Alhekma Center For Studies& Research And Consulting
Ambassador/ Rakha Ahmed Hassan
Former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister, Chairman of the Center’s Advisory Board
The confrontation between the United States and Iran has continued since the Iranian Revolution and the ensuing events, most notably in 1979, when members of the US Embassy were detained in Tehran and the Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Khomeini, called America’s “Great Satan” as the first enemy, and the outbreak of the Iraq War. Iran, which continued toward Washington’s view that it was able to neutralize the aspirations of the leaders of the Iranian regime in spreading the revolution throughout the Middle East.
The confrontation between Washington and Tehran eroded the basic elements of relations between the two countries during the Iranian Shah’s reign in all economic, commercial, cultural, scientific and military fields. And hostile diplomacy between them.
The first axis
The American War on Afghanistan
The United States launched a war on Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, bombing of New York’s twin towers, accusing terrorist groups trained in Afghanistan of carrying out the attack, This history is a turning point in US policy and its return to military intervention in regional wars after a halt since the end of the Vietnam War and its painful consequences for America.
The reaction to the US war in Afghanistan has been weak at all levels and is almost welcome because Taliban policy has not been accepted either inside Afghanistan or from neighboring countries. Iran was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the anti-Shiite extremist Taliban regime, especially its acts of violence and repression against Shiites in Afghanistan and attacks on the Iranian cultural office in northern Afghanistan.
In other words, the United States has provided a great and free service to Iran by its war against the Taliban regime, and the situation has appeared and there has been indirect coordination without agreement between Washington and Tehran.
The second axis
The American War on Iraq
Washington was encouraged by what it saw as regional and international indifference to its war on Afghanistan, and decided to carry out its postponed war for several years in Iraq, and did not plagiarize pretexts that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and seeks to make nuclear weapons, and that this poses a great danger to the Gulf region and the Middle East It threatens the economies of the world, which depends on importing their energy needs from the Gulf region, and claiming that Saddam Hussein’s regime will not hesitate to repeat its failed experiment in attacking Kuwait to attack other countries in the region. From Israel, but certain Gulf states, including Iraq.
The US launched its war on Iraq in 2003, destroyed most of its forces, dissolved the Iraqi army, left what remained in its stock of big amounts of weapons, exhausted by militias and clans, destroying Iraq systematically was the biggest free service offered by the United States to Iran, changing the regime formations on the basis of quarreling between Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis, though the Iraqi Kurds are in their great majority a year, Iraqi Shiites have become the highest authority for the first time since the independence of Iraq, and became strong and are still under the occupation forces.
The third axis
Iran extends and enters some countries in the region
Iran was able to have a strong presence in some Arab countries after Washington helped it – without agreement and perhaps without deliberate – to have a strong presence in Iraq and take it to other regions, as Iran’s relations with Hezbollah in south Lebanon, helping it with weapons and supporting logistic support to prevent the Israeli attacks on south Lebanon several times, which resulted in the acceptance of the role of the Lebanese nation as a supplement to the national force of Lebanon, the party has a political role in addition to its military role and its participation in the parliamentary life and Lebanese Cabinet, and its strength increased in accordance with Lebanese Amal Party led by Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, and this situation made it difficult if not impossible to think seriously about weakening or getting rid of Hezbollah as Israel and America wants, which it classified as a terrorist organization, which is strongly rejected by the Lebanese government.
Iran participated militarily, economically and politically in the war that took place in Syria and in cooperation with the Syrian Arab army, Russia and the Lebanese Hezbollah militias, all at the request of the Syrian government to confront the armed groups that sought to topple the regime, whether they are terrorist groups or Syrian opposition groups supported by several regional and international parties. Tehran considered its stand beside the Syrian regime as a response to Al Jamil when former Syrian president Hafez Al-Asad stood with Iran in its war with Iraq, considering the latter the one who started the war.
The United States and Israel are trying hard to get Iran out of Syria, but it is difficult to do so. For its economic and military assistance, in addition to protecting the Syrian regime and the territorial integrity of Syria.
Tehran has also had a strong presence in the Yemeni crisis with its military and economic support to Al-Houthi’s group and other groups allied with it, and the situation in Yemen – as in Syria – became a proxy war between several regional and international parties fighting each other on lands other than its lands, and some of them have estimated the war in Yemen to end the crisis in a period not exceeding three months, and they have entered the fifth year with distinction. Disagreements between allies and some of them started to withdraw silently, because the war in Yemen has a special nature that makes it difficult and impossible for one party to achieve victory over another, and there is no way but to return to peaceful political solutions.
The fourth Axis
Dimensions of the nuclear agreement
First, the nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers
The nuclear agreement was reached in the summer of 2015m between Iran and the permanent member states in the Security Council, namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in addition to Germany, because of its historical relations with Iran in the contemporary period, and the negotiations took about 12 years to reach the agreement wording, and The United States joined the negotiations in the last 8 years of negotiations and US President Obama’s intention to participate in the agreement to guarantee Iran’s non-tendency to produce nuclear weapons.” Obama met with strong opposition from Israel, led by its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who headed to the US Congress and delivered a strong speech against the nuclear agreement, describing it as “the worst agreement in history, and will not prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons” especially after the end of the agreement and the date of renewal, but went further than that, and the whole world is dangerous.
However, President Obama succeeded in persuading Congress to agree on a nuclear agreement with Iran in principle and was approved by a UN Security Council resolution.
the nuclear agreement with Iran includes several restrictions whether on uranium enrichment ratio not exceeding 3.67%, on the amount of low-enriched uranium held by Iran not exceeding 300 kilograms, on the amount of heavy water not exceeding 130 tons, closing several centrifugal centers, changing the production of some Iranian nuclear reactors, allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to observe all Iranian nuclear reactors, visiting them at any time, and presenting periodic reports to the agency on Iran’s commitment to implement the agreement items accurately. This has already been confirmed by all IAEA reports since the entry into force of the agreement, and for about four years.
In return, the European countries and the United States of America suspended the economic sanctions imposed on them and released the Iranian financial accounts that were frozen by the European countries or the United States of America.
Iran and the European countries, which have been accepted to study investment in several projects in Iran, have started a new stage in the economic, investment and trade relations between Iran and the European countries, whether in the traditional energy fields, especially oil, gas and electricity, or the comprehensive energy, transport, cars, infrastructure, information and communication technology industry, and the American Boeing company has offered to sell passenger planes to Iran and the European Airbus company have similar offers.
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif were strongly criticized by the hardline rightist trend in Iran, pointing out that the flow of foreign investments did not come as expected by the moderate trend, and that the general Iranian nation did not feel the results of lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, and Iran lived a difficult period of demonstrations and disorders that was exploited by US President Trump and called on the Iranian nation to get rid of its leaders who spend the Iranian resources on other countries in Syria and Yemen, and showed their support to the Iranian nation in Lebanon and the country.
The result was contrary to Trump’s expectation, where Iranian leaders and pro-Iranian audiences were able to convince the majority that there is a US conspiracy against Iran, that the US president wants to eliminate the Iranian revolution, and security forces have been able to cooperate indirectly with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to contain the situation and arrest dozens of those who have carried out acts of sabotage, or those who have clearly demonstrated that they are calling for the return of the old regime and their association with Iranian groups and individuals from the Shah’s family in Europe, especially France.
Life in Iran returned to calm, and the hard-line rightist movement’s criticisms of the moderate trend decreased to face the escalating US political and media attack against Iran.
Second, the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran
President Trump stepped up his campaign against Iran and against a nuclear deal with it, calling it a “bad deal” because it does not prevent Iran from developing its short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, and this is a serious failure in the agreement, which requires renegotiation to reach a wording of the agreement that includes a ban on ballistic missiles, and accused Iran of being the biggest supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and the world, and of interfering in the affairs of other countries through its agents in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States of America from the nuclear deal with Iran on May 8, 2018, claiming that it did not respect the agreement, secretly developing its nuclear capabilities in preparation for producing nuclear weapons, challenging it to continue its program of ballistic missiles, and showed Washington’s readiness to enter into new negotiations with Iran to reach a new agreement.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran respected all items of the nuclear agreement since its approval and entry into force, and that it cooperates with the Atomic Agency delegates who did not observe any violations on part of Iran in any of its periodic reports, and the agency noted that the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement weakens it and leads to many complications regarding it.
The other five countries that signed the nuclear agreement with Iran criticized the US withdrawal, resulting in great damages in the nuclear agreement that was reached after long negotiations that lasted 12 years, and appealed to Washington to reconsider its stance, confirming that the five countries will remain committed to the agreement, and urged Iran to abide by it and respect its items and commitments.
Third: US sanctions and conditions on Iran
The United States of America has imposed several sanctions against Iran and Iranian officials, the most important of which are:
– Preventing the export of Iranian oil and gas to other countries, and subjecting the countries that import it to US sanctions and boycotts. Washington has initially excluded eight countries for a specific period and then canceled the exception. these include Turkey and Iraq.
It will be difficult to reach the declared US target, which is the complete stop of Iranian oil and gas exportation, as there are the present oil market and the black market for selling it through indirect parties, and with prices less than the international oil prices.
– The boycott of the Iranian central bank and the banking system, which represents a great difficulty for the international money transfers and transactions that average the US dollar, but can be overridden by the exchange system or finding specific mechanisms to deal with Iran.
– Boycott international companies to deal with Iran and get out of any investments that they have already started, especially companies where there are US partners or have dealings with the United States, to compare dealing with Iran or the United States; hence, the latter is likely to remain.
– Several Iranian figures were placed on the US blacklist, prevented from traveling to the United States, freeze their financial assets, and seized their foreign dealings, at the top of which are a number of the Iranian revolutionary guard leaders.
– The Iranian Revolutionary Guard considered itself a terrorist organization, and Tehran has strongly criticized this decision because it is considered by the Revolutionary Guards as a supplement to the Iranian Armed Forces and Security Forces; that is, it is one of the state services.
1-About the nuclear agreement, Washington demands that Tehran:
- That Iran disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency all the military dimensions of its nuclear program.
- stop all uranium enrichment activities, not producing plutonium, and to close the heavy water reactor in Arak.
- allow IAEA experts unconditional access to all nuclear sites in Iran.
The US State Department has announced that Iran has banned the transfer of heavy water abroad, although the nuclear agreement allows Iran to store only 130 tons of heavy water produced in Arak, then export what may be surplus in production, and it is clear that Washington does not want Iran to enter the market of this important product, and that the US Congress has previously banned President Obama’s administration from buying heavy water from Iran, and the new decision prevents the exchange of natural uranium with enriched uranium.
2. End the deployment of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Iran rejected this condition and conducted tests for launching missiles with a satellite to orbit the ground in January 2019, which did not succeed, and Tehran clarified that it does not want to increase the range of its missiles to more than two thousand kilometers and that it will work on increasing accuracy of its correction, especially the short-range missiles.
3 – Ending the leadership of the “Quds Force” of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to terrorist movements and terrorists in the region and the world.
Iran has so far shown no willingness to discuss the future of the “Quds Force”. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is the real control over Iranian foreign policy, and the Supreme Guide of the Iranian Revolution, Ali Khamenei, issued a statement on February 2019 entitled “Second Step of the Iranian Revolution”, in which he suggests continuing exporting the revolution until establishing what he called “the Islamic civilization”, according to Al-Faqih’s rule.
The “Quds Force” is the official sponsor of Iran’s ideological activities along with other institutions financed by the supreme guide and a group of bodies involved in the Iranian project, and Washington has classified the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, which disturbed Iran.
4- Ending support for terrorist organizations in the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Rally in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.
5- Withdrawal of Iranian forces from all parts of Syria. This is a demand that could be partially achieved if the Iranian presence in Syria is to move away from the southern region, especially the Golan and the borders with Jordan and Lebanon, but it is not possible to ask Iran to withdraw completely from Syria, it’s a strong ally that effectively helps Russia defend the Syrian regime.
6- End Iran’s support for the Taliban or other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and not to provide shelter to al-Qaeda leaders.
Arab mediation led to holding negotiations between Washington and Taliban, which led to Tehran’s declaration of its relations and contacts with Taliban, Washington, accuses Iran of sending weapons to Taliban and providing them with anti-tank mines to target US forces in Afghanistan, and Iran held contacts with Afghan government to inform it of its relations and contacts with Taliban.
7- Iran has stopped supporting Houthi militias and working for a political settlement in Yemen, where Washington and its allies accuse it of supplying Houthi rebels with short-range ballistic missiles and drones (Drone)
8- Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and work on disarming the Shiite militias, especially the popular gathering.
It is noted that the Iraqi-Iranian relations are in a state of agreement and great activity on all political, commercial and economic levels, and exchanging visits at the highest level, and Iraq works on calming between Iran and the Arab Gulf countries.
9- Iran has to stop its threats to its neighbors, including the threat of Israel’s destruction, missiles targeting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its threat to navigation in the Gulf and its devastating cyber-attacks.
10- Release all US citizens from US-allied countries from Iranian prisons.
Iran’s response to the United States of America and the continuation of escalation between them:
Iran has responded to the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the conditions set by Washington to negotiate with Iran, by imposing several conditions to continue the nuclear agreement
- The Europeans expressed their condemnation of Washington’s violations of the nuclear agreement.
- Helping to counter US sanctions and protect Iranian oil sales.
- Not to raise the file on Iranian ballistic missiles and Iran’s regional activities.
- Compensate Iran for any possible losses caused by US sanctions.
- Guaranteeing Iranian banking transactions and relations with European banks and protecting Iranian banks.
But, Washington continued to escalate economic sanctions against Iran and countries and companies that do not commit to applying these sanctions, making use of the big interference of US companies in most of the multinational companies, which led to negative effects on the Iranian economy, as follows:
– The significant decline in the exchange rates of the Iranian currency against the free currencies.
– The continued rise in inflation in Iran and the suffering of the Iranian people.
– A significant decline in Iranian oil exports, especially after the exclusion of some countries from the obligation not to import it.
– Withdrawal of several European companies from projects that have been linked or started to prepare for implementation in Iran.
– Iranian banks face many problems in dealing with the outside world.
– The decline in revenues from Iranian oil exports by more than 40%.
It is noted that the United States has not only stepped up economic sanctions against Iran and banned bank dealings with Iran, but has resorted to a military, political and diplomatic demonstration out of the saying “Iran threatens US interests in the region, especially Iraq”, and that the attack on 4 ships in the Gulf (two Saudis, one Emirates, and another Norwegian) increased the tension and mutual warnings against any wrong estimations, whether from the American or Iranian side or some Arab Gulf countries, which may cause a war, which may not be required in the region.
This escalation, despite the recognition of the main parties, will not lead to a real war between America and Iran, but will necessarily lead to an increase in military expenditure, whether by Iran, which is experiencing a severe economic crisis, by the Iranian nation, or by the Arab Gulf countries that are quick to buy more American weapons, as it was in May 2019, when Saudi Arabia, UAE, and other Arab countries signed a deal of US weapons with about 8 billion dollars, the last two years, the last, the last, the last, the last of which were contracted to face its needs in Yemen and Syria.
The huge military expenditure has a negative impact on the financial resources of all the Arab Gulf countries and Iran, and it gets a high percentage of the public budgets that were better directed to human and social development and investment in the Arab countries that are thirsty for these investments.
The tensions of war and instability in the Middle East region, represented by one of the most important sources of oil and gas, and among the most important strategic corridors in the world, have very negative effects on other countries, whether the neighboring countries or the European and Asian countries that have big investments in the region, which depend on importing high rates of their oil and gas needs from the Gulf countries.
This is explained by the great international interest in tensions and escalation in the region, and the no agreement of the majority of countries with the American policy in the era of President Trump, which always resorts to escalation to the edge of the abyss, politically, economically and militarily. Iran’s dropping of the US-led “Deron” plane has wide echoes and great fears of the US reaction probabilities, as this accident represented a strong blow to Trump’s escalating policy, but because Washington was unable to prove that the guided plane fell in the airspace over international waters, and Iran’s sticking to its proofs that may call them with Russian satellites that the plane crashed in the Iranian airspace, and it was entitled to drop it according to the clash rules.
President Trump covered the incident with a television visit to the North Korean border region, walking a few steps on its territory and shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, without any new, tangible results.
The majority of the world, led by France, Britain and Germany, believes that America’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran and imposing unilateral economic sanctions on it is unjustified and does not serve peace and stability in the Gulf region, as long as Iran, according to the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is committed Completely all the terms of the nuclear agreement, and willing to continue it provided that all signatories to the agreement respect its terms.
Other Arab, regional and international countries believe that all the Gulf states and Iran should open dialogue and positive communication between them to reach solutions and consensus on controversial issues and that this will help to move forward towards a political settlement of the protracted Yemeni crisis, as well as the Syrian crisis. Iraq, with its strong association with Washington, does not agree with the US economic sanctions on Iran, and believes that it is unilateral and do great harm to security and stability in the region, and Iraq has offered more than once to do good offices or mediation between Iran and the United States, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is what Sought to Oman, so out of good relations between the two Arab countries and Iran, and the vision that the security of the Gulf will not settle down and be completed only in cooperation between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had called in early June 2019 for the signing of a non-aggression treaty between Iran and the Gulf States, but did not receive his call response, and was questioned in his endeavors, and considered that the invitation is just a matter of public relations for media consumption, and the question remained pending Why the Arab Gulf countries do not conduct a practical experiment to test the reality of the Iranian proposal and open a dialogue with Tehran, whether through Amman, Baghdad or both, and reach the end to the background on the understanding of the degree of overlap of interests and the geostrategic and security link between them and Iran, as the emphasis on Iran is Danger and An enemy that greatly threatens the security of the Arab Gulf states has not given due importance to other sources of threat to Arab national security. It should be noted that since the end of the Iran-Iraq war, neither Iran nor its territory has been subjected to any military operations from either the United States or European powers and that all threats against Iran have not been beyond the scope of speech.
The United States seeks to establish a military alliance between it and the Arab Gulf states, and its first attempt to establish what was called “Arab-American”, because of the lack of approval of several Arab countries to join it, especially the Gulf Arab states that do not see Iran as the enemy, Washington did not despair and returned the ball again, but this time under the slogan “the protection of waterways in the Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab,” and the attempt continues.
Fourthly, Iran renounces some of its obligations in the nuclear agreement
Iran gave the three European countries: Britain, France and Germany, a 60-day deadline to take positive and decisive action that protects the Iranian interests from the US sanctions, especially preventing Iran’s oil exports and banking transactions, and that if the deadline ends without achieving an effective positive action, Iran will give up some of the commitments stated in the nuclear agreement.
The three countries have held several meetings with Iranian officials, some of which were represented by Russia and China to work a mechanism for commercial and monetary dealing with Iranian exports and imports, which ended in a mechanism known as “Anstex” mechanism, but Iran did not object to dealing only with foodstuffs and medicines, and did not include oil and gas, which are Iran’s most important exports, and Iran’s Foreign Minister said that this European mechanism shows the economic disagreements between Europe and America and the non-approval of the unilateral boycott against Iran, but it does not achieve the required mechanism.
Iran started from 7/7/2019 – the end date given to the European countries – to increase the uranium enrichment ratio from 3.67% stated in the nuclear agreement to 4.5%, and hinted at the possibility of increasing the uranium enrichment ratio to 20%, and increasing its peaceful uses, especially in the field of electric power supply, indicating that this ratio is 90% less than the required for producing nuclear weapons, and Iran will not abide by the specified amount of uranium and enrichment specified in the agreement of 300%, and it will not implement the heavy water and investments of 130 tons in the European countries.
Iran also clarified that the US president’s offer of negotiation is considered a not serious offer, because while he talks about negotiations with Iran, he is going on imposing more sanctions on it, this is practical evidence on the non-seriousness, and Tehran stipulated that Washington would cancel sanctions before starting negotiations with it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegates prepared a report in which they confirmed that Iran has exceeded the rate and quantities specified in the nuclear agreement, and urged it to abide by all its nuclear commitments under the agreement.
The three countries: France, Britain, and Germany expressed worry that Iran would exceed the quantity and the limited rate of low-enriched uranium in the nuclear agreement; this represents a violation of the agreement.
The US president Trump warned of this increase, explaining that the Iranians know what they are doing and that they, according to him, “play with fire”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Britain, France and Germany to support the US sanctions on Iran, saying that if he did not lose the battle against Iran, he warned that Tehran is trying now to cross the red line, that there is evidence that it seeks to get a nuclear weapon, and that the strict US sanctions make this target very difficult for Iranians, but do not end the problem, and confirmed that Israel will not allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb.
Russia and China have appealed to Iran not to escalate and to work on abiding by the nuclear agreement items.
Leaked news that French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to calm Washington and Tehran, and that he discussed this issue with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit held in Osaka in Japan in late June 2019, and sent a special envoy to Tehran several times in an attempt to open a dialogue But indirectly between Washington and Tehran, especially since President Macron has already made it clear to President Trump that America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran creates tension and instability in the Gulf region, and hurts what has been achieved through Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal.
There are possible scenarios regarding the confrontation between America and Iran, which are not arranged according to their probability and importance, but only for defining them, as follows:
Washington and Tehran can respond positively to the good offices or mediation shown by or offered by several parties to calm down and open channels of dialogue between the parties since the calm between them will help to achieve the following:
– Maintaining the nuclear agreement with Iran, which took a long time and great efforts are not easy to sacrifice, but rather build on them rather than weaken the agreement and the threat of cancellation.
– The dialogue between Washington and Tehran, whether through mediators or directly at a later stage, undoubtedly helps to resolve the positions in the Syrian and Yemeni crisis, and to remove or at least ease the tension in the Gulf region between all parties.
Bypassing the limits of uranium enrichment and the amount allowed in the nuclear deal, Iran would be prepared to open a dialogue with Washington. These abuses and the return to abiding by the terms of the nuclear agreement in line with its position that Washington began to breach the nuclear agreement to withdraw from it without objective reasons.
According to it, Washington and Tehran can respond to relative calm efforts, provided that the US sanctions will continue but with easing or not obliging countries and companies to apply them, and expanding the effectiveness of the European “Instex” mechanism to include exporting Iranian oil and gas.
This scenario achieves keeping the face of both parties, so that President Trump will remain on any US sanctions without punishing the non-US countries and companies, and the European countries will be able to respond to a main demand of Iran, which is to expand the effectiveness of “Instix” mechanism to protect the Iranian interests from the US sanctions.
Under this, the US-Iranian tension may continue on the basis that it serves the US stance, whether in keeping with the Israeli rightist governments and the parties that support them, and demanding that the US sanctions and escalation should continue with Iran, which serves the US weapons sales and the Arab Gulf countries’ military and economic ties with the United States.
This scenario represents a continuous pressure on Iran without any military action against it because of its great dangers on the US interests and its allies in the region, in addition to convincing it to start new negotiations to make modifications to the nuclear agreement with it, including its ballistic missile program.
If Iran accepts negotiations, it may take long years that may not end before the end of Trump’s second term if he wins the elections, or achieves what Iran wants, which is the election of a democratic US president, there is no doubt that he will be less strict than President Trump who resorts to the policies of confrontation and challenge
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