Category Archives: Iran

(AJ) Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

(AJ) Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps says tanker was captured ‘for failing to respect international maritime rules’.

The vessel was seized by 'small crafts and a helicopter', the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]
The vessel was seized by ‘small crafts and a helicopter’, the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said its forces have captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws, amid rising tensions in the Gulf. 

The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” the IRGC’s official website Sepahnews announced.

The tanker “was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations,” it said.

The vessel was seized by “small crafts and a helicopter” at 7:30pm local time (15:00GMT), the owner of the vessel, Stena Bulk, and Northern Marine Management said, adding that they are “presently unable to contact the vessel”. 

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9pm local time (16:30 GMT).

There are 23 crew members on board, the company’s statement added.

“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Second vessel seized

The British Foreign Office confirmed a second naval vessel, a Liberian-flagged vessel, had been seized in the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian authorities.

Later on Friday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the Liberian-flagged Mesdar tanker was briefly held and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Iran that its forces had seized a second vessel. 

Strait of Hormuz

‘Provocative moves’

The developments came a day after the IRGC said it had seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday.

The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world’s most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.

Relations between Britain and Iran and the United States and Iran have soured in particular.

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.

On Friday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court extended for 30 days the detention of the seized Iranian supertanker, Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.

Richard Weitz, a security analyst at Wikistrat, a global risk consultancy group, said Friday’s incident was a “reciprocal action” by Iran.

“This was anticipated,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC. “This is just the latest in a series of these subconventional forms of provocative moves.” 

(PUB) Funcionário da embaixada em Teerão atingido a tiro levou a suspensão de vistos

(PUB) Funcionário iraniano da embaixada portuguesa foi atingido a tiro em Março nos arredores da instalação diplomática. Incidente foi considerado como uma quebra de segurança.

O facto de um funcionário iraniano da embaixada portuguesa em Teerão ter sido atingido a tiro nos arredores da instalação diplomática em Março foi a razão que levou à suspensão de vistos a cidadãos do Irão e de todas as actividades da secção consular.

O ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Augusto Santos Silva, revelou na terça-feira, no Parlamento, que a atribuição de vistos a cidadãos iranianos tinha sido suspensa por questões de segurança, sem avançar mais pormenores. Mas a principal razão, apurou o PÚBLICO, prende-se com o incidente de Março, que foi considerado como uma quebra de segurança nas instalações diplomáticas.

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Portugal suspende vistos a cidadãos iranianos “por razões de segurança”

O incidente com o funcionário iraniano deu-se a 12 de Março e foi confirmado na altura por Santos Silva e pelo porta-voz do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros do Irão, Bahram Qasemi, que, em declarações à agência de notícias iraniana IRNA, afirmou que o ataque ocorreu ao norte de Teerão e que as investigações iniciais mostram que o incidente ocorreu devido a “questões pessoais”.

O ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros português esclareceu na altura que o funcionário iraniano que trabalha na embaixada de Portugal, ao sair da instalação diplomática, “foi vítima de uma emboscada”. “Isto é, foi atingido provavelmente a tiro por uma pessoa que circulava numa motorizada. Felizmente, o funcionário já se encontra em casa e, portanto, os ferimentos não foram graves”, sublinhou o ministro.

Ao final da tarde de terça-feira, em comunicado, Augusto Santos Silva assegurou que a suspensão de vistos a cidadãos iranianos se devia às “condições de funcionamento da secção consular” em Teerão e nada teria que ver com questões de segurança naquele país.

O chefe da diplomacia portuguesa justificou que avançou com o comunicado “para que não haja interpretações erróneas” do que tinha dito na Comissão parlamentar dos Negócios Estrangeiros.

Santos Silva disse ainda que “as razões de segurança prendem-se com as condições de funcionamento da secção consular” da Embaixada de Portugal em Teerão que “estão a ser identificadas e corrigidas” e, uma vez ultrapassadas, “possibilitarão a retoma do seu funcionamento, tão brevemente quanto possível”.

“A suspensão das actividades da secção consular compreende todas as actividades, não se dirigindo especificamente à emissão de vistos para cidadãos iranianos (ou dos outros países cobertos pelo posto) em viagem para Portugal”, refere ainda.

A nota salientava também que “a suspensão é uma decisão cautelar das autoridades portuguesas, para melhorar a segurança do seu posto consular e em nada resulta de uma avaliação sobre as condições gerais de segurança na República do Irão, ou de qualquer outro aspecto de natureza institucional ou política”.

“A suspensão é temporária, pelo mais breve prazo possível, e, enquanto durar, procurar-se-ão meios alternativos para a emissão dos documentos indispensáveis à circulação de pessoas”, acrescentou.

O PÚBLICO enviou por email um conjunto de perguntas ao Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros sobre este assunto. O MNE enviou a seguinte resposta: “Neste momento o que temos a dizer consta do comunicado de ontem.”

(BI) Russia is joining forces with Europe to rescue the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned

(BI)

putin rouhani russia iran

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

  • The Financial Times reported that Russia has signaled it wants  join an EU payments channel designed to go around Trump’s sanctions on Iran and boost oil exports. 
  • The channel, known as Instex, would be a huge step in rescuing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which Trump abandoned last year. 
  • Iran has been been in breach of the deal recently by going past levels of uranium enrichment set by the 2015 deal. 
  • View Markets Insider for more stories.

Russia has signaled it wants to team up with the European Union in joining an EU payments channel, avoiding US sanctions banning trade with Iran and boost oil exports, the Financial Times reported. 

The payments channel, Instex, would be a massive step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia in rescuing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Iran’s President Rouhani and President Trump have in the past year been at loggerheads over the nuclear deal, with Trump abandoning it last May. 

Read More: How the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water where ships transport $1.2 billion worth of oil every day, is at the heart of spiraling tensions with Iran

The move by Moscow to work with the EU is also surprising, given the little cooperation between the two parties since Russian annexed Crimea in 2014, attempted murder of a double agent in the UK, and alleged attempts to meddle in EU elections. 

However, it also marks a move by both the EU and Moscow to ignore Trump’s sanctions. Since he pulled out of the deal last May, France, Germany, China, the UK, and Russia all have been trying to maintain trade with Iran, but have been hindered by companies not wanting to risk problems with the White House.

Since then Iran has breached the deal by going above the agreed limit on uranium enrichment levels, out of retaliation for US sanctions on Iran. 

“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. It added that it would become more effective as more countries got involved. 

Iran has been expressing it’s frustration with the other parties who signed the 2015 deal at not helping Iran after the US imposed sanctions — namely on oil imports, which is Iran’s most valuable commodity. 

In a televised speech on Sunday, Iranian President Rouhani said “we are ready to hold talks with America today,” but wants to return to the Obama-era nuclear agreement and have the economic sanctions from President Donald Trump’s administration lifted before that happens.

(ZH) Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize UK Tanker In Straits Of Hormuz

(ZH) With the Persian Gulf uncharacteristically quiet in recent days, without any material provocation either real of staged, late on Wednesday CNN reported that five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. There was no independent verification of the report, but instead it was once again sourced to those who stands to gain the most from a way with Iran, namely “two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.”British Heritage tanker

According to the report, the British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by the Iranian boats. The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials. A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident, although so far a video has not been released.

In addition to the US aircraft escort, the UK’s Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker, and during the confrontation, it trained its deck guns on the Iranians and gave them a verbal warning to back away, which they did. Montrose is equipped on the deck with 30 mm guns specifically designed to drive off small boats. The frigate was in the region performing a “maritime security role” according to a prior notification from UK officials.HMS Montrose

The incident takes place less than a week after British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed and seized an Iranian ship believed to have been carrying oil to Syria, in what authorities said was a violation of European Union sanctions on Syria. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned earlier Wednesday that the UK “will see the consequences” after the Gibraltar seizure.

Rouhani, speaking in a cabinet session, said, “I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later.”

On Tuesday, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said that the US and allies were working to put together a coalition of countries to come up with a system to enforce freedom of navigation in the region amid what the US says are heightened threats from Iran.

“We had a discussion today, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and I and we are engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb,” Dunford said following an awards ceremony for his Finnish counterpart.

“I think what we’ll do is, we certainly from the United States perspective would provide maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” he said, adding that naval vessels would escort commercial ships that shared a country of origin, if required.

“Escorting in the normal course of events would be done by countries who have the same flag so a ship that is flagged by a particular country would be escorted by that country and I think what the United States can provide is domain awareness, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and then coordination and patrols for other ships that would be in the area would be largely coalition ships,” Dunford said.

This alleged latest provocation by Iran comes just hours after President Trump announced on Twitter that sanctions on Iran will “soon be increased, substantially!” following news that Iran was enriching uranium beyond the limits imposed by the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Last month Trump halted plans for a military strike against Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of a US drone, Trump said he found it hard to believe it had been an “intentional” act. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it,” Trump said in the Oval Office on June 20.

It is unclear if Trump has been briefed on the latest events in the Gulf, and if this alleged attempt at seizing a western tanker will give the neocons in Trump’s circle enough sway to finally commence the Gulf war which could send oil above $300 and involve all the world’s superpowers in what would be one giant, and very deadly proxy war.

(EUobserver) British navy seizes oil tanker busting EU sanctions

(EUobserver)

The British navy has seized an oil tanker called Grace 1 on its way past Gibraltar to the Syrian refinery of Baniyas, which is under EU sanctions. Fabian Picardo, the Gibraltar first minister, told the BBC he had written to the European Commission and EU Council presidents to give details. The operation comes amid uncertainty on UK-EU defence and foreign policy cooperation after Brexit due later this year.

(ZH) Syria & Iran To Defy Sanctions By Building Railway From Tehran To Mediterranean

(ZH)

Iran is preparing to begin construction on a large railway that links their capital city of Tehran to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the Director of Syrian Railways Najib Al-Fares said on Wednesday.

According to Fares, the new railway will promote regional trade between Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The new project is expected to be funded by the Iranian government, with support from both Syria and Iraq.Illustrative file image of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, slated to undertake construction work in Iraq on a railway line to link Iran with Syria.

The Director of the Iraqi Railway Company, Jawad Kazim, said that Iraq had previously signed contracts to implement projects with Iranian companies, but most were delayed.

For Syria, the new railway system is expected to help ease their economic issues that have derived from the U.S.-led sanctions on the Levantine nation.

During the signing of the minutes, [Iranian Deputy Minister and Chairman of Roads Maintenance and Transport Organization] Shahram Adamnejad said that the tripartite meeting resulted in positive outcomes among the three sides, affirming that the goal of the negotiations is to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as a part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road as the three countries have an old experience in the international trade. — Syria’s SANA

While this should be beneficial for all parties, this new railway system will face heavy criticism and possibly military attack from the U.S. and its allies, most notably Israel.

Mehr News Agency@MehrnewsCom

Tripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq, Syria on railways coop. https://ift.tt/2RJVVAC 112:31 PM – Jul 1, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyTripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq, Syria on railways coop.TEHRAN, Jul. 01 (MNA) – The tripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq and Syria was held on Monday morning at the Headquarter Railways of The Islamic Republic of Iran.en.mehrnews.comSee Mehr News Agency’s other Tweets

Israel has paid close attention to the Iranian developments in Syria and has often acted when they suspect weapons are being transported across borders.

Map via Syrianews.cc: Iran will bypass the Strait of Hormuz, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Suez Canal to reach the Mediterranean.

The U.S. is likely currently opposing the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) control over the border city of Albukamal in Deir Ezzor because it allows Iran to build a land bridge along the international highway.

(CNBC) Iran says it will break internationally-agreed limit on uranium levels in 10 days

(CNBC)

  • Iran will surpass the internationally agreed limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles in 10 days, the country’s atomic energy body said Monday.
  • A spokesperson for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would increase enrichment levels to 20% for use in local reactors, but emphasized that Europe still had a chance to save the Obama-era deal.
Reusable - Iran nuclear

A reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran.Getty Images

DUBAI — Iran will surpass the internationally agreed limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpiles in 10 days, the country’s atomic energy body said Monday.

A spokesperson for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would increase enrichment levels to 20% — significantly closer to weapons-grade material — for use in local reactors, but emphasized that Europe still had a chance to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal if its remaining signatories found a way to shield the Islamic Republic from the crippling effect of U.S. economic sanctions.

“We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kilogram limit,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on state TV, as quoted by Reuters. “There is still time … if European countries act.”

Iran would be exceeding its internationally-agreed enrichment cap of 3.67%, which is the amount allowed for civilian nuclear power development. Weapons-grade enrichment is 90%, but according to nuclear experts, reaching 3 to 4% enrichment equates to roughly two-thirds of the work done toward that 90% figure, as any increases beyond that seemingly small amount disproportionately speeds up breakout time.

Tehran has threatened to roll back its obligations under the nuclear deal a year after the Trump administration withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Iranian economy, most significantly its oil sector, the country’s largest source of revenue.

The nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was meant to offer Iran financial relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program and was signed under the Obama administration along with the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China.

The deal’s non-U.S. signatories opposed the Trump administration’s withdrawal and have pledged to keep the deal alive, even going so far as creating a special-purpose vehicle that could facilitate trade with Iran while skirting U.S. secondary sanctions.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman said Monday that European leaders needed to “act, not talk.”Hurtling toward conflict?

The announcement comes just days after suspected attacks against two foreign tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which U.S. authorities have blamed on Iran. The tanker explosion site lies near the critical shipping lane that is the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow conduit for 30% of the world’s seaborne oil.

The events, which sent oil prices up as high as 4% and led the ships’ crews to abandon their crippled vessels, came just a month after four oil tankers were damaged in alleged sabotage missions also attributed by the U.S. to Iran. Tehran denies all the accusations, alleging that Washington aims to stoke “Iranophobia” and find an excuse to go to war.

The last several weeks have also seen drone attacks on oil infrastructure and an airport in Saudi Arabia claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran.

A rapid escalation in tensions has stoked fears of impending conflict between the U.S. and its Gulf allies and the Islamic Republic, though both sides say they don’t want war. Washington has ramped up its military presence in the region, with additional aircraft carriers, bomber tank forces and planned deployments of thousands more troops. A slight miscalculation or miscommunication, many believe, could spark an all-out conflict.

(CNBC) Trump warns Iran not to fight the US: ‘That will be the official end of Iran’

(CNBC)

  • Trump’s threat, posted on Twitter, comes amid rising international tensions in the Middle East as the U.S. has dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in recent weeks.
  • The New York Times has reported that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran.
  • But his national security advisor John Bolton has reportedly pushed within the administration for an aggressive military posture against Iran.
GP: President Trump Departs White House For Louisiana South lawn

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday told Iran to never threaten the United States, warning the Islamic Republic that if it wants a fight, it would be “the official end of Iran.“

Trump’s threat, posted on Twitter, comes amid rising international tensions in the Middle East as the U.S. has dispatched a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in recent weeks. The Pentagon says the military moves are in response to “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations.”

When asked on Thursday if the United States is going to war with Iran, Trump said “hope not.” The New York Times has reported that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want war with Iran.

But his national security advisor John Bolton has reportedly pushed within the administration for an aggressive military posture against Iran. According to The New York Times, Shanahan presented an updated military plan that included sending as many as 120,000 ground troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces or accelerates nuclear work.

The revisions to the military plan were ordered by hard-liners led by Bolton, accordingto the Times.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said there are growing threats from Iran in the region, but he has had trouble convincing America’s European allies. British Maj. General Chris Ghika, the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State, publicly disagreed with the U.S. assessment.

“There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika told Pentagon reporters last week.

The Pentagon later issued a statement saying Ghika’s comments “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”

Pompeo told CNBC that the White House does not want war and would welcome the opportunity to negotiate with Iran.

“We’re not going to miscalculate: Our aim is not war, our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership,” Pompeo said. “The forces that we’re putting in place, the forces that we’ve had in the region before — you know, we often have carriers in the Persian Gulf — but the president wanted to make sure that, in the event something took place, we were prepared to respond to it in an appropriate way.”

(NYT) Iran Will Stop Complying With Some Parts of Nuclear Deal

(NYT) President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been under pressure to retaliate against the United States.CreditCreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Iran’s president declared on Wednesday that the country would stop complying with two of its commitments under the Iranian nuclear deal, pushing the growing confrontation between Washington and Tehran into new and potentially dangerous territory.

The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani came exactly a year after President Trump withdrew entirely from the 2015 agreement, which limited Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years.

But Mr. Rouhani did not follow Mr. Trump’s path and renounce the entire agreement. Instead, he notified European nations that he was taking some carefully calibrated steps, and that he would give Europe 60 days to choose between following Mr. Trump or saving the deal by engaging in oil trade with Iran in violation of American unilateral sanctions.

“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy,” he said in a nationally broadcast speech. “But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.”

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Starting on Wednesday, he said, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors — including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal.

Mr. Rouhani then threatened a potentially more severe step. If the Europeans do not find a way to help Iran “reap our benefits,” especially in petroleum exports and banking transactions, in 60 days Iran will end the limits on the enrichment of uranium, he said. Currently, it is enriching small amounts, and only to a level of 3.67 percent, which is suitable for nuclear power plants — but not for nuclear weapons.You have 2 free articles remaining.Subscribe to The Times

Without economic progress, he said, “we will not consider any limit” on enrichment, suggesting that it could rise to levels closer to something that could be used in weapons. Iran has never been known to produce weapons-grade material.

China, a signatory to the accord, urged restraint on all sides but put the blame for the confrontation squarely on Washington, which it said had escalated tensions. At a press briefing, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, praised Iran for adhering to the nuclear agreement that Mr. Trump has abandoned, and reiterated his country’s endorsement of the agreement and opposition to United States sanctions against Iran.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at a meeting in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, complained about the “unacceptable situation” created by the “irresponsible behavior of the United States,” but did not respond directly to Mr. Rouhani’s comments.

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If Iran begins carrying out Mr. Rohani’s threats in early July, it could put the country on the pathway to a bomb, essentially resuming activity that the 2015 nuclear accord pushed off to 2030. That would almost certainly revive debate in the United States over possible military action, or a resumption of covert action, like the cyber attack on Iran’s centrifuges a decade ago that the United States and Israel secretly conducted together.

None of the actions that Mr. Rouhani warned of would get Iran to a nuclear weapon anytime soon. But they would resume a slow, steady march that the 2015 agreement temporarily stopped.

Mr. Rouhani’s announcement marked another sharp blow to an agreement that President Barack Obama hoped would end 40 years of hostility between the two countries, and which he bet could open a new era of cooperation. While Iran scrupulously followed the deal, that cooperation never happened: Iran continued to test missiles — which were not covered in the arrangement — and to fund terror groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Mr. Trump threatened to kill what he called the “worst deal in history,” and over the objections of several of his advisers he withdrew from it exactly a year ago. He complained that it was too narrow, and that the 15-year limit on Iran producing nuclear fuel simply kicked the problems down the road. Advocates of the arrangement said those provisions bought vital time, delaying a program that otherwise might have resulted in an Iranian bomb in just a year.

It is not clear how Washington will respond to Mr. Rouhani’s speech. While the United States abandoned its side of the nuclear deal, it has long demanded that Iran fulfill its commitments to international inspections and moratoriums on nuclear work. The national security adviser, John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the deal, has often said that Iran never intended to give up its nuclear ambitions — and he may cite Mr. Rouhani’s speech as further evidence.

Mr. Rouhani invited all participants in the deal to rejoin negotiations. But he said the 2015 agreement must be the basis for such talks, a position the Trump administration has rejected.

While Iran’s decision Wednesday did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord, it left it on life support.

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Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said in an interview during a recent visit to New York that the country’s leadership was under growing pressure to respond to Mr. Trump’s effort to strangle Iran’s revenue. He called the continuing effort to starve Iran of the ability to engage in trade — which was enshrined in United Nations resolutions endorsing the 2015 agreement — a “war crime” against the Iranian people.

In an effort to contrast their behavior with Mr. Trump’s, Iran’s leaders have for now rejected calls that they, too, terminate the agreement. Instead, for the past year Tehran has remained fully in compliance, according to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But domestically, the failure to gain sanctions relief has put huge pressure on Mr. Rouhani to strike back at the United States.

The decision came just days after the Trump administration said it was moving bombers and a carrier group into the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran, after intercepting intelligence that attacks on the United States forces or their allies might be in the offing. Mr. Pompeo took an unannounced trip to Iraq on Tuesday and told reporters he had discussed with Iraqi officials the “threat stream we had seen” from Tehran.

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq, and there was complete agreement,” he said.

But European officials say they remain mystified why Mr. Trump did not take on the Iranians for their support of terrorist groups while remaining within the deal. The result, they say, could well be a resumed nuclear crisis, as the Iranians seek to raise the pressure.

(Axios) Israel passed White House intelligence on possible Iran plot

(Axios)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

Behind the scenes: Information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf were raised two weeks ago in talks held at the White House between an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and a U.S. team led by Bolton, the Israeli officials told me.

  • The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage, but the officials said it was clear the threat was against a U.S. target in the Gulf or U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The bottom line: An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”

— Israeli official

(AdelaideNow) Iran appointed for UN Women’s Rights Committee

(AdelaideNow) Iran has been appointed a seat on the UN Women’s Rights Committee in the same week an Iranian women’s rights lawyer was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Sky News host James Morrow says it’s a ‘disgrace’ that Australians don’t fire up against dictatorships like Iran who abuse women using patriarchy and religion. Broadcaster Jane Marwick says the silence around these issues is ‘absolutely deafening’ and believes the United Nations should be fighting for the freedom of women.

(105fm) EUROPA CONFRONTA TERRORISMO IRANIANO – Paulo Casaca

(105fm)

A 8 de Janeiro, a União Europeia colocou na sua principal lista de entidades e organizações terroristas os dois principais líderes das acções externas dos Guardas Revolucionários Iranianos, bem como a direcção de segurança interna dos serviços secretos do mesmo país.

A República Islâmica tornou-se assim o único país do mundo com dirigentes e departamentos armados estatais reconhecidos como terroristas pela União Europeia. Tudo isto se sucede a uma vaga de expulsões – e num caso mesmo de prisão – de diplomatas iranianos envolvidos em acções terroristas no solo europeu e à prisão de vários operacionais iranianos detidos na fase final da preparação de um ataque bombista em Paris, a 30 de Junho.

A França, entretanto, bloqueou as contas e encerrou associações francesas anti-Israel comandadas pelos guardas revolucionários iranianos; a Alemanha bloqueou os voos de uma das companhias aéreas iranianas envolvidas em acções logísticas armadas no Médio Oriente, enquanto a Polónia está a promover uma cimeira internacional sobre o Médio Oriente que o lóbi iraniano ocidental tem repetidamente atacado como sendo anti-iraniana.

Em quarenta anos o regime iraniano nada mudou na lógica da Jihad mundial que tem inscrita na sua Constituição e que tem aplicado com zelo dentro e além-fronteiras, com uma brutal repressão interna, expansão externa e terror em todas as direcções.

O que parece estar a mudar são no entanto os dirigentes dos principais países europeus, que parecem finalmente entender que a complacência com o terrorismo iraniano põe em causa a segurança não só do Médio Oriente como da Europa ela mesma.

A viragem da política europeia continua no entanto a enfrentar grande resistência dos partidários do apaziguamento e do poderoso lóbi iraniano que insistem em subvenções e dádivas ao regime de Teerão enfraquecendo a postura europeia.

A Europa precisa de ser clara nos seus princípios e capaz de agir com determinação perante a ameaça do Jihadismo orgânico de Teerão.

Bruxelas, 2019-01-23

(EuroNews) Germany bans Iranian airline, Mahan Air, from its airports

(EuroNews)

Germany bans Iranian airline, Mahan Air, from its airports

Germany has banned Iranian airline, Mahan Air from operating in the country’s airports.

Following heavy US pressure on Berlin to act, the foreign ministry announced the measure, saying Iran has been transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones.

The move was necessary to protect Germany’s “foreign and security policy interests”, said foreign ministry spokesman Christofer Burger.

Officials at the Federal Aviation Office (LBA) sent Tehran-based Mahan Air a notification “ordering the immediate suspension of its authorisation to operate passenger flights from and to Germany” from Monday, a transport ministry spokeswoman added.

Mahan, Iran’s second-largest carrier after Iran Air, flies four services a week between Tehran and the German cities of Düsseldorf and Munich.

It was blacklisted by the US in 2011, as Washington said the carrier was providing technical and material support to an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force.

Mahan Air in Tehran said it could not comment immediately on the ban.

The measure does not signal plans for the reimposition of broader sanctions against Iran, said a German government source.

Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

European countries have been under sustained U.S. pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty it had reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert denied that the decision to ban Mahan air was the result of US pressure.

“The German decision is based on considerations of our security needs,” he said.

“It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe,” he added.

Along with Iran, the other signatories to the non-proliferation deal – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – are still trying to keep it alive.

(EUobserver) Iran blamed for four terror plots in EU

(EUobserver)

  • EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in 2016 (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

By ANDREW RETTMAN BRUSSELS, TODAY, 09:28

Iran ordered four terrorist attacks in Europe in recent times, the EU has said, while imposing new sanctions.

Its agents plotted to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France and to assassinate an opposition member in Denmark last year.

  • Iran counter-accused the EU of sheltering anti-Iranian “terrorists” (Photo: Recovering Sick Soul)

They also murdered two opposition members in the Netherlands in 2015 and 2017, the Dutch foreign ministry revealed on Tuesday (8 January).

Member states’ officials in Brussels the same day added the names of two Iranian nationals and of Iran’s main spy agency to the EU’s counter-terrorism register.

The move froze the assets and banned entry to the EU of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat suspected of plotting the French attack, and Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, a senior intelligence official.

It also froze the assets of the directorate for internal security of the Iranian ministry for intelligence and security.

The sanctions were the first imposed by the EU since world powers and Iran agreed a nuclear arms control treaty three years ago.

The EU lifted financial, oil and gas, and transport sector sanctions in line with the nuclear accord.

It maintained an arms embargo and a ban on missile technology, however.

It also maintained a travel ban and asset freezes of 82 Iranians and one entity on grounds of human rights abuse.

The Dutch government had “strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of [the] two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin” in 2015 and 2017 Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said in a letter to the Dutch parliament justifying Tuesday’s move.

“Hostile acts of this kind flagrantly violate the sovereignty of the Netherlands and are unacceptable,” he said.

“Iran is expected to cooperate fully in removing the present concerns and, where necessary, aiding in criminal investigations. If such cooperation is not forthcoming, further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” Blok added.

The new sanctions were a “strong signal from the EU” that it “would not accept” assassination plots on its territory, Denmark’s foreign minister Anders Samuelsen said.

“EU stands united – such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences,” Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen added.

The EU move was welcomed by the US.

“Important day for European foreign policy!,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Twitter the same day.

“Iran and Hezbollah have terrorised Europe since 1979,” he added, referring to an Iranian-backed militant group in Lebanon.

He also posted a map showing 14 alleged Iranian attacks in EU countries, as well as Albania and Turkey, in the past 39 years.

Pompeo’s reaction came amid an EU-US rift on Iran after US leader Donald Trump walked out of the Iran nuclear arms control deal last year and threatened sanctions against EU firms who did business there.

The EU is currently trying to create special payment channels to shield EU companies from Trump’s wrath while keeping Iran on board with the nuclear pact.

Pompeo had previously said he was “disturbed and … deeply disappointed” by the EU.

But his good cheer on Tuesday was matched by a hostile reaction from Iran.

“Europeans, including Denmark, Holland, and France, harbour MEK – who killed 12,000 Iranians and abetted Saddam’s crimes against Iraqi Kurds – as well as other terrorists staging murder of innocent Iranians from Europe,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian opposition group with branches in EU states. Saddam Hussein was the former leader of Iraq.

“Accusing Iran won’t absolve Europe of responsibility for harbouring terrorists,” Zarif, who had earlier complained about slow progress on EU nuclear sanctions relief, added.

(Independent) Swift payment system bows to Iran sanctions

(Independent)

Rial talk: European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the EU was opposed to US sanctions against Iran. Photo: Bloomberg1
Rial talk: European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the EU was opposed to US sanctions against Iran. Photo: Bloomberg

THE European Union is opposed to the United States’ decision to reimpose oil and financial sanctions against Iran, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said yesterday.

“The European Union does not approve of it,” Moscovici told Franceinfo radio, hours after further US sanctions on Iran came into force.

Washington decided to reinstate punitive measures that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, and added 300 new designations in Iran’s oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors.

The Belgium-based Swift financial messaging service said it is suspending some unspecified Iranian banks’ access to its messaging system in the interest of the stability and integrity of the global financial system.

Swift is used to send data, including money transfers, between banks.

In a brief statement, Swift made no mention of US sanctions coming back into effect on some Iranian financial institutions on Monday as part of US President Donald Trump’s effort to force Iran to curtail its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

The Swift statement said suspending the Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system was a “regrettable” step, but was “taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system”.

Having abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump is trying to cripple Iran’s oil-dependent economy and force Tehran to quash not only its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program but its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

Swift is caught between two contrary regulatory demands.

The US government has told Swift that it is expected to comply with US sanctions and it could face sanctions itself if it fails to do so. On the other hand, Swift is barred from doing so under the European Union’s so-called blocking statute, which could subject it to European penalties for complying with US law.

(Reuters) Rouhani says Iran to sell oil, defy U.S. sanctions: TV

(Reuters) Iran will sell its oil and break sanctions reimposed by the United States on its vital energy and banking sectors, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday.

“America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales … but we will continue to sell our oil … to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state television.

The United States said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil when it re-imposes sanctions on Monday aimed at forcing Tehran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among eight countries expected to be given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised.

The restoration of sanctions is part of a wider effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

“Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy … the main target of sanctions is our people,” Rouhani said.

In May, Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and Washington reimposed first round of sanctions on Iran in August.

The deal had seen most international financial and economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under U.N. surveillance.

“ECONOMIC WAR”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the penalties set to return on Monday “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

However, Iran’s clerical rulers have dismissed concerns about the impact of sanctions on the country’s economy.

“This is an economic war against Iran but … America should learn that it can not use the language of force against Iran … We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Rouhani said.

To keep the deal alive, the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal are trying to maintain trade with Tehran despite scepticism this is possible despite U.S. sanctions to choke off Iranian oil sales.

Khashoggi probe will exonerate leader: Alwaleed

Diplomats told Reuters last month that the new EU mechanism to facilitate payments for Iranian oil exports should be legally in place by Nov. 4 but not operational until early next year.

They cautioned, however, that no country had volunteered to host the entity, which was delaying the process.

“We are in regular contact with other signatories of the nuclear deal … setting up (a) mechanism to continue trade with the European Union will take time,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on in Tehran.

He also said the reimposed U.S. sanctions were part of a psychological war launched by Washington against Tehran, adding that “America’s economic pressure on Iran is futile.”