More hand-wringing in Tehran than Washington
International | Iran is unlikely to rush to a bomb, despite anger over U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord
by Mindy Belz
Posted 5/09/18, 12:24 pm
IRAN: Contrary to the nightmare scenarios rushed to print since U.S. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the 2015 deal negotiated by U.S. and other world powers to rein in Tehran’s nuclear weapons program—Iran is unlikely to rush to a bomb.
The U.S. Treasury now moves toward “immediate action” to re-implement maximum sanctions, while Europe for now appears united to remain in the deal—setting U.S. allies on an economic collision course with the United States. One thing needed, in the meantime, is a moratorium on missile testing, left (gapingly) unaddressed in the JCPOA.
- Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who negotiated the 2015 deal, called Trump’s decision “a serious mistake.”
- The hand-wringing, however, is mostly in Tehran this week, where Ayatollah Khameini’s regime is in freefall.
- Two markers to remember in Trump’s surprisingly patient march toward withdrawal: (1) Last October, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, likely under Khameini’s orders, rejected an invitation to sit down with Trump when the United States was trying to improve the deal, and (2) European negotiators more recently rejected Trump efforts to amend JCPOA with serious sunset clauses. The sunset clauses in the 2015 deal allowed restrictions to be removed on a set timetable, regardless of Iran’s activities, creating a patient pathway—critics charged—for Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
- How times have changed.
NORTH KOREA: Concluding his visit ahead of President Trump’s scheduled summit next month with leader Kim Jong Un, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew out of Pyongyang Wednesday with three American hostages freed by the Kim regime. Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song are U.S. citizens and professors at Christian-backed Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Kim Dong-chul is a pastor with business ties in North Korea, born in South Korea but also a U.S. citizen, held since October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years hard labor on espionage charges. All had been linked by the regime to missionary activities.
TURKEY: Ignoring pleas from top U.S. officials, the three-judge panel in the Andrew Brunson trial declined to release the 50-year-old American pastor on Monday, or to discharge him to house arrest, as Brunson himself requested. The judges instead remanded him to prison pending another trial date scheduled for July 18.
“Today’s 11 hours of proceedings were dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and secret witnesses, but no real evidence to speak of. Upon these rests a man’s life,” said Sandra Jolley, vice-chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, after attending the trial. Brunson’s U.S.-based pastor, Richard White, also on hand, told his congregation he was “sad, angry, and resolute” after watching the proceedings:
“The judge allowed the most ludicrous witnesses to testify against Andrew. One young man, who had angrily left their church years ago, wanted to return to the church but was denied membership because he was such a troublemaker. He refused to repent. On the stand, this man admitted to creating a fake Facebook page in Andrew’s name and posting pro-terrorist items on it. The judge looked [past] this and validated this man’s testimony of seeing terrorist flags in Andrew’s church. It was a total lie, but the judge said it carried weight. The judge not only led witnesses with his questions, but also linked all the witnesses at the end in an effort to maintain the case against Andrew. The most angering blow was at the end when the judge decimated Andrew’s witness defense list saying that most of his witnesses were also ‘suspects’ and, therefore, could not testify on Andrew’s behalf. This, in effect, ties the hands of Andrew’s defense.”
ARMENIA: Armenians took to the streets in celebration Tuesday night after parliamentarians elected a former journalist, “Velvet Revolution” protest leader Nikol Pashinyan, 42, to be the country’s next prime minister. He replaces ousted strongman Serzh Sargsyan, who has been in power for a decade.
CHINA: A Chinese exile living in Germany has captured on audio the desperate cries of Liu Xia, widow of Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has a waiting invitation to immigrate to Germany. Chinese authorities won’t let her go.
ISRAEL: You, too, can learn to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.
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