Middle EastWorld

US sends nuclear response to Iran, hits Syria militias

TEHRAN/WASHINGTON: Iran received Wednesday a response from the United States to its proposals on a final European Union draft for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, the foreign ministry said. The announcement comes a day after Washington said Iran had agreed to ease key demands that had held up the revival of the 2015 deal trashed by former president Donald Trump. That came one day after Tehran criticized the United States for what it said was a slow response to its proposals.

Tehran “received this evening via the (EU) coordinator, the response from the US government over the Islamic republic of Iran’s opinions on the outstanding issues in the negotiations to lift sanctions”, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said. “The process of carefully reviewing the US opinions has begun and the Islamic republic of Iran will announce its opinion in this context to the coordinator after it completes its review,” Kanani added, without providing further details.

Iran had last week sent its proposals over the final draft sent on Aug 8 by the EU, which has coordinated talks in Vienna on reviving the pact. Shortly after Tehran’s announcement, Washington confirmed it had responded to Iran’s proposals. “As you know, we received Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposed final text through the EU,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “Our review of those comments has now concluded. We have responded to the EU today”.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – gave the Islamic republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. The deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon – something it has always denied wanting to do.

Iran’s announcement comes as its arch-nemesis the Zionist entity has piled on pressure on Western countries to halt talks on reviving the agreement, warning against the consequences of returning to the accord. “On the table right now is a bad deal. It would give Iran $100 billion a year,” Zionist Prime Minister Yair Lapid told journalists Wednesday. The money would be used by Iran-backed militant groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad to “undermine stability in the Middle East and spread terror around the globe,” he added.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered air strikes in eastern Syria targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militias, a US military spokesman said. The strikes in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province “targeted infrastructure facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Central Command (Centcom) spokesman Colonel Joe Buccino said in a statement.

Buccino said the “precision strikes are intended to defend and protect US forces from attacks like the ones on August 15 against US personnel by Iran-backed groups,” when a number of drones targeted an outpost of US-led anti-jihadist forces without causing any casualties. Tuesday’s air strikes hit nine bunkers in a complex used for ammunition storage and logistics, the colonel told CNN separately.

The US military had originally intended to hit 11 of 13 bunkers in the complex but called off strikes on two after groups of people were seen near them, he said, adding an initial assessment indicated no one had been killed. US forces “took proportionate, deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize the risk of casualties”, the Centcom statement said. “The United States does not seek conflict, but will continue to take necessary measures to protect and defend our people.”

Iran’s foreign ministry on Wednesday denied any link with groups targeted by US air strikes in Syria, contradicting a claim by Washington. A ministry statement strongly condemned the “terrorist act” by the United States, saying it represents a “violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria”. The attack targeted “the popular groups and fighters against the occupation”, said Kanani, referring to US troops stationed in eastern Syria. He denied the groups were “affiliated” with Tehran.

Hundreds of American troops are deployed in Syria’s northeast as part of a coalition focused on fighting remnants of the Islamic State group. But Kanani called for US forces to leave Syria immediately and to “end the looting of the country’s oil and grain wealth”. There was no immediate confirmation of the US strikes from Syrian state media.

Earlier, Iranian state media said a Revolutionary Guard general “who was on a mission in Syria as a military adviser” had been killed on Sunday. The reports did not say how the general was killed, only describing him as a “defender of the sanctuary”, a term used for those who work on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq. Iran says it has deployed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and only as advisers.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said the strikes killed six fighters that were guarding the targeted facilities. The monitor, which relies on a wide network of sources in Syria, said it could not immediately determine the nationalities of those killed. It said that Iran-backed Afghan Shiite fighters are among the groups operating in the region. Arms depots and a training camp for Iran-backed militia fighters were among the targets hit, according to the monitor. – Agencies

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