locations, and navigation lanes.

Regional navies need to step up their efforts to fill the gaps in coastal protection.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

The third aspect is the maritime logistics and insurance industries. Rates are already rising fast. What comes next will need to be handled with care by these industries, coordinating now instead of fighting over premiums and addendum. Again, information sharing is necessary — maybe mandatory — for transparency in the market as coverage rates shoot up. There is also the necessity, if maritime events enter a violent phase with drastic results, the reinsurance industry must be ready to play its role. The regional port operators group mentioned above would be required to interface more directly with these industries. Finally, it needs to be remembered that, as vessels are hit, the country and/or company impacted will be making claims that may go against immediate forensic evidence because of pending claims and their arguments. The politics of this specific landscape requires close observation.

Naturally, the environment is also a concern in these waterways. Iran and its proxies are able to make a toxic mess. Smoke, debris and chemical spills are the refuse of terrorist mayhem in the maritime arena. This delicate environment is part of the local diet. The ability to contain the spread of pollutants as a result of any successful attack on shipping or related infrastructure requires the latest technology. The role of crisis management and civil defense will be important too.

Overall, the maritime security environment around the Arabian Peninsula needs to coalesce around cooperation in logistics and the prevention of attacks. This mission requires cooperation and coordination in terms of the geopolitical picture involving logistical chains. Corporate entities with corporate social responsibility departments need to create joint programs with government partners for rapid information exchange in a coordinating “cell.” This effort needs to go beyond previous attempts and current efforts. The full participation of all states and corporate interests is mandatory in protecting the littoral states of the waters around the Arabian Peninsula. By advancing maritime security objectives and remedies beyond the military arena, Iran and its proxies can be pushed back so that shipping remains free and clear.

  • Dr. Theodore Karasik is a non-resident senior fellow at the Lexington Institute and a national security expert, specializing in Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East. He worked for the RAND Corporation and publishes widely in the US and international media. Twitter: @tkarasik

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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Time: June 19, 2019 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking on live TV, said his country will not wage war against any nation. (AFP)
  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with great precision

Rouhani’s statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea … they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran.

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

‘Nuclear blackmail’

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.

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