Saudi Arabia hails ‘historical turning point’ in ties with U.S.

  1. Context: A meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  2. Highlighted the two leaders’ shared view that Iran posed a regional security threat
  3. It is in a marked difference from Riyadh’s often fraught relationship with the Obama administration, especially in the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal
  4. Saudi Arabia had viewed with unease the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, whom they felt considered Riyadh’s alliance with Washington less important than negotiating the Iran nuclear deal
  5. But now, Riyadh and other Gulf allies see in Mr. Trump a strong President, who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner and help contain Riyadh’s adversary Iran in a region central to U.S. security and energy interests
  6. Both leaders had identical views on “the danger of Iran’s regional expansionist activities”
  7. The White House has said the deal is not in the best interest of the United States

Note4students:

Just note the US’ policy shift on international issues.

Iran begins navy drill off Strait of Hormuz


  1. Iran’s navy has begun an annual drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, its first major exercise since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump
  2. The maneuver will cover an area of 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles) in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean near the strait
  3. Significance of Hormuz: Nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the strait and it has been the scene of previous confrontations between the U.S. and Iran
  4. But the drill does not involve Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force the U.S. Navy often criticizes for harassing its vessels

Note4students:

Do map locations mentioned here as West Asia is favourite of UPSC for mapping questions. Locate the Strait of Hormuz, Sea of Oman and other water bodies in the area.

Iran to hold 3-day military drills from Monday despite U.S. warnings

  1. Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard is to conduct military drills next week, despite warnings from the United States and fresh sanctions over a ballistic missile test
  2. The manoeuvres will be called ‘Grand Prophet 11
  3. Background: In early February, Iran conducted drills involving short-range missiles at a time of heightened tensions with the United States
  4. The Islamic republic said that the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Iran’s “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington
  5. U.S.’s fresh curbs: U.S. President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions against Tehran’s weapons procurement network following a ballistic missile test on January 29

Note4students:

It is not directly related to India, but it is still useful to be aware of basic events around the world, especially to understand geopolitical developments. Note the name of the exercise for prelims.

[op-ed snap] Perilous U-turn on Iran

Context:

  1. A set of new sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States over a missile test has taken ties between the two countries

History:

  1. Bilateral relations were particularly hostile during the presidency of George W. Bush, who had threatened military action over Iran’s nuclear programme
  2. Barack Obama took a different line, moored in political realism
  3. He reached out to the Iranians and finally clinched the nuclear deal last year, a far-sighted diplomatic solution to a complex international crisis

Removal of Sanctions:

  1. The U.S. and other world powers took years to find a common ground with Iran, which prevented the country from acquiring nuclear weapons in return for removal of international sanctions
  2. The deal, viscerally opposed by Israel, allowed Iran to mend ties with European countries, boost its oil production and trade with other countries, thereby minimising the pain its people had suffered due to economic sanctions
  3. The U.S. and Iran cooperated on the battleground in Iraq against the Islamic State
  4. Domestically, it strengthened the hands of Iranian moderates
  5. This progress stands threatened by President Donald Trump’s hostility towards Iran

Trump Era:

  1. Trump may not repeal the nuclear deal as it is a multilateral agreement
  2. But by putting immigration curbs on Iranian citizens, imposing new sanctions on Iran and branding the country the “greatest state sponsor of terrorism”, the Trump administration has clearly announced that détente is dead and the policy of containment back
  3. If Mr. Obama’s Iran policy was defined by pragmatism, Mr. Trump appears determined to pursue the agenda of restoring the bipolar balance between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the U.S.’s strongest allies in West Asia

Effects:

  1. Iran, unlike the Iraq of 2003, is a strong regional power whose influence runs from Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and Yemen
  2. Any meaningful effort to stabilise West Asia calls for Iran’s cooperation, not hostility
  3. Second, the primary reason for destabilisation in West Asia is the ongoing cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran
  4. Targeting Iran by siding with the Saudis would only prompt Tehran to step up its activities in other countries through the “Shia corridor”
  5. Finally, the world, including the U.S., needs Iran’s cooperation to fight the Islamic State, particularly in Iraq, where Iranian-controlled Shia militias played a key role in liberating cities
  6. If Mr. Trump ignores these realities, he runs the risk of making West Asia even more chaotic than it is

Note4Students:

Politics of West Asia is important to understand in the changing and evolving international dynamics. A UPSC student must be prepared with such answers for international relations in GS-2.

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

  1. Sanctions: U.S. President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions on Iran’s weapons procurement network, provoking an angry response from Tehran in what is an increasingly tense stand-off
  2. Why sanctions? The new measures are in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test and its support for the Huthi rebels in Yemen, who recently targeted a Saudi warship
  3. The new sanctions do not yet mean that the U.S. has abandoned commitments it made under the deal to lift measures aimed at Iran’s nuclear programme

Note4students:

The Iran sanctions issue reviving again in Trump-era. Keep track of it as it develops. Note the terms such Huthi etc. Such terms are a favorite of UPSC for prelims.

Iran showing commitment to nuke deal: IAEA chief

  1. What: Iran has shown commitment to the deal on its nuclear programme agreed with world powers, according to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  2. Background: Under the 2015 deal, Iran curbed its nuclear fuel production activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions
  3. Tehran is not allowed to enrich uranium above a 3.67% purity for 15 years, a level unlikely to be enough to run such vessels
  4. At present: Despite the agreement, a Bill extending U.S. sanctions against Iran for 10 years would become law without President Barack Obama’s signature
  5. This is due to differences between the US President and the legislature
  6. In response to the U.S. sanctions extension, Iran ordered its scientists last week to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels

Note4students:

1. You must have studied the differences between Parliamentary and Presidential style govts, e.g. India and US. Such a development, where the legislature and executive take different actions, could not have occurred in the Indian system.

2. The Iran deal was a major accomplishment of President Obama. It helped stabilise Middle East and allowed Iran to start selling oil again. With new sanctions, and Mr Trump coming in, there could be more uncertainty. Given that the Middle East is a very important region for India, we should be aware of the general developments in this area.

3. Task for students: Locate Iran in an atlas. See which countries it borders, water bodies around it and major physical features.

Back2basics:

IAEA is known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization within the United Nations. It was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology. It was given the mandate to work with its member states and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. It’s headquarters is in Vienna, Austria.

Signs of mistrust in Iran-American N Deal?

  1. Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says it is futile to engage with the Americans, cautions against talks with Washington on other regional issues
  2. Despite the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, Iran is still barred from using the US’ financial system because of many other prohibitions
  3. This caused delay in Iran’s purchases of new jetliners from Boeing and Airbus, which the nuclear agreement specifically permitted
  4. Trivia: Mr. Trump had called the nuclear agreement a disaster, suggesting that he would seek to renegotiate it
  5. Wonder what happens if he gets to ascend the throne!

Missiles for self defence, tests do not violate nuclear deal: Iran

  1. Context: Recently, Iran test fired ballistic missiles, supposedly to be for self defence
  2. The tests drew international concern and prompted a meeting of the 15-nation Security Council
  3. Statement: The ballistic missiles were for self-defense and recent tests did not violate the historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers
  4. Also, the missiles tested would never be used in aggression

Israel demands world powers punish Iran for missile tests

  1. Why? because, Iran test-fired 2 ballistic missiles emblazoned with the phrase Israel must be wiped out in Hebrew
  2. Context: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Iran to act with moderation, and U.S. ambassador to U.N. said the launches were provocative and destabilizing
  3. Iran’s stand: Missile tests do not violate Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers or U.N. Security Council resolutions
  4. UN Security Council resolution: Last year removing sanctions called on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear weapon
  5. Israel demands: world powers had pledged to prevent Iran from such violations, so they should act on it

Normalising Iran

Tehran’s readmission to the world market offers opportunities Delhi must seize.

  1. Economic sanctions related to its nuclear programme — imposed by the US, EU and the UN — were lifted, following the IAEA’s confirmation of Tehran’s compliance with the terms of nuclear deal.
  2. But, Washington imposed fresh sanctions over Iran’s missile programme, pertaining to the test-fire of a precision-guided ballistic missile.
  3. US has only suspended its nuclear-related sanctions; it hasn’t terminated them.
  4. Non-nuclear economic sanctions imposed by the US remain in place, forbidding American citizens and firms from trading with Iran.
  5. All said and done, Iran is now back in the global market, ready to raise its production and export of oil, gain access to capital and investment.
  6. As India’s gateway to Central Asia, Iran is also a promising investment destination for India’s private sector in infrastructure, IT, petrochemicals, etc.
  7. As Other Asian economies, like China and Japan, rush in, India must move swiftly.

U.S. lifts sanctions; Iran comes in from the cold

Primary sanctions that bar U.S citizens and companies from business with Iran will remain.

  1. US removed a wide range of sanctions against Iran after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Tehran has met its commitments to roll back its nuclear programme.
  2. The U.S has only removed secondary sanctions that restrict the dealings of other countries with Iran.
  3. The removal of restrictions on its oil, petrochemicals, banking, natural gas and port sectors will hugely benefit Iran and allow it to reenter the global market.
  4. This also help India’s plans in Iran, include the Chabahar port, an Indian Oil petrochemical plant and the proposed Iran–Pakistan–India (IPI) gas pipeline.

U.S.-Iran tensions on the rise again

Iran’s President has warned of reprisals if Washington resorts to further sanctions.

  1. This could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally implemented within weeks.
  2. U.S. Treasury Department had planned to blacklist companies and individuals with ties to Iran’s ballistic missile programme.
  3. Since the nuclear deal was struck, U.S. officials say Iran has conducted two missile tests.
  4. The tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping Iran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The Iran deal, a triumph for diplomacy


 

  1. US and Iran were pressed by political, economic and geopolitical factors to reach a comprehensive solutions to deep-rooted crises.
  2. Obama could not take forward Bush administration’s aggressive strategy against Iran due to the economic crisis that hit the world.
  3. US faced daunting challenges in Asia after 9/11, i.e. stabilising Iraq and Afghanistan, neutralising terror groups operating from within the region and dealing with Iran.
  4. It was the confluence of strategic interest in Iraq and Afghanistan and US’ need for an ally in the region to tackle IS, which led to Iran’s shift from spoiler power to stabilising power.

U.N. endorses Iran nuclear agreement

  1. UNSC unanimously endorsed the Iran – P5+1 nuclear deal agreement, paving the way for terminating sanctions against Iran.
  2. This move will boost the economy of Iran which was crippling under harsh sanctions imposed on it since 2006.

Obama defends Iran nuclear deal, Israel declares it a big mistake

  1. President Obama said the Iran nuclear deal is the only way to avert a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and reduce chances of war.
  2. The deal announced on Tuesday offers to roll back economic sanctions on Iran if it scales down its nuclear program.
  3. Israel PM Netanyahu has called this move to amicably suppress Iran a mistake of historic proportions.

Iran reaches historic nuclear deal

  1. The deal puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent U.N. oversight.
  2. The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for 5 years but deliveries would be possible with special permission of the UNSC.
  3. Sanctions had slashed Tehran’s oil exports by a quarter and choked its economy
NYT

Big hurdles still remain in Iran n-talks


 

  1. The main differences are on the pace and timing of sanctions relief for Iran and on the nature of monitoring mechanisms to ensure Tehran does not cheat on any agreement.
  2. U.S. and European negotiators also want to ensure there is a mechanism for restoring sanctions if Tehran fails to meet its commitments under any future accord

The road from Lausanne

  1. The Nuclear agreement has left many crucial details to be worked out in the next round of talks, including sequencing of sanctions-relief and details of inspection regime.
  2. Iran is expecting rapid relief on sanctions from UN and EU.
  3. US is looking for conclusive proof of Iranian compliance with the nuclear inspections and limiting Iran’s programme, before taking off sanctions.

  4. Israel has tried all efforts against this deal, which will later draw the international attention on the Israeli arsenal.
  5. If a deal is reached, it will significantly reduce the risk of further proliferation in the Middle East.

Iran-P5+1 talks: Breakthrough


 

Key Points:

  1. Iran and P5+1 agreed on the framework for a draft plan of action that would be ready by June 30th this year.
  2. The draft plan envisages to limit Iran’s nuclear programme for civilian nuclear activities only.
  3. The plan of action clearly states the no. of enrichment plants & centrifuges Iran will have access to, as well as their verification by IAEA.
  4. The UN will terminate all its resolutions sanctioning Iran, which had crippled its economy.
  5. The breakthrough deal will have wider geopolitical repercussions on all of West Asia, which is witnessing the results of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  6. The deal will bring big relief for India, who found it difficult to strengthen its civilizational ties with Tehran in face of international sanctions.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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