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After US' New Iran-Related Sanctions, Rouhani Slams Them, NY Trip UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Amid the P5+1 Iran talks, the US on August 29 announced new Iran-related sanctions. It targeted among others banks, including Tajikistan-based Kafolatbank, “owned by Sarmayeh Bank, which was identified as an Iranian financial institution by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in July 2012.”

    On August 30, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani held a lengthy press conference in Tehran, saying on this that of the P5+1 group the other country whose good will is in doubt is the United States.

  He denounced the sanctions and said it is unclear if he'll go to the UN General Assembly week in New York or to the “environmental meeting” just before it. If not, Foreign Minister Zarif will lead the delegation.

  Journalist Jason Rezaian was asked about, but the question was not answered. The Free UN Coalition for Access believes it should be, as other press freedom questions should not go UNaddressed.

  Just as the US has said it will not coordinate with Iran in striking ISIL, Rouhani said while fighting terrorism if good, Iran will not cooperate or coordinate with the US. One wondered, was this a coordinated statement, or just each side playing to some home-country sentiments?

   On a background call on August 29 with Senior Administration Officials, many of the questions were about Russia (they were not answered, at least not on the call).

  Back on July 18 as the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks loomed, the Joint Plan of Action was extended until November 24.

  Three Senior US Administration Officials (SAOs) held a press call on background. The first SAO spoke against moves in Congress to legislate on new or future sanctions, saying that could undermine P5+1 unity.

  The second SAO said that while the US is concerned about Iran's activities in Syria, in Gaza and in Iraq, only long-range missiles that could carry nuclear weapons would be addressed in the talks.

  The third SAO bragged that $2.8 billion in the next four months will not begin to fix Iran's economy, and that the US will emphasize that Iran is not open for business, its central bank is under sanctions.

  But didn't BNP Paribas still do business in Iran? On a related note, France's outgoing ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud on July 18 said the the Mistral ships being sold "are not destroyers but transportation and command ships." (A reply: they are amphibious assault vessels.) With this attitude, what's next?

 Back on June 16 with the P5+1 talks starting in Vienna, the question arose how ISIL's advance in Iraq might impact them.

  On June 16 a Senior State Department Official told the press, "We are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat post by ISIL in Iraq. The issue did come up briefly with Iran on the margins of the P5+1 in Vienna today, separate from our trilateral meeting. These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people. We will discuss how ISIL threatens many countries in the region, including Iran, and the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda."

  Earlier on June 16 a US Senior Administration Official told reporters the issue does not give Iran more leverage, while talks about Iraq may occur "on the margins," that is separate from the P5+1 process.

  Asked of timing, the US official said "we are all focused on July 20... we can get this done."  We'll continue to follow this.

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