Media Summary

Imamoglu vows to win Istanbul Mayoral election again

The BBC, Times, Independent and Financial Times report that US President Donald Trump has raised the pressure on Iran on the day Tehran said it was suspending some commitments to a landmark nuclear agreement. The BBC reports that Trump signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Iran’s metals industry – its second biggest export earner after oil. But he also said he hoped to meet Iran’s leaders to work out a deal. Iran’s move to curb compliance with the 2015 international deal is an apparent bid to thwart the US sanctions policy. The UK, France and Germany – the Western parties to the agreement – warned Iran not to abandon the accord. They criticised Iran’s “unwelcome” step and said they could only continue supporting the deal if Iran stuck to its commitments.

The Telegraph and Guardian report that US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has urged the UK to help reign in Iran regarding the nuclear deal, and has warned that the UK-US special relationship will cool if the US fails to gain UK support over Iran. In an exclusive interview given to the Telegraph, Pompeo said he had made the decision to cancel a planned visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and travel instead to the Iraqi capital Baghdad after receiving intelligence “that suggested it was a good time for me to go visit Iraq”. He called on Britain and other European allies to support Washington’s sanctions policy against Iran rather an undermining it by attempting to continue doing business with the ayatollahs. Pompeo insisted there was hardly any “daylight” between the British and American positions on Iran, even though the two countries had different approaches to the nuclear deal. “They share our assessment of the threat, but they have taken a different approach when it comes to constraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions” said Pompeo. He added that: “Our goal is not to hurt Iran or the Iranian people. Our goal is to have Iran behave like a normal nation.” During his lecture, Pompeo laid particular emphasis on the importance of maintaining the special relationship, which he described as being “sturdy pillars of our relationship.”

In the Times, Richard Spencer writes: “Game of chicken with Iran is a high-stakes gamble”. Underneath the Twitter froth, he writes, the Trump administration has a clear set of strategies in some areas, and one of them is Iran. There is an element of playing chicken in the escalation. US National Security Adviser, John Bolton said the aircraft carrier group, heading to the Middle East, was going to respond to threats, not make them. President Rouhani kept Iran’s nuclear activity well short of the expansion plans that were under way before the deal was signed. Both sides are pushing to see how far the other is prepared to go. Some speculate that Bolton is hoping for an Iranian mis-step that allows the US to make some decisive intervention, and bring down the regime. That is the highest-stakes gamble of all. More likely, he is manoeuvring Iran into a position where it has to back down, or face a humiliating but limited attack some time in the future from Israel. Spencer concludes that: “Reforging a hardline, triumphalist western alliance may be seen in the White House as one of its greatest achievements. It does depend, however, on Iran choosing to accept defeat.”

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland argues that Trump’s antics over Iran have endangered us all. The stakes are now lethally high and by withdrawing from the nuclear deal, the US – not the Iranian regime – is the rogue state risking global security.

In the Financial Times, Andrew England and Najmeh Bozorgmehr write on Iran-US relations and Trump’s gamble to curb Tehran’s reach.  Accused of destabilising the region, the Islamic republic insists it is defending its security and is unwilling to back down.

The Independent and the Guardian report on Idlib governate in Syria. The Independent reports that more than 180 people have been killed and over 150,000 have fled their homes in the governate in a devastating bombing campaign by the Syrian regime and its allies over the last week. The Guardian reports that rescuers and medics in the rebel-held region fear “mass extermination” as the bloody assault on Idlib intensifies, and also worry that increased airstrikes will curtail their work. The latest outbreak of violence in Idlib and neighbouring Hama has left dozens of people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Russian and regime aircraft have killed more than 100 civilians in the area since 20 April, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The joint Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib is the most serious outbreak of violence since September, when Turkey – which supports the opposition – and Russia set up a buffer zone meant to avert a massive regime offensive. Under the agreement, Turkish and Russian troops have monitored a demilitarised zone that also covered parts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama. “If the bombing continues, I’m afraid we won’t be able to continue our work,” said Dr Muhammad Abrash, a surgeon in Idlib. Airstrikes have already destroyed 12 hospitals and clinics in the region, according to monitoring groups.

Reuters reports that leading British defence firm BAE Systems said it was working with the government to deliver its contracts with Saudi Arabia after Germany extended its ban on exporting arms to the country. Reflecting the Saudi situation, Britain’s biggest defence company noted that it remained subject to geopolitical uncertainties as it reiterated its earnings targets for the year. In March, Germany said it would extend for a further six months a ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia which has strained ties with fellow European arms exporters with whom German companies have joint programmes.

The Times reports that the mayor who defeated President Erdogan’s party in Istanbul only to be stripped of his office by an electoral body has vowed to win the rerun poll. Ekrem Imamoglu, 48, said that he would mobilise the last vestiges of Turkey’s democracy to regain a post that put him in the national spotlight. Imamoglu stunned Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) when he turfed them out of Istanbul’s city hall by 14,000 votes in local elections on March 31. The supreme electoral board overturned his win on Monday, upholding an AKP complaint that some polling station staff had been unqualified. Describing the decision as a big shock, Imamoglu, who was in office for 19 days, said that he would “tour every district of Istanbul” before the fresh vote on June 23. “Our preparations are better than in the last elections,” Imamoglu told the Times in an Istanbul restaurant where his team has set up a temporary media office after his eviction from city hall.