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Trump says new Iran sanctions already in effect

By AFP - Jan 09,2020 - Last updated at Jan 09,2020

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States had imposed new sanctions on Iran following missile strikes on bases housing US troops in Iraq that resulted in no American or Iraqi deaths.

"It's already been done. We've increased them. They were very severe, but now it's increased substantially," Trump said, without offering any specifics.

Trump had promised the "additional punishing sanctions" in an address to the nation Wednesday in retaliation for the attack — seen by experts as a measured first response by Tehran to the killing of Iran's top General, Qassem Soleimani, in an American drone strike in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, EU chief Charles Michel defended the crumbling Iran nuclear deal Thursday after US President Donald Trump urged Europe to quit it, but warned Tehran against "irreversible acts" that would sink the accord.

The president of the European Council used a call with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani to call for a de-escalation of tensions after Tehran carried out missile strikes on US military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of one of its top generals.

A White House statement from Trump calmed fears of all-out war erupting, but the US leader demanded that the other parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal follow his lead and withdraw from the pact.

The European parties — Britain, France and Germany — have led efforts to save the deal, which has been crumbling since Trump pulled out in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, and Michel insisted it remained vital.

“The JCPOA agreement was an important achievement after 10 years of intense international negotiations and remains an important tool for regional stability,” Michel’s office said in its readout of his call with Rouhani.

The statement said Michel had insisted “the EU has its own interests and its vision” — implicitly distancing EU capitals from Washington.

But Michel, who heads the European Council grouping the 28 member states, also told Rouhani that Iran must “avoid posing irreversible acts”.

The warning follows Tehran’s announcement of its latest step back from commitments under the 2015 deal, which saw it granted sanctions relief in return for curbs on its atomic programme.

Europe has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity this week as it seeks to calm two major crises on its periphery — Iran and Libya, where the UN-backed government is under pressure from a rival military strongman.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday to end the confrontation with the United States and underlined Britain’s commitments to Tehran’s nuclear agreement, Downing Street said.

Johnson “called for an end to hostilities” and said Britain viewed the 2015 nuclear deal as “the best arrangement currently available to deliver on our goal of stopping Iran from having a nuclear weapon”, his spokesman said.

In a 20-minute call, Downing Street said Johnson wanted to “deliver the clear message” to Iran that “there is an urgent need for de-escalation”.

Pope Francis called for restraint from the United States and Iran, saying in his annual speech to Vatican diplomats, “Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States.”

 

Deterrence

 

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the United States has reestablished some deterrence toward Iran in the wake of the January 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

“I think at this point with the strikes we took against KH in late December and then our actions with regard to Soleimani, I believe that we’ve restored a level of deterrence with them,” he told reporters, referring to Kataeb Hezbollah, an armed Iraqi group backed by Iran.

“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley dismissed suggestions that Iran did not intend to kill Americans with its missile barrage, which struck the sprawling Ain Al Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops with the US-led coalition fighting the Daesh terror group.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.

“But we took sufficient defensive measures that there were no casualties to US personnel, coalition personnel, contractors or Iraqis.”

Esper also downplayed the firing of two rockets into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone late Wednesday, where the US and other foreign embassies are located and many US troops are based.

“We should have some expectation that the Shiite militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there, either politically or, you know, take some type of kinetic actions against us or do Lord-knows-what,” Esper told reporters.

A top Iraqi paramilitary commander, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, was also killed in the strike on Soleimani last week.

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