Thursday, March 23, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iranian Navy Endangering International Navigation In Gulf

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U.S. Navy commanders accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation by "harassing" warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz and said future incidents could result in miscalculation and lead to an armed clash. They spoke after the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted what one of the commanding officers described as two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait on Tuesday on a journey from the Indian Ocean into the Gulf. It was the first time a U.S. carrier entered the narrow waterway, where up to 30 percent of global oil exports pass annually, since President Donald Trump took office in January pledging a tougher U.S. stance toward Iran.

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp on Wednesday pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. The guilty plea was part of an agreement the company reached earlier this month with U.S. authorities that also called for nearly $900 million in fines and other penalties. U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas accepted the company's plea to three charges: conspiring to export American-made items to Iran without a license, obstructing justice, and making a material false statement. Shenzhen-based ZTE has a U.S. subsidiary in Richardson, Texas. A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to ban travelers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, issued a holiday greeting on Wednesday to Iranians celebrating the New Year holiday known as Nowruz. Trump, who has also criticized the nuclear deal between Iran and western powers negotiated during President Barack Obama's administration, did not refer to the travel ban in his statement. "Nowruz means 'new day' in Persian. It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. Nowruz is Iran's most important national event and is celebrated with family gatherings, vacations and gift-giving.


The inspections regime put in place to closely monitor Iran's nuclear activity is in jeopardy unless the U.S. and other nations contribute more money, the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday. Yukiya Amano, the agency's director general, said he used his visit to Washington to make the case for an increase to the Trump administration and to U.S. lawmakers who control the federal budget. He said the Vienna-based agency in 2018 needs a 2.1 percent increase to its regular operating budget of roughly 370 million euros, about $400 million. "Without an increase, the IAEA will not be able to implement the verification and monitoring activities in Iran," Amano said. Yet even a continuation of current levels of U.S. funding - which Amana said makes up 25 percent of the IAEA's regular budget - is not a given.


When President Trump sent greetings to the Iranian people on Wednesday for the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, it offered a glimpse into an administration that is still debating how to deal with a country that Mr. Trump has painted as an implacable foe. The five-paragraph statement went through multiple drafts, according to two people involved in the process. Hard-liners in the White House first tried to kill the message, and when that failed, stripped it of references to engaging with the Iranian government or a future in which Iran and the United States might peacefully coexist. Instead, the statement, issued a day after the holiday began, reached out to the Iranian people while ignoring the government in Tehran. It paid tribute to Iranian immigrants in the United States, even as Mr. Trump's travel ban prevented relatives of those immigrants from entering the United States.


An Iranian government official claimed earlier this week that its Russian-made air defenses were compromised by Moscow, leaving Iran and its allies defenseless against Israeli airstrikes. An engineer with Tehran's Ministry of Defense alleged that codes forcing anti-aircraft missiles to treat hostile Israeli fighters as friendly were sold to Tel Aviv, effectively neutralizing Syria and Iran's S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. An Iranian official, described by the Jerusalem Post as a senior member of Iran's Defense Ministry, told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida that Russia had sold "codes" to Israel that identified Israeli aircraft as friendly. The codes were used by Israel to prevent its aircraft from being targeted. Israel has flown dozens of air raids over Syria, and despite advanced air defenses, only the latest raid, flown last Friday, involved an actual missile launch.


A Luxembourg judge denied on Wednesday a request from Iran to annul claims by families of victims of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on $1.6 billion of Iranian assets in Luxembourg, saying a court had to rule on the fundamentals of the case first. The assets Iran held with Luxembourg-based clearing house Clearstream were frozen as part of international sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme and had in theory become available to Iran when those sanctions were lifted after a deal in 2015. Iran had sought an injunction to annul the seizure of the assets by the families of 9/11 victims who had won court cases against Iran in the United States. The Luxembourg judge said that, to decide whether to free up the funds or not, a detailed analysis of the Clearstream system was needed, which was beyond his powers.


Labor MP Joan Ryan said that Iran is attempting to pose a new threat on Israel by funding Hezbollah terrorists and creating a "second front in southern Syria with which to threaten Israel." The British parliament member made the comment about Iran's on-going aggression against Israel as part of a parliamentary debate on Iran's influence in the Middle East that took place earlier this week. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Ryan went on to add that Iran's position on Israel is "utterly malign." She explained that Iranian threats on Israel are not just limited to its nuclear activity but that have now received a new form, with Tehran's funding of Hezbollah's military wing serving as an attempt to undermine Israel's security "through support for terrorism."


In recent decades, the budgeting process in Iran has been such that the budget's capacity to function as the country's most important fiscal policy document has continuously declined. In other words, budgeting has been utilized by successive administrations solely as an instrument to balance revenues and expenditures rather than setting long-term economic policies. The allocation of the lion's share of budgets to current expenditures rather than infrastructure spending greatly explains why the Iranian economy is not moving toward its sought destination. "The infrastructure programs are means of pursuing the development objectives. This is while [such programs] are always marginalized and governments only take heed of current expenditures," leading economic daily Donya-e Eqtesad quoted Gholam Hossein Shafei, the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, as saying Jan. 18.

During his address, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution lauded the unity among the Iranian nation and people's commitment and attachment to the Islamic Revolution's values as well as religious fundaments and issues. Emphasizing the necessity for finding solutions to all problems facing the country in the light of "religious, revolutionary, efficient and highly motivated management," the Leader added, "If officials focus on domestic production with the nation demanding this [from officials], the road will be paved for solving many problems, especially 'youth unemployment', and during new year, the dear nation of Iran will add to the dignity, might, power and prestige of Iran by realizing my main and important demand, which is enthusiastic participation of all eligible [voters] in elections, and will show off its grandeur in the face of enemies by a brilliant participation in the elections."


Iran policy has been one of the most divisive foreign policy issues in recent years. The Obama administration's nuclear deal passed Congress without a single Republican vote, and Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to get tougher on Tehran. And with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington next week, we may see this issue once again near the top of the agenda as Congress is expected to introduce a slew of new initiatives. For all the divisions, today it is on Iran policy that Congress can lead, joining forces across parties and even with the new administration. With Iran now "officially on notice," President Trump has yet to spell out the precise contours of his more aggressive approach. Given the intense debates on Iran during the Obama administration, many members of Congress have spent more time focusing on this foreign policy issue than any other. As administration officials review their options, Congress should seize the opportunity to articulate an assertive approach that can win the support of both the executive and legislative branches.

President Donald Trump promised to rigorously and radically enforce the Iran nuclear agreement, which he called "the worst deal ever negotiated." It sounds tough, but it's an approach that plays into the hands of the Iranian mullahs. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action presents the Trump administration with a bedeviling paradox: The greater the focus on enforcement, the higher the likelihood Iran will emerge with nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal contains limited, temporary and reversible constraints that disappear over time. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog tasked with monitoring the deal, may be able to detect Iranian violations. But Iran doesn't need to cheat. In fact, it has every incentive not to do so.

While an agreement allowing Iranian pilgrims to join this year's hajj is good news, this is no leap forward to future success for the regime in Tehran. Quite obvious is the fact that this regime is facing a new balance of power in the Middle East and across the globe as the Trump administration has begun overhauling his predecessor's disastrous Iran appeasement policy that allowed Tehran ignite the entire region in flames. The visit by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the US and meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House has been described as a turning point in Saudi-US relations. The Deputy Crown Prince, also the kingdom's Defense Minister, has described Iran's destabilizing nature across the globe and support for terrorism as a dangerous challenge for the Middle and the world over. Saudi Arabia is at the front lines of these dilemmas, he said in his recent meeting with his American predecessor James Mattis.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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