INDIA WON’T HALT ALL OIL IMPORTS … IRAQ TO DEMAND WAIVER
TEHRAN, Aug 29, (Agencies): Iran’s supreme leader warned Wednesday the country could abandon its nuclear deal with world powers if it no longer served its interests, even as economic and political pressure mounted on the government. “Naturally, if we reach the conclusion that (the nuclear deal) is no longer maintaining our national interests, we will put it aside,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with the cabinet, according to his website.
He said Iran must not “pin its hopes” on Europe, despite European efforts to salvage the nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States. The government of President Hassan Rouhani has been battered by the return of US sanctions, which has triggered a rapid departure of foreign firms and ended his hopes of attracting large-scale investment.
His political enemies are circling, with parliament announcing that two more of his ministers could be impeached in the coming days. The labour and economy ministers have already been sacked by parliament this month and motions have been accepted to vote on impeaching his industries and education ministers in the coming days.
Khamenei insisted the political tumult was a sign of the strength of Iran’s democracy. He praised the tough questioning Rouhani received in parliament on Tuesday as “a glorious show of the power of the Islamic republic and the self-confidence of officials.” Differences between officials are “natural”, he added, though he said they should not be covered by the media “because the people would become worried”.
Tuesday’s grilling in parliament was the first for Rouhani in five years as president, and lawmakers slammed his handling of five economic issues, ranging from unemployment to the collapsing value of the currency. In voting at the end of the session, they declared they were unsatisfied with four of his responses. Under parliamentary rules, the issues could then have been referred for judicial review, but parliament Speaker Ali Larijani – a close ally of Rouhani – said on Wednesday there were no legal grounds for doing so.
Parliament can theoretically impeach Rouhani, but he has the protection of Khamenei, who has previously said removing the president would “play into the hands of the enemy”. Instead, Khamenei called on officials to work together “day and night” to resolve the country’s economic problems.
Iran’s currency has lost around half its value since the US announced it was withdrawing from the nuclear deal in May, and further pain is expected when sanctions on its crucial oil sector are reimposed in November. Conservative opponents of Rouhani, who have long opposed his outreach to the West, are smelling blood. Next in their sights is his minister of industry, mines and business, Mohammad Shariatmadari, who is accused of failing to prevent high inflation, particularly in the car industry. A motion was also filed on Wednesday to vote on the impeachment of Education Minister Mohammad Bathaei, over a series of issues linked to school budgets, the curriculum and alleged mismanagement
India will not completely halt Iranian oil imports and will finalise its strategy on crude purchases from Tehran after a meeting with top US officials next week, a senior government official said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will hold high-level talks with India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sept 6, in what is known as a 2+2 dialogue.
“Definitely we are not going to zero” (purchases), said the official, who has direct knowledge of India’s oil purchase policy and did not wish to be identified. When asked if more clarity on India’s Iranian oil purchases would emerge after the dialogue, the official said “yes, that is the highest level of meeting we will have with the US.” The United States is pushing all countries to halt oil imports from Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers and ordered a re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran.
India, Iran’s top oil buyer after China, has so far not decided on the size of any cut to Iranian imports and continues to seek a waiver from the United States. Trump has threatened that anyone trading with Iran will not do business with America. US sanctions on Iran’s energy sector are set to be re-imposed after a 180-day “wind-down period” ending on Nov 4.
Several countries that were involved in the 2015 nuclear deal had attempted to lessen the blow of fresh sanctions on Iran, and urged their firms not to pull out. But that has proven difficult: several European companies have cut ties with Iran, arguing they cannot risk losing their US business as the sanctions deadline approaches. India has already asked its refiners to prepare for a drastic reduction in imports of crude from Tehran from November, sources told Reuters in June.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi announced Tuesday that his government would send a delegation to Washington to demand a waiver from the US on Iran sanctions.
In a news conference, Al-Abadi said that the government had formed a special committee chaired by the Central Bank of Iraq to consider realms where it could rely on own potential and stop dealing with Iran and other areas where it could not do the same. The Iraqi delegation would inform the US side about the transactions which Iraq wants to continue with Iran, the Iraqi premier said citing as examples the imported Iranian natural gas and electricity as well as the execution of previously-signed trade deals. He laid it bare that Iraq did not support the US sanctions and it would not be a part of a siege on any country of the world, but it would comply with them to protect national interests. “We do not want to take any action that harms our people and at the same time do not benefit others,” he said, recalling that former Iranian governments had complied with the US blockade on Iraq in 1990s.