Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pompeo Says U.S. Will Keep Strait Of Hormuz Open

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reiterated that his country will keep the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf open to maritime traffic, amid high tensions with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In a talk at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. on July 29, Pompeo responded to a question about the U.S. commitment to keep the vital waterway open at any cost militarily, saying, "We are gonna keep it open", adding, "We are going to build up a maritime security plan.

Britain on Monday ruled out swapping seized oil tankers with Iran as a second UK warship arrived in the Gulf to conduct convoys that have irritated Tehran. A sense of crisis in the world's busiest oil shipping lane has been building up for weeks as Iran responds to US President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign.

As tensions heat up with Iran and North Korea over nuclear weapons, a majority of registered voters thinks the rogue nations pose a risk to the country's safety. Sixty percent say North Korea poses a real national security threat to the U.S. - and an equal number think the same of Iran. "What's interesting here is the stability of threat perception," says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll along with Democrat Chris Anderson. 


On its thirteen anniversary, UN Security Council Resolution 1701-intended to degrade and disarm the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah-is no closer to fulfilment than on the day it was passed.  To the contrary, Hezbollah is now stronger, while the Lebanese government-the party primarily responsible for implementing 1701-continues to passively permit the group's military build-up. Beirut's dereliction is not solely a result of intransigence. Rather, Lebanese sectarianism, and Hezbollah's political alliances and entrenchment among Shias make 1701 inherently unworkable. Instead of admitting this, the international community and the parties most concerned-namely Lebanon and Israel-continue fostering the illusion of 1701's efficacy. Rather than making war less likely, this guarantees its inevitability.

Russian and Chinese military aircraft probed South Korean and Japanese air defenses last week, leading the South Koreans to fire more than 300 warning shots before the intruders departed. This was just the latest manifestation of a deepening alliance between Russia and China. James Dobbins, Howard Shatz and Ali Wyne described the emerging alignment in an April essay in the Diplomat. In 2016, Russia displaced Saudi Arabia as China's largest source of imported oil. In 2017, the two countries held their first joint naval exercise in the Baltic Sea. In June 2018, Xi Jinping called Vladimir Putin "my best, most intimate friend," and later that year Chinese forces participated in the largest military exercise on Russian soil since 1981.


The new UK government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed continued support for the Iran nuclear deal at a crisis meeting of international powers trying to save the 2015 accord. The signal of support from the more populist Johnson government takes place as the deal has come under mounting strain after President Donald Trump withdrew from it last year and reimposed crippling sanctions. Iran, in response, more recently said it would take steps to reduce its compliance every two months until the deal's other parties delivered on the sanctions relief promised in the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran has enriched 24 tons of uranium since signing the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, said the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, on Sunday, according to Radio Farda. Tehran claimed that it had limited its stock of enriched uranium to 300 kg. as required by the JCPOA. Salehi has not explained exactly what he meant by his statement or what happened to the 24 tons of enriched uranium.

These days our fears, being spoilt for choice, can take many shapes and sizes. Mine have settled on a vague image of an ill-fated stash - a giant heap of trouble. Is the age of the terrible stockpile upon us? The stockpile exudes foreboding. Recently Iran confirmed that its uranium stockpile had exceeded the limit originally set by the 2015 nuclear deal. You'll also remember this concept - as mundane as a store cupboard, as frightening as a cache of semi-automatics...


Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri called on China and other countries friendly with Iran on Monday to buy more Iranian oil, the oil ministry news website SHANA reported, as Chinese imports plunged after U.S. sanctions took effect.  "Even though we are aware that friendly countries such as China are facing some restrictions, we expect them to be more active in buying Iranian oil," SHANA quoted Jahangiri as telling visiting senior Chinese diplomat Song Tao.

Taha Shakouri keeps finding remote corners to play in at a Tehran children's charity hospital, unaware that his doctors are running out of chemo medicine needed to treat the eight-year-old boy's liver cancer. With Iran's economy in free fall after the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal and escalated sanctions on Tehran, prices of imported medicines have soared as the national currency tumbled about 70% against the dollar.

An Iranian ship called Bavand, which had been at the heart of a geopolitical spat between Brasilia and Tehran, set sail from Brazil on Monday after receiving fuel from state-run Petroleo Brasileiro, the port of Paranagu√° said.  Meanwhile, a second Iranian ship, the Termeh, which set sail from Paranagu√° port two days ago, was on Monday heading to the southern Brazilian port of Imbituba, where it is due to pick up a shipment of corn before heading back to Iran. 

The Iranian minister of health and medical education, Saeed Namaki, has a big problem with Twitter. In an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency, he claimed that his opponents pay $4,000 for each tweet critical of him and the Health Ministry. Even his relatives have become a target for his opponents, he alleged, for no other reason than that he had begun to address corruption inside his ministry. According to Namaki, more than $1.3 billion earmarked for the import of medical equipment has "disappeared" and no one knows who is at fault. 


Iranians sending images to a U.S.-based activist over an anti-headscarf campaign could face up to 10 years in prison. The activist, Masih Alinejad, founded the "White Wednesdays'' campaign in Iran to encourage women to post photographs of themselves without headscarves online as a way of opposing the compulsory hijab. The semi-official Fars news agency on Monday quoted the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, as saying that "those who film themselves or others while removing the hijab and send photos to this woman ... will be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison.''


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's offer for an interview with Iran's state TV has been met with positive reaction of a number of Iranian officials, who see this as an opportunity to challenge Pompeo. While limiting Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's movements in New York, Pompeo told The Washington Post he would accept any offer to go on Iranian television and address Iranians to
say "we care deeply about them - that we're supportive of the Iranian people, that we understand that the revolutionary theocracy is not acting in a way that is in their best interest."

So far the Trump administration has been as dependable as a Rolex. When global actors threaten American interests, Trump takes notice. Washington then pressures with one hand and offers an off-ramp with the other. Iran is a case in point. Secretary of State Pompeo just renewed the U.S. offer to renew negotiations without preconditions. He even offered to jump on a plane to Tehran. Only time will tell if they take him up on his offer.


Iran's state TV says a former mayor of Tehran who also served as one of the country's vice presidents was sentenced to death for killing his wife. Tuesday's report quotes judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying that Mohammad Ali Najafi was convicted of fatally shooting his wife, Mitra Ostad. The verdict can be appealed within 20 days. Police detained Najafi in May, after he went to authorities and confessed to the killing. At the time, officials said Najafi and Ostad, his second his wife, were having domestic problems.

The spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry says Mohammad Javad Zarif has complained in a letter to Khamenei about the way his character was depicted in a controversial series on state TV. Abbas Mousavi told the press in Tehran on Monday July 29 that the TV series Gando aired during June and July has portrayed a disparaging image of Zarif and the Foreign Ministry.


Israel and the United States are jointly working to have the United Nations Security Council to upgrade the mandate of the international peacekeeping force based in southern Lebanon, providing it with greater authority in an effort to weaken Hezbollah. Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post that Israel is working with the US to upgrade UNIFIL's mandate, specifically to give it the ability to visit and inspect any area in southern Lebanon. Under the existing mandate, UNIFIL cannot enter villages and urban areas unless it first coordinates such visits with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Israel used their F-35i stealth fighter jets to conduct attacks on Iranian targets to Iraq in the past month, hitting two Iraqi bases used by Iranian forces and proxies and storing Iranian ballistic missiles, the London-based Saudi daily Al Sharq Al Awsat reported on Tuesday. The first attack happened on July 19 at a base in Amreli in the Saladin province of Iraq. Iraqi and Iranian sources blamed Israel at the time, and Al Sharq Al Awsat reported that "diplomatic sources" confirmed this to be true, specifying that the attack was carried out by an Israeli F-35.

Commander of the Iranian army's navy who is visiting Russia has announced an agreement for joint naval exercises between Iranian and Russian forces in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Hossein Khanzadi expressed hope that the joint exercises will take place in the next few months, according to Iran's official news outlet, IRNA. During Khanzadi's visit to Russia, an agreement was also signed for expanding military cooperation between the two countries.

Israel has expanded the scope of its Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat amid reports that Tel Aviv carried out an airstrike earlier this month against an Iranian rockets depot northeast of Baghdad. The July 19 attack was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet, they added. On Sunday, the Ashraf base in Iraq, a former base used by the Iranian opposition People's Mujahedin of Iran, was targeted by an air raid, said sources.


Yemen's Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani strongly condemned the "abhorrent massacre" committed by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in the Al Thabet market in Saada. The minister said the militias deliberately targeted the popular market with Katyusha rockets, killing 10 civilians and injuring 20, including a number of children. "This terrible crime by the Houthi militias against people is a collective punishment for their national stand, rejection of the coup and support for the legitimate government,"he tweeted.


In new video released Monday, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer is heard telling a British warship not to interfere or put their "life in danger" as the paramilitary force, using speedboats and a helicopter, seized a U.K.-flagged commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month. The video includes a shot apparently filmed on the day of the July 19 incident from above the British warship Foxtrot 236 that was in the vicinity of the U.K.-flagged Stena Impero, showing the British navy unable to prevent Iran's seizure of the ship in the critical waterway.

The United Kingdom's Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has ordered the Department for International Development (DFID) to disclose audit reports of accounts into which British grant money was transferred and allegedly used to pay salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists. The decision, signed on Friday by Jonathan Slee, senior case officer for the Information Commissioner's Office, overturns a 2018 refusal by both the DFID and its internal reviewer to disclose these reports, following a Freedom of Information request made by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) last year.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has dismissed the idea of a tanker swap with Iran in a Monday morning interview with BBC World Service. A day earlier on Sunday, Kamal Kahrrazi, Chairman of Iran's Foreign Relations Strategic Council, a body that operates under the aegis of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office, suggested that Tehran will consider hastening "judiciary procedures" about a British-flagged oil tanker it has detained, if Iran's Grace 1 oil tanker which remains under detention in Gibraltar is released.

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said his country is ready to reduce its nuclear commitments if Europe is unable to secure the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal signed by Iran and the six world powers in 2015. Mousavi's comments come one day after Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China met in Vienna to discuss the fate of the JCPOA, from which the United States withdrew in May 2018.

The owner of a British tanker seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz earlier this month raised concerns about the safety of the crew still on board. "We are concerned about the potential impact a prolonged period of uncertainty will have on the welfare of both crew and their families," Stena Bulk, the shipping unit of Sweden's Stena AB, said in a statement Monday. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is still holding the vessel, the Stena Impero, and 23 crew members detained on July 19. 

European nations, alarmed by Iran's capture of a British oil tanker, are mounting a response to protect their commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf. The Royal Navy has started to escort British ships, and a plan for a European naval mission has been endorsed by Denmark, France and Italy. It's a promising start. But effectively curbing Iran's misbehavior and safeguarding ships in the region will require a more ambitious -and truly international - effort. Most important, it needs to involve the U.S. Navy.

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 press@uani.com.

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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