Reuters on Tuesday published new figures indicating that Iran has for the eighth straight month violated crude export restrictions set by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), with the outlet quoting a range of experts suggesting that the Obama administration has been deliberately looking the other way as Tehran busted through the caps. The limits - which were announced in November, and formally took hold on January 20 - had been established to limit the financial windfall that Iran's economy would reap from the deal, and restricted Iran to exporting an average of 1 million barrels per day of oil averaged over the JPA's six-month period. Iran exceeded the envisioned amount every month during the so-called 'interim before the interim' from November to January, functionally daring the West to scuttle the still-unimplemented deal over the country's behavior. Once the JPA took hold, Iran continued to violate the deal every single month. At stake is the degree to which Iran is managing to stabilze its economy, eroding leverage that Western negotiators are counting on as the Iranians and the P5+1 global powers head into the final stages of nuclear negotiations. Reuters quoted Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), assessing that "Iran is increasingly emboldened to export its oil... The Obama administration already has sent the message that it won't crack down on Iran's excess crude oil sales, condensates exports, or its transfer of crude oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad despite congressional demands." It also quoted a senior oil company executive noting that "U.S. authorities appear to have been very tolerant of rising Iranian condensate supplies, which have boosted observed imports of Iranian oil by Asian buyers." The White House and State Department have been repeatedly and explicitly pressed on the matter, but have consistently maintained that there was sufficient time left on the JPA clock for Iranian exports to crash, such that the total six-month average would see Iran complying with the JPA restrictions. That insistence came after Timothy Wilson, a visiting fellow at FDD, published numbers demonstrating that the hope was mathematically incoherent, and before this month's figures confirming that Iranian exports had not even slipped below permitted amounts for June. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Tuesday more or less openly mocked those who she described as among the "many skeptics" who six months ago questioned "whether Iran would adhere to [the JPA], whether they would live up to their commitments." Telling journalists that "this is an important point," Harf declared that the Islamic republic has not violated its commitments, that implementation of the JPA has "gone according to plan," and that "we have put in place an agreement that has been adhered to by both sides" - and that journalists should therefore be wary inasmuch as she is "sure there will be many skeptics over these next few weeks."
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Tuesday linked Hamas to the murders of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were discovered Monday. Hamas’s involvement in the murders promises to problematize relations between the terror group and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, which formed a unity government just weeks before the kidnappings. Harf told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing that there were “many indications” pointing to Hamas involvement in what she called the “despicable” killings of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar. Over the course of the 18-day search to find the missing boys, top Fatah officials had said that any Hamas involvement in the abductions would “mark the crossing of a red line,” and would void the unity agreement.Alan Johnson, a Senior Research Fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), assessed that the Palestinian population stands at a kind of crossroads and must make a decision either “to support Hamas, terror and destruction, or support Abbas, negotiations and statehood.”
Nine Islamist rebel groups on Monday rejected an announcement made the day before by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) that the Al Qaeda offshoot was reforming a caliphate extending the group’s influence across the region, tersely noting that “[t]he terms of the caliphate have not been realized at present.” The Sunday announcement of the reformation of the pan-Islamic state was met with criticism from the nine groups, which included militias and Islamic scholars, that “legally and logically” the announcement was “null and void.” Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Khalid Assadi brushed off the caliphate declaration as “nothing but a wild imagination of a desperate fanatic gang.” The criticism comes amid statements from ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who yesterday declared himself the caliphate’s head,calling on Muslims worldwide to join the new Islamic state.
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