BBC World News (2019)

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BBC World News (2019)

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JCPOA "near collapse" as Zaghari-Ratcliffe dispute escalates

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TEHRAN - Iranian state media reported that the JCPOA is near collapse following the threat of sanctions by the United Kingdom.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry reported that, during a routine meeting between the British Foreign Secretary and the Iranian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Foreign Secretary said that the United Kingdom intended to reimpose sanctions that were lifted by the European Union in 2016 if Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen, was not released from Iranian detention. In 2016, the European Union lifted sanctions related to the Iranian nuclear agreement.

In a further statement, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, stated that the Iran would require “public, written assurances” that the United Kingdom “has no intention of pulling out of the JCPOA nor will it use the JCPOA as leverage as it seeks the release of the criminal, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe” if the JCPOA is to remain intact over the coming months. “The United Kingdom made a legal agreement – we expect that agreement to be upheld,” said Mr Zarif.

The reaction on the continent has been swift, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian releasing a joint statement saying: “Any effort to undermine the JCPOA would represent a significant barrier to a positive future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. We remain committed to supporting targeted sanctions against Iran related to their human rights abuses, including the detention of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and will work with our British counterparts to carry those out.”

Across the Atlantic, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated his vocal support for the British government. “Quite frankly the JCPOA is a bad deal and we look forward to seeing our British counterparts follow our lead in departing it,” said Mr Pompeo at the State Department.

The detention of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is believed to be, in part, related to an alleged debt owed to Iran by the United Kingdom following the cancellation of an arms deal after the 1979 Iranian revolution.
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Netanyahu ousted; Gantz to form new government
September 2019

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TEL AVIV -- Benny Gantz, the former Israeli Chief of the General Staff, is set to be the new Prime MInister of Israel following the second set of elections in a year. The election in April 2019 returned a Knesset in which neither Mr Gantz nor Benjamin Netanyahu could form a governing majority.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud Party, which governed Israel since 2009, found itself firmly in second place, with 30 seats in the incoming Knesset. Mr Gantz Blue and White, which includes Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, made gains relative to the April 2019 election, earning 37 seats. Other parties gaining seats included Yisrael Beiteinu with 9 (+4), Labor-Gesher with 8 (+2), and the Democratic Union group with 6 (+2). Conversely, right wing parties allied with Mr Netanyahu saw their performance decrease with Shas earning 7 seats (-1), United Torah Judaism earning 6 seats (-2), and Yamina earning 5 seats (-1). The Israeli Arab-dominated Joint List saw its performance improve, winning 12 seats in the Knesset (+2).

There are set to be negotiations over the exact makeup of the new government. However, Mr Gantz and his allies won 60 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, meaning that there is no way for Mr Netanyahu to form a government that can earn majority support. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh indicated that the Joint List parties would be open to providing a majority for Mr Gantz, while not sitting in government, provided certain conditions were met for Arab communities in Israel. Commentators noted that, given the choice between Mr Gantz and Mr Netanyahu, it would be an easy decision for the Arab parties.

The loss of the premiership is particularly difficult for Mr Netanyahu, who now faces trial for corruption. He was previously immune from charges while serving as Israel's head of government. The election also marks the return of some veteran faces in Israeli politics, including Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister, who returns as a member of Mr Gantz Blue and White coalition.
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