Monday, July 31, 2017

Eye on Iran: US Navy Says Iran Sea Encounter "Professional"

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The U.S. Navy has responded to a report by Iran's official news agency that a U.S. aircraft carrier fired a warning shot during an "unprofessional" confrontation with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Friday. The Navy describes the encounter "as safe and professional." The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet says one of its helicopters was on a routine patrol in international airspace when it saw several Iranian vessels approaching American ships "at a high rate of speed." The Navy says the helicopter tried to establish communications but received no response, so it sent out flares, prompting the Iranian boats to halt their approach. Navy spokesman Lt. Ian M. McConnaughey says that after communications were established, the U.S. saw the Iranians conduct a "gun exercise" that involved weapons being fired into the water away from American ships.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned six Iran-based entities that officials said Friday are central to Tehran's ballistic-missile program, a move coming one day after the country tested a rocket designed to carry a satellite. The Treasury, calling the rocket launch part of a broader series of provocations by Tehran, said the new measures target subsidiaries of Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group that make components, provide fuel, research and ground support for Iran's missile program. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctioned entities underscore the administration's concern over Iran's continued development and testing of ballistic missiles. "The U.S. government will continue to aggressively counter Iran's ballistic-missile-related activity, whether it be a provocative space launch, its development of threatening ballistic-missile systems, or likely support to Yemeni Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia such as occurred this past weekend," Mr. Mnuchin said.

The United States punished Iran on Friday for launching a satellite-carrying rocket into space by hitting six Iranian entities with sanctions targeting the country's ballistic missiles program. Three European nations that helped broker the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2015 joined the U.S. in condemning the launch, and said it was too close for comfort to the type of intercontinental ballistic missiles used to deliver a nuclear payload. At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Iran was "breaking its obligation" and added, "We can't trust them." The U.S. sanctions hit six Iranian subsidiaries of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, described by the Treasury Department as "central" to Iran's ballistic missiles program. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cast the sanctions as part of an ongoing U.S. effort to aggressively oppose Iran's ballistic missile activity, including what he called a "provocative space launch" carried out by the Islamic Republic on Thursday.


US President Donald Trump should only withdraw from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal after the Islamic Republic violates the deal amid heavy enforcement. This was declared by Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker to a Washington Post audience... Corker reiterated the position of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, saying, "You can only tear the agreement up one time. So when you're going to tear it up since nothing bad is happening today."


Iran and Iraq are moving closer to building a pipeline that would export crude oil from the northern Iraqi fields of Kirkuk via Iran, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Sunday after meeting his Iraqi counterpart Jabar al-Luaibi, according to the official news site of the Iranian oil ministry.  Agreements were reached between the two ministers about an international company that will carry out a feasibility study of the project, Zanganeh was quoted as saying in the SHANA report. Iraq and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding in February to study the construction of the pipeline. Separately, Zanganeh said Iran would begin exporting gas to the Iraqi city of Basra in coming months. He said there had been some problems in receiving payments for current gas exports to Iraq via banks and that Iran was receiving cash payments.


Nearly 90,000 Iranians are expected to attend the haj in Mecca this year, and were due to start arriving on Sunday, after Tehran boycotted the pilgrimage last year amid tensions with Saudi Arabia.  Around 800 pilgrims were due to leave Iran on three flights to nearby Medina on Sunday, the director of the haj at Iran's Haj and Pilgrimage Organization, Nasrollah Farahmand told state media.  Approximately 86,500 Iranians are expected to attend the haj in total this year and 800 coordinators have traveled to Saudi Arabia to help Iranians during the pilgrimage, he said. Iran boycotted the haj last year after hundreds of people, many of them Iranians, died in a crush at the pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in 2015, and following a diplomatic rift between the two countries who are vying for power and influence in the region. In a speech to haj organizers on Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iranians would never forget the "catastrophic events" of 2015 and called on Saudi Arabia to ensure the security of all pilgrims.

Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that an appeals court has approved the jail sentences for 10 people charged with attacking Saudi diplomatic missions. The Sunday report says that a lawyer associated with the case said the prison sentences for the 10 attackers, ranging from three to six months each, was approved by the appeals court. The report's unnamed attorney also noted that four of the defendants were clerics and therefore would have to appear before the Special Clerical Court. The trial began in July 2016. In January 2016, protesters in Iran, angered by the execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by the Saudi government, ransacked and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran and also attacked a Saudi consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad.


Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces sentences on seven verdicts of misusing billions of dollars in government funds while in office, the public prosecutor at Iran's Supreme Audit Court said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday. In one case, dating back to Ahmadinejad's second term in office between 2009 and 2013, the misused funds amounted to more than two billion dollars, the prosecutor, Fayaz Shojaie, said in his interview with the newspaper Etemaad. The verdicts have been announced to the parliament, Shojaie said. The Supreme Audit Court operates under the supervision of the Iranian parliament.  It is not clear whether Ahmadinejad was formally tried by the court and is facing sentencing, or whether the Iranian parliament must now follow up on the court's verdicts. Ahmadinejad gained support among poor and working class Iranians by promising to share the country's oil wealth with them. Subsidy reforms implemented in his second term were aimed at delivering subsidies to the most needy while cutting their overall cost to the government.


President Trump is no fan of Iran. As a candidate, he had promised to tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Having been frustrated in his attempts to do that - at least for now - the administration and its backers have been rumbling about changing the regime... All this has mostly been rhetorical, and has done little to address whom Washington would promote to replace the mullahs. But would a more serious overt or covert effort in Iran bring benefits - such as a friendly Iranian regime - to the United States?

By increasing sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard, Washington can signal a different Iran policy. A blanket designation would facilitate targeting numerous entities owned or controlled by the guards' business fronts. The administration need not worry about American compliance with the JCPOA. Even the Obama administration fully conceded that sanctions on non-nuclear activities are consistent with the deal. The Revolutionary Guard commanders' angry response to potential new sanctions shows how painful a terrorism designation might be. While the Trump administration should take every precaution to defend American personnel and security architecture in the region, it must not allow Tehran to intimidate the United States. A weak response to Iranian threats could have lasting repercussions. Issuing a terrorist designation against the overlords of the Islamic Republic's foreign adventures is long overdue.

In November 1979, a few months after Iran's Mullahs assumed power, the world got a bitter taste of what was about to come when Iran's Supreme Leader Khomeini ordered suppressive forces under the guise of students to storm the US Embassy in Tehran to take 52 hostages. It was only after months of negotiations and generous concessions that the hostages were returned to the US in January 1981. Unfortunately, this set a catastrophic example for the following decades, letting Iran's rulers know that taking hostages is a beneficial business. Ever since, Iran's rulers have been continuing to implement these old mafia tactics. They are part of Iran's terrorist arsenal which also includes bombings, the support of numerous global terror organizations like Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the export of its 'revolution" into other countries through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), mass executions and assassinations of opponents Hostage taking operations mainly target foreign and dual nationals inside and outside Iran.

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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