Iran is not expected to normalize relations with the United States even if Tehran reaches agreement with world powers on its nuclear program, officials and analysts said. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are trying to reach a deal with Iran aimed at stopping Tehran being able to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for an easing of sanctions that are crippling its economy. Loyalists of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, drawn from among Islamists and Revolutionary Guards who fear continued economic hardship might cause the collapse of the establishment, have agreed to back President Hassan Rouhani’s pragmatic readiness to negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian officials said. “But it will not go beyond that and he (Khamenei) will not agree with normalizing ties with America,” said an official, who spoke in condition of anonymity. Khamenei has continued to give speeches larded with denunciations of Iran’s “enemies” and “the Great Satan”, words aimed at reassuring hardliners for whom anti-American sentiment has always been central to Iran’s Islamic revolution. Relations with Washington were severed after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and enmity to the United States has always been a rallying point for hardliners in Iran. “As long as Khamenei remains Supreme Leader the chances of normalizing U.S.-Iran relations are very low. Rapprochement with the U.S. arguably poses a greater existential threat to Khamenei than continued conflict,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Saudi diplomats were among officials from various Gulf nations, including journalists, who were evacuated from Yemen in a dramatic last-minute operation as coalition forces launched attacks on Houthi targets in Yemen. Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Saeed Al-Jaber was quoted as saying in Asharq Al-Awsat that the goal was to remain in the country as long as possible “because this was our duty, but the situation was deteriorating and we were threatened daily.” He said staff from the embassies of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and journalists from Al-Jazeera and Sky News channels arrived at the Saudi Embassy in Aden for the evacuation. Al-Jaber said the Kingdom’s soldiers involved in the operation used side roads through various neighborhoods to transport them out of the city. He said Qatar and United Arab Emirates worked closely with Saudi staff until they arrived at the port. “They gave us weapons to defend ourselves, and we were able to evacuate safely without injury despite the ongoing fire in Aden and the threats we were receiving daily.” He said this was thanks in large part to the high-level coordination between the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Royal Navy and Saudi Special Forces. “It took roughly three hours from the time we started to prepare, until our arrival at the port,” said Al-Jaber. He said the photograph of him on a helicopter with a weapon that went viral on social networking sites, was on board a Saudi Royal Forces helicopter during checks of evacuees on two ships.
Federal police have thwarted a planned attack by Islamic State militants against the Qatar and Saudi Arabia embassies here. Bukit Aman Special Branch and Counter Terrorism unit arrested two Iraqi nationals, aged 39 and 42, in Jalan Ampang. The department’s director SAC Datuk Ayub Khan said the suspects were arrested before they could execute the attack. “Our initial investigation on the militants revealed that they were sent to the country by other IS militants to carry out the attack.” Ayub said there is a possibility the other IS militants are based in Malaysia.
Kazakhstan on Monday officially opened its embassy in Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported. Kazakh parliament’s lower house speaker Zhakupov Kabibolla Kabenovich said the opening of the embassy reflects both countries’ desire to expand partnership cross the board. “The embassy constitutes the special friendship and trust between the two countries,” said Kabenovich who is in Hanoi to attend the 132nd Assembly of Inter-Parliamentary Union. Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son said the embassy was a step forward in bilateral relations. Kazakh ambassador to Vietnam Beketzhan Zhumakhanov said the two countries had enjoyed sound bilateral ties especially in politics as evidenced by mutual support at regional and international forums.
Britain has protested over a ‘provocative and dangerous’ incursion by Spanish vessels into British Gibraltar territorial waters. “The British Embassy in Madrid has protested directly to the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, making clear that these incursions were unacceptable and requesting that action be taken to stop the dangerous behaviour.” The Spanish vessel Comoran Granada, operated by the Junta de Andalucía’s Environmental Agency, approached two Spanish fishing boats that had laid pots inside British waters. “The Comoran Granada attempted to exercise jurisdiction or control over two Spanish fishing vessels,” a spokesman for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said. Shortly after that, the Guardia Civil vessel Rio Tormes also entered British waters unlawfully. The Royal Gibraltar Police and the Gibraltar Squadron attended the scene and there were high-speed manoeuvres before the Spanish vessels left the area, according to eye witnesses. “Both [Spanish] vessels acted in a provocative and dangerous manner,” the Foreign Office spokesman said.
Venezuela has sent a letter of protest to the United States over Washington’s new sanctions imposed on Venezuelan officials for allegedly cracking down on the country’s opposition. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a press conference that the letter was delivered to the US embassy in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Rodriguez added that the letter was an “emphatic note of protest” against US President Barack Obama’s executive order issued earlier this month. On March 9, US President Barack Obama signed the order, labeling Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to national security.” Under Obama’s order, the US property and bank accounts of seven Venezuelan officials, including former national guard chief Antonio Benavides, intelligence chief Gustavo Gonzales and national police chief Manuel Perez, will be frozen and they will be denied US visas. Washington accuses the officials of rights violations in relation to last year’s protests in Venezuela. Rodriguez further said the protest message “vehemently rejects” the US claim that Caracas is a threat, calling on Washington to revoke the order. Rodriguez also said most countries in the world supported Caracas in its conflict with Washington, urging the US to “stop the aggressions and repeal the executive order.”
The ambassador of Somalia to the UN Geneva office, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, was killed in an attack on a Mogadishu hotel. Earlier media reports claimed that the al-Shabaab militant group killed nine people and injured 11 in an attack on a hotel in the Somalian capital.