Category Archives: Iran

(Reuters) Exclusive: U.S. carried out secret cyber strike on Iran in wake of Saudi oil attack: officials

(Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States carried out a secret cyber operation against Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Tehran, two U.S. officials have told Reuters.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operation took place in late September and took aim at Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.”

One of the officials said the strike affected physical hardware, but did not provide further details.

The attack highlights how President Donald Trump’s administration has been trying to counter what it sees as Iranian aggression without spiraling into a broader conflict.

Asked about Reuters reporting on Wednesday, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said: “They must have dreamt it,” Fars news agency reported.

The U.S. strike appears more limited than other such operations against Iran this year after the downing of an American drone in June and an alleged attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on oil tankers in the Gulf in May.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have publicly blamed the Sept. 14 attack on Iran, which denied involvement in the strike. The Iran-aligned Houthi militant group in Yemen claimed responsibility.

Publicly, the Pentagon has responded by sending thousands of additional troops and equipment to bolster Saudi defenses – the latest U.S. deployment to the region this year.

The Pentagon declined to comment about the cyber strike.

“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith.

GULF TENSIONS RISE SHARPLY

The impact of the attack, if any, could take months to determine, but cyber strikes are seen as a less-provocative option below the threshold of war.

“You can do damage without killing people or blowing things up; it adds an option to the toolkit that we didn’t have before and our willingness to use it is important,” said James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Lewis added that it may not be possible to deter Iranian behavior with even conventional military strikes.

Tensions in the Gulf have escalated sharply since May 2018, when Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Tehran that put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions.

It was unclear whether there have been other U.S. cyber attacks since the one in late September.

Iran has used such tactics against the United States. This month, a hacking group that appears linked to the Iranian government tried to infiltrate email accounts related Trump’s re-election campaign.

Over 30 days in August and September, the group, which Microsoft dubbed “Phosphorous,” made more than 2,700 attempts to identify consumer accounts, then attacked 241 of them.FILE PHOTO: A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. Kacper Pempel//File Photo

Tehran is also thought to be a major player in spreading disinformation.

Last year a Reuters investigation found more than 70 websites that push Iranian propaganda to 15 countries, in an operation that cybersecurity experts, social media firms and journalists are only starting to uncover.

Tensions with Iran have been high since the Sept. 14 attack. Tehran has said an Iranian tanker was hit by rockets in the Red Sea last week and warned that there would be consequences.

On Monday, President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his country’s policy toward the Trump administration, ruling out bilateral talks unless Washington returns to the landmark nuclear deal and lifts crippling U.S. economic sanctions.

(ZH) MbS: War With Iran Would Send Oil To Highs “That We Haven’t Seen In Our Lifetimes”

(ZH) In an interview that aired just days before the one-year anniversary of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumed murder, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman sat for an interview with 60 Minutes – reportedly the most extensive interview he has ever given to a Western media outlet.

During the nearly 15-minute discussion with ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Norah O’Donnell (in an interview that, fittingly, was aired during ’60 Minutes’ 52nd season premier), MbS addressed every controversy afflicting his regime: tensions with Iran and the recent attacks on Abqaiq, the murder of Khashoggi, MbS’s hopes for peace in Yemen and the arrest of female activists despite MbS’s landmark gender reforms like granting women the right to drive.

The two issues from the interview that garnered the most attention were MbS’s insistence that he wasn’t aware of the plot to kill Khashoggi (but that he ‘accepts responsibility’, as a leader should), and the disruption in global oil supplies – triggering a spike in global prices – that could result from a war with Iran (just look at how global benchmarks responded to the attack on Abqaiq, with the largest one-day spike since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait).

Why Oil Prices Are Headed Lower

Asked point-blank whether he ordered Khashoggi’s murder, MbS replied “absolutely not” and described the attack as a “heinous crime” (all via a translator).

“Absolutely not. This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”

When pressed about how he could’ve been unaware of a mission in which some of his closest associates participated, MbS insisted that it would be ‘impossible’ for him to monitor what KSA’s 3 million government employees do on a daily basis.

“Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily? It’s impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second highest person in the Saudi government.”

Moving on, O’Donnell had a few questions about the attack on Abqaiq, which briefly took 5.5% of global oil production offline. She asked MbS about Iran’s motives, as well as what a conflict would be like.

Asked what ‘strategic’ reason Iran would have for orchestrating the attack on Abqaiq (a question that many skeptical analysts have also raised), MbS responded that the only sensible motive was “stupidity.”

“I believe it’s stupidity. There is no strategic goal. Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did.”

’60 Minutes’ also aired what it described as the first footage of the attack on Abqaiq, which showed the barrage of cruise missiles slamming into various infrastructure inside the plant:

Jason Brodsky@JasonMBrodsky

Dramatic new video of #AramcoAttack in #SaudiArabia on @60Minutes #Iran #OOTT 1941:25 AM – Sep 30, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy138 people are talking about this

Echoing comments from Mike Pompeo, MbS said he would describe the attack on Abqaiq as an ‘act of war’, before the discussion turned to the global oil market.

Given Saudi Arabia’s importance to global energy supplies, a war with Iran could bring about the “total collapse” of the global economy, not just the Middle East region.

“The region represents about 30% of the world’s energy supplies, about 20% of global trade passages, about 4% of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries. Iran appears willing to risk war to improve its position.”

Oil prices would likely soar to “unimaginable” highs that we “haven’t seen in our lifetimes” as global supplies are disrupted.

“If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests. Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.”

Finally, touching on the issue of a ceasefire in Yemen, MbS said Saudi Arabia is working diligently toward peace. He added that he considers the Houthi-backed ceasefire a “positive step.”

Not long after, O’Donnell wrapped up the interview with a final question: “What lessons have you learned? And have you made mistakes?

“Of course I’ve made mistakes,” MbS insisted. “Even prophets make mistakes, so how come we, as humans, expect not to make mistakes?”

(Hill) With the Iran-Saudi crisis, Trump faces hard questions — some of his own making

(Hill) The surprise drone strike on Saudi petroleum production may trigger the military crisis many fear the Trump administration is poorly equipped to handle. 

The U.S. reaction to the strike will be determined, ultimately, by a president who makes national security policy on instinct and gut reaction. Trump alone will decide — and be accountable — without a fully staffed or fully functioning National Security Council and without the input from the best national and foreign policy security minds in the country.

Despite Trump’s often immature threats about destroying opponents, he seems inclined personally to avoid military conflict. Let’s hope that impulse continues. A unilateral American military strike on Iran in response to the attack on Saudi Arabia is a very risky national security decision.

Trump is probably under pressure for American military action against Iran from hardline U.S. and Middle Eastern hawks. He has fended them off before. He should do so again.

Since the president has launched unilateral economic warfare on Iran and aligned himself with a Saudi monarch who orders the murder of dissidents, including journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, the likelihood that the attacks on Saudi Arabia are linked to American policy is real.

Whether Iran conducted the attacks directly or gave Houthi surrogates in Yemen the means to launch them is debatable, but almost certainly Iran had a major hand in the attack. Although the attack targeted the government of Trump’s personal ally, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and not directly on the U.S., Iranian motives also must have related to American sanctions on Iran after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Trump now faces the fact that allies are critical to American leadership in the world. Because of Trump’s hostile American unilateralism, no political leader among traditional U.S. allies appears willing to go out on a political limb at home to follow Trump. After trashing international organizations throughout his presidency, Trump’s influence at the UN and elsewhere is also doubtful — unless Iranian actions become much more threatening to the broader international order.

This is the price of unilateralism — America would be largely alone in an attack except for a ruthless Saudi monarch.

The president should not underestimate Iran. This is not some weak, desperate backwater country. Tehran is no novice to security issues. Iran is a regional power and an ancient empire that has been dealing with potent foreign military forces since Alexander the Great.

Whatever Trump decides to do, the United States will bear the consequences.

Today, Iran has a population of about 84 million energetic people, many of whom are not that enthusiastic about the direction of the country. Any U.S. strike on Iran will unify the population behind the current regime and inflame Muslims, particularly Shiites, around the world.

The surprise nature of the attack on the Saudis should also be a concern to the White House. From an Iranian perspective, the unexpected and sophisticated strike on a strategic target was a major success. This attack demonstrates Iran’s asymmetric ability to act in an unexpected and capable way. Iran has many options around the world to respond to American military action. The Middle East, Afghanistan and Europe are particularly vulnerable to future Iranian operations.

As the president considers his options, he should answer some serious questions for the public to consider:

  • Why is the United States responsible for responding to an attack on Saudi Arabia? Yes, Saudi Arabia is a long-standing American ally, but the strike was on a Saudi facility and appears linked directly to the war in Yemen. The Saudi military is equipped with some of the best U.S. military equipment. If there is a military strike on Iran, the missiles should be directed — or the planes flown — only by Saudis.
  • Exactly what American interest is advanced by a military attack on Iran? The Iran attack has no real impact on American access to petroleum. How a strike would enhance the possibility for new nuclear negotiations with Tehran is unclear. How American security in general would be improved by a military attack on Iran is also unclear.
  • Why is this America’s problem and not a world problem? And are we prepared to go it alone? I do not see anyone racing to join the U.S. in action against Iran over these strikes.
  • Once an American strike is launched, then what? Are we prepared to pay the potential cost of a military conflict with Iran of extended duration? Put more directly, are Americans willing to sacrifice the blood of our military personnel to respond to a drone attack on a Saudi oil patch? I don’t think so — certainly not in the long run — and Tehran has probably already made that calculation.

The right policy for the region is to promote stability in the Middle East through broad international engagement, not American unilateralism.

The reaction to the drone strike on Saudi Arabia should be an international one.

Unfortunately, Trump and his unilateralist supporters, are not inclined to take this path. They have damaged too many relationships with allies and international institutions to create effective coalitions or to stimulate broad international action to achieve that goal.

The United States should not act unilaterally in the Middle East, and certainly should not go down the path of American military action against Iran at this point. I just hope Mr. Trump follows his more peaceful instincts on this one.

(AP) U.S. to deploy troops, weapons to Saudi Arabia

(AP) WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced late Friday that it will deploy additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as President Trump has put off any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the deployment is a first step to beef up security in the region. He would not rule out additional moves down the road.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more details about the deployment will be determined in the coming days, but it would not involve thousands of U.S. troops.

Other officials said the U.S. deployment likely will be in the hundreds and the defensive equipment heading to the Middle East probably will include Patriot missiles and possibly enhanced radars.

The announcement reflected Mr. Trump’s comments earlier in the day when he told reporters that showing restraint “shows far more strength” than launching military strikes and he wanted to avoid all-out war with Iran.

Instead, he laid out new sanctions on the Iranian central bank and said the easiest thing to do would be to launch military strikes.

General Dunford said the extra equipment and troops would give the Saudis a better chance of defending against unconventional aerial attacks.

“No single system is going to be able to defend against a threat like that,” he said, “but a layered system of defensive capabilities would mitigate the risk of swarms of drones or other attacks that may come from Iran.”

The United States has not provided any hard evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, while insisting the investigation continues.

But Mr. Esper said Friday that the drones and cruise missiles used in the attack were produced by Iran.

“The attack on Sept. 14 against Saudi Arabian oil facilities represents a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression,” Mr. Esper said.

In deciding against an immediate U.S. strike, Mr. Trump for the second time in recent months pulled back from a major military action against Iran that many Pentagon officials and other advisers fear could trigger a new Middle East war.

In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Mr. Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians.

Iran has denied involvement in the attack on the Saudi oil facilities and warned that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.”

Mr. Esper and General Dunford declined to discuss any potential ship movements to the region, although a number of U.S. Navy vessels are nearby.

The additional air and missile defense equipment for Saudi Arabia would be designed to bolster its defenses in the north, because most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen to the south.

A forensic team from U.S. Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished.

Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.

(EN) La Federación Internacional de Judo expulsa a Irán por intentar alterar el mundial de Tokio

(EN)

La Federación Internacional de Judo expulsa a Irán por intentar alterar el mundial de Tokio

Irán ha sido expulsada de la Federación Internacional de Judo después de que los iraníes intentaran impedir a uno de sus judocas que siguiera clasificándose para no enfrentarse al contrincante israelí en la competición mundial de Tokio del pasado mes. Con un comunicado la Federación Internacional transmitía su decisión.

Aunque la federación iraní pidió a Saeid Mollaei que se rindiese, el no acató la orden y decidió seguir.

Nuestro pueblo es consciente de la realidad; pero no puede opinar en libertad. Quería demostrar al mundo que Saeid Mollaei podía ser libre y que podía tomar decisiones valientes.

Saeid Mollaei Judoca iraní

Mollaei huyó a Alemania tras no hacer caso a su federación y Euronews ha conseguido entrevistarlo. Esta en un lugar protegido las 24 horas. Ahora espera que su valiente decisión no afecte a la seguridad de su familia.

(CNN) Trump is trapped between two impulses on Iran

(CNN) President Donald Trump is stuck in a political box — largely of his own making — on Iran, a predicament that becomes more intractable with each alarming cycle of escalation.In the aftermath of a sophisticated attack on a Saudi oilfield, Trump is being torn between two political and character traits that are starting to define his foreign policy.He’s desperate to avoid a new Middle East quagmire, but cannot bear to look weak.”I don’t want war with anybody,” Trump said Monday before returning to bombast. “We have the strongest military in the world … we’re prepared, more than anybody.

“The struggle raging inside the President helps explain the contradictory twists of a session with reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. His remarks left future US strategy opaque. They also underlined how the President’s plight is the predictable result of his own political choices.Trump says it looks like Iran was behind Saudi oil field attackPerched on his yellow armchair, next to the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Trump hardly seemed like a steely commander in chief “locked and loaded” for action — an image he had promoted in a weekend tweet that put the world on edge.”I’m not looking to get into new conflict but sometimes you have to,” he said.

The man who tweeted in 2014 that “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars” is now being asked as President to protect a kingdom that won his favor with ostentatious flattery on his first official trip abroad.Hinting at this dilemma, Trump made clear that he had not made any promises to the Saudis, but added in a less than ringing assurance to an ally to which he has synced US foreign policy, “we will work something out with them.”Asked whether Iran was behind the attack, Trump said: “It’s looking that way.”Yet moments later, he rebuked a reporter who sought clarification, saying: “I didn’t say that.”After a day of lurching political messaging, the impression Trump sent the world was of a President playing for time, keen to preserve off-ramps for himself, and downplaying a crisis that rocked oil markets, could stunt global growth and traumatize the economy he needs to ride to reelection if it gets any worse.

Trump sends incoherent message

The White House would like you to abandon all common sense on ‘locked and loaded’The same forces that prompted the President to suddenly call off an attack on Iranian targets in June to avenge the downing of a US drone over the Gulf of Oman seem to be in play now.In other circumstances, the President might be praised for taking a prudent course in fully investigating the situation before considering military options.Yet Trump’s aggressive tweets and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s rush to blame Iran forfeited the benefit of the doubt.Pompeo further boxed in his boss over the weekend, tweeting that Tehran had “launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”Perhaps seeking to create some diplomatic space, Trump sowed confusion on Monday.

“I think I’ll have a stronger message or maybe no message at all when we get the final results of what we’re looking at,” he said. “You know there’s no rush.”The choices before Trump are unattractive — reflecting the complexity of the presidency — a reality he rarely embraces.A US official told CNN that the US has assessed that the attack originated from inside Iran. The official spoke on condition of anonymity given a lack of authorization to talk to the press.The administration has so far offered no public evidence of Iranian culpability in an attack claimed by Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.If Iran is at fault, and Trump does nothing, he will look like a paper tiger who makes toothless military threats. Such an outcome would embolden Iran and suggest that behavior that holds the global economy hostage will be met with impunity.Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Monday that while the facts of the Saudi attacks are not yet clear, the possibility that the US could respond with force “needs to be on the table.”

“To have a credible deterrent against future bad behavior, they have to believe that’s a possibility,” he said.The President’s discomfort can be explained by the likely disastrous consequences of war with Iran.Hostilities would confound a Trump 2016 campaign trail promise to avoid foreign entanglements. US troops in the region could be sitting ducks. Allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia would be in the firing line.And then there is the economic blowback, which could imperil Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Crisis dashes hopes of US-Iran talks



Trump’s warning to Iran raises fears of war — and confusionDiplomacy is going nowhere, either.The tug of war between Trump’s political and foreign policy ideals is hampering his faltering efforts to open talks with Iran.The initiative already was doomed since the President is seeking to replace a nuclear deal that he walked out on last year — apparently confirming the view of Iranian hardliners that the US can never be trusted.As he seeks reelection, Trump is trawling the globe for big PR wins — and angling for a historic meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly next week.That is probably politically impossible now, for both sides.Unlike North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the Islamic Republic has no interest in photo ops that look good in campaign videos.The Iranians have made clear that their price for talks is lifting the sanctions against their country — a concession that would require Trump to offer the kind of carrot that he never tires of condemning his nemesis former President Barack Obama for offering.Some analysts believe that the Saudi attacks — if plotted by Iran — could be a signal that it has already given up on the notion that diplomacy with the US will ever result in the lifting of the sanctions that have pummeled its economy.

Proof of Iranian military action or attacks by its proxies in the region could also indicate that forces inside Iranian politics that are hostile to any dialogue have the upper hand.The very idea of a Trump-Iran dialogue also seems unlikely.After 40 years of animosity, there’s no chance that the President and the leaders of Iran are going to fall “in love,” as Trump described the blossoming with his relationship with Kim.One frustration for Trump — who believes, so far with little evidence, that his personal magnetism can forge diplomatic deals — is the remoteness of the Iranian leadership.Even talks with Rouhani — which would be the first between US and Iranian leaders since the 1979 Islamic revolution — would not get Trump in front of the man calling the shots in Tehran.Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sees the world through a clerical and revolutionary lens clouded by anti-US dogma. The environment in which he’s making his calculations could hardly be more estranged from Trump’s brash reality-show world.

Slim hopes of European help

Attacks have disrupted 5% of the world’s oil production. Here’s what you need to knowTrump’s unenviable position would test any US president — even one not facing the constraints imposed by the confrontational path Trump has chosen to deal with Iran.One way out could be for the President to use the attack on the Saudi oil facility as a rallying point to rebuild the international front against Iran.While European governments have been battling to save the Iran nuclear deal, clear-cut evidence that Tehran was behind the attacks could drain the political capital sustaining their efforts.Potentially, the President could use the incident to convince European leaders to sign up for the US operation in the Gulf to shield oil tankers from seizure by Iran.

Britain, nurturing its “special relationship” with the US as Brexit looms, has signed up. But France and Germany declined, amid a transatlantic dust-up over Trump’s Iran policy.A US-European rapprochement seems unlikely, however, given Washington’s attempts to undermine the European Union’s efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.US military action, meanwhile, would likely torpedo an effort by French President Emmanuel Macron to de-escalate the situation and get Washington and Tehran back to the table.

(Reuters) Iran gives Europe two more months to save nuclear deal

(Reuters) DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gave European powers another two months to save a 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday, but warned that Tehran was still preparing for further significant breaches of the pact that would have “extraordinary effects”.

His statement came as Iranian officials gave mixed signals in response to a French proposal to save the agreement by offering Iran about $15 billion in credit lines until year-end if Tehran comes fully back into compliance.

Once senior Iranian official said it would comply if it got that amount in credit lines or oil sales, while state-run Press TV said Iran had rejected a proposal for an EU loan of that amount.

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation after agreeing a deal with world powers in 2015 to curb its nuclear development program in exchange for sanctions relief. However, U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal last year and reimposed sanctions.

Tehran responded with two separate moves that breached some of the terms of the deal, although it says it still aims to save the pact.

Rouhani had threatened to take further measures by Sept. 5 unless France and the other European signatories of the pact did more to protect Iran from the impact of the U.S. penalties.

“I think it is unlikely that we will reach a result with Europe by today or tomorrow … Europe will have another two-months to fulfil its commitments,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.

Iran would continue with plans to breach the pact further and accelerate its nuclear activity, he added.

“The third step (in reducing Iran’s commitments) will be the most important one and it will have extraordinary effects,” state TV reported him as saying.

Iranian officials initially said they were considering the French plan when news of it emerged on Tuesday. On Wednesday Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi appeared to back its main terms.

“Our return to the full implementation of the nuclear accord is subject to the receipt of $15 billion over a four-month period, otherwise the process of reducing Iran’s commitments will continue,” the semi-official news agency Fars quoted Araqchi as saying.

“Either Europe has to buy oil from Iran or provide Iran with the equivalent of selling oil as a credit line guaranteed by Iran’s oil revenues, which in some sense means a pre-sale of oil,” Araqchi added.

Soon after, Iran’s English-language Press TV issued a short report stating: “Iran has rejected a $15 billion loan offered by EU,” without giving further details. Western and Iranian sources had described the French plan as the offer of a credit line, not a loan, although the precise details have not been made public.

Iran’s vital crude oil sales have plummeted by more than 80% under the U.S. sanctions.Slideshow (2 Images)

The remaining signatories of the deal have been working to save an agreement that they say will bring Iran back into the international fold and prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is for electricity generation and other peaceful purposes.

(Economist) Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani talk about talking to each other

(Economist)

The prospect of an Iran-US summit is the most tantalising outcome of Emmanuel Macron’s diplomacy in Biarritz

THE G7 SUMMIT drew to a close on August 26th in the French seaside town of Biarritz amid improbable displays of goodwill and bonhomie. President Donald Trump declared the meeting a “true success”, and claimed that “nobody wanted to leave”. President Emmanuel Macron, the French summit host, thanked the American president profusely for enabling a “real partnership” between the two countries. The conflict and theatrics that the French had feared might split the G7 and wreck the meeting failed to materialise.Get our daily newsletter

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Perhaps the most startling, and spectacular, outcome was Mr Macron’s announcement that a face-to-face meeting between Mr Trump and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani could take place in the “coming weeks”. On August 25th, the French president had pulled off what looked suspiciously like a stunt when he invited Muhammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to Biarritz for meetings outside the G7 format. Yet a day later, there was Mr Trump, standing beside the French president, acknowledging that “if the circumstances were right” he would “certainly agree” to such a meeting. “I have a good feeling,” Mr Trump declared, saying the Iranians wanted to meet because they were “hurting badly” as a result of American sanctions.

Mr Macron’s diplomatic team has been working for weeks on ways to try to ease tensions with Iran, and to find some way to preserve the principles embodied in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if not the accord itself. Signed in 2015, the JCPOA limited Iran’s nuclear programme, pushing back its ability to “break out” as a nuclear-weapons power in exchange for the partial lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump withdrew from it last year, and embarked on a policy of “maximum pressure” to cripple Iran’s economy.

Hours before Mr Trump spoke at the G7, Mr Rouhani signalled that his administration was also willing to talk. “If I know that by meeting someone, the problem of my country will be solved, I will not hesitate,” he said in a speech. At the time, his words seemed a defence of Mr Zarif, whose trip to Biarritz was poorly received by conservatives at home. Kayhan, a choleric newspaper close to the supreme leader said it projected “weakness and desperation”. But his comments also suggest he would be open to a personal meeting with Mr Trump.

If a Trump-Rouhani summit came off, it would be the first between American and Iranian leaders since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Mr Rouhani did not even meet Barack Obama, who spent much of his second term pursuing better relations with Iran, culminating with the JCPOA. (They did manage a brief phone call in 2013.)

But Mr Rouhani would have to overcome objections from the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who oppose engagement with America. When Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, brought a message from Mr Trump on a visit to Tehran this summer, Mr Khamenei deemed it unworthy of a reply. Over the past few months those hawkish factions have pushed a more aggressive response to Mr Trump’s anti-Iran campaign. Oil tankers have been seized and sabotaged in the Persian Gulf. America and Iran have shot down each other’s drones, and America nearly carried out airstrikes in June.

Beyond the symbolism of a summit, though, it is unclear what a meeting would achieve beyond the bargain struck under the JCPOA. The Trump administration wants Iran to halt all uranium enrichment (which Iran insists is needed to make fuel for nuclear-power reactors), withdraw its troops from Syria and end support for regional proxies like Hizbullah, a Lebanese militia-cum-political party. Iran will agree to none of that.

Mr Rouhani’s allies counter by citing the example of Kim Jong-un: in a series of meetings, the North Korean leader wooed Mr Trump, who now gushes about “falling in love” with the North Korean dictator. His charm offensive lowered tensions with America—and he made no real concessions in return.

Apart from raising the hope of averting a shooting war between America and Iran, the G7 summit also offered some prospect of easing the trade wars that Mr Trump so enjoys waging.

There was an agreement, at least in principle, to ease trans-Atlantic tensions over a new French tax on tech giants, which disproportionately affects American firms. Last month Mr Trump had criticised Mr Macron’s “foolishness”, and promised to retaliate with restrictions on imports of French wine. In Biarritz, however, the French president announced a deal with Mr Trump: France would abolish the tax as soon as an international equivalent was in place; money paid by firms to France would be deducted from their obligations under the future tax regime and any excess reimbursed. Mr Trump did not protest.

On the bigger dispute over trade with China, Mr Trump also ended the G7 summit on a constructive note. After days of tit-for-tat announcements of trade tariffs, which sent markets reeling, Mr Trump said the Chinese had contacted the Americans and they “really do want to do a deal”. This was a “very positive step”, Mr Trump said, so helping to lift markets in Asia and Europe. Whether the American president sticks to this line remains to be seen. Just three days previously, the same Mr Trump increased tariffs on over $500bn of Chinese goods.

America and Japan also announced a deal on their own trade spat, but gave few details other than that it would cover agriculture, industrial tariffs and digital trade. Mr Trump seemed pleased, mainly because Japan will provide “support” for its farmers to buy more American corn, which is piling up as a result of the dispute with China.

There were also small steps to help stop fire spreading in the Amazon, including a pledge by G7 members to contribute $20m to that end. A tiny sum, in view of Mr Macron’s belief that the fires amounted to an international crisis. But given the many political sparks and fires he may have dampened, the French president nevertheless had good reason to be pleased with his work.

(EUobserver) US warns Greece on Iranian oil tanker

(EUobserver) The United States has warned Greece not to give harbour to an Iranian oil tanker suspected of smuggling oil to Syria in defiance of EU sanctions, saying it would treat the act as support for terrorism. The ship was previously seized by the British navy and detained in Gibraltar, but Gibraltar let it go despite US pressure, while Iran has denied any wrongdoing.

P.O. (AJ) Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail

P. O.

By ruling independently from the UK, Gibraltar proved behond any doubt that they are independent in a high profile case , like this one, and they gained the support of all the Iran aligned Countries.

Regardless of the merits, or not, of the case , Gibraltar scored big, and will earn many dividents from this decision in the future.

Please bear in mind that i detest the Iranian regime, which i think is a religious and imperialist dictatorship run by fundamentalists that are, in my opinion, politically  mentally retarded  muslims.

But my opinion does not affect my strategic reasoning in the Gibraltar case.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira




(AJ) Ruling to release vessel that was commandeered by UK came despite last-minute US attempt to detain it.14 hours ago

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court has ruled that a seized Iranian oil tanker is free to sail, just hours after the United States made a last-minute attempt to keep the vessel under detention, authorities said. 

Grace 1 had been commandeered by the British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran had denied the accusation and called the seizure “an act of piracy” committed at the behest of the US.

The tanker, which remained docked off the coast of the British territory off Spain’s southern coast into Thursday evening, has since become a pawn in the escalating tensions between Iran and the US.

The Gibraltar government on Thursday reiterated its conviction that the ship had been bound for Syria with $140m worth of light crude oil on board, in violation of separate EU and US sanctions. The boat’s navigation plan “showed a fully marked-out route” from the Gulf to the Syrian port of Baniyas, the government said. 

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had met Iranian officials on July 19 in London “with a will for a de-escalation with regard to all the various problems arising from the detention of the Grace 1”.

The Supreme Court decision to release the tanker came on Thursday after Iran guaranteed in writing that the Grace 1 would not be heading to countries “subject to European Union sanctions” once it left the port, and therefore the ship was “no longer subject to detention”, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said.

Later on Thursday, the United Kingdom‘s Foreign Office called on Iran to stand by its pledge that the ship would not sail for Syria.

Gibraltar officials said a last-minute appeal from the US to extend the detention was not considered an official request before the Supreme Court, so they went ahead with the release. 

“As far as the judge here is concerned at the Supreme Court, the Grace 1 is free to leave right now,” Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gibraltar, said. 

Possible swap

The ruling came after a day of confusion surrounding the tanker, with the government in Gibraltar saying plans to release the vessel had been delayed by the last-minute request from the US Department of Justice to extend its detention.  

The US request will be reviewed by the territory’s Independent Mutual Legal Assistance authority, which can decide whether a separate court case can take place, Picardo told reporters. If the review were to happen before Grace 1 left Gibraltar’s waters, the detention could still be extended.

It was not immediately clear if there was a crew willing and able to man the ship, but Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, tweeted after the court ruling that the ship would “soon leave Gibraltar”.

Grace 1 Tanker Released

The captain of Grace 1 and three officers had been released from detention in preparation for the vessel’s release [Jon Nazca/Reuters]

It also remained unclear if the decision would prompt Iran to release the British-flagged Stena Impero, which the Islamic Republic had seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19. At the time, Iran said the vessel had collided with a fishing boat and violated international law, but later Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to suggest that if the UK released Grace 1, then his country would return Stena Impero. 

A spokesman for the Stena Impero’s owner said after the ruling that the situation remained unchanged and that the company awaited further developments from the UK and Iran.

“Now this is a way for both sides to defuse the situation and save face,” Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said.

In its statement, the UK foreign office denied that there had been any link “between Iran’s unacceptable and illegal seizure of, and attacks on, commercial shipping vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions by the Government of Gibraltar.”

Escalating tensions

The US and Iran have traded barbs and accusations as tensions have risen over the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between Oman and Iran through which a fifth of the world’s oil is transported.

Since May, the US has repeatedly accused Iran of sabotaging tankers in the strait, an accusation Iran has denied. 

In June, Iran downed a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile. Tehran said the drone was in its airspace, while Washington said it was in international skies.

The US military has since deployed additional forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East as tensions have mounted. It also began a joint naval mission in the region with the UK, who were prompted to join by the seizure of the Stena Impero.

On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif derided Washington’s last-minute attempt to seize the tanker, accusing the US of trying to “steal our property on the high seas”.

“Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its #EconomicTerrorism – including depriving cancer patients of medicine – the US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas,” Zarif tweeted on Thursday, referring to US sanctions that Iranian officials say have prevented cancer patients from receiving medicines. 

He added: “This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump (administration’s) contempt for the law.”

In preparations for the tanker’s release, the captain of Grace 1, an Indian national, and three officers had been released from detention on Thursday, the Gibraltar government said.

(ZH) China’s Largest Oil Company Caught Importing Iranian Crude

(ZH) The Trump Administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions on the Iranian oil trade has dramatically reduced Iranian crude exports – but it hasn’t stopped some of the US’s largest economic rivals from accepting shipments of Iranian crude, according to several media investigations. Not only has China continued to import Iranian crude, so have several other Asian and Mediterranean countries, according to data from several tanker tracking services studied by the New York Times and other media organizations.

Per the NYT, in April 2018, before Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, Iran exported 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. One year later, that figure was at one million. And in June, after the end of the exceptions or waivers, ships in Iranian ports loaded about 500,000 barrels per day, according to Reid I’Anson, an energy economist at Kpler, a company tracking seaborne commodities.

Of course, this fact isn’t lost on the Trump Administration, which, according to the FThas been tracking the movements of tankers linked to China’s biggest state-run oil company amid signs that the ships are helping to bring in Iranian crude.

China National Petroleum Corp, via its subsidiary, the Bank of Kunlun, has, in recent months, employed a fleet of tankers to move oil from Iran to China.

And an NYT visualization of tanker traffic shows the route some of these tankers take while moving oil from Iran to China and elsewhere in the region.

Below are satellite images of some of these tankers docking at Chinese ports.

Last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned Chinese oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong for buying oil from Iran. The decision was intended to send a message to other Chinese firms, and anyone else buying Iranian oil who also hoped to do business with the US.

“Any entity considering evading our restrictions, particularly related to Iranian petrochemicals, should take this message seriously,” said one official. “We recently sanctioned Zhuhai Zhenrong…for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase or acquisition of crude oil from Iran. This action underscores our commitment to enforcement.”

But targeting CNPC would be an especially serious escalation at a time when tensions between the US and China are nearing a breaking point. Even as satellite data and imagery suggest that the tankers linked to Bank of Kunlun are employing tactics including turning off tracking devices and changing their names.

Any US decision to target CNPC would mark a significant escalation given the company’s status as China’s largest oil producer. Its publicly listed arm, PetroChina, has operations in the US and secondary shares listed in New York, in addition to partnerships with international energy companies such as Ineos.

Bank of Kunlun said it was “not involved in the crude oil import business” and denied having “violated any laws or regulations.” But people in Washington familiar with the activities of the bank said it was viewed by the US as a “bad actor.” “Bank of Kunlun has always been the sacrificial lamb for CNPC and, more broadly, for the Chinese government,” said one former senior US intelligence official. “It is a bank that the Chinese government recognises as expendable in some sense.”

And cracking down on the Bank of Kunlun would come with certain risks that might impede the US’s agenda, particularly when it comes to North Korea.

“China is not going to do the US any favours,” said Dennis Wilder, a former top CIA and White House official. “This is the price you pay strategically. You cannot tell China on the one hand to be aligned with you on Iran and North Korea and at the same time decide you’re going to retard or destroy some of their corporations.”

Still, after labeling China a currency manipulator last night, it appears Washington has decided on a hardline approach. Will sanctions on CNPC and the rest of the Chinese energy industry be next?

After all, Beijing has made clear that it has no problem being Iran’s most important lifeline during an extremely difficult time.

zerohedge@zerohedge

Has China announced yet that it will import all Iranian oil it has to sell? cc: @JZarif682:08 PM – Aug 5, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy29 people are talking about this

(ZH) Iran Seizes Foreign Oil Tanker Accused Of Smuggling Fuel

(ZH)

In what will be seen as another escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, adding to rising concerns about the safety of shipping in a region crucial to oil exports.

The vessel – the third foreign ship seized by Iran in the Gulf since July 14 in response to a UK seizure of Iran’s own ship – is suspected of smuggling a large volume of fuel, the Guards said on their Sepah News portal according to Bloomberg. They did not, however, give any details about the flag or nationality of the ship or its operator.

The ship’s seizure took place last Wednesday, Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard’s official news service, reported, a day after United Arab Emirates officials traveled to Iran to discuss maritime border cooperation and the flow of shipping traffic, including illegal movements.

Edward Wong@ewong

BREAKING: Iran says it has seized a third foreign oil tanker. This NYT investigation shows how 12 Iranian tankers have brought oil to China & other nations since May, despite US sanctions. Countries defy Trump, who has failed to get allies on Iran. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/03/world/middleeast/us-iran-sanctions-ships.html …257:33 PM – Aug 4, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy20 people are talking about this

The ship was carrying 700,000 liters (4,403 barrels) of smuggled fuel when it was seized near Farsi Island in the western part of the Gulf, off Iran’s southwestern coast, Sepah News reported. The island is located about 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the Strait of Hormuz, the volatile center of Iran’s standoff with the West in recent weeks. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that the seized ship is an Iraqi tanker that was delivering the fuel to some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that a video of the moment the vessel was seized showed it was Iraqi, although as the WSJ notes, maritime confrontations between Iran and Iraq are considered rare. The Iraqi ship’s seizure would follow July’s visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who has sought to ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran, both close allies of Iraq.

Gen. Ramezan Zirahi, a navy forces commander in the Guard, was quoted by Iran’s Fars News Agency as saying the fuel had been transferred to the vessel from another ship, and was bound for Arab countries in the region when it was impounded. The seven detained crew members – who were arrested – were foreign, he said, without naming their nationality or that of the vessel. The ship was taken to Bushehr port on Iran’s southwest coast, and its cargo was confiscated and handed over to the National Oil Distribution Company of Iran.

The announcement of the ship’s capture coincides with a joint meeting between the Iranian and Qatari coast guards in Tehran aimed at improving and developing maritime cooperation between the Gulf neighbors, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported earlier Sunday. That gathering follows a rare meeting between the coast guards of Iran and the U.A.E. last week.

* * *

The impounding of the ship will escalate the tensions that have flared in the region’s waters as Iran resists U.S. sanctions that are crippling its all-important oil exports and retaliates after one of its ships was seized July 4 near Gibraltar. Iran grabbed a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in Hormuz two weeks later and continues to hold it. Iran also detained a small Emirati-based vessel, the Riah, earlier in July and accused it of smuggling fuel. Nine of the 12 Indian crew members have since been released, but the vessel remains impounded. Ship-tracking experts noted the size of the cargo on the vessel seized on Wednesday was even smaller. Petroleum products sold domestically in Iran are heavily subsidized, so it is potentially lucrative to divert them to foreign markets, where they can be sold for a higher price.

The passage at the mouth of the Persian Gulf accounts for about a third of the world’s seaborne oil flows. To reduce the risks of navigating the waterway, the Royal Navy has started to escort British ships, and a plan for a European naval mission is taking shape.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the region in recent months, a charge Tehran has denied.

The crisis in the Gulf has caused oil prices and shipping premiums to rise and prompted some vessel owners to avoid the region. Last week, Bloomberg reported that British oil giant BP, which had to shelter one of its tankers in the Persian Gulf this month in fear it could be targeted by Iranian forces, was avoiding sending ships to the region after tensions flared between Tehran and London.

BP is “certainly not sending British ships and crews” through the Strait of Hormuz, the only way for tankers to reach the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Earlier this month, a BP tanker had to abandon a plan to load Iraqi crude and instead took shelter near Saudi Arabia because the company feared the ship could be targeted in a tit-for-tat response for British Royal Marines seizing a vessel transporting Iranian crude in the Mediterranean, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.

At the same time, the U.S. has boosted military deployments in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz and is trying to pull together an international maritime force to patrol the region. The British also plan to create a separate European maritime security force.

Ironically, it remains unclear if allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will cooperate: as the WSJ notes, the U.K., Germany and France are at odds with the Trump administration over its decision to pull out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal to which they are co-signatories, and are working to keep the deal alive and to ease tensions with Tehran.

For its part, Iran says it is trying to maintain maritime security in the region. But its officials also have repeatedly warned they would block the Strait of Hormuz—through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil is transported—in response to crippling U.S. sanctions. Iran has accused the Europeans of not providing adequate relief from American pressure.

(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.