Washington to give 8 countries waivers – Iran starts producing local fighter jet
TEHRAN: Iranians shop in the capital’s grand bazaar yesterday. – AFP
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday that President Donald Trump has “disgraced” US prestige and would be the ultimate loser from renewing sanctions on the Islamic republic. “This new US president… has disgraced the remnant of America’s prestige and that of liberal democracy. America’s hard power, that is to say their economic and military power, is declining too,” he said on his Persian Twitter account, quoting a speech in Tehran.
A defiant Khamenei dismissed the renewed US sanctions – including an oil embargo – that take effect tomorrow. “The challenge between the US and Iran has lasted for 40 years so far and the US has made various efforts against us: Military, economic and media warfare,” he said. “There’s a key fact here: In this 40-year challenge, the defeated is the US and the victorious is the Islamic republic.”
Trump announced in May he was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, sparking outrage among world powers who say Iran has been complying with commitments to restrict its atomic program. Washington says it wants a new deal with Iran, curtailing its regional interventions and missile program – demands which have been flatly rejected by Tehran.
The renewed sanctions are designed “to paralyze (Iran’s) economy and keep it backward. However, it has resulted in encouraging a movement towards self-sufficiency in the country,” Khamenei added. “Our youth, across the country, support independence. Some may not be so religious but they are sensitive towards domination by foreigners.”
On Friday, the US said it would add 700 individuals and entities to its Iran blacklist and push the SWIFT global banking network to cut off Tehran as Washington applies “maximum pressure” to cripple the country’s economy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said eight countries – believed to include India, Japan and possibly China – would be given waivers to continue importing Iranian oil in order to avoid upsetting the global crude market, but only on condition they slow their purchases.
Iran is the world’s No. 3 oil exporter. China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Japan have been top importers of Iran’s oil, while Taiwan occasionally buys cargoes of Iranian crude but is not a major buyer. Turkey has been told it will temporarily be allowed to keep buying Iranian oil, its energy minister told reporters, as has Iraq, as long as it does not pay Iran in US dollars, three Iraqi officials said. India and South Korea were also on the list, said a source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under US law, exceptions can be granted for up to 180 days. India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan yesterday said India and other leading oil buyers would benefit from the US waiver they have been granted. “In the current geopolitically challenging scenario, India has managed to convince international leaders,” Pradhan told reporters in New Delhi. The re-imposition of sanctions “is aimed at depriving the regime of the revenues it uses to spread death and destruction around the world”, Pompeo said. “Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.”
Britain, France, Germany and the European Union strongly condemned the latest actions from Washington in a joint statement, and have vowed to preserve the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “The JCPOA is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and of multilateral diplomacy,” they said. “It is crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. The JCPOA is working and delivering on its goal.”
The US wants Iran to withdraw from war-ravaged Syria, where the Shiite clerical regime is a key ally of President Bashar Al-Assad, and end longstanding support to regional militant movements Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Iran’s foreign ministry welcomed the show of support from Europe, saying “the continued life of the JCPOA depends on the success” of their efforts to safeguard trade. The ministry, in a statement, said the US sanctions were a violation of the JCPOA, UN resolutions and “a neglect of humane, moral and ethical values”.
Meanwhile, Iran has started production of the locally-designed Kowsar fighter plane for use in its air force, state television reported, as tensions mount with the US after the re-imposition of US sanctions on Tehran. “Soon the needed number of this plane will be produced and put at the service of the air force,” Defence Minister Amir Hatami said at a ceremony yesterday to launch the plane’s production, which was shown on television.
Iran says the Kowsar is “100-percent indigenously made” and able to carry various weapons and is to be used for short aerial support missions. However, some military experts believe the fighter jet is a carbon copy of an F-5 first produced in the United States in the 1960s. Iran’s air force has been limited to perhaps a few dozen strike aircraft using either Russian or ageing US models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Tehran has sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to help prop up Assad’s forces, but had to rely on Russia for aerial support due to its own lack of a powerful air force. The Islamic Republic launched in 2013 what it said was a new, domestically-built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time. – Agencies