US warns of ‘relentless’ pressure on Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned that the US will exert “relentless” pressure on Iran unless it changes its “revolutionary course”.

His comments came hours after the Trump administration restored all sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting core parts of Iran’s economy.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani earlier struck a defiant tone, saying the country will “continue selling oil”.

“We will proudly break the sanctions,” he told economic officials.

Mr Pompeo told reporters: “The Iranian regime has a choice: it can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”

He said more than 20 nations had already cut their oil intake from the Islamic Republic, and its exports had fallen by a million barrels a day.

European countries which are still party to the 2015 accord have said they will help businesses bypass the sanctions. But there are doubts about how successful this will be.

How did we get here?

US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear accord earlier this year, calling it the “worst deal ever negotiated”.

The agreement offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for reducing its nuclear development. The global nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says Iran has complied with it.

President Trump has said he wants to get Iran back to the negotiating table.

His administration also wants to stop what it calls Tehran’s “malign” activities – including cyber attacks, ballistic missile tests, and support for terror groups and militias in the Middle East.

The president believes his “maximum pressure” strategy is working, but said on Monday that he wants to impose sanctions gradually to prevent a spike in energy prices.

“I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately,” he told journalists, “but it would cause a shock to the market. I don’t want to lift oil prices.”

The US state department said that three civil nuclear projects set up in Iran through the 2015 deal would be allowed to continue, “under the strictest scrutiny”.

It said “temporary” waivers had been granted, without giving a timeframe.

Why does the US claim Iran is the ‘world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism’?

The US and Iran have been arch-foes since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Since then, Iran has provided arms and financial support to militant groups active in the Middle East and further afield.

Some of these groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have carried out devastating attacks, including on a military barracks in Beirut in 1983, which killed 241 US service personnel and 58 French paratroopers. Iran denied being behind that attack.

The US has also accused Iran of direct involvement in plotting or carrying out attacks – from bombings to assassinations.

According to a report by the US State Department, since 2012, Iran has spent $16bn on proxy groups in the region as well as support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran accepts neither the US allegations, nor its designation as an exporter of terror.

What could the sanctions’ impact be?

The US reinstated a raft of sanctions in August, but analysts say this latest round is by far the most significant.

More than 700 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft are now on the sanctions list, including major banks, oil exporters and shipping companies.

The Brussels-based Swift network for making international payments has confirmed it will cut off links with some Iranian banks, isolating Iran from the international financial system.

However, the Trump administration has granted temporary exemptions to eight countries to continue importing Iranian oil – China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

This is significant as China and India are among Iran’s largest trading partners.

Even before the US sanctions were reimposed, Iran’s economy had had a difficult year, with its currency, the rial, plummeting against the dollar, driving up the price of basic goods.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton announced on Monday that even more measures could follow soon.

Hardliners smell blood but Rouhani is safe for now

By Kasra Naji, Special Correspondent, BBC Persian

The sweeping US sanctions will be debilitating to the government’s day-to-day running of the country.

They will also be disastrous for ordinary people who are already reeling under the weight of rising prices, shortages, and the rapidly falling value of the rial.

All this will put President Rouhani under considerable strain.

Iran’s hardliners see a chance to force a change of government, arguing extraordinary conditions require extraordinary solutions.

But the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is not so sure. Taking on the running of the country under these conditions could be a poisoned chalice for him and for the hardliners he supports.

How do other countries see the sanctions?

The UK, Germany and France – which are among the five countries still committed to the nuclear pact – have all promised to support European firms that do “legitimate business” with Iran.

They have set up an alternative payment mechanism – or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – that will help companies trade without facing US penalties.

However, analysts doubt this will lessen the impact of sanctions on Iran, given the importance of the US to global trade.

Mr Pompeo said more than 100 international companies had withdrawn from Iran because of the looming sanctions.

And even if firms can use the SPV, any US company it does business with could face punishment.

Another signatory to the nuclear deal, China, has said it regrets the re-imposition of sanctions and that its lawful trade with Iran should be respected.

Israel – Iran’s long-time foe in the Middle East – called the move a “courageous, determined and important decision”.

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‘Experts sent’ to hide Khashoggi death

Saudi Arabia sent a toxicologist and a chemical expert to its consulate in Istanbul after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, a senior Turkish official has told the BBC.

The Saudis admit the journalist was killed there last month, but their accounts have wavered on what happened.

Turkish investigators believe he was choked to death and then dismembered.

Two of his sons made an emotional appeal for their father’s body in a Sunday interview with CNN.

“All what we want right now is to bury him in al-Baqi (cemetery) in Medina (Saudi Arabia) with the rest of his family,” Salah Khashoggi said in an interview, filmed in Washington.

“I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon.”

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, was killed inside the Istanbul consulate on 2 October after visiting to obtain documents he needed to get married.

What are the latest allegations?

The comments on Monday by the senior official echo a report in Turkey’s daily Sabah newspaper that Saudi Arabia allegedly sent chemist Ahmed Abdulaziz Aljanobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya al-Zahran as part of a delegation tasked with erasing evidence in the consulate.

The newspaper alleges the team visited the building every day from 12 October until the 17 October, before leaving the country three days later.

The latest reports about Khashoggi’s death come on the same day Saudi Arabia is appearing before a United Nations human rights panel in Geneva.

The president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Bandar al-Aiban, told the panel that King Salman had instructed prosecutors to investigate the killing and bring perpetrators to justice.

What do the Saudis say?

The official narrative of what happened to Khashoggi has shifted several times since he went missing.

Initially, Saudi officials said he had left the consulate alive, then that he had died in a fist-fight, before describing his death as “murder” and pre-meditated as a result of a “rogue operation”.

Istanbul’s Chief Public Prosecutor Irfan Fidan, who is leading the investigation, said last week he believed the journalist was “choked to death immediately” after he entered the building on 2 October, before his body was dismembered and destroyed.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the order to kill him came from “the highest levels of the Saudi government”, but, stressing Turkey’s “friendly” ties with Saudi Arabia, he said he did not believe King Salman was involved.

More than a month on from his death, Khashoggi’s body has still not been found. Yaskin Aktay, a senior aide to Mr Erdogan, has said he believes his body may have been dissolved in acid.

So far 18 men have been arrested by Saudi authorities in connection with the death. Turkey wants the suspects extradited but Saudi Arabia has maintained they will be prosecuted nationally.

Who was Khashoggi?

Jamal Khashoggi was once an adviser to the Saudi royal family, but fell out of favour with the government last year and went into self-imposed exile.

He had become a sharp critic of the Saudi government and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been pioneering an ambitious economic and social reform programme.

Before his death, the 59-year-old had been living in the US, and wrote regularly for the Washington Post newspaper.

He first visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 28 September to obtain a document certifying that he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée – but was told he would have to return and arranged to come back on 2 October.

On that day his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside for him for more than 10 hours, but he did not re-emerge, so she raised the alarm.

She has called on the international community to take “genuine steps” to bring the perpetrators of his death to justice.

A memorial service was held for Khashoggi on Friday night in Washington.

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Qatar's Emir: Gulf crises will pass, but economy is stronger

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says Qatar grew exports by 18 percent last year and slashed spending by 20 percent.

    Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said he regrets the continuation of conflict with other Arab states, but added that “crises will pass”.

    Addressing Qatar’s shoura council on Tuesday, Tamim said the country would continue to develop its oil and gas industries as it is keen to preserve its status as the top liquefied natural gas exporter in the world.

    “History teaches us that crises pass, but if they are handled badly then this may leave traces which last for a long time,” Tamim said.

    “It is very regrettable that the continuation of the Gulf crisis exposed the failure of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)… which has weakened its ability to face challenges and threats and marginalised its role in the region,” he added.

    Outlining Qatar’s economic achievements over the past year, Tamim said that the nation had grown its exports by 18 percent and slashed spending by 20 percent.

    The Gulf nation’s currency has preserved its value since the start of the rift and the economy has diversified to overcome the impact of the sanctions imposed by its neighbours, Tamim added.

    On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar, closing land, air and sea links, as they accused Doha of supporting terrorism and their foe Iran by violating a 2014 agreement with members of the GCC.

    Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

    The United States, an ally of the six-nation GCC, has tried to mediate in the dispute which it sees as a risk to efforts to contain Iran. Qatar is home to the largest US air base in the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia and the UAE had repeatedly said that resolving the row was not a top priority for them.

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    Aasia Bibi's lawyer seeks refuge in Netherlands

    Saif-ul-Malook fled to the Netherlands following threats to his life after Christian woman he represented was acquitted.

      The agreement between the Pakistani government and a far-right political group that would see a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy barred from leaving the country has no legal value, her lawyer, who has sought refuge in the Netherlands, said.

      Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, spent eight years on death row after being convicted by lower courts.

      Last week, the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Bibi, saying there were “glaring and stark” contradictions in the evidence against her.

      Saif-ul-Malook, who represented Bibi for years, told Al Jazeera he fled to the Netherlands on Saturday following threats to his life.

      “Pakistani law is very clear. The [relevant law] says that if a person is involved in a criminal case, or tax fraud or [other] fraud, only then can the government put them on the Exit Control List (ECL),” Malook told a press conference in the Dutch capital Amsterdam on Monday.

      “There is no question of putting her name on the ECL.”

      Bibi’s acquittal sparked protests by the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party in several cities, with major roads and highways blocked until late on Friday.

      TLP signed an agreement with the government to end the protests, on the condition that Bibi not be allowed to leave the country, and that all protesters arrested during the demonstrations would be released.

      On Sunday, however, Pakistani authorities arrested hundreds of TLP workers, implementing a separate clause of the agreement that said that anyone found to have damaged public or private property during the demonstration would be prosecuted.

      TLP Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi was among those booked for rioting, although he has not been taken into custody.

      ‘Fight for justice’ 

      On Monday, Bibi’s lawyer Malook addressed the press conference alongside Jan Dirk van Nifterik, the director of the Dutch rights group Stichting Hulp Vervolgde Christenen (HVC, or Foundation to Help Persecuted Christians), who said that they had aided him in his escape from Pakistan.

      “HVC was able to get him to the Netherlands, offer shelter and look after him,” said Nifterik. “We are grateful to Malook for his work on human rights.”

      Malook said he took Bibi’s case because lawyers “do not have a religion”.

      “[Lawyers] only … fight for justice, and only see that no one should be condemned unless there is evidence up to the standard.”

      Malook said that he had no information on whether Bibi had been released from jail, saying the last time he spoke to a senior jail official about the matter – on Friday night – she remained in custody.

      Malook himself faced numerous threats for representing Bibi, whose case has become emblematic of fair trial concerns in such cases in Pakistan.

      Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in the country, and at least 74 people have been killed in violence associated with blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

      Malook said that he spent days taking refuge at the French embassy in Islamabad, before he was able to fly out early on Saturday morning.

      He flew through Italy, before finally arriving in the Netherlands, he said.

      The lawyer indicated that he was currently on a visit visa, but that he would be staying in the European country for an unspecified length of time. He said he would call his wife and children to join him “when I have a place for them to live”.

      Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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      How can Iran bypass US sanctions?

      US Secretary of State Pompeo said Trump administration ‘fully prepared’ to counter Iran’s effort to circumvent hurdles.

        With the second round of sanctions against Iran, US President Donald Trump’s threat to impose the “toughest ever” punitive measures against the Islamic Republic is in full force, a reversal from his predecessor Barack Obama’s rapprochment towards Tehran.

        In August, sanctions targeted Iran’s aviation industry, currency and even carpets. Now, except for a few countries, the rest of the world is cut off from Iran’s oil and gas market as well as its financial system. 

        Iran remains a signatory to the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal and UN inspectors said Tehran continues to adhere to its obligations. Trump unilaterally abandoned the agreement in May, paving the way for the imposition of US sanctions amid international opposition.   

        Now that the US sanctions are in place, experts said the two old adversaries would be engaged in a cat and mouse game, with Washington trying to enforce Trump’s order as rigorously as it could, and Tehran finding creative ways to bypass it.

        US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself acknowledged that it would be “unsurprising” if Iran would try to bypass the sanctions.

        Ali Sarzaeem, an economics advisor at the Center for Strategic Studies under the office of President Hassan Rouhani, said that there are several measures being considered to counter the US restrictions. 

        “The US is doing whatever it can to punish Iran, and we are doing whatever we can do to confront them,” Sarzaeem, who teaches at Tehran’s Allameh Tabataba’i University, told Al Jazeera.

        So what steps could Iran take to bypass the US sanctions?

        Waivers

        Iran has kept doing business with other countries amid sanctions through waivers obtained by its trading partners.

        On Monday, Pompeo named the countries granted waivers to buy Iranian oil and gas after November 5: China, India, Italy, Japan, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

        Pompeo did not say how long the waivers will last, but said they were granted to ensure oil prices are not destabilised if supply from Iran is abruptly removed from the international market.

        Pompeo said that since Trump announced the sanctions in May, more than a million barrels of Iranian oil were removed from the market, and that Tehran lost more than $2.5bn in oil revenues.

        Trump boasted he will drive down Iran’s revenue to zero. But Iran said the granting of US waivers is a win for Tehran, as it allows it to sell oil beyond the deadline. 

        In September, Iran sold between 1.7 million and 1.9 million bpd of crude oil, according to a CNBC analysis. That number came down to 800,000 bpd from May, when the sanctions were announced. But the loss in volume was partly offset by the rise in the oil price.      

        Special Purpose Vehicle

        On September 24, the European Union (EU) announced that it is setting up a new mechanism, the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

        EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said the SPV “will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with EU law and could be open to other partners in the world”.

        EU, alongside the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France, China, the US and Iran were the original signatories of the 2015 deal, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

        Europe’s decision to create the SPV was seen as an act of defiance against Trump.

        Essentially, the SPV acts as a clearing house handling payments from European companies to and from Iran, while avoiding the US sanctions that prohibit direct payment through the regular payment system.

        For example, if a European energy company buys oil and gas from Iran, the payments are directed to the SPV. In turn, Iran will use the payments deposited in the SPV to buy permitted items from Europe.

        It is not yet clear how the final SPV structure would like. Whether or not European companies would avail it also remains a question. Many European companies, such as Total, have profitable operations in the US, and they could get slapped with US sanctions if they insist on trading with Iran.

        On Monday, Iran’s Foreign MInistry spokesman Bahram Qassemi counseled patience in the implementation of the SPV, but he also said the establishment of the new financial mechanism is “complicated and time-consuming”.  

        The SPV is still seen as another victory in Iran as it indicates Europe’s willingness to stand up to Trump.

        European blocking statute

        In August, the EU also updated the Blocking Statute, thereby shielding European companies from Trump’s sanction, while allowing them to continue operating in Iran.

        It also allows companies to recover damages arising from punitive sanctions, in this case, from the US.

        The law also forbids EU persons from complying with those kind of sanctions, unless exceptionally authorised by the European Commission. 

        While it could work for small businesses with no links to the US, the statute could have limited use in Iran, particularly among major European companies with global operations. Those companies are automatically exposed to possible US sanctions in the event they deal with Iran.

        Iran stock exchange trading

        In late October, Iran announced that it has started offering oil for sale via its stock exchange, selling as much as 280,000 barrels of crude oil just minutes after the opening bell.

        The idea of selling oil in the stock market first came up in 2000 during the previous period of sanctions, but is only implemented now.

        According to Tasnim news agency, 280,000 barrels were traded in the Iran Energy Exchange (IRENEX) at $74.85 per barrel. On the first day of trading, a total of one million barrels of crude oil were eventually sold.

        Essentially, private buyers from within Iran or abroad buy the crude oil. In turn, the buyers can sell the same product to the world market with less traceability.

        The US Treausury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) maintains a list of sanctioned companies and individuals linked to the Iran case. But a new company not listed by OFAC can “legally” buy oil from Iran.

        ‘Unofficial’ measures

        Mohammad Eslami, a Tehran-based sanctions experts said, that there are still other measures that the Iranian government is taking to circumvent the US sanctions. 

        Tehran is reluctant to discuss those measures openly as it does not want to compromise them, he said.

        “All these structures, that the Iranians have built to confront these new sanctions, are unofficial,” said Eslami before adding that the measures included currency swap with other countries, and even crypto currency trading, adding that some entities are “already using it”.

        Iran’s partners like Russia and China also “would not be willing to talk about the alternatives”. 

        Russia, which has not been included in the US waiver, has denounced the sanctions, terming them “illegal”. There have been suggestions that Moscow would help Tehran bypass the sanctions by buying Iranian oil, then reselling them in refined form to Europe.  

        Pompeo had already issued a warning, saying the Trump administration “is fully prepared to do all that we can” to prevent efforts to bypass the sanctions. 

        Trump’s new sanction would face more complexities compared to the time of the Obama administration, said Eslami.

        He said that while Trump’s sanctions are “more measured”, the US president failed to establish a global consensus against Iran, as he “could not establish powerful group of supporters for his policy”.

        “Gradually, the structure of sanctions will be less powerful.”

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        Saudi Arabia defends human rights record at UN, vows to prosecute journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killers

        Saudi Arabia told the United Nations on Monday it would prosecute those responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate, and defended its human rights record.

        Bandar Al Aiban, the head of the Saudi government delegation at the first UN review of the kingdom’s record in five years, heard calls from other envoys for a credible investigation into the killing and for the protection of critics of the government.

        He told the hearing that King Salman had instructed the Saudi public prosecutor to “proceed with the investigation into this case according to the applicable laws and preparation to reaching all facts and bringing all the perpetrators to justice”.

        In the remarks, which did not appear in an advance transcript of the speech, Aiban gave no details on the status or whereabouts of the 18 Saudi nationals detained in connection with the case.

        Khashoggi’s sons on Monday demanded the return of the body of the Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi government, who disappeared at the consulate on Oct. 2.

        Saudi officials initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate, then said he died in an unplanned “rogue operation”. The kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb later said he was killed in a premeditated attack.

        Envoys from Australia, Belgium, Canada and Italy joined others at the debate calling for a credible and thorough investigation into Khashoggi’s death. “Reports that the killing was pre-meditated are deeply alarming,” Australian ambassador Sally Mansfield told the UN Human Rights Council hearing.

        France’s ambassador Francois Rivasseau called on Saudi Arabia to “immediate halt imprisonment and arbitrary arrests” of journalists and activists, and to guarantee freedom of religion.

        Austria, Belgium, and Denmark raised concerns about arrests of activists including women for their rights campaigns.

        Aiban, who is president of the official Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said the kingdom was constantly striving to promote and protect human rights “driven by the honourable principles and provisions of Islamic sharia and the traditional values of our society,” said.

        “The kingdom has spared no effort in combating and criminalising criminal conduct that could undermine, threaten or violate human rights, notably extremism, terrorism and corruption, and illustrating the contradiction between these acts and the principles of Islamic sharia,” he said.

        Freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed but was limited by laws that protect the rights of others as well as the “prerequisites of national security and public order”, he said.

        Women’s rights were the subject of most reforms and developments over the last five years, Aiban added. Women were allowed to vote and stand as candidates in municipal councils and driving licenses have been issued to women since June. Egypt’s ambassador Alaa Youssef praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts to confront terrorism and radicalism. The United States, a major ally of the kingdom, was also due to take the floor. It has observer status, having quit the 47-member forum in June accusing it of bias against Israel.

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        US reinstates tough Iran sanctions amid anger in Tehran

        The move restores US sanctions that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal drawing sharp reaction from Tehran.

          The United States has reimposed oil and financial sanctions against Iran, significantly turning up the pressure on Tehran in order to curb its alleged missile and nuclear programmes.

          The move on Monday will restore US sanctions that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, and add 300 new designations in Iran’s oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors.

          The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to break the sanctions imposed on Tehran’s vital energy and banking sectors.

          “America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales … but we will continue to sell our oil … to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television on Monday.

          Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told state TV that the new sanctions are part of a psychological war launched by Washington.

          “[US President Donald] Trump’s administration is addicted to imposing sanctions … America’s economic pressure on Iran is futile and part of its psychological war against Tehran,” Qasemi told a weekly news conference.

          Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said the strong talk coming from Iran was a defence strategy.

          “Many Iranians we speak to here tell us consistently that they have come to learn the only language the United States understands is the language of strength.”

          Before a campaign rally for the US midterm elections, US President Donald Trump on Sunday said that Iran was already struggling under pressure by his administration. 

          “The Iran sanctions are very strong; they are the strongest sanctions we have ever imposed. And we will see what happens with Iran, but they’re not doing very well, I can tell you,” he said.

          ‘Worst ever’ agreement

          Trump announced in May that his administration was withdrawing from what he called the “worst ever” agreement negotiated by the US and reimposed a first round of sanctions on Iran in August.

          Other parties to the deal, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, have said they will not leave.

          The Foreign Ministry’s Qasemi said Iran is in constant contact with other signatories of the nuclear deal that saw most international financial and economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under UN surveillance.

          “We are in regular contact with other signatories of the nuclear deal … setting up mechanism to continue trade with the European Union will take time,” Qasemi told a weekly news conference in Tehran.

          China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among eight countries expected to be given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised.

          Anger in Iran

          Earlier, thousands of Iranians rallied to mark the anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

          Addressing the rally in Tehran on Sunday, Iran’s military chief, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned Trump against overreaching when dealing with Iran.

          “I want to say something to America and its weird president,” Jafari said.

          “Never threaten Iran, because we can still hear the horrified cries of your soldiers in the [desert] … and you know it better, how many of your old soldiers in American society commit suicide every day because of depression and fear that they suffered in battlefields.

          “So, don’t threaten us militarily and don’t frighten us with military threats,” he added.

          Over the past year, Tehran has accused Trump of waging “economic warfare” and devastating its economy.

          In his speech, Jafari assured the crowd that Trump’s attacks on Iran’s economy were a desperate attempt to defeat the republic – one doomed to fail.

          But his optimistic tone stood in stark contrast to the widespread economic chaos Iran has endured during the past 12 months, including a nosedive in the value of its currency, a shake-up of President Hassan Rouhani’s economic team – which saw several senior ministers dismissed – and nationwide protests against price increases and dire economic conditions.

          Based on the figures from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Iran’s petroleum exports hit $52.728bn in 2017. Its crude oil exports stood at 2,125,000 barrels per day during the same year, while its natural gas exports reached 12.9 billion cubic metres.

          Those numbers, however, have already dropped in the current year.

          In India, for example, crude oil imports from Iran dropped from 690,000 barrels per day in May to around 400,000 barrels per day in August, Vandana Hari, a Singapore-based global oil market analyst, said.

          Iran’s energy sector accounts for up to 80 percent of the country’s income from exports, according to the US Energy Information Administration, so a disruption could bring serious pain to its financial bottom line and its people.

          Aside from the energy industry, others outfits and activities being sanctioned include:

          • Iran’s port operators and shipping industry, which is also linked to the transport of oil and gas.
          • Petroleum-related products and transactions from Iran.
          • Transactions by foreign financial institutions with Iran’s central bank and other banking institutions.
          • Insurance and reinsurance institutions, which insure tankers that transport oil and gas.
          • US-owned or controlled corporations with business activities with Iranian government and individuals.
          • Individuals, whose named were previously removed from the sanctions list, could also be included.
          • Iran-related SWIFT transactions could also be flagged.
            US Sanctions [Al Jazeera]

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          UK to urge Security Council action over Yemen

          Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says ‘time was right for the Council to act’ to bring an end to the brutal four-year war.

            Britain on Monday announced it was urging UN Security Council to act over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, saying there now “appears to be a window” for a peace deal.

            Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed with the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths “that the time was right for the Council to act to bolster the UN led process”, according to a Foreign Office statement.

            “For too long in the Yemen conflict both sides have believed a military solution is possible with catastrophic consequences for the people,” said Hunt.

            “Now for the first time there appears to be a window in which both sides can be encouraged to come to the table, stop the killing and find a political solution that is the only long term way out of disaster.”

            The conflict that began in 2014 has killed at least 10,000 people – a number that is likely far higher – and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

            Britain will use “all its influence to push for such an approach”, Hunt added, saying there was “a small but real chance that a cessation of hostilities could alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people”.

            UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for a halt to violence in Yemen to pull the country back from a “precipice” and build momentum towards talks on ending the war.

            Conflict-ravaged Yemen has become a “living hell” for children with thousands dying every year from malnutrition and easily preventable diseases, a top UN official said Sunday.

            According to UNICEF, 1.8 million Yemeni children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, and the lives of 400,000 severely affected children are under threat.


            Inside Story

            US calls for halt to the Saudi-backed war in Yemen

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            Jordan: King Abdullah II accepts resignations over deadly floods

            Tourism and education ministers quit after flooding kills 21 people, most of whom were school children and teachers.

              Jordan’s King Abdullah II has accepted the resignations of two ministers in the aftermath of the deadly floods that struck the country’s Dead Sea region last month.

              In a decree, the king accepted the resignations of Tourism Minister Lena Annab and Education Minister Azmi Mahafzeh, according to a statement issued by the Jordanian Royal Court on Sunday.

              On Thursday, Annab announced that she would leave her post via Twitter.  

              “In light of the current political and general climate, and the painful time our beloved country is going through, I have handed in my resignation today as Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, and I will be leaving it to the Prime Minister to do what he deems fit. May God bless Jordan and its great people under the honorable Hashemite leadership,” the minister said.

              In another decree, the Jordanian monarch appointed Justice Minister Bassam Samir Talhouni as acting education minister and Minister of State Majd Shwekeh as acting tourism minister.

              The resignation of the two ministers came as a result of popular and parliamentary pressure on the government after the floods disaster, which killed at least 21 people and injured dozens.

              Most of those killed were students and teachers whose bus was swept away by the floodwaters during a school trip.

              Late last month, the Jordanian government admitted responsibility for failure to deal with the flash floods.


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              Iranians rally to mark anniversary of 1979 US embassy takeover

              Demonstration marking the anniversary of the 1979 hostage-taking incident comes as US sanctions against Iran return.

                Thousands of Iranians have rallied in Tehran to mark the 39th anniversary of the US embassy takeover, as Washington prepares to reimpose all sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.

                The crowd chanted “Down with US” and “Death to Israel” during the rally in the Iranian capital on Sunday, and state TV said similar demonstrations were held in other cities and towns.

                Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from Tehran, said the crowd is “bigger” and “angrier” during this year’s commemoration.

                “It has to do with the fact that the anniversary coincides with the deadline by the United States to reimpose sanctions that were lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal,” he said.

                “But many Iranians that we spoke to said that this deadline is meaningless and that foreign investment has already been scared off…and that any economic damage has already been done.”    

                Shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian students stormed the American embassy, taking 52 hostages for 444 days. The US cut off diplomatic relations in response to the hostage-taking.

                In Iran, November 4 is also known as Student Day and the National Day of the Fight against Global Arrogance.

                Iran’s government celebrates the embassy takeover every year as a decisive blow against the United States, which had supported the autocratic rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

                ‘Den of spies’

                The embassy compound, widely known as the “den of spies,” is now a cultural centre.

                Anger and distrust of the US are surging again following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers despite Tehran’s compliance with the agreement, which was negotiated under the Obama administration.

                In May, the Trump administration announced the restoration of sanctions against Iran. The first round took effect in August, while the second round targeting Iran’s oil and gas, as well as its shipping and banking industries, will take effect on Monday, November 5.

                Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis and has seen sporadic protests in recent months, as Iranian officials tried to downplay the sanctions and their effects.

                The US said the sanctions are not aimed at toppling the government, but at persuading it to radically change its policies, including its support for regional armed groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

                Iranian leaders said the sanctions are aimed at toppling the government and have ruled out negotiations with the Trump administration.

                At a gathering on Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, portrayed the sanctions as part of a long tradition of American hostility towards the Islamic Republic, which he said had nevertheless prevailed.

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