Rouhani denounces “separatist tendencies”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan both warned on Thursday against a further Iraqi Kurdish move towards independence.
The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government has decided to proceed with a referendum on September 25, prompting the phone call on Thursday between Iranian and Turkish Presidents.
“Some powers are applying their desires in the region to the detriment of nations,” Rouhani said, according to Iranian State media. “Iran does not believe some of the separatist tendencies and problems that have arisen in the Persian Gulf region are ever for the sake of peace and stability in the region.”
Iran and Turkey have put out strong messages throughout the summer against any Kurdish secession from Iraq, including in a visit by the Iranian Chief of Staff, Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, to Ankara.
Both countries derided a decision by the city of Kirkuk to join the referendum. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday:
[The referendum] does not help recent dialogue in Baghdad to resolve existing issues and will affect Iraq’s national capacity and power in stabilizing that country’s victories over terrorism.
The Islamic Republic of Iran warns against this wrong decision, which is a clear breach of Iraq’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty, stressing again that…any measure creating new crises in the region and borders of Iraq’s neighbors will be intolerable.
Rouhani’s Call of Reassurance to Qatar
Rouhani also used the call to pursue his strategy of building alliances in the face not only of regional issues but also of additional US sanctions on Tehran. He declared that Iran and and Turkey should “more than before” play a role in restoring peace to the region.
The Iranian President also spoke on Thursday with Emir Tamim of Qatar, which is enduring an air and sea blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies since early July.
Riyadh broke relations with its Gulf neighbor, citing Qatar’s support of “extremism” — i.e. groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas — and labelling its media operations, including Al Jazeera, as unacceptable propaganda. Facing shortages of food and essential goods, Qatar has turned to Iran and Turkey for support.
Rouhani said on Thursday, “The Islamic Republic of Iran regards what has been imposed on Qatar as unfair and a source of more tensions among the regional countries.”
According to Iranian State media, the Qatari emir appreciated Iran’s principled stance on the “unfair sanctions” and will never forget Tehran’s support, including the opening of airspace and borders to move food and supplies.
IAEA Verifies Iranian Compliance with Nuclear Deal
The International Atomic Energy Agency has again verified Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal, denting the Trump Administration’s effort to put pressure on Tehran.
The latest quarterly report found Iran’s production and supply of enriched uranium was within the 3.67% limit, and heavy water, used in reactors that can produce plutonium, was also below maximum specified levels. Tehran has not pursued the construction of the Arak heavy water reactor or tested components for it.
“The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement,” the report concluded.
Donald Trump reluctantly verified Iranian compliance in a sanctions waiver last month, but the Administration also said that it wants to press Iran over ballistic missile testing, alleged support of “terrorism”, and its human rights record — an effort supported by Congress’s adoption of additional sanctions in late July.
In meetings with the IAEA last week, US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley pushed for inspection of more Iranian facilities. Tehran immediately responded that military sites were excluded from the July 2015 agreement and are still off-limits. President Hassan Rouhani used the development to try and split countries of the European Union from the American position.
However, IAEA Secretary General Yukiya Amano offered some support for the US in Thursday statements to the Associated Press: he insisted that the agency “has access to locations without making distinctions between military and civilian” to ensure that Iran does not have hidden nuclear activities.
Under the nuclear deal, the IAEA can request access to sensitive sites and compel it with the approval of a majority of the eight signatories [US, UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, European Union, and Iran] through their representatives on a joint commission.
IAEA officials have said that they will inspect military sites if there is credible information of suspicious activity, but that they do not want to undertake a “fishing expedition” without clear intelligence.
“If they want to bring down the deal, they will,” an IAEA official said of the Trump Administration. “We just don’t want to give them an excuse to.”