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Posts Tagged ‘Baghdad’

Iran Rejects US, UN, Proposal to Resolve Nuclear Impasse

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Vindicating the skepticism expressed by Israeli leaders earlier in the week, Iran on Thursday rejected a proposal by the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany) to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and accused the six world powers of creating a “difficult atmosphere” for compromise.

On the second day of talks in Baghdad, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, met with his counterpart – European Union foreign policy chief and P5+1 representative – Catherine Ashton and conveyed his displeasure with the bloc’s proposal.

Iranian officials and media painted the six-nation bloc as the source of intransigence and focused its ire specifically at America. “What we heard in Istanbul was more interesting,” an Iranian delegate told Reuters, referring to meetings last month that appeared to offer progress in the resolution of the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. “We believe the reason [the P5+1] are not able to reach a result is America. [The P5+1] came to Baghdad without a clear mandate so we think the atmosphere is difficult.”

The P5+1’s proposal calls on Iran to stop enriching its uranium to 20% – which brings it close to the threshold of weapon’s grade. It offers Iran badly-needed spare parts for civilian airliners, medical isotopes, and nuclear safety cooperation as incentives to agrement. Iran, on the other hand, is demanding an immediate easing of current economic sanctions and suspension of the onerous sanctions set to be imposed in the summer; in return, Tehran is offering a pledge of broader access to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, plus other minor concessions.

As it stands now, the P5+1 has refused to consider suspending the impending sanctions. A US official stressed that the bloc’s proposal includes measures to alleviate the sanctions’ hardships, and that they should suffice in the confidence-building process. Nevertheless, Iran has made it clear that suspending the sanctions is the key to compromise.

“It seems that the basis for another round of negotiations doesn’t exist yet,” the Iranian delegate said. But characteristic of Iranian negotiating tactics, he left the door open for continued dialogue, thereby allowing Iran to pursue the dual track of continuing its quest for nuclear power while declaring its readiness to resolve the issue at the same time.

These are exactly the kind of tactics that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of on Tuesday when he said: “It appears that the Iranians are trying to reach a ‘technical agreement’ which will create the impression of progress in the talks, in order to remove some of the pressure…as well as to put off the intensification of sanctions.” He encouraged the P5+1 to remain “clear and unequivocal” in their demands.

 

 

Solomon Burke

Surrounded by Mistrust, Administration Resumes Iran Nuclear Talks

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The notion President Barack Obama has entertained, that his path to ending Iran’s nuclear threat would lead through a mix of sanctions and diplomacy, is being tested on a grand scale this week.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, will see the start of new talks, in Baghdad, intended to persuade Iran’s government to halt the enrichment of uranium, and also allow international inspectors complete access to its facilities. Ideally, Obama would have liked to manage the progress of these talks, perhaps the most crucial in a decade-long struggle between the West and the Iranians.

Indeed, according to the Mehr News Agency, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has already arrived in Baghdad on Monday night, eager to start the talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Meanwhile, Mehr reports that International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said in Tehran on Monday that a good atmosphere prevailed in his talks with Iranian officials.

Amano spoke after a two-hour meeting with Saeed Jalili, before the latter departed to Baghdad.

But back in Washington it appears that both the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate don’t completely trust the executive branch to do the right thing on Iran.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate approved even tougher new penalties on Tehran, aimed to squash its nuclear hopes.

By a unanimous voice vote, the Senate decided on measures to target Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (barring their affiliates from entry into the U.S.), demand that companies trading on the U.S. stock exchange disclose their Iran-related business to the SEC, and expand penalties for energy and uranium mining joint ventures with Iran.

Last week, the House passed a resolution, with 314 sponsors, calling on President Obama “to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability.” The resolution demanded reaffirmation of the U.S. “opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been concealing his own skepticism regarding the president’s chances in negotiating away Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Iran wants to destroy Israel, and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal,” he said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that “the pressure will be on the Iranians to demonstrate continued good faith,” which he defined as concretely discussing their program, meaning the nitty-gritty aspects of where, what percentage uranium enrichment, how close are they to building a nuclear device, and so on. The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany would like to know, in detail.

Take, for example, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who insisted on Sunday that the coming negotiations needed to produce evidence of progress to the international community, according to Reuters.

“Practical results are needed that can be shown to the international community as evidence that we are moving forward,” Ryabkov said.

The Russian “step-by-step” proposal wants Iran to gradually increase cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for each step it would be rewarded with a gradual easing of sanctions.

AA’s Bill Wilson meets the Ayatollah Humeini, if you will.

But Republicans in both houses have been having a field day with their accusation of an Administration ineptness on Iran.

Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, said, “The administration’s foolish embrace of yet another round of negotiations will only embolden the regime. The administration has made concession after concession in its negotiations with Iran only to come empty-handed. The Iranian approach seems to be, ‘What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable.'”

Yori Yanover

EU’s Ashton Briefs Netanyahu on Iran Talks, PM: ‘Iran Playing for Time’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that Iran must agree to halt all uranium enrichment in upcoming talks.

Ashton was in Jerusalem on Wednesday to brief Netanyahu in the run-up to the second round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

Netanyahu also accused Iran of “playing for time” by agreeing to continue to negotiate with the six world powers: the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. The powers and Iran met last month in Turkey, where they agreed to the Baghdad meeting.

Netanyahu invited Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and new coalition member Kadima head Shaul Mofaz to join the meeting with Ashton, Ha’aretz reported.

Mofaz has spoken out in the past against a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The United States has called on Israel to hold off on attacking Iran and instead give sanctions time to take hold.

JTA

‘Good Vibes’ in Istanbul Meeting over Iranian Nukes, But No Bilateral Iran-US Talks

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

UPDATE: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a news conference after a day of talks that there will be a meeting with the Iranian delegation again in Baghdad on May 23.

“We want now to move to a sustained process of dialogue,” Ashton said, adding, “The discussion on the Iranian nuclear issue has been constructive and useful. We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue, where we can take urgent, practical steps to build confidence.”

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According to the Iranian news agency Mehr, European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said on Saturday that the meeting between Iran and the six major powers had been “positive” and “totally different” than the last meeting.

Tehran and the group of 6 (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) met in Istanbul on Saturday, ending a 15-month hiatus in talks.

“There is a positive atmosphere… contrasting with the last time,” Mann stated after a two-and-a-half-hour morning session, adding that “the principles for future talks seem to be there.”

An afternoon session on Saturday involved a number of bilateral meetings, but the Iranian delegation rejected the US representatives’ request for a bilateral meeting.

“Their request was presented numerous times, but Iran has refused,” a source close to the Islamic Republic’s team told AFP.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton represented the major powers in the nuclear negotiations with Tehran, and the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, headed the Iranian delegation.

“I hope what we will see today is the beginnings of a sustained process,” Ashton said in a statement. “What we are here to do is to find ways in which we can build confidence between us and ways in which we can demonstrate that Iran is moving away from a nuclear weapons program.”

“What was discussed in the talks today was an emphasis on our nation’s nuclear rights based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” Tehran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters after two rounds of talks.

According to the Fars news agency, when he was asked about the pivots of the future round of talks in Baghdad next month, Jalili said the meeting would center on “first nuclear disarmament, second the theory of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Leader, which is a clear view and can serve as a major approach towards nuclear disarmament, third preventing proliferation of the nuclear weapons which is amongst major issues of cooperation and fourth peaceful use of the nuclear technology as a given and indispensible right of the NPT member states”.

He also said that in addition to two rounds of multilateral talks with representatives of the six world powers, “we only had bilateral talks with our Russian friends”.

Sources close to the Iranian negotiators told Press TV that it was too early to describe the talks as positive and said that the viewpoints of all sides needed to be heard before passing any judgment.

Despite their rejection of bilateral talks with the Americans, diplomats told AFP that Iran’s positive attitude in Istanbul raised the prospects for a second round of more in-depth discussions, and one envoy said the meetings should be held some time in the next four weeks.

AP also quoted diplomats close to the talks as saying that the nuclear negotiators for Iran and the six world powers were making encouraging progress in bridging their differences.

The Istanbul talks are unlikely to yield a major breakthrough, according to Reuters, but Western diplomats hope to see readiness from Tehran to start to discuss “issues of substance.”

When that happens, it would mark a big change in Iran’s attitude from the last meeting, when it wouldn’t even discuss its nuclear program. There is hope for a second round of talks next month, possibly in Baghdad.

If talks continue, this could influence Israel’s decision regarding a military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, to prevent Iran from manufacturing nuclear arms.

Yori Yanover

Torah of Ben Ish Chai Rescued in Covert Op

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

An ancient Torah scroll once belonging to the great Torah sage Ben Ish Chai has been rescued from war-torn Iraq, and made its way home to Israel’s beach-side community of Netanya on Tuesday.

One of the world’s oldest Torah scrolls still kosher for use, the 400 year-old Torah was liberated in a covert operation conducted with the help of US Armed Forces still stationed in Iraq. The unique scroll is printed on gawil – thick parchments not split during the construction of the scroll – and etched with large letters. It once served the community of the celebrated Baghdadi Rabbi Abdullah and his renowned disciple, Rabbi Yosef Chaim, who came to be known as the Ben Ish Chai.

Dr. Nissan Sharifi, attorney and chairman of the Be’er Chana synagogue in Netanya, explained to Israel’s Hidabrut website that he began his quest to rescue the precious scroll after representing some Jewish US Army soldiers who had immigrated to Israel. He began to hear stories from the Jewish-American soldiers about ancient Jewish manuscripts and books in the possession of the Jewish community of Baghdad, including the Torah scroll of the Ben Ish Chai. When he heard about the existential threat facing the dwindling Jewish community of Baghdad in the wake of the withdrawal of the US from Iraq, and understood the danger to the Jewish artifacts posed by angry rioters in a turbulent post-war Iraq, he decided to try to save the scroll, the second oldest scroll which is kosher for use in the world, after the 500 year-old scroll of Rabbi Isaac Abuahav, which is currently in the Galilean city of Tzfat.

Iraqi law makes removing artifacts relevant to the country difficult to accomplish. Sharifi would not go into detail about the rescue, but told Hidabrut that the original cylindrical case ensconcing the scroll was not salvaged – only the parchments arrived in Israel.

According to Sharifi, the small remaining Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad supported the transfer of the scroll to his synagogue. Yom Kippur was the last time the scroll was used, when Jewish Army soldiers joined the 7 or 8 remaining elderly Baghdadi Jews to make a prayer quorum (minyan). In the possession of the community remain thousands of handwritten items, manuscripts, books, and tens of Torah scrolls, all of which are threatened by the somber reality of the vulnerability of the community resulting from the US Army’s withdrawal from the area.

The Torah was received in a festive ceremony at the Be’er Chana synagogue, which was established by Sharifi in the name of his mother, who was born in Baghdad. In attendance was Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of the late former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who was an advocate of the preservation of Iraqi Jewish traditions and a student of the teachings of the Ben Ish Chai.

In the early 1900s, as many as 300,000 Jews lived in Baghdad. A major anti-Semitic upswing following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 eventually resulted in rescue Operation Ezra and Nechemiah(named after the prophets who led the Jews of Babylon to the land of Israel), which evacuated up to 120,000 Jews from Iraq in 1 year, leaving just 6,000 by the end of 1952.

Malkah Fleisher

Iraq Bombings Kill Shiites in Absence of US Troops

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

A wave of bombings targeting Shiites in Iraq has killed 72 people. The bombings began early in the morning when explosions struck two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing at least 27 people. A few hours later, a suicide attack hit Shiite pilgrims heading to the Shiite city of Karbala, killing 45. Less than two hours later, two explosions rocked the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah in the north of the capital, killing 15 people.

Yishai Fleisher

US Troops Leave Iraq as Operation Iraqi Freedom Ends

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

At 7:30am Baghdad time, the final convoy of US troops left Iraq, ending an almost nine-year military operation which began with the toppling of Dictator Saddam Hussein.

Since the first missile strikes of the $806 billion mission were launched under US President George W. Bush in March 2003, almost 4,459 Americans have been killed in Iraq, with 32,200 troops and staff wounded in action.

Military personnel and equipment rolled across the Iraq-Kuwait border just ahead of the December 31 deadline in a highly-organized exit which was planned over several months.  Air Force para-rescue forces remained on alert in case the 500-man convoy faced a critical emergency, yet the withdrawal remained low-key.  At its peak, US forces numbered over 170,000 at more than 500 bases.

On Thursday, US troops conducted a formal ceremony  ending Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad, though a US diplomatic mission will remain on hand as a presence in Iraq, also overseeing military and equipment sales.

The withdrawal was a key component of US President Barack Obama’s election campaign.  As part of its effort to depart Iraq uneventfully, US forces paid $100,000 to tribal sheikhs to ensure their safety on highways toward Kuwait, according to Reuters news agency.

Though it seems the mission succeeded in thwarting attacks in the United States, it appears to have done little for Iraqi stability. Major sectarian violence led to thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths over the years, with a complex and fragile governmental coalition of Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurdish parties threatening to collapse,  persistent insurgent attacks against government officials, and looming regional power wielders such as Iran and terror group Al-Qaida poised to take control.

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-troops-leave-iraq-as-operation-iraqi-freedom-ends/2011/12/18/

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