The Fatal Ignorance of Trump (Revelation 16)

There Is No Such Thing As a ‚Small‘ Nuclear War (But Trump Wants Mini Nukes)

The Democratic lawmakers who control the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing back against Pres. Donald Trump’s plan to expand the United States’ nuclear arsenal with new and smaller “tactical” weapons.

The Democrats’ version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, as well as from the president himself. Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA, potentially setting up a budgetary showdown that could force the Pentagon to operate on so-called “continuing resolutions” that essentially copy previous years’ budgets.

Trump in 2017 laid out a plan for a host of new and modernized nuclear weapons, including less-powerful nukes that some hardliners believe are more useful than larger-yield weapons are and could make limited atomic wars feasible and survivable on a planetary level.

But many nuclear experts disagree. No nuclear war is “small,” they argue. And any nuclear war would be devastating for the entire human race and the only planet that’s known to support life.

The House bill “signals a new, much-needed change in direction for U.S. nuclear weapons policy, one that would reduce the nuclear threat and cut some spending on these weapons,” wrote Eryn MacDonald, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Massachusetts.

The House bill stands in stark contrast with the version the Senate passed easily in late June [2019], which would fully fund the Trump administration’s nuclear programs and in some cases even increase funding.

We support passage of the House version of the NDAA; if its version becomes law, it will be a victory not only for U.S. security, but also for common sense.

The House bill is chock-full of positive provisions. For example, it would prohibit deployment of the Trump administration’s new ‘low-yield’ nuclear warhead; cut funding for an unnecessary replacement for the current ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile; and reduce the excessive, but congressionally mandated, requirement for the number of plutonium pits that the National Nuclear Security Administration has been told to produce.

The House’s version of the NDAA defunds the W76-2 low-yield warhead for the U.S. Navy’s Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which MacDonald described as “an ill-conceived attempt to lower the threshold for nuclear war.”

The W76-2 “would thrust U.S. ballistic-missile submarines into regional conflicts instead of reserving them for their crucial role as a nuclear deterrent, providing a secure means of retaliation if they should ever be needed,” MacDonald added.

The Trump administration requested $19.6 million for the Navy to begin installing these new warheads on missiles later this year. The House defense authorization bill sensibly zeros out this money, but Republicans plan to offer an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would restore that funding.

Fortunately, the amendment is unlikely to pass. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have twice attempted to restore the money and failed along party lines both times.,

The House Appropriations Committee also eliminated funding for the low-yield warhead, and the full House already rejected an attempt to restore the W76-2 money in an appropriations bill by a 236 to 192 vote.

The Democrats also want to cut $103 million from the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, the intercontinental ballistic missile the U.S. Air Force is developing to replace the existing Minuteman III missile.

“The bill also initially called for an independent study of options that could extend the Minuteman III’s life to 2050,” MacDonald wrote. “This would postpone spending on the new ICBM, which some estimates expect to cost $100 billion.”

Republicans in the Armed Services Committee, however, succeeded in removing that study requirement. Fortunately, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has submitted an amendment that would restore a version of the independent study.

Extending the life of the Minuteman III instead of building a new missile is a reasonable, cost-saving option that could facilitate an eventual phase out of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad as the older missiles reach the end of their lives.

The House could vote on its version of the NDAA by early July 2019, after which the House and Senate would reconcile their competing versions of the authorization.

The president could veto the resulting conference bill. No only has Trump objected to the Democrats’ cuts to nuclear weapons, he also opposes language in the House NDAA that would limit the president’s ability to divert military funding toward his signature campaign initiative: a wall along the southern border that Trump claims would stop migrants from crossing into the United States in order to seek asylum.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Babylon the Great is Desperate for Diplomacy

Iran Denies US Talks

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed rumors about mediation by some countries for launch of Iran-US talks, saying there are no negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

Tasnim News Agency

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi denied reports that the US has asked Russia to pass on a message calling for negotiations with Iran at the level of foreign ministers.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not involved in any negotiations with the American officials at any level,” the spokesman underlined.

Back in May, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani roundly dismissed the idea of direct negotiations with the US under the current circumstances, stressing the need for resistance against an ongoing economic war waged by Washington.

In remarks on May 14, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that there will be no military confrontation between Iran and the US as Washington is aware that it won’t be in its interest, adding that negotiation with the US is not on the Islamic Republic’s agenda either.

“The Iranian nation’s definite option will be resistance in the face of the US, and in this confrontation, the US would be forced into a retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “Neither we nor they, who know war will not be in their interest, are after war.”

The Saudi Nuclear Horn Will Follow (Daniel 7)

Iran’s nuclear program seems to be accelerating. Will Saudi Arabia take a similar path? – The Washington Post

Monkey Cage

In a multipolar world, curbing nuclear transfers becomes more difficult.

The Iranian flag waves outside the U.N. building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency office in Vienna on Wednesday. (Ronald Zak/AP)

July 12, 2019 at 7:45 AM EDT

Iran announced this week that it has surpassed the uranium-enrichment level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. This was Tehran’s response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal and subsequent reimposition of harsh sanctions.

While most observers focus on the spiral of U.S. pressure and Iranian defiance, the situation has broader implications for nuclear programs elsewhere — specifically, whether Saudi Arabia could follow in Iran’s footsteps. Riyadh has vowed to match Iran’s nuclear capabilities, including the ability to enrich uranium and acquire nuclear weapons if Tehran gets the bomb. My research, recently published in International Security, explains how Riyadh’s ability to play nuclear suppliers off against one another can increase its chances of securing nuclear technology.

U.S. sanctions against Iran just got tougher. What happens now?

Why is Saudi Arabia eyeing this capability?

Saudi Arabia considers Iran a mortal foe. The suspicion that Iran is building a bomb exacerbates the Saudis’ sense of threat. Tehran’s most recent moves will likely heighten that fear — and push Riyadh to accelerate the development of its nuclear program. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned, “Without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

For now, Saudi Arabia is focused on becoming what scholars call a nuclear “hedger” — a country without a dedicated nuclear weapons program that can weaponize relatively quickly, thanks to an advanced enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) capability. Iran has already achieved this status.

Hedging stems from the fact that the military and civilian uses of the atom are not completely separable. ENR facilities can fuel nuclear reactors and/or they can produce fissile material for a bomb. Hedging also allows countries to avoid the costs of a nuclear program, including international sanctions, as Iran knows only too well.

Won’t the great powers step in?

Wouldn’t the United States and other countries interested in stopping proliferation block Riyadh’s access to sensitive nuclear transfers, such as enrichment technology? It’s possible Saudi Arabia will be unable to acquire or develop the wherewithal for a nuclear weapon. But the nuclear market is changing in ways that facilitate proliferation.

There’s been a shift from a unipolar world, with the United States as the dominant power, to a world of several great powers, or multipolarity. Since 1975, the key instrument for curbing nuclear transfers has been the supplier cartel — the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), created by the United States in cooperation with the Soviets. The NSG forced suppliers to act in unison and incorporate the same guidelines into their individual nuclear export policies, restricting the sale of ENR and thus stemming proliferation.

Here’s the catch: The NSG’s ability to regulate supplier behavior depends on how many great powers are in the system and whether they agree to work together to limit proliferation. The emerging multipolar world and the growing rivalry among the United States, Russia and China is likely to weaken the NSG’s effectiveness. This could crack open the door to renewed supplier competition and broader access to sensitive nuclear technologies. And this lets countries interested in acquiring nuclear transfers, such as Saudi Arabia, pit suppliers against each other and secure better products, lower prices and more advantageous terms of use.

The Trump administration wants to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis — without a nuclear agreement. That’s alarming.

As Matthew Fuhrmann explained here in the Monkey Cage, there remains debate over whether peaceful nuclear technology transfers lead to proliferation — but the risk of proliferation is high in the Saudi case.

Saudi Arabia has set its nuclear procurement train in motion

After failing to secure nuclear technology in the 1970s, Riyadh turned to the global market with renewed vigor in the mid-2000s — in both cases presumably because of a perceived Iranian nuclear threat. Recent efforts to exploit supplier competition seem to have paid off: In 2015, Saudi Arabia acquired a research reactor from Argentina, a steppingstone toward achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle capability.

Saudi authorities have also expressed an interest in nuclear power reactors and an enrichment plant. Reactors alone are not enough to build a nuclear weapon, but can provide cover for a nuclear weapons program or for hedging: Countries can claim they need ENR technology to fuel their research or power reactors, but instead use it to produce fissile material for a bomb.

Moving forward, Saudi Arabia can play several suppliers against one another to secure nuclear transfers. Countries such as France and South Korea have expressed an interest in selling nuclear technology to Riyadh for almost a decade. And Saudi Arabia has excellent relations with Pakistan, whose nuclear weapons program Riyadh allegedly helped finance in the 1970s. Fearing that other suppliers will get Saudi Arabia’s nuclear contracts, the United States, Russia and China have also begun courting Riyadh.

President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. Here’s what you need to know.

There are few good options for dealing with Saudi Arabia’s nuclear procurement plans

Some analysts argue that the United States should transfer nuclear technology to the Saudis on the condition they adopt the “gold standard,” which would require the Saudi regime to forfeit its right to enrich or reprocess. The problem here is that other countries could make more lenient counteroffers.

Recognizing this issue, others propose that Washington should supply Saudi Arabia nuclear technology without the “gold standard” constraints, thus keeping a foot in the door and hopefully becoming well-positioned to limit Riyadh’s nuclear pursuits. But even this approach may prove too restricting for the Saudis. If Saudi Arabia concludes that the United States is encroaching on its nuclear ambitions, it can turn to other suppliers for more advantageous terms.

The Trump administration has embraced a more permissive nuclear transfers policy toward Saudi Arabia than the “no gold standard” approach — and has signaled its willingness to approve such transfers without congressional approval. As Fuhrmann explained, such an approach is particularly dangerous for containing the bomb.

The problem for those hoping to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons is that it’s hard to get the great powers to cooperate. Instead, the United States, Russia and China are developing their own unilateral policies on Saudi Arabia. With the 2015 nuclear deal unraveling and Iran accelerating its enrichment efforts, the future does not bode well for stopping Riyadh from going down the same path as Tehran.

Eliza Gheorghe is a visiting fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg and assistant professor of international relations at Bilkent University. You can follow her at @gheorghe_eliza.

Why Iran is Nuking Up (Daniel 8:4)

What’s the Half-Life of Iran’s Nuclear Provocation?

Against the wishes of Europe, Israel and the United States, Iran’s leaders have decided to resume their nuclear weapons program.

What’s the Big Rush?

For some reason, the Iranians are in a great big hurry to develop nuclear weapons—or start a war with the United States and/or Israel. Or perhaps both in one sequence or another.

But why?

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Yes, the sanctions are hurting Iran economically, but the Iranian economy has been underwater for decades. Besides, even with the Trump administration backing out of the Iranian nuclear deal signed under Barack Obama and applying new trade sanctions against Iran, the Europeans have been going around the sanctions to trade with the Iranians. Their view is that by helping Iran economically, it would lose interest in enriching uranium.

However, with the Iranians resuming their enrichment efforts, the Europeans are forced with a stark choice: trade with Iran or trade with the United States. That choice is clear. European companies are fleeing Iran, adding to the endemic economic misery of its people.

What, precisely, does the Iranian leadership hope to achieve with this move?

In Dictatorships, Power Trumps Economics

It’s certainly against Iran’s economic interests to violate the uranium enrichment threshold of the agreement, but so what? Power trumps economics. National financial benefits are of secondary importance to dictatorships. Dictatorships exist to benefit the dictators and their cohorts, not the people beneath their boot heels.

This simple maxim has been proven time and time again the past century, from the Soviet Union to Cuba, from Communist China to North Korea and various other tin pot dictatorships around the world. And yet, the West, especially the left, continues to think that money can divorce dictators from their nature and dissuade them from aggression. But in fact, it does just opposite. Barack Obama’s illegal transfer of hundreds of millions in pallets of bribe money to the Iranians to accept the 2015 agreement proved that point once again.

Did the Iranians use the money for economic development? Of course not. It was used to fund more terrorism and proxy wars Israel in Syria and Gaza and against Saudi Arabia via Yemen.

Who Is Iran Afraid Of?

What’s the rationale for Iran to resume its provocative nuclear weapons program? Do they fear being attacked by the United States? Probably not. Even at the height of the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq, no U.S. invasion of Iran occurred. In fact, the U.S. removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq eliminated Iran’s biggest regional threat.

Are they afraid of an unprovoked ground assault by Israel? Not likely. Israel doesn’t have that capacity and geography also points against such a scenario. What’s more, Israel simply has no desire to go to war with Iran or anybody else. Their history of working with Islamic states such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia among others, demonstrates this.

What about Saudi Arabia?

Iran is backing the Yemeni Houthi war against United States and Israel-ally Saudi Arabia. Does Iran expect the Saudis to retaliate by striking Iran? Again, not likely. Sunni Saudi Arabia fears Iran and its radical Shiite brand of Islam. The last thing they want to do is enrage Shiite passions in the region.

Oppressors Fear the Oppressed

No, the greatest fear of the Iranian leadership is their fellow Iranians. As is usually the case, it’s the young, rebellious generation posing the greatest threat to authority. It’s no different in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The people are fed up with living in the 7th century.

What’s more, the threat against the Islamic-fascist regime is not only real, it encompasses workers, women, and people from all parts of Iranian society. In 2018, Iran was rocked by a major nationwide uprising against the ruling class. Social tensions remain high in light of the police brutality against women who refuse to wear the veil. And the movement against the regime is growing.

The Dictators’ Guide to Economic Ruin

Again, as is typical amongst dictators of every stripe, the Iranian leadership knows that it can’t deliver bread or jobs to the country. Especially under heavy economic sanctions preventing Iranian oil from being sold on the open market. Iran’s economy production is cratering and inflation runs at around 40 percent.

Nor, with the exception of its nuclear sector, can it boast of Iranian industry outperforming others, of for that matter, performing at all. Dictatorship can only survive on corruption, which means stealing the wealth from productive sectors to pay for support. Unfortunately, it eventually tends to bankrupt formerly healthy enterprises.

Furthermore, America is now the top oil producer in the world keeping oil prices low. This poses a long-term threat against the Iranian economy. And as Israeli oil production ramps up, global supplies will rise, further suppressing prices.

What’s an Islamic dictatorship to do?

War on the Horizon?

What’s left to placate the angry masses and remain in power? Why, a war, of course. A war against “the two greatest enemies” of Iran: The United States and Israel.

This looks to be their plan. Iranian state media has produced videos simulating an attack on Israel with matching rhetoric from Iranian military leaders. It’s a war they’ve been talking about for 40 years.

How to start it? Attack an oil tanker or two. If that doesn’t rile The Great Satan, shoot down a drone.

If that fails, resume enriching uranium in order to become a nuclear-armed power. An “Iranium Revolution” would most certainly do the trick and bring about a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has stated publicly that Israel will not allow Iran to develop or have nuclear weapons. President Trump has said the same.

The question is, if Iran continues down its current path, how big of a war will it invite upon itself? Who else will come to the party? Taking out Iran’s underground nuclear projects will take more than a few bombings. It will require a significant commitment of military assets, even ground troops, to do so.

Will this happen? It’s looking more likely today than it did yesterday. But we’re not there yet.

Is there a silver lining? Yes, the Iranian people prevent an unnecessary war by removing the bad actors in their own country.

James Gorrie is a writer based in Texas. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Military Threats against Iran NEVER Work

Military Threats against Iran Don’t Work: Ex-IRGC Commander

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) highlighted Iran’s major advances in the defense sector and said military threats against the country are not effective anymore.

Tasnim News Agency

“The fruit of the power we have today thanks to the blood of martyrs and the people’s efforts has led us to have a good indigenous development in the field of security and defense,” Major General Jafari, who is also the head of Hazrat Baqiatollah al-Azam Cultural and Social Headquarters, said in a speech on Saturday.

He further referred to a recent move by the IRGC forces to shoot down an advanced US spy drone and said the move as well as the high-precision missiles that Iran has show the grandeur of the country’s military achievements.

The enemy is witnessing the Islamic Republic’s grandeur and keeps silent so that it will not lose the game, the commander added.

In the fifth decade after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the nature of anti-Iran threats has changed, he said, adding that security and military threats do not work any longer because the enemy knows that making a mistake will end in disgrace. 

The remarks came against the backdrop of increased tensions between Iran and the US after the Islamic Republic shot down an advanced US spy drone over its territorial waters.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on June 20 that a US spy drone that violated the Iranian territorial airspace in the early hours of the day was shot down by the IRGC Aerospace Force’s air defense unit near the Kooh-e-Mobarak region in the southern province of Hormozgan.

The intruding drone was reportedly shot by Iran’s homegrown air defense missile system “Khordad-3rd”.

Later on the same day, US President Donald Trump said he had called off a retaliatory attack on a number of targets in Iran and said that he was ready to speak with Iranian leaders and come to an understanding that would allow the country to improve its economic prospects. “What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me.”

“I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran,” Trump added.

However, on June 24 Trump announced new sanctions against top Iranian officials, including the office of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s foreign minister, and senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Iran strikes back at Israel (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Launches Strikes in Iraq and Responds to Israel’s Threat As It Vows to Defend Itself Against Any Attack

By Tom O’Connor On 7/12/19 at 12:49 PM EDT

Iran has conducted strikes against targets in neighboring and responded to a recent threat from Israel as the Islamic Republic’s armed forces vowed to defend their country’s borders.

The Revolutionary Guards announced Friday that they conducted strikes against anti-Iranian government insurgents operating along the Iraqi border in the Kurdistan region. The move came after such groups, potentially Kurdish separatists, clashed with Iranian troops in the north and northwest in recent days, killing three.

Iran’s semi-official Press TV outlet shared footage that appeared to show Iran’s domestically-produced Mohajer M-6 drone as well as various howitzers and short-range missile systems striking targets. The Revolutionary Guards called on the people of Iraqi Kurdistan to avoid militant strongholds so as not to be used as human shields and warned that the recent strikes followed repeated warnings to Iraq’s regional Kurdish government.

„As asserted several times, the national security and preserving the Iranian nation’s calm and peace of mind, particularly for the dear and gallant people of the border provinces, is the red line of the country’s Armed Forces, particularly the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Ground Force,“ the Revolutionary Guards statement read, according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Though no timeframe was provided, the operation may have lasted more than a day as Ahmed Qadir, mayor of the northeastern Erbil village of Choman, told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw on Thursday that „this shelling has taken place for two days in a row.“ He condemned the operation as an „indiscriminate“ offensive, calling on Iran to „stop the shelling as soon as possible.“

Like many countries in the region, Iran has complex ties with Kurdish groups, supporting some and opposing others. The head of one of the hostile organizations, Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) co-chair Zilan Vejin, warned in May that her group would „not sit idly by“ if war broke out between the U.S. and Iran and could „form a democratic front“ in the event of a conflict. But she noted that she felt „Iran and the U.S. are fighting for their own interests,“ according to Kurdish outlet Rojnews.

U.S.-Iran tensions have worsened since President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the deal was based on his assertions that it did not do enough to stop Iran’s funding for militant groups or ballistic missiles. His move was hailed by Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but condemned by the agreement’s other signatories, including China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that his F-35I Adir warplanes „can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria.“ In response, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami stated Friday that „any enemy at any level intending to violate the sacred territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be met with a decisive and crushing blow that will instill regret,“ according to the country’s official website.

Hatami also referenced earlier remarks made by Netanyahu at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, where the Israeli leader said „those who threaten to wipe us out, put themselves in a similar danger.“ Both Iranian and Israeli officials have long swapped such grave threats, but recent nuclear-fueled tensions have escalated to the point of crisis.

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons but has neither confirmed nor denied such an arsenal, while Iran has maintained that its own nuclear program was only for civil purposes. Still, Iran was hit with international sanctions only lifted by a 2015 deal that the United States left last year, leaving Tehran with minimal incentives to remain as new U.S. restrictions bound its economy and geopolitical frictions grew critical.

A U.K. patrol ship is seen near Iranian supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar, July 6. Tehran has demanded that the U.K. immediately release an oil tanker, accusing London of acting on behalf of the U.S. after the Iranian ship was accused of violating EU sanctions by allegedly carrying oil to Syria and detained. JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images

Around the anniversary of the U.S. exit in May, the White House began to warn of an alleged heightened threat posed by Tehran and its allies to Washington’s interests in the Middle East and the Pentagon deployed additional assets to the region. Meanwhile, Iran has begun enriching uranium slightly beyond levels restricted in the 2015 deal.

Washington has also blamed Tehran for two series of attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has dismissed the claims but shot down a U.S. Navy drone last month traveling within or near Iranian airspace, a move that nearly led Trump to consider, but ultimately cancel, launch strikes against the Islamic Republic. In the latest flare-up, the U.S. and the U.K. have reportedly accused the Revolutionary Guards of attempting to seize a U.K. vessel Wednesday, only to turned back by a U.K. frigate escorting the ship.

The Revolutionary Guards denied the incident, but Iranian officials have continued to threaten retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian supertanker detained by authorities in U.K.-controlled Gibraltar, where the ships captain and at least three other crewmembers have been arrested for attempting to transport oil to Syria, a violation of EU sanctions.

Iran and Syria have both denied this, but have argued that they were not subject to the EU’s sanctions anyway. Trump and Netanyahu spoke Wednesday and condemned „Iran’s malign actions,“ while Russia and China both called for calm.

Iran Threatens the British Horn

Britain will be ‘slapped in the face’ for seizure of Iranian tanker, cleric says

Britain will soon get “slapped in the face” for last week’s capture of an Iranian supertanker, a cleric was quoted as saying Friday amid rising tensions between the two nations in the Gulf.

Cleric Kazem Sedghi, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told worshipers during Tehran’s Friday prayer sermon broadcast live on Iranian state TV that the United Kingdom should be worried for their actions off the coast of Gibraltar.

“Iran’s strong establishment will soon slap Britain in the face for daring to seize the Iranian oil tanker,” he said.


Sedghi’s warning came after the Iranian government on Friday called Britain to immediately release the oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicious it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman accused London of playing a “dangerous game” a day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker.

Abbs Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that “the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”

“This is a dangerous game and has consequences,” he added.


Gibraltar has insisted its decision to detain the Iranian tanker was taken alone and not on orders from any government, despite a senior Spanish official previously saying the interception was carried out at the request of the United States.

“All relevant decisions in respect of this matter were taken only as a direct result of the government of Gibraltar having reasonable grounds to believe the vessel was acting in breach of established E.U. sanctions against Syria,” Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister, told reporters. “There has been no political request at any time from any government that Gibraltar should act or not act on one basis or another.”

The detained vessel contained 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, he added.


The British navy said Thursday it had stopped three Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The brief but tense standoff stemmed from the U.K.’s role in seizing the Iranian tanker.

In this image from file video provided by UK Ministry of Defence, British navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship during a mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria at sea off the coast of Cyprus in February 2014. Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News. (AP/UK Ministry of Defence)

On Friday, the British Ministry of Defense said it was moving up its timetable for relieving the HMS Montrose, a frigate operating in the Persian Gulf, with the larger HMS Duncan destroyer in the wake of the recent developments.

„This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane.“

Iran recently began surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the accord a year ago. He also has re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter & Editor for Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Babylon the Great Refuses to Back Down to Iran

Image result for trumpTrump responds to Iranian uranium enrichment: ‚Sanctions will soon be increased‘

President Trump responded to news that Iran has begun enriching uranium beyond the levels set forth in the 2015 nuclear deal in a tweet warning of further sanctions against the country.

“Iran has long been secretly ‘enriching,’ in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!” Trump said. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said this week that Iran had passed 4.5% enrichment over the weekend. The nuclear deal capped the allowed concentration of uranium-235 at a 3.67% threshold. Kamalvandi also threatened to restart a dismantled centrifuge or enrich uranium to 20% or more. Around 90% enrichment is standard for nuclear weapons.

Trump warned Iran last week about breaching the limit, saying that threats to increase the concentration of fissile material would come back to bite the country like “nobody has been bitten before.”

The United States recently announced sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader and top officials and in a Tuesday statement said that it would begin sanctioning Iranian-linked Hezbollah officials in Lebanon. Last month, the U.S. planned airstrikes against Iranian facilities in response to the downing of a U.S. drone, but Trump called off the attack with minutes to spare.

Iran Threatens the Brits (Daniel 7/8)

Iranian boats ‚tried to intercept British tanker‘

▪ 11 July 2019 UK


HMS Montrose was shadowing a British tanker as it moved into the Strait of Hormuz

Iranian boats tried to impede a British oil tanker near the Gulf – before being driven off by a Royal Navy ship, the Ministry of Defence has said.

HMS Montrose, a British frigate shadowing the tanker British Heritage, was forced to move between the three boats and the tanker, a spokesman said.

He described the Iranians‘ actions as „contrary to international law“.

Iran had threatened to retaliate for the seizure of one of its own tankers, but denied any attempted seizure.

Boats believed to belong to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) approached British Heritage and tried to bring it to a halt as it was moving out of the Gulf into the Strait of Hormuz.

Guns on HMS Montrose were trained on the Iranian boats as they were ordered to back off, US media reported. The boats heeded the warning and no shots were fired.

The BBC has been told British Heritage was near the island of Abu Musa when it was approached by the Iranian boats.

HMS Montrose had been shadowing British Heritage from a distance but came to its aid once the Iranian boats began harassing the tanker, BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said.

Although Abu Musa is in disputed territorial waters, HMS Montrose remained in international waters throughout.

A UK government spokesman said: „Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.

„We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.“

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox thanked the crew of HMS Montrose, adding: „It is our duty as a parliament to ensure that all those forces are adequately resourced.“

What does Iran say?

Quoting the public relations office of the IRGC’s Navy, the Fars news agency said, in a tweet, the IRGC „denies claims by American sources“ that it tried to seize British Heritage.

„There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones,“ the IRGC added, according to the AFP news agency.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the UK made the claims „for creating tension“.

„These claims have no value,“ Mr Zarif added, according to Fars.

Why are UK-Iran tensions escalating?

Image copyright


Image caption

Two tankers were attacked in the Strait of Hormuz in June

The relationship between the UK and Iran has become increasingly strained, after Britain said the Iranian regime was „almost certainly“ responsible for the attacks on two oil tankers in June.

Last week, British Royal Marines helped the authorities in Gibraltar seize an oil tanker because of evidence it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

The Government of Gibraltar said it would not comment on matters relating to the vessel as it was the subject of a police investigation. It said the matter was also now in the Supreme Court.

The Port of Gibraltar’s live map showed Grace 1 remained anchored about 3km off the east coast of Gibraltar on Thursday.

An Iranian official said a British oil tanker should be seized if Grace 1 was not released.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said on Thursday that Grace 1 was a serious sanctions issue in relation to Syria rather than Iran.

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British Royal Marines helped to detain the oil tanker, Grace 1, near Gibraltar earlier this month

Iran also summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to complain about what it said was a „form of piracy“.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked the UK, calling it „scared“ and „hopeless“ for using Royal Navy warships to shadow another British tanker in the Gulf.

HMS Montrose had shadowed British tanker the Pacific Voyager for some of the way through the Strait of Hormuz, but that journey had passed without incident.

„You, Britain, are the initiator of insecurity and you will realise the consequences later,“ Mr Rouhani said.

Why does the Strait of Hormuz matter?

The Royal Navy has a frigate, four minehunters and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship already stationed in a permanent Naval Support Facility in the region, at Mina Salman in Bahrain.

This is enough to provide reassurance, but probably not to deal with a crisis, the BBC’s Jonathan Beale said.

„HMS Montrose will not be able to provide protection for every commercial vessel in the Gulf with links to the UK,“ he added.

„Ministers will now have to contemplate sending another Royal Navy warship to the region. But in doing so, that may only further escalate tensions with Iran, which is something the government wants to avoid.“

The UK has also been pressing Iran to release British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted for spying, which she denies.

Could things get worse?

Iran appears to have been attempting to make good on its threat against British-flagged vessels in the wake of the seizure of an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar.

But though this incident has a specifically bilateral dimension, it is also a powerful reminder that the tensions in the Gulf have not gone away.

And with every sign that the dispute over the nuclear agreement with Iran is set to continue, things may only get worse.

The episode may add some impetus to US-brokered efforts to muster an international naval force in the Gulf to protect international shipping.

But most worrying of all, it shows that elements within the Iranian system – the Revolutionary Guard Corps’s naval arm, or whatever – are intent on stoking the pressure.

This inevitably plays into President Trump’s hands as Britain and its key European partners struggle to keep the nuclear agreement alive.

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The British Heritage tanker is capable of carrying more than one million barrels of oil, according to BP Shipping

British Heritage is one of three tankers delivered under a fleet rejuvenation project by BP Shipping. All three ships are registered at the port of Douglas, in the Isle of Man.

The crew on the tankers is typically made up of about 25 officers.

It is understood British Heritage was not carrying cargo at the time of the incident with the Iranian boats.

A spokesman for BP said: „Our top priority is the safety and security of our crews and vessels. While we are not commenting on these events, we thank the Royal Navy for their support.“

What are US-Iran tensions about?

The US has blamed Iran for attacks on six oil tankers in May and June.

The chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, on Wednesday, it wants to create a multi-national military coalition to safeguard waters around Iran and Yemen .

The news followed the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme and reinforce punishing sanctions against Iran .

European allies to the US, including the UK, have not followed suit.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN has insisted Europeans must do more to compensate Tehran for economic losses inflicted by US sanctions.

Tehran has begun to nudge the levels of its enriched uranium beyond the limits of a nuclear deal agreed with a group of world powers , in small and calculated steps.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi told the BBC, Iran would move to the „third phase“ of its stepped-up uranium enrichment programme unless the Europeans kept promises to uphold the economic benefits of the accord.

The Nuclear Race in the Middle East (Daniel 7-8)

Middle East: Towards a Nuclear Arms Race

The Middle East is barreling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.

The race is being aided and abetted by a schizophrenic U.S. policy that, on the one hand, focuses on Iran (and the need to stop the country in its tracks) and, on the other hand, primarily views Saudi Arabia as a lucrative market for the U.S. defense and nuclear industry.

The race is further enabled by the inability or unwillingness of other major powers – Europe, Russia and China – to counter crippling U.S. sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Iranian nuclear program despite last year’s U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

Aiding the Saudi agenda

With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to start breaching the agreement if the international community, and particularly Europe, fails to shield it against U.S. sanctions.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen, a hard-liner when it comes to Iran, asserted recently during a visit to Israel that Iran would need six to eight months to enrich uranium in the quantity and quality required to produce a nuclear bomb.

U.S. and Chinese willingness to lower safeguards in their nuclear dealings with Saudi Arabia further fuel Iranian doubts about the value of the nuclear agreement and potentially open the door to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Why Trump focuses on Iran

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News, Donald Trump recently elaborated on the prism through which he approaches the Middle East.

The president deflected calls for an FBI investigation into last October’s murder by Saudi government agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

“Iran’s killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East ― this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries,” Mr. Trump said, suggesting that crimes by one country provide license to others.

Asked whether Saudi arms purchases was reason to let Saudi Arabia off the hook, Mr. Trump responded: “No, no. But I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Europe’s stance creates an opening for Russia

Europe has so far unsuccessfully sought to put in place an effective mechanism that would allow European and potentially non-European companies that do business with Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions unscathed.

As the United States prepared to announce new sanctions, Russia said it would help Iran with oil exports and its banking sector if the European mechanism failed to get off the ground but offered no details.

While countering the sanctions is Iran’s immediate priority, Saudi moves, with the help of the Trump administration as well as China, are likely to enhance Iranian questioning of the nuclear accord’s value.

The country is keen to put in place the building blocks for a nuclear industry that could develop a military component and a ballistic missiles capability.

Trump’s “rationale”

Trump’s argument that Russia and China would fill America’s shoes if the United States refused to sell arms and technology to Saudi Arabia is not wholly without merit, even if it fails to justify a lack of safeguards in the provision of nuclear technology to the kingdom.

For example, when the United States refused to share its most advanced drone technology, China opened in 2017 its first overseas defense production facility in Saudi Arabia.

State-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is manufacturing its CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment in Saudi Arabia. The CH-4 is comparable to the armed U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Satellite images discovered by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and confirmed by U.S. intelligence show that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China.

Saudis bypass the Americans

The missile program runs counter to U.S. policy that for decades sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia had air supremacy in the region, so that it wouldn’t seek to go around the United States to upgrade its missile capabilities.

The program that started in the late 1980s with Saudi Arabia’s first clandestine missile purchases from China suggests that the kingdom, uncertain about the reliability of the United Sates, is increasingly hedging its bets.

Saudi development of a ballistic missile capability significantly dims any prospect of Iran agreeing to limit its missile program – a key demand put forward by the Trump administration.

Nuclear power plants in play too

in 2017 Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with China that included a feasibility study for the construction of high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear power plants in the kingdom as well as cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs built in Saudi Arabia.

The HTGR agreement built on an accord signed in 2012 that involved maintenance and development of nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as the provision of Chinese nuclear fuel.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) warned at the time that the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons.”

The Trump administration, eager to corner a deal for the acquisition of designs for nuclear power plants, a contract valued at up to $80 billion depending on how many Saudi Arabia ultimately decides to build, has approved several nuclear technology transfers to the kingdom.

It has also approved licences for six U.S. firms to sell atomic power technology to Saudi Arabia.

Saudis vs. the IAEA

Saudi Arabia is nearing completion of its first atomic reactor in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology near Riyadh.

A signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Saudi Arabia has ignored calls by the IAEA, to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would ensure that it does not move towards development of a nuclear military capability.

“Saudi Arabia is currently subject to less intrusive monitoring by international inspectors because Riyadh concluded what is known as a small quantities protocol with the agency.

The small quantities protocol was designed to simplify safeguards for states with minimal or no nuclear material, but it is no longer adequate for Saudi Arabia’s expanding nuclear program,” Kelsey Davenport, director of Non-proliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Middle East Eye.

Ms. Davenport warned that “given these factors, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned that Saudi Arabia is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow Riyadh to quickly pursue nuclear weapons if the political decision were made to do so.”