Trump Reimposes Iranian Economic Sanctions

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WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- The United States has reimposed economic sanctions on Iran that were originally put in place to pressure the country to limit its nuclear program and later lifted under a 2015 international agreement.

President Donald Trump has been a frequent critic of that deal and withdrew the United States from the agreement three months ago, setting in motion the reimposition of the sanctions effective at midnight Monday.

Earlier in the day he assailed Iran as "a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence and chaos."

Trump said the new sanctions target the Islamic Republic's automotive sector, its trade in gold and other precious metals, along with its currency, the Iranian rial, and other financial transactions.

hat on Nov. 5, the United States would also resume sanctions against Iran's energy-related transactions, as well as business conducted by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

Trump renewed his attack on the international nuclear pact, calling it "a horrible, one-sided deal" that "failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb," while giving it "a lifeline of cash" when earlier sanctions were lifted.

"Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased," Trump said. He said Iran has used "the windfall of newly accessible funds" it received "to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond."

He added, "To this day, Iran threatens the United States and our allies, undermines the international financial system, and supports terrorism and militant proxies around the world."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in a speech broadcast on state television, said the United States cannot be trusted because it withdrew from the international pact, whose other signatories still support it. He said Tehran has always believed in resolving disputes diplomatically.

Rouhani said that Trump's call for direct negotiations with Iran were "only for domestic consumption in America ... and to create chaos in Iran."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like Trump a long-time opponent of the accord, congratulated him on the new sanctions.

"This is an important moment for Israel, the U.S., the region and the entire world," Netanyahu said.

In Washington, senior administration officials said that while critics of Trump's withdrawal from the Iran pact predicted that the threat of unilateral sanctions reimposed by the United States would be ineffective, the reality has shown the opposite.

"Three months out, we have a very different picture in front of us," with higher unemployment, "widespread protests, social issues and labor unrest," one Trump official said.

One of the officials said that nearly 100 international firms have announced their intention to leave the Iranian market, particularly in the energy and finance sectors.

The official said the United States expects Iran will blame it for any new hardships, saying, "They've been doing it for almost 40 years. Now, it's there. It's their modus operandi. But I think you can see the Iranian people start to see through that. We would like to see a change in the regime behavior, and I think the Iranian people are looking for the same thing."

EU takes action

The European Union, which remains a supporter of the three-year-old nuclear pact with Iran, said it is taking counter-measures to blunt the impact of the sanctions Trump has reinstituted.

The EU said it is simultaneously implementing a "blocking statute" as the new sanctions take effect, stopping European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions unless they have permission to do so. It also blocks the effect of any U.S. court actions in Europe related to the sanctions.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and the French, German and British foreign ministers said they deeply regretted Trump's action.

They called the international agreement "a key element of the global nuclear nonproliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region and the entire world."

In his statement, Trump said the United States "is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions, and we will work closely with nations conducting business with Iran to ensure complete compliance. Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences."

The two other signatories to the 2015 pact — Russia and China — also continue to support it. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is monitoring the implementation of the deal, has said in 11 consecutive reports that Iran is in compliance and that the agreement has allowed for greater verification of Iran's nuclear activities.

The 2015 agreement called for Iran to sharply curb its uranium enrichment program and other nuclear activity in exchange for the end of most sanctions. Iran has repeatedly denied its nuclear program was aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

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Trump's Twitter Attacks Threaten to Overshadow Economic Message

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WASHINGTON, (JIM MALONE-VOANEWS).- Buoyed by a strong economy, President Donald Trump has vowed to campaign extensively on behalf of Republican congressional candidates in advance of the November midterm elections.

But if recent days are any indication, it seems the president is also intent to blast away on Twitter on any number of other issues, potentially a major distraction from an economic message that most Republicans believe will help them the most in limiting Democratic gains in November.

Trump was in Ohio Saturday on behalf of Republican House candidate Troy Balderson, who is in a tough race with Democrat Danny O'Connor. Republicans have held this seat in the suburbs of Columbus for more than three decades, but a strong Democratic showing there on Tuesday in a special election would be evidence of a possible Democratic wave building for November.

Touting the economy

On the campaign trail in Florida recently, Trump was quick to boast about the strong economy and his standing among Republicans.

"We are doing well. We are doing well. And I'm happy you are doing well," Trump told a crowd in Tampa. "They just came out with a poll. Did you hear? The most popular person in the history of the Republican Party is Trump. Can you believe that?"

Polls show Trump continues to enjoy high levels of support from fellow Republicans. That is at least in part due to a surging economy, including the recent boost in quarterly economic growth to above four percent, more good news before the midterms in November.

"So if the president and other members of the Republican Party have been able to nudge growth, albeit temporarily, above the long term two percent trend level that in my mind is a success," said economist Mark Hamrick of Bankrate.com via Skype.

Attack by tweet

But as much as the president likes to highlight the economic numbers, he has also been busy on Twitter, blasting the Russia probe, threatening a government shutdown over his border wall and slamming what he calls the fake news media.

"They can make anything bad because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news," Trump said as he pointed at news cameras and journalists at a recent campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Trump's Twitter blasts have been major distractions in the past and could prove to be so again, according to George Washington University political expert Michael Cornfield.

"The biggest pattern, of course, is that whatever Trump talks about dominates. He is the lord and master of political Twitter, if you will."

Jousting over Russia probe

In addition to being a distraction, the Twitter tirades can open up new lines of counterattack from Democrats. A Trump tweet last week urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "stop this Rigged Witch Hunt" drew sharp reactions from Democrats concerned the president was trying to force an end to the Russia probe.

"I hope my Republican colleagues have the strength to resist the president's interference because the American people want us to govern, not just to fight and yell with each other all day long," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Trump center stage

If history is any guide, the strong economy should help Republicans in November, even as opposition Democrats are favored to make gains.

But some analysts believe the economy will be overshadowed by how voters see Trump's overall record and his controversial style of governing, highlighted by the constant stoking of his political base.

"He's the issue, there is no doubt about it," said Brookings Institution scholar Elaine Kamarck. "Everybody who is out there is telling me that absolutely he is the issue on both sides."

Trump reportedly remains frustrated the surging economy has not done much to boost his overall poll numbers. Monday's Gallup weekly poll has his approval at 41 percent, with 54 percent disapproving of his job performance.

Trump's Twitter Attacks May Overshadow Economic Message

Trump hit a high of 45 percent approval in a Gallup poll in mid-June.

"For Trump, he's got a great economy, and yet the satisfaction level is not as high as we would predict it would be," said Gallup pollster Frank Newport. "It certainly has not translated into the kind of approval or satisfaction, right-track, wrong-track measures he would want."

The president has vowed to campaign extensively in the midterms and even appears to welcome the idea that he will be the central issue in the campaign. Many Republicans hope he will focus more on the surging economy and less on picking political fights as the midterm campaign heats up during the next several weeks.

Jim Malone

Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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Washington –The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today announced proposed regulations on increasing and expanding the first year depreciation deduction for qualified property.  This increased benefit will expand opportunities for small and mid-sized businesses to expense equipment purchases and make capital investments in their companies.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed into law in December 2017, increased the first year depreciation deduction from 50 to 100 percent for qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is making it easier for businesses of all sizes to grow and create jobs for hardworking Americans,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “This expensing provision will be a key driver in creating greater business investment and growth.”

The TCJA expands the meaning of qualified property to include certain used depreciable property and certain film, television, or live theatrical productions.  The proposed change also extends the placed-in-service date by seven years from January 1, 2021, to January 1, 2027.

The deduction applies retroactively to qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017.  The first year allowance is 100 percent, and is then decreased by 20 percent annually for qualified property placed in service after December 31, 2022.  

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GENEVA/WASHINGTON - UN and Inter-American experts on freedom of expression have condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press and urged him and his administration to cease efforts to undermine the media’s role of holding government accountable, honest and transparent.

 “His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” said David Kaye and Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, respectively.

The Presidenthaslabelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people” “very dishonest” or “fake news,” and accused the press of “distorting democracy” or spreading “conspiracy theories and blind hatred”.

 “These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law. We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”

Kaye and Lanza said that, over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and others within his administration have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered waste, fraud, abuse,potential illegal conduct, and disinformation.

“Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavored outlets,” the experts added, “he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.”

“It is critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation. To this end, we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies.

“The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information. We urge the Government to stop pursuing whistleblowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the publicinterestof such information.

“We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.”

The experts encouraged all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favor some outlets over others.

“Two years of attacks on the press couldhavelong term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions,” Kaye and Lanza said. “Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.”

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Washington – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today targeting Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, both of whom played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson.  These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses, and are being targeted pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” which builds upon Treasury’s Global Magnitsky Act authorities. 

“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”

Pastor Andrew Brunson has reportedly been a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the Government of Turkey.  He was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and with an absence of evidence to support the charges, he was accused of aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage.  

As the head of Turkey’s Ministry of Justice, Abdulhamit Gul is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse. 

As head of Turkey’s Ministry of Interior, Suleyman Soylu is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being the leader of an entity that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse.

As a result of these actions, any property, or interest in property, of both Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Turkey’s Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

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