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Monday, October 16, 2017

Hasm claims embassy bombing in Cairo, may be looking to expand

READ IN:    العربية Ahmad Abd Alhaleim October 15, 2017 0 1 3 5 6 Article Summary The Hasm movement in Egypt has been behind attacks against figures close to the regime, but since it said it perpetrated the Myanmar Embassy attack in Cairo, authorities are looking at the group's potential to grow. REUTERS/Beawiharta Muslims demonstrated outside the embassies of Myanmar around the world last month to protest the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority by the Myanmar government; this protest took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 15, 2017. Two weeks later, on Sept. 30, an explosion went off outside Myanmar's Embassy in Cairo. Since the Hasm militant movement claimed responsibility for the Sept. 30 explosion at Myanmar's Embassy in Cairo, officials are wondering if the group plans to expand beyond its mainstay target of Egyptian authorities. The movement so far has been a relative minor league player among jihadi ranks, but could be looking to move up alongside international terrorism groups. Hasm has claimed responsibility for several assassinations and bombings targeting Egyptian authorities since its rise. In August 2016, the movement carried out a failed assassination attempt against Egypt's former grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, wounding his bodyguard. Hasm’s first known operation was the July 2016 assassination of Maj. Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, chief of investigations in Tamya. There are reasons to suspect the movement is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hasm planted a car bomb in November 2016 against Ahmad Abu al-Fotouh, a judge in the 2015 trial of Brotherhood member and ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Fotouh survived, but two of his bodyguards and a deliveryman were killed. Egypt is investigating 17 incidents for which Hasm is blamed, including the assassination of army and police officers, judges and public prosecutors. Egyptian authorities say the group's central command is headed by Ahmed Abdul Hafiz, who lives in Turkey. They believe the group is being aided by three Brotherhood leaders — Ali Bateekh, Magdy Shalash and Mohammed Abdul Hadi — but there is no conclusive evidence proving ties between Hasm and the Brotherhood. However, as both groups' approaches and philosophies are similar, there is speculation that Hasm was formed by rebels who defected from the Brotherhood organizationally but who retain its influence. Before its Twitter account was blocked, Hasm posted a statement comparing the practices of the Myanmar government against the Rohingya Muslims with measures Egyptian authorities take against government opponents, especially in Sinai, which the movement describes as home to “the authorities of the military coup” against Morsi. So does Hasm’s claimed targeting of the embassy indicate that it's entering a new phase and becoming a transnational organization like al-Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad? Does Hasm have the ability and public base to go through with such a shift? Officials have yet to even acknowledge Hasm was involved in the explosion. An Interior Ministry security source told Egypt's El-Watan newspaper Sept. 30 that the embassy explosion was due to some combination of a cigarette, volatile fumes from old construction materials and a nearby gas pipe. However, two security sources told Reuters that traces of explosives were found at the scene. Hasm said in a statement that it had used "utmost caution to ensure that there were no civilian casualties or innocent people [hurt] during the operation, or else you would have seen a burning hell you could not have stopped." Salah al-Din Hassan, a researcher on Islamist movements and former editor-in-chief of Al-Bawaba newspaper, told Al-Monitor, “Despite the significance of Hasm's claiming responsibility for the Myanmar embassy attack, it does not forecast the movement’s ability to execute operations abroad. But the [group's] development might be in attacking the interests of states that Hasm believes oppose Egypt. This new development heralds globalized operations in a message whose main aim is to show the movement as a force of solidarity with Muslims around the world, amid injustice to the Brotherhood.” Anas al-Kassass, a strategic and international affairs analyst, told Al-Monitor, “Talk about armed shifts within the Brotherhood must be dealt with seriously for objective reasons related to the [Brotherhood's] fluctuating ideological and religious authority since its establishment in 1928.” He added, “These groups … did not exist in themselves, but were born as a reaction [against the regime], leaving limited repercussions because of their lack of vision. Besides, they do not have an organizational culture allowing them to cope with the variables around them, be they political, economic, ideological or technological. … The Hasm movement cannot turn into a transnational group." Regarding the prospect of confrontations between Hasm and Egyptian security, Hassan said, “The security forces in Egypt succeeded in eliminating organizations like the [now-defunct] Soldiers of Egypt and the Popular Resistance, which were fruits of jihadism, and they are now up against groups branched from the Brotherhood. These groups have more stamina because they are affiliated with the Brotherhood, which has a wide popular and social base, and it is generally a large Islamist current. Historically, organizations emanating from the mother Brotherhood group split from it and form separate groups that have their own distinct character.” The Soldiers of Egypt (Ajnad Misr) disbanded after Egyptian security killed its leader, Hamam Mohammad Atiya, in April 2015. Many members are now on trial, and 13 were sentenced to death this month. The Popular Resistance was formed in August 2014. The movement claimed responsibility for several operations, and Egyptian security still arrests some members from time to time. Hasm has taken steps that might push the United States and other countries to designate it as a terrorist group, given that its operations could be going global, even if on a small scale. Hasm will either disintegrate under pressure or expand within the circle of violence, presenting a greater security challenge and more violence in the Nile Valley and Delta in Egypt. Abdelrahman Youssef contributed to this story. Found in: Armed militias Ahmad Abd Alhaleim is an Egyptian journalist who worked as an editor for judicial and political affairs for Al-Shorouk newspaper. He specializes in political Islam movements and social investigations. Read more:

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Violence as federal forces move further toward Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces have been ordered to retake control of oil assets and military bases that have been under KRG protection since 2014. Iraqi forces drive toward Kurdish Peshmerga positions on Oct. 15, 2017, on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk. [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images] By Kamaran al-Najar, Rawaz Tahir and Mohammed Hussein of Iraq Oil Report Published Monday, October 16th, 2017 KIRKUK - Iraqi federal forces and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers began shelling each other on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk city early Monday, after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally announced that he had ordered an operation to retake military bases and other "federal installations" in Kirkuk province. "Commander-in-Chief Haider al-Abadi has instructed Iraqi Army, Federal Police, CTS to secure bases and federal installations in Kirkuk province," the Iraqi Government said on its official Twitter account. CTS refers to the Iraqi Army's elite Counter-Terrorism Service.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Trump strikes blow at Iran nuclear deal in major U.S. policy shift

Steve Holland, Yara Bayoumy 6 Min Read WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it. Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East. He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress. He singled out Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said. Trump’s hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran’s arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies. The move by Trump was part of his “America First” approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union - some of which have benefited economically from renewed trade with Iran. Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations. “The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,” he said. “Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.” European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines U.S. credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord. The chief of the U.N. atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime.” “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said, referring to the deal by its formal name. U.S. Democrats expressed skepticism at Trump’s decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the president has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.” U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque CONGRESS DECIDES While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact. If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker was working on amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act law to include “trigger points” that if crossed by Iran would automatically reimpose U.S. sanctions. Slideshow (10 Images) The trigger points would address strengthening nuclear inspections, Iran’s ballistic missile program and eliminate the deal’s “sunset clauses” under which some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over time. Trump directed U.S. intelligence agencies to probe whether Iran might be working with North Korea on its weapons programs. The president, who took office in January, had reluctantly certified the agreement twice before but has repeatedly blasted it as “the worst deal ever.” It was negotiated under his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.” “We’ll see what happens over the next short period of time and I can do that instantaneously,” he told reporters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer grilled over interest-only rate hikes

CTOBER 11 2017 - 12:14PM SAVE PRINT LICENSE ARTICLE Clancy Yeates Clancy Yeates CONTACT VIA EMAIL FOLLOW ON GOOGLE PLUS FOLLOW ON TWITTER 111 reading now Show comments FACEBOOK SHARE TWITTER TWEET EMAIL MORE Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has been grilled in Canberra over the bank's move to hike interest-only mortgages, with parliamentary banking inquiry chair David Coleman asking if the lender was using new regulations as an excuse to increase profits. Westpac, like rivals, in June increased rates on interest-only loans, and justified the move by pointing to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority's cap on new interest-only lending at 30 per cent of new flows. Replay Unmute Current Time 1:44 / Duration Time 1:44 Loaded: 0%Progress: 0% Fullscreen Replay Video MORE NATIONAL NEWS VIDEOSPrevious slide Next slide null Video duration 02:05 Young Australians' home loan hangover Video duration 00:37 Woman throws shark back null Video duration 00:59 Abbott shut down over climate comments null Video duration 02:18 The story of the Bitter Bench null Video duration 00:57 The harmful impact of food marketing null Video duration 02:27 Government says cyber crime is 'booming' null Commission warns GST dividing system ... MORE VIDEOS Commission warns GST dividing system broken A new report threatens to reignite the political brawl over the GST by calling for urgent changes to the way revenue is divided between the states and territories. Vision courtesy Seven News. Mr Coleman repeatedly queried why the 0.34 percentage point rate hike applied to existing customers, given that APRA's restriction only applied to new loans. He noted analysis from Morgan Stanley that suggested Westpac and other lenders would make much higher returns from interest-only loans as a result of the hike. RELATED ARTICLES Westpac, ANZ and CBA move on transaction fees Be alert, not alarmed, about Australia's high household debt While banks have explained the rate rises by pointing to APRA's regulation, Mr Coleman put it to Mr Hartzer that "what the underlying numbers suggest is that compliance is being used as a profit centre." In response, Mr Hartzer insisted the bank's main objective in hiking interest-only loan rates was to give customers a strong incentive to start paying back principal at a time when borrowing costs are still low. Using pricing models was also better than denying credit to customers who wanted interest-only mortgages, he said. Advertisement When Westpac hiked interest-only rates, it also cut rates on principal and interest loans to give people an incentive to switch to paying down their debt. BUSINESS AM NEWSLETTER Get the latest news and updates emailed straight to your inbox. Enter your email address SIGN UP By submitting your email you are agreeing to Fairfax Media's terms and conditions and privacy policy . "We have to reach this 30 per cent cap as we understand it and we want to reshape our balance sheet so that customers are oriented towards paying down principal because rates are low," Mr Hartzer said. SHARE SHARE ON FACEBOOK SHARE SHARE ON TWITTER TWEET LINK Brian Hartzer chief Westpac appeared before the House Economics Committee at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Brian Hartzer chief Westpac appeared before the House Economics Committee at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Meares The number of customers switching to principal and interest loans had jumped 70 per cent in the latest quarter, he said, which dampens the boost to profitability from the interest-only rate hike. It comes as the competition watchdog is carrying out a review of banks' mortgage pricing - and Mr Hartzer indicated the bank had already handed over large numbers of documents to the inquiry. Mr Hartzer said Westpac had updated its internal financial forecasts as a result of the rate hikes, but said boosting profits was not its objective. "Of course we update our forecasts financially as a result of these changes, not the other way around," Mr Hartzer said. Switch to a principal and interest loan, it's cheaper. Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer He said his advice to customers who were upset at having their interest-only loan rate increased was to "switch to a principal and interest loan, it's cheaper." Westpac is the country's largest lender to customers with interest-only loans, which made up about 50 per cent of its mortgages at the latest results. Mr Hartzer has also faced questions from Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite over the money laundering allegations at CBA, after it was reported some of the syndicates that allegedly washed money from CBA also used Westpac and ANZ Bank to wash funds. Mr Hartzer said he was not aware of lawyers seeking details from Westpac through discovery. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Wednesday also said a review of interest-only lending by banks had found the major banks had curbed interetst-only lending in the past year, and it would now conduct file reviews. Banks must have a "reasonable" basis for suggesting interest-only loans, ASIC said. "The spotlight has been firmly on interest-only lending for some time, and there are no excuses for lenders and brokers not meeting their legal obligations," ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell said.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Commentary: A former Iranian diplomat on what Trump needs to know about Iran

Discover Thomson Reuters Directory of sites Login Contact Support Iran promises 'crushing' response if U.S. designates Guards a terrorist group Kim Jong Un praises nuclear program, promotes sister Monday Morning Briefing North Korea's 'princess' now one of the secretive state's top policy makers #CommentaryOctober 10, 2017 / 3:58 AM / Updated 5 hours ago Commentary: A former Iranian diplomat on what Trump needs to know about Iran Seyed Hossein Mousavian 9 Min Read Iranian president Hassan Rouhani extends his hand to Iran's Judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani during a Tehran swearing-in ceremony for Rouhani's latest term, August 5, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS With the fate of the Iran nuclear deal at stake, Donald Trump has until October 15 to tell Congress if he believes Tehran is complying with the seven-nation agreement. Many expect that the U.S. president will decertify Iranian compliance with the deal -- returning U.S.-Iran relations to a state of overt hostility. Not all in the administration seem to agree with Trump’s harder-line approach on Iran. Defense Secretary James Mattis has publicly stated that Trump “should consider staying” in the deal, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reportedly argued against decertification. Speaking after his first meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Tillerson also seemed to indicate a willingness to take a longer-term view when he told a media conference that the Washington-Tehran relationship had “never had a stable, happy moment in it.” ”Is this going to be the way it is for the rest of our lives and our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives,” he asked. Tillerson’s remarks evoked an encounter told to me by Mohsen Rafiqdoost, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander, of a 1982 meeting he had with Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. MORE FROM REUTERS COMMENTARY Sponsored John Lloyd: How hate speech can harm your brain Bryce Covert: The tax reform that Republicans are missing Rafiqdoost recalled suggesting that the U.S. embassy grounds in Tehran be converted to a Revolutionary Guards base. Ayatollah Khomeini rejected the idea, asking “Why would you go there? Are we not going to have relations with America for a thousand years?” It’s clear that decades of estrangement have led to a fundamental misunderstanding of Iran in Washington. Notwithstanding the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations, every U.S. administration since the 1979 Iranian revolution has failed in its declared objective to contain Iran. If Trump wishes to free future generations of anxiety over U.S.-Iran tensions, he should pay careful attention to five points in formulating his Iran policy. Shoppers at the Grand Bazaar in the center of Tehran, Iran, August 2, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS First, American officials need to stop speaking about Iran in threatening and insulting terms. The Iranian people are proud of their thousands of years of history and above all else view mutual respect as integral to their foreign relations. However, Foreign Minister Zarif told me that Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month was the “most insulting speech of any American president toward Iran since the revolution” and that it “made any potential for dialogue with the United States meaningless.” Second, U.S. regime-change policies have been self-defeating. The principal reason for lasting Iranian distrust of the United States since the revolution has been U.S. policies aimed at undermining and overturning the Iranian political system. In June, Tillerson openly declared that U.S. policy towards Iran included regime change -- a statement not heard from a senior U.S. official in years and which marked a sharp departure from conventional U.S. rhetoric of seeking Iranian “behavior” change. In stark contrast, Barack Obama told the UN that “we are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.” Consequently, he was able to diplomatically engage Iran on its nuclear program, and reach the July 2015 nuclear deal. The respectful letters exchanged between Obama and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei helped set the process in motion. This would not happen today even if Trump made a similar overture, as the key to successful negotiations with Iran is to first drop regime-change policies. Trump's Kim dilemma Negotiate? Destroy? Tighten sanctions? Reuters columnists assess U.S. policy options on North Korea. Third, since the 1953 U.S.-led coup that overthrew democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iranians have resented U.S. interference in Iran. The political landscape of conservatives, moderates, and reformists in Iran is in many ways similar to the competition between Democrats and Republicans in the United States. As such, any agreement between Washington and Tehran must be negotiated in a way that transcends the partisan divide in each country -- or else it would be inherently fragile. The challenges the nuclear deal has been subject to in Washington by the Republican Party is testament to this need. With respect to Iran too, negotiations must be carried out in a way that respects Iran’s political makeup and hierarchies. Fourth, the Trump administration needs to accept that Iran, as a large country with immense natural resources and an educated population, has legitimate security concerns and interests in its neighborhood. Washington must recognize that U.S. policies aimed at isolating Tehran and refusing to accept a legitimate Iranian role in the region have only seen Iranian influence grow in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon while U.S. influence wanes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. From Iran’s perspective, its post-1979 foreign policy has been driven by the aim of deterring foreign aggression and securing the country’s borders rather than the pursuit of regional hegemony. After the revolution, Iran was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and, for much of the past decade, chaos on its thousands of miles of borders with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – all factors that have compelled it to play a regional role. If the United States wants to avoid scenarios where regional states aggressively compete for power it must encourage the creation of a regional security system involving the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries along with Iraq and Iran. ADVERTISING Finally, the record of U.S.-Iran negotiations shows that “dual track” policies of pressure and diplomacy are destined to fail. While Trump appears to be trying to bring Iran to the negotiating table in a position of weakness, Iranian policymakers tend to respond to pressure by retaliating in kind. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, former Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted how by the time he entered into negotiations with Iran, after years of sanctions, Iran had “mastered the nuclear fuel cycle” and built a uranium stockpile large enough to make 10 to 12 bombs. “In other words, Iran was already a nuclear-threshold state,” wrote Kerry. The lesson for Washington here is that if push comes to shove, Tehran will develop its own bargaining chips --- not capitulate in the face of whatever threats are made when Trump delivers his next policy speech on Iran. About the Author Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University and a former head of the Foreign Relations Committee of Iran’s National Security Council. The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News. #World NewsOctober 9, 2017 / 6:33 PM / Updated 7 hours ago Iran promises 'crushing' response if U.S. designates Guards a terrorist group Bozorgmehr Sharafedin 5 Min Read FILE PHOTO: Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo LONDON (Reuters) - Iran promised on Monday to give a “crushing” response if the United States designated its elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. The pledge came a week before President Donald Trump announces a final decision on how he wants to contain the Islamic Republic. He is expected on Oct. 15 to “decertify” a landmark 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a step that by itself stops short of pulling out of the agreement but gives Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. Sponsored Trump is also expected to designate Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, as he rolls out a broader, more hawkish U.S. strategy on Iran. “We are hopeful that the United States does not make this strategic mistake,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. “If they do, Iran’s reaction would be firm, decisive and crushing and the United States should bear all its consequences,” he told a news conference reported by IRNA. Individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are already on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday, “If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.” Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end chances for future dialogue with the United States and that the Americans would have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km (1,250 mile) range of IRGC’s missiles. WARY EUROPE U.S. sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State militant group (IS). France said on Monday it was worried that classifying the IRGC as a terrorist group could exacerbate tensions in the region. Germany said it was worried Trump would decide Iran is not respecting the nuclear deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and fears such a step will worsen insecurity in the Middle East. A U.S. pullout could unravel an accord seen by supporters as vital to preventing a Middle East arms race and tamping down regional tensions, since it limits Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that damaged its oil-based economy. The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s inspectors have repeatedly declared Iran in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal. Trump called Iran “a corrupt dictatorship” during his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly and said the nuclear deal was “the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into”. The other five world powers in the deal were Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. The prospect of the United States reneging on the agreement has worried other partners that helped negotiate it. The Kremlin said that any U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal would have “negative consequences.” British Prime Minister Theresa May, who supports the nuclear pact, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes it, agreed in a phone call on Monday that they need to be “clear-eyed” about the threat Iran poses to the Middle East. “They agreed that ... the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran’s destabilizing regional activity,” May’s spokesman said. “MALIGN ACTIVITIES” Despite the nuclear deal, Washington still maintains its own more limited sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and over accusations Tehran supports terrorism. ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads ADVERTISING Iran says it is developing missiles solely for defensive purposes and denies involvement in terrorism. The Trump administration aims to put more pressure on the IRGC, especially over recent missile tests and what Washington has called its “malign activities” across the Middle East. The U.S. government imposed sanctions in July on 18 entities and people for supporting the IRGC in developing drones and military equipment. In August, Congress overwhelmingly approved the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” which imposed new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, as well as sanctions on Russia and North Korea. In an interview aired on Saturday night, Trump accused Iran of “funding North Korea” and “doing things with North Korea that are totally inappropriate”. Qasemi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said the U.S. accusations were “baseless”. He added, “Israel and some specific countries are raising these accusations to create Iranophobia.” Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin with additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow, Andrea Shalal and Michelle Martin in Berlin, William James in London, John Irish in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. AppsNewslettersReuters PlusAdvertising GuidelinesCookiesTerms of UsePrivacy All quotes delayed a minimum of 15 minutes. See here for a complete list of exchanges and delays. © 2017 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.