Iran backs down over atom plant monitoring, lets UN replace nuclear site's damaged cameras – Arab News

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TEHRAN/JEDDAH:  Iran bowed to pressure from Washington and the UN nuclear watchdog on Wednesday and agreed to new monitoring cameras being installed at a workshop that makes parts for centrifuges that enrich uranium.
One of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s four cameras in the workshop at the TESA Karaj complex was destroyed in an Israeli sabotage attack in June. Iran then removed all the cameras and banned the agency from replacing them.
The US threatened to confront Tehran at the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors if it did not change its mind, a confrontation that would have led to the collapse of talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been seeking to replace the devices which Iran says were damaged in a June attack it blames on Israel.
“In a gesture of goodwill, Iran is allowing the IAEA to install new cameras to replace those damaged in a sabotage operation” against the Karaj nuclear site, said the Nour news agency, considered close to Iran’s National Security Council.
“This is a voluntary action by Iran to end misunderstandings in its relations with the IAEA,” it said.
“Due to the completion of the safety investigation of the damaged cameras, as well as the agency’s decision to condemn the sabotage in the TESA complex and to accept the technical inspection of the cameras by Iranian experts before their installation, Iran has authorised the agency to replace the damaged cameras with new ones,” it added.
Iran accuses its arch foe Israel of being behind a “sabotage” attack on the TESA Karaj centrifuge component manufacturing workshop on June 23.
At the time it had said it thwarted the attack on the building without identifying the nature of the incident.
Until Wednesday, Iran had turned down the IAEA’s requests to replace the cameras. Negotiations resumed on Thursday last week to try to revive a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers, which the United States withdrew from under Donald Trump in 2018.
Iran says it only wants to develop a civilian capability but Western powers say its stockpile of enriched uranium goes well beyond that, and could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.The Islamic republic has always denied wanting a nucleararsenal.
The development was also reported by other Iranian news agencies.
“The agreement with Iran on replacing surveillance cameras at the Karaj facility is an important development for the IAEA’s verification and monitoring activities in Iran,” agency chief Rafael Grossi said. “I sincerely hope we can continue our constructive discussions to also address and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues in Iran.”
However, Wednesday’s agreement did not address the issue of missing footage from the camera that was destroyed. The IAEA and Western powers have called on Iran to explain where it is.
The bigger the gap in knowledge of what goes on at Karaj, the greater the concern among Western and Gulf states that Iran has secretly siphoned off key parts for uranium centrifuges.
 
MUSCAT: Oman is banning weddings and funerals in mosques, halls and other public places as part of continuing coronavirus safety protocols, state news agency ONA reported. 
The decision comes after members of the country’s Supreme Committee, which is in charge of tackling developments delated to COVID-19, studied reports related to the coronavirus pandemic, with an in-depth focus on the omicron mutation.
Authorities clarified that the latest decision was also prompted by people’s non-abidance to previous directives and measures regarding social events. These included having taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, wearing face masks, maintaining an appropriate social distance with other attendees and limiting the capacity to 50 percent. 
Oman’s COVID-19 Supreme Committee said the new decision will remain in place until further notice.
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden should consider a military option as a means of pressuring Iran to back down from its pursuit of nuclear weapons and aggressive drone program, a panel of former elected US officials and diplomats told an audience on Wednesday. 
The panel was hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and featured Joseph Lieberman, a former US senator; Robert Joseph, a former under secretary of state for arms control and international security, and special envoy for nonproliferation; David Shedd, former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; Georgetown University Professor Matthew Kroenig; and Jonathan Ruhe, foreign policy director for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.
The NCRI released a detailed study of how Iran is using drones to strike targets in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and building alliances with China, Russia and Venezuela.
“This is causing worry among our allies in the region that they can’t depend on us,” Lieberman told the NCRI audience in Washington.

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BRIEFING: Policy Options to Counter the Rising Iranian Threat

Q & A Session@POTUS@WhiteHouse@SecBlinken@StateDept@StateDept_NEA@WHNSC@RepMcCaul@RepGregoryMeeks@RepTedDeutch@RepJoeWilsonhttps://t.co/2PNaIcO9MX
He added: “We’re on the wrong course in the US in our efforts in Vienna to re-enter the JCPOA (nuclear deal). They are well-intentioned, but they don’t meet the realities of what Iran is doing in Vienna or the world. They are highly risky. It’s not only important that the US toughens our position, to step back from the negotiations as they are happening now, but also to move toward more containment and constraints against the regime.”
Lieberman said: “The Iranian regime that now returns to the JCPOA in Vienna is a regime that has recklessly violated the most compelling and important terms of the agreement, enriching uranium to a very dangerous level.”
The JCPOA is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 to relieve sanctions on Iran if it backs down from its nuclear weapons program and allows international inspections.
Calling Iran “a deplorable regime,” Joseph argued that best strategy would be to strengthen the growing resistance inside the country which has been putting pressure on the regime, which is using the JCPOA negotiations as a means of expanding its nuclear, drone and ballistic missile programs.
“The (Biden) administration should step back from the negotiations and define success. Right now, we are projecting weakness,” Joseph said in response to a question from Arab News.
Kroenig said the US needs to step up the pressure.
“We are relying too heavily on the engagement (negotiations) tract. We should put the military option back on the table. President Biden should say he is willing to use force,” Kroenig said.
“We need to have a stronger pressure track. The regime needs to understand that if it remains on its current path, there will be consequences. Supporting the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people is important. And, finally, we must keep a military option on the table as a last resort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.”
Ruhe agreed, adding the Biden administration should set a deadline for the talks “after which it would be prepared to set up credible military actions.”
All agreed that Iran’s regime is not taking the 2015 nuclear deal seriously.

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BRIEFING: Policy Options to Counter the Rising Iranian Threat

Closing remarks by @NCRIUS Deputy Director, @A_Jafarzadeh@POTUS@SecBlinken@StateDept@StateDept_NEA@WHNSC@RepMcCaul@RepGregoryMeeks@RepTedDeutch@RepJoeWilsonhttps://t.co/OpwugwQwOo
NCRI Deputy Director Alireza Jafarzadeh said that despite Iran’s expansion of its drone campaign and refusal to abandon its push for nuclear weapons, the regime is “much weaker than it was in 2015.”
But he said that weakness stems from resistance groups inside Iran that provide extensive details on Iran’s nuclear and drone programs that the NCRI shares with the world.
“The Biden administration should make democracy and human rights a central element of its foreign policy regarding Iran instead of trying to find a way to deal with the repressive regime,” Jafarzadeh said.
He said the world should pursue war crimes charges against Iran’s recently elected President Ebrahim Raisi, who should be held accountable for his policies and past genocide.
Raisi is accused of overseeing widespread civilian killings in 2018 as a leader of Iran’s “Death Commission,” which sentenced thousands of political dissidents to execution.
Jafarzadeh said: “Iran is in serious violations of the agreements worked out in 2015. They have been in violation since day one. All the evidence shows they have three new (nuclear program) sites.”
The NCRI released a six-page summary of its findings, which conclude that the 2015 nuclear deal has been ineffective in forcing Iran’s regime to back down from its nuclear weapons program or drone expansion.
Ruhe said studies show that Iran’s use of drones to strike at targets has tripled in recent years.
THE NCRI report identified 15 companies that are being used as “fronts” for Iran’s terror drone program.
The companies are: Iranian Aviation & Space Industries Association; Iranian Aviation & Space Industries Association; Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology; Iravin Innovation and Acceleration Center; Farnas Pasargad Aerospace Industries Company; Bal Gostar Negah Asemanha Technology; Kharazmi Electronics Industries; Iran Bekr Part Khavar Mianeh; Sahfa Production-Distribution Cooperative Company — Iranian Aerospace Industries; Aras Tech Aircraft Maintenance Services Company; Maham Pergas Technology; Hezareh Sevvom Industrial Alloy Development Company; Nazari Titanium Company; Sara Safe Tools; and Noandishan Composite Structures Industrial-Production.
NCRI officials also released copies of its newly published book, “Iran: IRGC’s Rising Drone Threat,” which is subtitled: “A Desperate Regime’s Ploy to Project Power, Incite War.”
CAIRO: A human rights watchdog urged the UN on Wednesday to deploy monitors to Sudan’s western region of Darfur, where a surge in tribal clashes has killed more than 180 people since October.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the monitors should include experts on gender-based crimes, a year after the UN Security Council ended the mandate of a peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID in Darfur.
The violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in the war-wrecked region came as Sudan plunged into upheaval after an October military coup that removed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government.
Though Hamdok was reinstated last month in a deal with the military, Sudan’s pro-democracy movement has rejected the settlement and insists on a transition led by a purely civilian government.
Mohamed Osman, HRW’s Sudan researcher, said tribal clashes over the past year in Darfur have left “a trail of devastation” in the region.
At least 183 people were killed, and dozens wounded since October, with thousands displaced and some crossing into neighboring Chad.
Osman called the latest violence a “stark wake-up call” for the international community to act.
“The UN’s priority should now be to ramp up human rights monitoring and ensure rigorous scrutiny of Sudan’s efforts to protect millions of Darfuris,” he said.
The Security Council terminated the UNAMID on Dec. 31, 2020 and replaced it with a much smaller and solely political mission, whose mandate will be ended in June next year. HRW said the departure of UNAMID has caused a “gap in monitoring the abuses” fueled by impunity for atrocities committed in Darfur.
RANYA, Iraq: The specter of unemployment haunts both students and teachers at universities in northern Iraq. Many speak of growing numbers of empty seats in classrooms across the semi-autonomous Kurdish region — seats once occupied by students who have left for Europe.
Those who remain, like 21-year-old law student Zhewar Karzan, are making plans to leave.
He sees no future at home, in the town of Ranya, nestled among picturesque mountains, rivers and Lake Dukan, the Iraqi Kurdish region’s largest lake. A college degree provides no guarantee of a job, and his parents struggle to pay the bills, he said.
Come spring, Karzan plans to try his luck and leave with other hopeful migrants. His brother Jiyar, who in 2016 paid a smuggler to take him to Italy from Turkey, eventually reached Britain and now supports the entire family back home while working in a pizza restaurant.
“I will join him,” said Karzan.
Iraqi Kurdish youth face a tough choice: Endure unemployment and corruption at home, or try to sneak into Europe at the risk of financial ruin, or even death during the perilous journey.
Though there are no firm statistics, a substantial number of young Iraqi Kurds are believed to have left, seeing no hope in their country. Meanwhile, students who stayed are struggling to get motivated because getting an education is no longer a sure path to a job.
Across the Middle East, struggling economies have failed to keep pace with growing populations. In the three Iraqi Kurdish provinces, between 43,000 to 54,000 jobs would need to be created every year to absorb new waves of young people joining the labor force, according to UN estimates.
The gap between tepid economic growth and a “youth bulge” has led to persistently high unemployment. Among Iraqi Kurds between the ages of 15 and 29, it’s 24 percent for men and 69 percent for women, according to a UN survey.
NEW YORK: Cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria remains vital, the United Nations Secretary-General said in an internal report Tuesday, as a UN authorization allowing aid into rebel-held areas in the country’s northwest without approval from Damascus is set to expire.
A rare moment of cooperation between the US and Russia in July allowed for a six-month extension of activity at Bab Al-Hawa, the only border crossing through which aid reaches the rebel stronghold of Idlib province. That authorization is due to expire on Jan. 10.
“Cross-border assistance remains lifesaving for millions of people in need in north-west Syria,” Antonio Guterres said in a confidential document obtained by AFP, adding that over four million people were in need of crucial assistance across the country.
The US and several European nations believe the UN authorization for the crossing between Syria and Turkey should renew automatically for an additional six months, without the need for a new vote.
But Russia, a key ally to the Damascus regime, has previously opposed the move, invoking Syrian sovereignty.
Moscow has linked any potential extension to Tuesday’s report, as well as a possible new vote.
The cross-border mechanism has been operating since 2020 through Bab Al-Hawa, after the Russian-imposed removal in 2019 of three other access points in Syria.
A rare moment of cooperation between the US and Russia in July allowed for a six-month extension of activity at Bab Al-Hawa, the only border crossing through which aid reaches the rebel stronghold of Idlib province. That authorization is due to expire on Jan. 10.
In Tuesday’s document, the UN chief refers to another project for humanitarian operations, this time across the front lines, to reach Idlib.
“If implemented, this plan will make operations across the front lines more predictable and effective,” Guterres noted.
However, he insisted upon the importance of the Bab Al-Hawa crossing.
“At this point such cross-line convoys, even if deployed regularly, could not replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation,” he said.
Guterres said some 4.5 million people in Syria need help this winter, up 12 percent from the previous year, because of the economic crisis and the global pandemic.
Only 2.9 percent of the Syrian population is fully vaccinated, according to the report.
More than 3 million people live in Idlib province, much of which is controlled by jihadists and allied rebels.
In June, the UN said around 2.4 million people there were in need of humanitarian aid.

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