Iran Threatens to go Nuclear (Daniel 8:4)

Iran threatens uranium enrichment, suspend ‘some’ nuclear deal commitments

Iran threatens uranium enrichment, suspend ‘some’ nuclear deal commitments

TEHRAN (Rahnuma):  Iran’s president said Wednesday that it will begin keeping its excess uranium and heavy water from its nuclear program, setting a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear deal with world powers before it will resume higher uranium enrichment.

Hassan Rouhani’s address to the nation came on the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the atomic accord. Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged that the situation was dire.“This surgery is to save the (deal), not destroy it,” Rouhani said.

The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. After the US withdrew from the accord it restored crippling sanctions on Iran, exacerbating a severe economic crisis.

Iran sent letters Wednesday on its decision to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany. All were signatories to the nuclear deal and continue to support it. A letter was also to go to Russia.
“If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal,” Rouhani said.

There was no immediate response from the US However, the White House said Sunday it would dispatch an aircraft carrier and a bomber wing to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.

Under terms of the deal, Iran can keep a stockpile of no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. That’s compared to the 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

The US last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, as well as it being able to sell its heavy water to Oman. The US also has ended waivers for nations buying Iranian crude oil, a key source of revenue for Iran’s government.

Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67%, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90%. However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20%, scientists say the time needed to reach 90% is halved. Iran has previously enriched to 20%.

Trump Tries to Save Nuclear Face

Trump strikes dovish tone on North Korea, Iran

WASHINGTON D.C.: President Donald Trump Monday hailed a “great respect” between the US and nuclear-armed North Korea, as he also held out the possibility of talks with Iran, stressing he did not want “terrible things” to happen.

Ahead of summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump played down recent belligerence from Pyongyang, which last month fired short-range missiles that raised tensions in the region.

“I personally think that lots of good things will come with North Korea, I feel that. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I feel that” Trump told reporters at Abe’s office.

“There’s good respect built, maybe great respect built between… the United States and North Korea, but we will see what happens,” added the president, whose failed Hanoi talks in February with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sparked a fresh spike in tensions.

He noted that when he came to office, there was “testing all the time, nuclear testing at the highest level, and that seems to have stopped”.

On Sunday, Trump dismissed the recent missile tests from the North as “some small weapons” and appeared to undercut his National Security Advisor John Bolton, who had said the day before that the launches contravened UN Security Council resolutions.

Trump said the recent tests had “disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me”, which was widely seen as a reference to his hawkish advisor.

Bolton also took fire from a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman who described him as “structurally faulty” and a “human defect” that “must go away as soon as possible”.

‘Terrible things’

Trump also struck a relatively dovish tone on Iran, amid mounting tensions with the historic American foe.

I do believe that Iran would like to talk, and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” Trump said.

“We’ll see what happens, but I know for a fact that the prime minister (Abe) is very close with the leadership of Iran… nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”

Abe is reportedly weighing a trip to Tehran in a bid to mediate in the Middle East crisis and Trump appeared to give the green light, saying “we’ll see what happens, that would be fine”.

Trump is in Japan as the first foreign leader to visit the country’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito — an honour Abe hopes will help charm the US president when it comes to thorny trade talks.

And while the US president again lashed out at what he called a “tremendous imbalance” in the trade relationship between the world’s top and number-three economies, he said: “I’m sure that will work out over a period of time.”

“I think we will be announcing some things, probably in August, that will be very good for both countries.”

On Sunday, Trump had already taken a softer note, saying that “much” of that deal would wait until Abe faces upper house elections likely in July — as rumours swirl that the popular prime minister will combine that vote with a snap general election.

Top Japanese and American trade negotiators spent more than two hours locked in talks on Saturday night but failed to achieve a breakthrough, although the Japanese side said there was more “understanding” between the two.

‘Great honour’

Monday marked the start of the official programme for the two leaders after a fun-filled weekend of sumo, golf and meals out. Trump said on Sunday he was having a “great time” with his friend and close ally Abe.

Trump said it was a “great honour” to be the first to meet Naruhito, who took the Chrysanthemum Throne only three weeks ago after his father stepped down in the first abdication in two centuries.

In the morning, Trump, dressed in a dark suit and red tie, reviewed the Japanese honour guard and greeted dozens of Japanese and visiting US officials as a military band played.

Naruhito, wearing a light blue tie, and his wife Empress Masako, who was in a white hat and jacket, accompanied Trump and his wife Melania, who wore a summery white dress and tall red high heels.

Walking together through the palace, notable for its elegant, restrained decor, the two couples then sat down for a further chat where official translators found themselves with little to do — Naruhito having gone to Oxford and Masako graduating from Harvard.

In the evening, Trump and Melania will be back at the palace for a banquet.

That will mark the lavish high point in a Japan visit laden with feel-good moments aimed at celebrating US-Japanese ties at a time of growing regional uncertainty due to US trade policies, a rising China and nuclear-armed North Korea.

New Jersey #1 Disaster State: The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. But some places experience more than their fair share of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and severe weather — so much so that certain locales earn frightening nicknames, such as Tornado Alley. No matter where you live, make sure you have the right kinds and necessary amounts of insurance coverage to protect your finances.

  • Estimated property damage (2006-2013): $26.4 billion
  • Most frequent disasters: damaging wind, winter storms, floods and flash floods
  • Weather-related fatalities (2006-2013): 87

New Jersey earns the top spot on this list, in large part due to damage wrought by Sandy — which had weakened from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it the Jersey Shore — in October 2012. The state was among the hardest hit by Sandy, which was the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, after Hurricane Katrina. Many homes and businesses were destroyed along the Jersey Shore, and a portion of the Atlantic City Boardwalk washed away. Shortly after Sandy hit, another storm brought wet snow that caused more power outages and damage.

Homeowners who live along the coast or in areas where there are frequent storms should take steps before hurricane season begins to protect their homes and finances from damage.

Trump Prepares for War Against Iran

White House downplays prospect of conflict but blames Iran for tanker bombings and Iraq attack

Guardian staff and agencies

The US will send hundreds of additional troops and a dozen fighter jets to the Middle East in the coming weeks to counter what the Pentagon has said is an escalating campaign by Iran to plan attacks against the US and its interests in the region.

And for the first time, Pentagon officials on Friday publicly blamed Iran and its proxies for recent tanker bombings near United Arab Emirates and a rocket attack in Iraq.

Donald Trump told reporters Friday that the 1,500 troops would have a “mostly protective” role as part of a build-up that began this month in response to what the US said was a threat from Iran.

The announcement caps three weeks of elevated tensions with Iran, as the administration hurled accusations of an imminent attack and abruptly deployed navy warships to the region. The moves alarmed members of Congress, who demanded proof and details, amid fears the US was lurching toward open conflict.

Adding to the uncertainty, Trump alternated between tough talk and a more conciliatory message, insisting he is open to negotiations with the Islamic Republic. On Friday he seemed to downplay the prospect of conflict when he spoke at the White House.

“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight and I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” he said.

In response, a senior Iranian military commander has said he hoped “rational Americans” would rein in Washington’s “radical elements” and prevent a war.

“We believe rational Americans and their experienced commanders will not let their radical elements lead them into a situation from which it would be very difficult to get out, and that is why they will not enter a war,” Brig Gen Hassan Seifi, an assistant to Iran’s army chief, told the country’s semi-official news agency Mehr on Saturday.

Australia also weighed in, saying it was deeply concerned by Iran’s recent comments, but backed the Iran nuclear deal – officially called the joint comprehensive plan of action – which Trump has heavily criticised.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said her government had made its concerns regarding Iran’s destabilising activities well-known.

“Australia continues to urge Iran to exercise restraint and to comply with its commitments,” she said. “The nuclear non-proliferation objectives of the joint comprehensive plan of action are worthy and serve the best interests of peace, stability and regional security. Australia strongly supports these objectives and encourages parties to the plan to redouble their efforts to honour its provisions.”

In a related move, the Trump administration on Friday used an emergency legal loophole to move ahead with the sale of $7bn in precision-guided munitions and other military support to Saudi Arabia, citing threats the kingdom faces from Iran.

V-Adm Michael Gilday told Pentagon reporters that the US had “very high confidence” that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were responsible for the explosions on four tankers, and that Iranian proxies in Iraq fired rockets into Baghdad. He said Iran also tried to deploy modified small boats that were capable of launching cruise missiles.

The deployments announced Friday include a squadron of 12 fighter jets, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, and a number of military engineers to beef up protection for forces.

“We are going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” the president said at the White House, before setting off on a trip to Japan. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens.”

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Gilday, the joint staff director, did not provide direct evidence to back up claims tying Iran to the attacks. He told reporters the conclusions were based on intelligence and evidence gathered in the region, and officials said they were trying to declassify some of the information so that it could be made public.

The announcement of additional forces was met with mixed reviews.

The chairman of the House armed services committee, Democrat Adam Smith of Washington, called the build-up “unsettling”.

“Leaders from both sides of the aisle have called for de-escalation. At first blush, this move does not fit the bill,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “Without a clearly articulated strategy, adding more personnel and mission systems seems unwise, and appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.”

Earlier this week, officials said military planners had outlined options that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. The acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, later said planners hadn’t settled on a figure. The US currently has about 70,000 troops across the Middle East.

Tension had been rising with Iran for more than a year. The Trump administration withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reinstated American sanctions that have badly damaged the Iranian economy. The president has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the US argues destabilise the region.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

The Iraq and Iran Horns Unify (Daniel 8:8)

Iran says will defend itself against aggression as Iraq offers support

Iran will defend itself against any military or economic aggression, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday, calling on European states to do more to preserve a nuclear agreement his country signed.

Speaking at a Baghdad news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hakim, Zarif said Iran wanted to build balanced relations with its Gulf Arab neighbours and had proposed signing a non-aggression pact with them.

We will defend against any war efforts against Iran, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength,” he said.

Strains have increased between Iran and the United States after this month’s attack on oil tankers in the Gulf region. Washington, a firm backer of Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, has blamed the attacks on Iran.

Tehran has distanced itself from the bombings, but the United States has sent an aircraft carrier and an extra 1,500 troops to the Gulf, sparking concern over the risk of conflict in a volatile region.

Iraq stands with Iran and is willing to act as an intermediary between its neighbour and the United States, Hakim said. Baghdad does not believe an “economic blockade” is fruitful, he added in a reference to U.S. sanctions.

“We are saying very clearly and honestly that we oppose the unilateral actions taken by the United States. We stand with the Islamic Republic of Iran in its position,” Hakim said.

The United States and Iran are Iraq’s two main allies.

Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi arrived in Oman and discussed “regional developments” with Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, Oman News Agency reported.

“Araqchi stressed the importance of peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and warned against the destructive policies of the United States and some of its regional allies,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on its website. “He rejected any direct or indirect talks with America.”

Bin Alawi last week said that his country is trying “with other parties” to calm Iran-U.S. tensions.

Nuclear referendum?  

Washington has been seeking to tighten sanctions against Iran as relations worsen under U.S. President Donald Trump, who last year pulled out of a nuclear agreement that predecessor Barack Obama had signed with Iran and other world powers in 2015.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani floated the idea of holding a referendum over Iran’s nuclear programme, Iranian media reported.

A referendum on the programme could give Iran’s leaders space to manoeuvre and a chance to resolve the stand-off with the United States.

Top Iranian leaders have said they are not seeking war with the United States and officials speaking to Reuters from Tehran last week said that despite the sharpened rhetoric with Washington, authorities are trying to avoid open conflict.

“Article 59 of the Constitution (referendum ) is a deadlock breaker … and could be a problem-solver at any junction,” the semi-official news agency ILNA quoted Rouhani as saying late on Saturday.

Rouhani said that, when he was a top nuclear negotiator in 2004, he had proposed holding a referendum on the nuclear issue to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran has held only three referendums since its 1979 Islamic revolution — to approve the setting up of an Islamic Republic and then to approve and amend the constitution.

Washington says it has built up the U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Tehran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described U.S. moves as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”.

Separately, a deputy commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East was at its “weakest in history” despite talk of a build-up.

Iran continues to suppress Christianity

Iranian Intelligence Shuts Down Church, Removes Cross

The Assyrian Christian community in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz has been left in a state of shock after intelligence agents forced a Presbyterian church to close earlier this month, Assyrian International News Agency (Aina) reports.

Religious freedom charity Article18 said: “Intelligence agents stormed the 100-year-old church, officially recognized as a national heritage site in Iran, on Thursday, May 9, changed all the locks, tore down the cross from the church tower, and ordered the churchwarden to leave.”

“They made it clear that the Assyrian people are no longer allowed to hold any worship service there,” Article18 reported.

The source also said church members had been fearful since just a few days after Christmas when agents from the intelligence ministry prevented pastors from other churches to visit the Tabriz church for a joint-worship service with other Assyrian and Armenian Christians.

Quoting a source, Aina reported on May 9, “a large number” of agents from the ministry of intelligence and a state agency called Eiko entered the “church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately.”

Eiko, also known as the executive headquarters of Imam’s directive, is under the direct control of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Eiko was established from thousands of properties confiscated in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. A Reuters investigation found that the organization built “its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians,” also seizing property from members of religious minorities, business people and Iranians living abroad. It falsely claimed many properties were abandoned.

The 100-year old church, owned by the Assyrian Presbytery, was “confiscated” by a revolutionary court order in 2011. The congregation, however, were able to continue using the building for services in the Assyrian language – until this month’s raid.

“Many churches owned by Protestants have been confiscated in Iran,” according to Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji.

The reason can be deliberate targeting of any institution remotely linked with Americans.

“In most cases, the government has been unable to repurpose them, especially if they were listed. So they typically remain as abandoned buildings, often neglected, and turned into ruins before being demolished, as was the case with the church in Kerman.”



Christians from Iran’s historic Assyrian and Armenian communities are recognized minority, who are usually able to freely practice their faith, providing they don’t open their doors to Muslim-born Iranians by holding services in Persian.

The Islamic Republic authorities have not yet responded to the news concerning the century-old church in Tabriz.

The Assyrian presence in Iran goes back 4,000 years.

The Assyrian community in Iran numbered approximately 200,000 before the 1979 revolution. Many Assyrians left the country in the after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, primarily for the United States. Current estimates of the Assyrian population in Iran range from 50,000 in 2007 to 32,000 in 2015. The Iranian capital, Tehran, is home to the majority of Iranian Assyrians; however, approximately 15,000 Assyrians reside in northwestern Iran, in the city of Urmia and various Assyrian villages in the surrounding area, in West Azarbaijan province, northwest Iran.

Assyrians were the first people who warmly welcomed an American Presbyterian missionary and linguist, Justin Perkins, on his arrival in Urmia.

Justin Perkins, known as the first U.S. citizen residing in Iran, established a missionary center in Urmia in 1835.

Perkins, later dubbed the “Apostle of Persia”, was assigned to look after the remaining members of the Assyrian Church of the East in northwestern Iran.

Appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Perkins began preaching, generally with the full consent of the local Assyrian church clergy, and often in their churches.

Dozens of Assyrians left Iran for America through Perkins and his successors, mainly settling in Chicago.