Worse than Disturbing

Posted By Tim Hains
On Date June 16, 2019South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on „State of the Union“ that it is „extremely disturbing“ and „shocking“ to see escalating tensions with Iran.„There is a pattern that is disturbingly reminiscent of the run-up to the war in Iraq, in some cases being driven by the same people,“ he added. „The fact that one of the architects of the Iraq War is the president’s national security adviser right now, when the president himself has pretended that he was against the Iraq War all along, this is shocking. And it should be extremely disturbing to all of us.“JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let’s turn to Iran. The United States is blaming Iran for an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week. The U.S. says this video that we’re showing you right now proves it. The U.S. government said it shows Iranian sailors removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers.Secretary of State Pompeo called the attack part of — quote — „an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.“Do you agree? And how would you respond if you were president right now?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think we need a measured assessment of information as it continues to come in.

There’s no question that Iran has a pattern of malign activities. There’s also no question that there is a pattern that is disturbingly reminiscent of the run-up to the war in Iraq, in some cases being driven by the same people.

I mean, the fact that one of the architects of the Iraq War is the president’s national security adviser right now, when the president himself has pretended that he was against the Iraq War all along, this is shocking. And it should be extremely disturbing to all of us.

As somebody who felt five years ago, when I left Afghanistan, that I was one of the last troops leaving, and five years ago, notes that we’re still there. And, pretty soon, you’re going to be old enough to enlist and be sent over and have not even been alive on 9/11.

I think we have learned as a country in my lifetime just how hard it is to end a war. We’d better be working very hard to make sure we don’t start one.

And you when you look at the destabilizing chain reaction that appears to have been initiated when this president withdrew us from the Iran nuclear deal, I’m very concerned about the stability of the region and the possibility that this is a dynamic that even the president won’t be able to control, if it continues to move in the direction of escalation and hostility.

TAPPER: But what would you do if you were president? Because whatever you think about the path that the president is taking us, in terms — taking the nation, in terms of withdrawing from the Iran deal, sanctions on Iran, sending a fleet to the region, to the Strait of Hormuz, this is an act of violence by Iran, if you believe Secretary Pompeo and the Pentagon.

Do you believe Secretary Pompeo and the Pentagon that Iran is behind this? And what would you do?

BUTTIGIEG: So, as president, the first thing I would do is consult with the intelligence community, and not politicize their findings, but try to find out what’s going on.

I think, at this point, there’s still a lot that we need to make sure we understand about what’s going on there. There’s no question that the U.S. has an interest in maintaining the security and safety and freedom of movement in those key shipping lanes.

There’s also no question that, whatever we do, we need to make sure that we’re not contributing to a dynamic that could become more and more unstable, and could lead to something that could get away from the White House itself.

TAPPER: Do you believe Secretary Pompeo?

BUTTIGIEG: Based on what we have — I mean, what we have seen is video evidence.

But I think we also want to see a lot more context about exactly what’s happening. And that’s hopefully what’s being made available to the president, perhaps in forms that can’t be made public. That’s the question, the set of questions I would be asking as president.

And, on the public side, we’re going to have to see more information come in.

More Ammo Added to the Fire

U.S. BASE IN IRAQ HIT BY ROCKETS AS NEW PHOTOS RELEASED CLAIMING TO SHOW IRAN BEHIND GULF ATTACKS

Newsweek Exclusive Details Military Options For Iran Ground Invasion
NEWSINTERNATIONAL AFFAIRSMIDDLE EASTIRAN

An Iraqi military base where U.S. and allied coalition troops are stationed has been targeted by a rocket attack just as the Pentagon released new photos purporting to show Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The Iraqi military’s official Security Media Cell reported Monday that „a short time ago, three Katyusha rockets fell on Camp Taji,“ a military installation also known as Camp Cooke, located about 17 miles north of Baghdad. The apparent attack came just two days after unknown assailants fired rockets at Balad air base, another Iraqi installation where U.S. military personnel were present.

No casualties were reported in the previous attack, though the Security Media Cell said more details would be forthcoming about the latest incident, which also came amid a spike in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which has begun to scale back its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal that the White House pulled out of completely on a year ago.

President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the deal despite it still being supported by Iran and fellow signatories China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom was accompanied by a „maximum pressure“ campaign of strict sanctions designed to undermine the Islamic Republic’s economy. As Tehran dismissed Washington’s warnings of a heightened threat posed by Iranian forces and their allies in the Middle East, recent incidents have left the region on edge.

Iraq, which has close ties to both the U.S. and Iran, has found itself caught in the middle of the latest unrest as various Shiite Muslim paramilitaries supportive of Tehran threatened to expel U.S. troops, which have largely been present in the country since overthrowing its former government and attempting to quel a Sunni Muslim insurgency led first by Al-Qaeda and then the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Iran, too, was active in battling these jihadis, but also accused the Pentagon of destabilizing the country, as Washington has accused Tehran of doing.

Isolated rocket attacks have occurred near U.S. government facilities in past months and have usually been blamed by the Trump administration on Iran, which has denied any role. The U.S. has also accused Iran of being behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, located less than 100 miles away from the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important maritime oil route and the subject of dueling threats by both countries.

Both U.S. and Iranian military personnel responded to the most recent incident, which occurred Thursday, but the Pentagon has released footage it claimed showed Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the damaged vessels, something purported to prove Tehran was behind the attacks. Iran has dismissed the charges, but on Monday the Pentagon released additional, clearer photos again alleging they tied the Revolutionary Guards to the scene.

Carla Babb

@CarlaBabbVOA

#BREAKING Latest images from US military show better view of what appears to be Iran #IRGC on fast attack craft approaching damaged tanker, removing limpet mine. Damage appears to be clearly made by limpet mine, weapon used by #Iran in past. pic.twitter.com/i6PNQgGUGX

Also on Monday, Iranian ambassador to the U.K. Hamid Baeidinejad warned that Tehran and Washington were currently „heading towards a confrontation.“ He called on the U.S. to end its sanctions policy, which he described as a form of „economic terrorism.“

A number of experts have expressed skepticism toward the Trump administration’s attempts to link Iran to recent attacks. Some drawing comparisons to former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq based on charges that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and supported militant groups⁠ — accusations that later proved to be false.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and others have specifically pointed to White House national security adviser John Bolton, an architect of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, as potentially pushing the country toward another conflict in the Middle East. Zarif has grouped Bolton in with a so-called „B-Team“ including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.A.E. President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all vocal critics of the Islamic Republic who he claimed sought war between the U.S. and Iran.

More Troops are Sent to Iran

Iran Threatens to Exceed Some Limits of Nuclear Deal, and Trump Orders Deployment of 1,000 More Troops

Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility. Officials said they will soon stockpile more enriched uranium than allowed by a 2015 accord.

Hasan Sarbakhshian/Associated Press

By Edward Wong, Helene Cooper and Megan Specia

June 17, 2019

WASHINGTON — Tensions between the United States and Iran flared on Monday as Tehran said it would soon breach a key element of the 2015 international pact limiting its nuclear program, while President Trump ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East and vowed again that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Pentagon’s announcement of the troop deployment came three days after attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the administration has blamed Iran for. And it came hours after Iran said it was within days of violating a central element of the landmark 2015 agreement — intended to curb its ability to develop a nuclear weapon — unless European nations agreed to help it blunt crippling American economic sanctions.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that within 10 days the country will have produced and kept in its stockpiles more low-enriched uranium — the sort used to fuel power plants — than allowed by the 2015 containment deal. The agency also left open the possibility that it might soon begin enriching the uranium to higher levels of purity, edging it closer to what would be necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Trump pulled out of the 2015 pact last year, saying that it was not tough enough on Iran. In doing so, he put intense strain on the international coalition that had backed the agreement and wanted to keep it alive. And he left Iran trapped between continuing to abide by the deal’s provisions without getting any of its benefits or abandoning it and provoking a more intense conflict with the United States.

With Iran now on the verge of breaching the deal, the White House called for greater international pressure on the country, even as European officials urged restraint between the two longtime adversaries.

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said that the country would soon exceed the limits on nuclear fuel it is permitted to have under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump has made it clear he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” the National Security Council said in a statement.

The additional 1,000 troops being sent to the region comes on top of 1,500 dispatched in May. They will be used mainly for surveillance of Iranian activities and protecting American forces already in the Middle East. The Pentagon had considered plans for deployment of up to 6,000 additional troops.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said in a statement.

The announcement from Tehran was Iran’s latest signal that it would abandon the 2015 pact unless other signatories help it offset economic sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at European countries to persuade them to break with Washington and restore to Tehran some of the economic benefits of the deal.

Iran had been abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal, negotiated under President Barack Obama, before Mr. Trump pulled out, and has continued to do so since the withdrawal by the United States. But as American sanctions have squeezed the Iranian economy, Tehran has warned that it could not remain in the deal without getting European help to find workarounds to the sanctions.

“This was an entirely predictable consequence of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and maximum pressure strategy,” said Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution organization. “In practice, maximum pressure has produced maximum peril and minimum strategic results.”

[The U.S. has turned up the pressure on Iran. See the timeline of events.]

The mechanism of American sanctions may actually have sped Iran to the point where its stockpile of uranium is on the verge of violating the 2015 agreement’s terms. In May, the State Department announced that it might penalize countries that transfer enriched uranium out of Iran.

Until now, Iran has shipped most of the low-enriched uranium it produces out of the country, swapping it for natural uranium. That allows it to continue producing small amounts of nuclear fuel for civilian power plants without building up a stockpile for potential use in weapons.

During a news conference announcing Tehran’s decision, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran might also enrich its uranium up to 20 percent purity for use in reactors, the Iranian state-run news organization Press TV reported.

He said that uranium would be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the United States supplied to Iran in 1967 and that Iranian officials say is used to create medical isotopes for use in cancer treatment.

The nuclear agreement limits the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent, but if Iran began producing 20 percent enriched uranium, it would put the country much closer to weapons-grade levels.

Members of Congress braced themselves for a potential fight with Mr. Trump over authorization for military action.

“Now we are stumbling to the brink of war without the support of our allies,” said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Congress must step up and prevent an unconstitutional war with Iran and avert one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in decades.”

Over the past year, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged most outside companies from doing business with Iran, and followed that up with measures to cut off Iran’s oil revenues, the lifeblood of its economy. The sanctions have had a great effect on Iran, including leading to a shortage of critical medicine, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertions that humanitarian aid would not be affected.

In April, Mr. Trump designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, an arm of the Iranian military, a foreign terrorist organization, despite warnings from Pentagon and C.I.A. officials that the move could lead to reprisals against Americans. As tensions rose, Mr. Trump said he was adding 1,500 troops to the Middle East.

Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the Trump administration has blamed on Iran, have further inflamed matters. Mr. Pompeo plans to travel on Tuesday to Central Command in Florida to discuss Middle East security with commanders.

The Pentagon released additional pictures on Monday that it said bolstered its case that Iran was responsible for the attack on the tankers last week. Tehran has denied responsibility.

Defense Department officials said one of the images shows sailors with the Revolutionary Guards removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous, in the hours after an initial explosion. Another photograph, the Pentagon said, shows the “remnants of the magnetic attachment device of unexploded limpet mine” placed on one of the tankers.

The officials said the limpet mines were placed above the water line of the ships, where they would be visible but would do relatively limited damage, and not below the water line, where they could actually cause the ships to take on water. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence issues, said that the Pentagon interpreted this as Iran trying to send a message of what its abilities are in the gulf, without doing real damage to shipping.

The official described it as a “nuisance attack.”

A National Security Council spokesman, Garrett Marquis, said Monday that Iran’s announcement on its uranium was “nuclear blackmail” that “must be met with increased international pressure.”

The White House national security adviser, John R. Bolton, has been a longtime advocate for regime change in Iran.

China and Russia were both signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement and have opposed Mr. Trump’s Iran policies. Beijing has said it intends to continue buying oil from Iran despite American sanctions.

Germany, Britain and France have worked to set up a system to allow European companies to take part in a kind of barter trade with Iran.

On Sunday, Helga Schmid, a senior European Union diplomat, visited Tehran for meetings on the nuclear deal.

The Netherlands’ foreign minister, Stef Blok, said Monday that European support for the nuclear deal depended on Iran adhering to the pact’s terms.

“As long as Iran is fulfilling these criteria,” he said, “we should stick to this deal.”

Iranian officials on Monday also taunted Washington over the exposure of a C.I.A. informant network in Iran years ago. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that “one of the most complicated C.I.A. cyberespionage networks that had an important role in the C.I.A.’s operations in different countries was exposed by the Iranian intelligence agencies” and was “dismantled,” according to state-run broadcast network IRIB. He added that the Iranians shared their information with “allies,” which led to arrests of C.I.A. “agents.”

Mr. Shamkhani appeared to be referring to an operation that broke into the C.I.A.’s covert communications system, or “covcom,” and uncovered informants in Iran around 2012 and 2013. That operation may also have contributed to the extraordinary crippling of the C.I.A. informant network in China. Iranian officials made a similar claim in April, and a former C.I.A. official said they may be reviving the taunt now to try to portray the United States as an aggressor.

Edward Wong and Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Megan Specia from London. Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt from Washington, Richard Pérez-Peña from London, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

The Nefarious Players in the White House

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks from the State Department briefing room on June 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks from the State Department briefing room on June 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Bolton and Pompeo Are Trying to Start Another Forever War

Matt Korda is a Research Associate with the Federation of American Scientists, where he analyzes global nuclear forces and arms control treaties.

It is becoming increasingly evident that National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—President Trump’s top two foreign policy appointees—are manufacturing a crisis in order to catapult the United States into an explosive conflict with Iran.

This shouldn’t be remotely surprising, given their track records of supporting regime change across the Middle East, opposing the Iran nuclear deal and salivating at the prospect of bombing Tehran. Given these actions, it is frustrating to see many reporters simply parroting their unverified claims. This is exactly what Bolton and Pompeo are counting on: They want the public to be looking the other way. 

On June 13, Pompeo delivered his assessment that Iran was behind that day’s incident in the Gulf of Oman, when two oil tankers were reportedly attacked with limpet mines. In his five-minute remarks, he provided no evidence and took no questions. 

Pompeo’s assertion follows a similar pattern of behavior from Bolton, who claimed last month that Iran had deployed ballistic missiles on small Iranian sailing vessels––an extremely unlikely possibility, given the size of the ships and the notable lack of previous ship-based missile tests. He also claimed that Iran was responsible for subsequent attacks on Saudi ships.

Like Pompeo, Bolton provided zero evidence for his claims. An anonymous government official has even stated that the “new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was ‘small stuff’ and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton.”

Despite the lack of evidence for Iran’s “escalatory behavior,” as they call it, Bolton and Pompeo have used these incidents to justify escalations of their own. Under their direction, the United States has deployed a Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task forceto the region, partially evacuated the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, deployed 1,500 U.S. troops to the region, designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps––a branch of Iran’s armed forces––as a terrorist organization, and issued a threatening statement against the Iranian government. Given the clear parallels with the prelude to the Iraq War––of which Bolton was a key architect–– Bolton and Pompeo appear to be attempting to trigger a military crisis or regime change once again.

Some Members of Congress, however, are trying to stop them. 

During the early hours of the June 12 debate over next year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Representatives Elissa Slotkin and Matt Gaetz recalled being given a “full formal presentation” by Pompeo “on how the 2001 [Authorization on the Use of Military Force] might authorize war with Iran.” The 2001 AUMF––passed in the immediate wake of 9/11—is essentially a blank check that gives the government unlimited war-making powers, and has been used to justify U.S. military engagement in nearly a dozen countries. 

In an attempt to limit the broad authority of the AUMF, Representatives Ro Khanna, Anthony Brown, John Garamendi and presidential candidate Seth Moulton have introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would explicitly prohibit the United States from using military force in or against Iran, unless Congress has declared war.

The representatives withdrew their amendment during the mark-up; however, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman Adam Smith promised that a similar proposal would be re-introduced when the NDAA eventually comes to a vote on the House floor next month. The amendment has bipartisan support; the top Republican on HASC, Rep. Mac Thornberry, explicitly statedduring the early morning mark-up that the 2001 AUMF does not authorize war with Iran. 

As Representative Brown noted in a collective press release, “The Trump administration cannot set us down the path to war with Iran without Congressional approval, no matter how many specious arguments they make about previous and unrelated authorizations.” Representative Moulton described the clear parallels between Iran and Vietnam: “The Administration seems to be hoping to provoke a situation like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that they would use to justify a U.S. response.” 

Interestingly, Bolton and Pompeo’s quest for war with Iran has publicly put them at odds with President Trump, who reportedly told his acting Secretary of Defense that “he does not want war with Iran.” It also puts them at odds with some of Trump’s strongest supporters, like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, who have publicly stated that a war with Iran would lower his electability in 2020. If this is the case, then sustained public, media and congressional pressure might prompt Trump to realize that enabling his top two foreign policy appointees is simply more trouble than it’s worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The War with Iran is in God’s Plan (Daniel 8)

An oil tanker is on fire in the sea of Oman, Thursday, June 13, 2019. Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA)

The attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday has brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of armed conflict. But some eyewitnesses aboard one of the tankers and some other governments are questioning the premise that Iran was behind the attack.

Newsweek:

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The attack on the two vessels, one Japanese and one Norwegian, took place as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran to try to calm tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran’s culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran.

„The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,“ Maas told reporters during a press conference on Friday. The boat’s Japanese owner also cast doubt on the theory that a mine had been used to attack the ship, telling journalists that members of his crew had witnessed a flying object.

Iran has denied any role in the event, and some observers have raised questions about whether the intelligence was being used as a pretext for the U.S. to escalate conflict with the country.

A false flag operation? If Iran isn’t responsible, why would they remove a mine from one of the targeted ships? Would they help the ship out of the goodness of their hearts? While it’s certainly possible that the U.S. would manufacture a crisis — and few would put it past Trump to do so — it’s more believable that Iran is wholly responsible.

But why?

BBC:

Iran has come under massive economic pressure over the past year, since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed some of the most aggressive sanctions in US foreign policy history – targeting Iran’s oil sales, wider energy industry, shipping, banking, insurance and more.

Some of the sanctions, because of their secondary nature, are designed to dissuade other nations from purchasing Iranian oil, the exports of which bring in about 30% of Iran’s revenue.

And they have managed to bring down Iran’s oil exports by more than a third.

That number may get close to zero in a matter of months:

Iran’s response was to scale back its commitments under the nuclear deal and to announce that, if Iran could not export its oil, no other country would be allowed to export theirs.

About 30% of the world’s seaborne oil transports travel through the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic sea passage in the Gulf, on Iran’s south coast.

Iran has made threats in relation to the strait before – but never acted on them.

Tehran’s threat about pulling back from the Obama nuclear deal is designed to scare the Europeans into defying Trump. The last thing Europeans want is for Iran to ramp up its nuclear program.

Indeed, everything Iran needs to build a bomb is ready for assembly — even enriched uranium. Under terms signed by the naive Obama, Iran agreed to send its stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia. Then, last year, it was revealed that Russia had begun shipping the uranium back to Tehran.

Times of Israel:

Iran on Saturday announced it was taking back another portion of the 20 percent enriched uranium stockpile it handed over to Russia as part of the nuclear deal signed in 2015 with world powers in exchange for sanctions relief.

Spokesman and vice-president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Behrouz Kamalvandi said the re-imposition of US sanctions following President Donald Trump’s exit in May from the accord necessitated returning the uranium for domestic needs.

Did Russia always plan to send the uranium back? Iran certainly didn’t need the excuse of reimposed sanctions to ask for their property back. Under the terms of Obama’s nuclear deal, Russia was under absolutely no obligation to comply with Iran’s request, especially since Putin said that Russia would continue to abide by the terms of the agreement.

They certainly have an odd way of showing it.

So why go to war now? The pressure on Iran is intense. Their economy is failing and the people are tired of the regime’s promises that things will get better. Unemployment, inflation, falling revenue, and food shortages have brought Iran to the brink.

The country is about ready to explode. There may never be a better opportunity to rid the world of a major threat. A full-scale war is not advisable, given the possibility that such a war would almost certainly spread throughout the Middle East. But how about taking out the Iranian navy? One strong push could send the rickety edifice tumbling down.

When the deal was signed in 2015, Obama rescued Iran from economic implosion. Now they’re on the brink again. Will Trump do what Obama was so reluctant to do?

Antichrist: Cut Electricity to Baghdad Green Zone so Officials Feel Ire

Sadr: Cut electricity to Baghdad Green Zone so officials feel Ir

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has suggested cutting off electricity to Baghdad’s Green Zone, home of the Iraqi parliament and foreign diplomatic missions, to force officials to take action on Iraq’s ramshackle electricity network.

Among a blistering set of recommendations issued on Twitter on Sunday, Sadr suggested “cutting off electricity for officials, especially those in the Green [Zone], so they can feel the plight of the people, not extending an emergency line to their houses but to hospitals, schools, and some important bureaus.” 

Sadr, whose Sayirun alliance is the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said empty talk of improvements to the electricity grid is a “mockery” of ordinary Iraqis.

Iraq finds itself in the grip of unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures already reaching 48 Celsius (118.4 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad this week. August is typically the country’s hottest month. 

Protests erupted in the south of the country in the summer of 2018, centering on the oil-rich province of Basra. One of the principal grievances was the shortage of electricity to power air conditioners and other infrastructure. 

State repression of the protests resulted in dozens of deaths and contributed to then-Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s removal from office.

Iraq’s incumbent Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and his electricity minister Luay al-Khateeb both claimed in late May that electricity improvement projects were making progress. 

These improvements are not being felt in Iraqi homes, however, and protests have once again sprung up in several cities

Sadr, a firebrand cleric who regularly leads protests against state corruption, also suggested “cutting off the hands” of militias and parties in control of the Ministry of Electricity and power stations, and called for the sector’s nationalization “with Iraqi hands” – not external “occupying” firms. 

Here Sadr was referring to the $15 billion deal with America’s General Electric struck in October 2018, and the $14 billion four-stage deal to improve the country’s electrical infrastructure signed with German giant Siemens in April. 

Abdul-Mahdi has announced the formation of a body to monitor the power grid and to “minimize hurdles and resolve emergency cases”, according to a statement from the PM’s office on Sunday.

Sadr went a step further, calling for the formation of an investigative committee to examine the “rampant corruption” in the electricity sector.

Iraq imports 1,300 megawatts of electricity per day from its eastern neighbor Iran, as well as 28 million cubic meters of gas to feed some of its power stations. 

If improvements are not felt soon, electricity shortages could prove the undoing of Abdul-Mahdi’s short-lived administration.

The Hikma Front, led by Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, announced on Sunday it will officially become the parliament’s first opposition bloc, while Amjad Hashim al-Iqabi, a Sayirun MP, claimed his colleagues will soon remove the PM from office. Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority, Ali al-Sistani, has also upped the pressure on the PM to deliver on his pledges. 

Abdul-Mahdi, an independent technocrat with no party bloc of his own, may be called before MPs to face questions over his leadership.

Countdown Has Begun (Revelation 16)

Countdown has begun: Iran to exceed uranium stockpile limit set by nuclear deal in 10 days

Tehran will increase uranium production beyond the limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal by June 27, a spokesperson for the nation’s atomic energy agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Monday.

Iran has “already increased” uranium production at a nuclear research site in Natanz in the central Isfahan province, Kamalvandi told reporters at a heavy water nuclear complex in Arak.

From today, the countdown has begun, and by June 27, our uranium production will have surpassed 300kg

The move is set to place the nation’s nuclear program beyond the limits laid out in the 2015 deal, known as the JCPOA, under which Iran’s uranium stockpile could not exceed 300kg until 2031.

Last month, Tehran announced that it would partially suspend its commitments under the JCPOA, giving the European Union 60 days to reaffirm their part of the agreement. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kamalvandi lambasted the EU, saying that they “either do not want to do something, or they just don’t have the ability to do it,” but stressed that “Europeans still have time” to save the deal.

The JCPOA began to fall apart last year when the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. President Donald Trump called the deal “defective at its core,” and accused Tehran of secretly violating its provisions. Iranian officials denied any wrongdoing. Their position was backed by nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which affirmed in its reports that Iran was implementing its part of the agreement.

Trump’s move was heavily criticized by the EU, Russia and China, all of which are signatories of the deal

Iran Ready to go Nuclear (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Says It Will Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limit On Uranium ‚In 10 Days‘

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, pictured at a July 2018 news conference in Tehran, said Monday: „We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently.“

Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Within days Iran will exceed the limit on its stockpile of uranium under a 2015 nuclear deal, according to a spokesman for the country’s atomic energy agency, who also said Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels in violation of the agreement, „based on the country’s needs.“

The remarks come amid increased tension between the U.S. and Iran, particularly after last week’s attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied any involvement.

Under the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the U.S. withdrew from a year ago, Iran can keep no more than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched no higher than 3.67% — far below the 90% level considered suitable for building nuclear weapons.

At a news conference at the Arak Nuclear Complex that was carried live Monday on Iranian television, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that stockpile limit could be exceeded within 10 days.

„We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit,“ Kamalvandi said.

He added that his country needs uranium enriched to 5% for its Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1990s with Russian help, and uranium of 20% purity to be used as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which the U.S. supplied to Iran in 1967.

Although not weapons-grade, 20% purity is generally considered „highly enriched“ uranium, and as The Associated Press notes, „going from 20% to 90% is a relatively quicker process, something that worries nuclear nonproliferation experts.“

Even so, Kamalvandi held out the possibility that „there is still time … if European countries act.“

„Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate. And if it is important for them (Europe) to safeguard the accord, they should make their best efforts. … As soon as they carry out their commitments, things will naturally go back to their original state,“ he said, according to AP.

That sentiment was echoed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday. „It’s a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time,“ he was quoted by the Fars News Agency as saying during a meeting with France’s new ambassador in Iran.

Reuters reports that Rouhani said the collapse of the nuclear deal would not be in the interests of the region and the world.

In response to Iran’s announcement on uranium enrichment levels, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement: „Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left the their capabilities intact. President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.“

Following last week’s reported attack on the tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said „there’s no doubt“ that Iran was responsible for disabling the vessels.

„The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence,“ Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday. „The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world.“

On CBS‘ Face the Nation, Pompeo said the U.S. was „considering a full range of options.“

„We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence, which is our mission set,“ he said.

On Monday, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff again denied the country’s involvement in the attacks. 

„Regarding the new incidents in the Persian Gulf … if the Islamic Republic of Iran decides to block exports of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, it is militarily strong enough to do that fully and publicly,“ Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Fars News Agency.

Iran Builds Up Her Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Iran to further scale back compliance with nuclear deal

Reuters

Iran will announce further moves on Monday to scale back compliance with an international nuclear pact that the United States abandoned last year, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

• The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it abandoned. Tehran denies ever having had one.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and re-introduced sanctions on Tehran.

Iran will announce further moves on Monday to scale back compliance with an international nuclear pact that the United States abandoned last year, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday.

„Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation tomorrow at the Arak heavy water site will announce preparatory steps that have been taken to further decrease Tehran’s commitments under the deal,“ Tasnim said, without citing sources.

The organization will announce moves to increase stocks of enriched uranium and production of heavy water at Arak, Tasnim reported.The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it abandoned. Tehran denies ever having had one.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and re-introduced sanctions on Tehran.

Iran said in May it would start enriching uranium at a higher level, unless world powers protected its economy from U.S. sanctions within 60 days.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have ratcheted up further in recent days, with Washington accusing Tehran of carrying out Thursday’s attacks on two oil tankers in a vital oil shipping route. Iran has denied having any role.

The Hypocrisy of Babylon the Great (Daniel 7)

Trump accuses Iran over nukes, all the while risking Saudi regime acquiring the bomb

Published time: 13 Jun, 2019 16:13

Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on international affairs.

The Trump administration appears to be on a reckless path of sharing sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, which could lead to this notorious regime acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

This is while President Trump has been assailing Iran with military threats, over claims that Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The duplicity is staggering. The Trump administration is posing as a policeman in the Middle East purportedly to prevent nuclear proliferation. In reality, it is fueling a potential nuclear arms race and heightening the danger of war.

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has ambitions to build nuclear power plants to meet its civilian energy and water needs as the future of its oil wealth faces strategic challenges. The US and several other international players, including Russia and South Korea, are vying for the contracts to build these multi-billion-dollar power stations.

It is now emerging that the Trump administration has been pushing ahead with licenses to its nuclear companies to share sensitive technology with the Saudis. What is alarming is that the White House has been doing so in a secretive manner, which overrides Congressional oversight rules based on national security protocols.

A further cause for concern is the Trump administration appears to be giving the Saudis nuclear knowhow that could lead to the weaponization of technology. For their part, the Saudis have pushed back on standards ensuring that civilian energy applications are kept strictly separated from weapons programs. Disturbingly, the Trump administration does not seem bothered by the ambiguity. It is forging ahead with licensing the technology to the Saudi rulers.

Saudi Arabia’s impetuous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) last year told US media that his country would race to obtain nuclear weapons “if” Iran were to do so. Given that MbS is close to the Trump administration and to the Israelis in terms of viewing Iran as an arch-enemy, it can be fairly assumed that the Saudi rulers already believe that Tehran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Iran has consistently rejected claims that it is building nuclear weapons. Its compliance with the 2015 international nuclear accord banning any such application has been verified in more than a dozen reports by UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Also on rt.com If Iran wanted nukes ‚America couldn’t do anything about it‘ – Ayatollah Khamenei

But that hasn’t stopped the Israelis and Trump administration continually asserting the opposite. That, in turn, probably means that the Saudi rulers have decided to go for making the bomb.

There are several other reasons to fear a nuclear arms race is on the way in the Middle East.

The Trump White House has been enabling the sharing of sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia despite mounting criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record. That record was always notoriously grim but during the Trump administration, it has plumbed new depths.

The horrendous Saudi air war on Yemen and its death toll among civilians has prompted the US Congress to ban weapons sales. But just last month, Trump bypassed the restriction by declaring a multi-billion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia, because it was “an emergency” allegedly owing to a regional security threat from Iran.

Even more galling are reports that the White House approved of the nuclear technology transfers in the weeks and months after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. That is in spite of the American CIA then concluding Crown Prince MbS was complicit in the killing.

Also on rt.com CIA says MBS ordered Khashoggi hit, but don’t expect Saudi-US relations to change – John Kiriakou

If none of these harrowing concerns have paused the Trump administration’s indulgence of the Saudi regime, then the latter is entitled to think it has a blank cheque to do anything it wants, including acquiring nuclear weapons.

President Trump’s enabling of the Saudis to get the bomb is, of course, fraught with illegalities. It would be a gross violation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which bans nuclear powers from spreading access to such weapons.

There is also the issue of American law. The Trump administration seems to be blindsiding Congress in its murky dealings with the Saudis, in breach of the Atomic Energy Act, which mandates the president to keep lawmakers informed of any international nuclear cooperation.

Trump’s feckless regard for nuclear proliferation and arms controls should not be surprising, however. This administration unilaterally trashed the Iran nuclear deal last year, and it has walked away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that the Trump administration appears ready to also let a second major arms control treaty, New START, collapse.

So, despite Trump’s expressed desire to get rid of nuclear weapons on a global scale, all the indicators suggest that he has a reprehensible disregard for inciting arms races.

There is founded alarm among US lawmakers from both parties that Saudi Arabia is on the path towards obtaining nuclear weapons. Recent reports indicate it has expanded its ballistic missiles capability with technology transfers from China. If confirmed, then the next step could be to fit these missiles with nuclear warheads. The Trump administration appears to be paving the way for the Saudi regime to achieve that.

Also on rt.com Saudi arms sales may be at center of the next showdown between Trump and Congress

President Trump’s incorrigible kowtowing towards the Saudi royal family has raised suspicions that he is looking beyond his presidential office to future years of expanding the Trump family business empire in the Middle East. His sycophancy towards the Saudis transcends so many boundaries of decency and basic morals.

There are two other possible motives. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner want to go down in history for their “Deal of the Century” settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The overrated and overdue “deal” is seen as a grubby sell-out of Palestinian rights. But to get acceptance in the wider Arab world, Trump and Kushner need the Saudis to give it a stamp of approval. That could be one factor in why the Trump White House may be soliciting the Saudis with the “big bomb prize”.

Another motive is Trump using the Saudis and their visceral hatred of Shia Iran as the ultimate “pressure tool” on Tehran. If the Iranians see the Wahhabi potentates getting nuclear weapons, Trump may be calculating that it will bring Iran to the negotiating table and make strategic concessions, as he has long been pushing for.

There again, Iran may go another way. It may repudiate its long-standing disavowal of nuclear weapons and determine that it has no choice but to also build the bomb to avert an existential threat from the Saudi regime.

Either way, it all makes a mockery of the Trump White House’s pretensions for peace and security in the region. This administration is criminally fueling a potentially catastrophic war.