Iran Closes In On A Nuclear Bomb: Daniel 8

Without a Nuclear Deal, How Close Is Iran to a Bomb?


Jonathan Tirone
May 20, 2021, 10:00 PM MDT
Three years after former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, Tehran’s government is closer to having the material needed for a nuclear weapon than if the deal had remained in place. Iranians have enriched more uranium to higher levels using more sophisticated technologies than they would otherwise have had access to under a strict monitoring regime. Those developments have led President Joe Biden’s administration to join diplomats from Europe, China and Russia in seeking to revive the 2015 agreement, which reined in Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

  1. How close is Iran to making a bomb?

Iran has accumulated enough enriched uranium (meaning it has an increased concentration of the isotope uranium-235) to construct several bombs should its leaders choose to purify the heavy metal to the 90% level typically used in weapons. For the first time, the nation is producing small quantities of highly enriched uranium, purified to levels of 60%, demonstrating that its engineers could quickly move to weapons-grade. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors report the country has stockpiled more than 3,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which typically has 3%-5% concentration of U-235. That’s 10 times the volume allowed under the 2015 agreement.

Iran’s 5% Enriched Uranium Stockpile

Iran’s low-enriched inventory up 10 fold since Trump broke deal
Source: IAEA data compiled by Bloomberg

  1. Why is enrichment so important?

Obtaining the material necessary to induce atomic fission is the most difficult step in the process of making nuclear power or bombs. Countries need to develop an industrial infrastructure to produce uranium-235 isotopes, which comprise less than 1% of matter in uranium ore but are key to sustaining a fission chain reaction. Thousands of centrifuges spinning at supersonic speeds are used to separate the material. The IAEA keeps track of gram-level changes in uranium inventories worldwide to ensure the material isn’t being diverted for weapons. Whether or not Iran retains the right to enrich uranium has been at the heart of its nuclear conflict with the U.S. for two decades.

Iran’s History of War and Weapons

  1. Did the 2015 deal slow Iran’s progress?

The latest in global politicsGet insight from reporters around the world in the Balance of Power newsletter.
Yes. The deal was written to ensure that even if it was someday broken, Iran would need at least a year to restore weaponization capacity. Iran forfeited some 97% of its enriched uranium and mothballed three-quarters of the industrial capacity needed to refine the heavy metal. Before the accord, Iran had enough to potentially build more than a dozen bombs. Iran always maintained it was pursuing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, but world powers doubted that claim.

  1. Why did Iran break its part of the agreement?

President Hassan Rouhani waited a year after the Trump administration reimposed sanctions before giving the orders to break the nuclear covenants set out by the accord. Over the last 18 months, Iran has shown it could steadily lift its atomic capacity despite the best efforts of saboteurs and assassins to derail the program.

  1. Can the deal be revived?

Biden promised during his presidential campaign that if Iran returned to compliance with its obligations under the 2015 deal, the U.S. would also return to the deal and lift sanctions. Diplomats bunkered down in Vienna have conducted intensive talks over two months to revive the accord. As of mid-May, they’d made substantial progress and were close to reinstituting the safeguards needed to ensure Iran can’t construct a weapon. Envoys are under pressure to seal a return to the accord before Iran’s presidential election in June, when the outcome is expected to favor political hardliners.

  1. What happens if the agreement is revived?

To return to compliance with the deal’s limits, Iran would have to dramatically reduce uranium stockpiles and sideline much of its enrichment technology. International inspectors would again have full access to places where nuclear material is produced, an important consideration as monitors continue parsing information about the country’s alleged historical weapons-related activities. Iran would win reprieve from sanctions that hamstrung its exports of oil and other economic activities. While some of the nuclear limitations in the deal begin to expire in 2025, diplomats expect follow-on talks to take place that would focus on regional security and Iran’s production of ballistic missiles.

  1. What happens if there’s no deal?

After entering the original deal in 2015, then-President Barack Obama said the alternative might have been a military conflict with major disruptions to the global economy. Over the last three years, the dispute between Washington and Tehran has roiled the wider Middle East, fueling conflicts where Iran and American allies are on opposing sides, with Iran blamed for attacks on shipping in key waterways.

The Beast of the Sea Adds His Insight on Iran: Revelation 13

George W. Bush: ‘Iranian influence’ is behind Hamas attacks on Israel


By Steven Nelson
Former President George W. Bush said in a new interview that Iran helped spur the Hamas terrorist group to attack Israel.

Bush told Fox News that what “you’re seeing playing out is Iranian influence targeted toward Israel.”

“I think the best approach with regard to Iran is to understand that their influence is dangerous for world peace,” he said.

The Republican former commander in chief said “they are very much involved with extremist movements in Lebanon and Syria and Yemen, and they are aiming to spread their influence.”

Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement that seeks to infuse religious fundamentalism into government. The US has condemned the group — which has controlled Gaza since 2007 — as a terrorist organization.

Although Iran opposed Sunni extremists in civil wars in Syria and Yemen, it allegedly supports the Palestinian group in fighting common enemy Israel.

The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which is closely linked to Iran, joined the current fighting by firing its own missiles at Israel this week.

Other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have speculated that Iran arms Hamas, which launched about 3,750 rockets over nine days from poverty-stricken Gaza toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

McConnell said Iran backs Hamas and “keeps their rocket arsenals full.”

Hamas launched a barrage of missiles into Israel beginning last week after clashes in Jerusalem sparked by an Israeli court decision that ordered the eviction of Palestinian tenants who stopped paying rent in East Jerusalem.

Although Iran’s precise involvement in regional conflicts often is murky, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gen. Hossein Salami, said Wednesday that “Tehran backs the Palestinians’ fight against the Zionist regime.”

Salami boasted, “The Palestinians have emerged as a missile-equipped nation.”

Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, led the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11 and ordered the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, making claims about weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be bogus.

Rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza City heading towards Israel on May 18, 20219.
Rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza City heading toward Israel on May 18, 2021.
Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images
US military involvement in the Middle East later divided Republicans, with former President Donald Trump calling the invasion of Iraq one of the worst decisions in US history, in part because it allowed Iran’s influence to expand during a long-running insurgency against US troops.

Bush has rarely commented on political issues since leaving office, but told Foxnews.com that he’s concerned about efforts by the Biden administration to resurrect a nuclear deal with Iran that was brokered under former President Barack Obama. He said a new deal should be “comprehensive.”

“Any deal that is done has got to not only focus on its nuclear capabilities, but also its influence in the Middle East,” Bush said. “And you know, any deal, you’ve got to keep in mind the dangers of an aggressive Iran to our allies, and to stability, so it has to be a comprehensive look.”

Bush also offered support for the Abraham Accords negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The accords resulted in the recognition of Israel by four Arab countries.

“Once the sit-in settles down, and if those Abraham Accords hold, it will make it easier to establish peace,” Bush said. “But right now, those who don’t want peace are provoking and attacking Israel, and Israel is, of course, responding for national security reasons.”

Iran and the Shi’a Horn: Daniel

Factbox: Iranian influence and presence in Syria

During the last several years, the Iranian military involvement in Syria has grown and become more visible, which has made targeting them an easy job for the Israeli air force. As a result, in 2017-2018, Iran had to find a different approach for its military involvement in order to protect its militias. Iran then began the ambitious plan of redefining its presence in Syria by creating the Local Defense Forces (LDF), supporting specific brigades within the Syrian army and, most recently, establishing local private security companies.

Iranian militias recruitment

Local Militias

Iran encouraged the Shia minority in Syria to form special militias and recruited Sunnis—especially clans—in the provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor. In addition, some of the Shia militias in Syria were and continue to be recruited on a sectarian basis under the pretext of defending places considered holy by the Shia community. For example, campaigns are being conducted in the areas housing holy Shia shrines in Damascus in the Sayeda Zeinab district. 

After individuals are recruited, they are sent for about twenty-one to forty-five days of light and medium arms training and sometimes for six months for heavy weapons training. The Syrian militias backed or formed by Iran are divided into several groups.

• National Defense Forces: The formation of the National Defense Forces (NDF) began in 2012 with Iranian guidance and support in the city of Homs. It included members of all sects—Sunnis, Alawites, and Druze—and has headquarters in each province. The NDF was considered the largest Syrian militia in terms of number and outreach, with an estimated forty thousand fighters. Iran demanded that the Syrian regime legitimize these forces like the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq and integrate them into the Assad regime’s military. In 2016, the regime dismantled the NDF, which forced Iran to fully neglect the militia and focus more on the LDF. It’s worth noting that the Russians started communicating with the NDF in late 2018 in order to integrate them with the Fifth Corp, so as to bring militias and ex-Free Syrian Army into Assad’s military to fight on the battlefronts of Hama, Daraa, and Homs.

• Local Defense Forces: Iran recruited fighters from the provinces of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa under the name of the Local Defense Forces (LDF). The LDF are considered part of the Syrian army and have over fifty thousand fighters. The most prominent militias within the framework are considered to be the Nayrab Brigades (Special Operations), al-Sefira Corps, al-Baqir Brigade, the Nubul and Zahra Brigades, and the Qatraji forces. 

• Syrian Shia militias: Iran recruited from the Shia minority in Syria; mainly from northern Aleppo, northern Homs, and parts of Raqqa. The Syrian Shia militias have an estimated five thousand to eight thousand fighters. The most prominent of these militias include: the Aleppo branch of the Imam al-Hajjah, the Mahdi soldiers and the Mahdi Army in Nubul and Zahra, the Damascus branch of the Rukia Brigade, the Idlib branch of the al-Waed al-Sadiq Corps, the Homs branch of the forces of Imam Reza, Zin El Abidin Brigade, the Deir ez-Zor branch of the Brigade 313 Busra al-Sham in Daraa, and Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi Brigade (Lattakia and Hama), among others.  

Foreign Militias

Iran uses several mechanisms to recruit foreign fighters. It employs the ideological factor through its own “Husseiniat Scouts” to recruit Shia volunteers under the motto of “Protecting Shia shrines.” 

Iran also lures fighters to Syria with salaries. For example, every fighter in the Fatemiyoun brigade is given anywhere from $450 to $700 monthly, which makes the militia the highest paid by Iran. For other militias, Iran pays salaries between $200 to $300 and, for local militias, such as Nubl and Zahra Brigades, it gives less than $100 month. The militia salaries are funded from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) budget of approximately $7.6 billion. 

The IRGC and Hezbollah typically train members of these militias in camps in Mashhad, northeastern Iran and then transfer them to Syria either by land through Iraq or by air. When they aren’t sent to Iran, the IRGC can rely on several military bases and camps inside Syria, such as Damascus International Airport, al-Tayfour Airport, Azraa Base, Sayeda Zeinab Base, al-Kaswa Camp, Zabadani Camp, and al-Qusayr Camp. 

• Iraqi militias: Iraqi Shia militias began to appear in Syria at the end of 2012, after Iran directed them to support the Assad regime. Of note are the Zulfiqar Brigade, Abu al-Fadl Abbas Brigade, Asaad Allah al-Ghalib Brigade, the Imam Ali Brigade, and Asayeb Ahl al-Haq Brigade. However, a number of these militias were forced to return to Iraq in mid-2014 to counter the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), following its takeover of the city of Mosul. 

• Afghan militias: The IRGC recruited Afghan Shia in Iran and Afghanistan and formed the Fatemiyoun Brigade, which began to appear in Syria in November 2012. The brigade has an estimated three thousand to fourteen thousand fighters spread between three battalions in Damascus, Aleppo, and Hama provinces. Some of the leaders of the Fatemiyoun Brigade fought in the Abu Thar Brigade during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the Army of Muhammad during the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan war.

• Pakistani militias: The IRGC recruited Pakistani Shias and formed the Zaynibion Brigade, which began to appear publicly in Syria in early 2013. The brigade has an estimated one thousand to five thousand fighters deployed in Damascus, Aleppo, Daraa, and Hama provinces. 

• Lebanese militias: Hezbollah intervened early in the Syrian crisis in May 2011. The Lebanese militant group provided training and technical support to security forces and the Syrian army. Hezbollah has also launched field combat missions since 2013 and has an estimated five thousand to eight thousand fighters in Syria. 

Syrian private security companies affiliated with Iran

Before May 2013, the activities of private security companies in Syria were limited to securing shopping malls, banks, and concerts. The growing need for legal armed forces not bound by government regulation led to the issuance of Legislative Decree No. 55: a legal contract that allows militias to operate in Syria and use military force—depending on their contract—thereby allowing these entities to operate freely without needing to report to Assad’s army or security branches.

Iran used private security companies to insert Iranian influence in sensitive Syrian areas, such as the capital, Damascus, without concerns about maintaining this presence in the future, because private security companies are under the guise of a registered Syrian company. Iran found private security to be an ideal way to maintain a presence in strategic locations, like the Baghdad-Damascus highway in the eastern desert of Syria.

Iranian influence and presence beyond the military and security

The Syrian opposition forces’ gains between 2014-2015 was one of Iran’s most important triggers to strengthen its military presence and direct involvement in Syria. Map 2 shows the reality of the current territorial control and influence of Iran, as well as on its local and foreign militias.

As for the Iran-backed foreign militias, the IRGC used a completely different tactic in 2018 to mitigate the risk of Israeli airstrikes. First, it reduced the activity of these militias and used local brokers to work on their behalf, such as the Iraqi Badr Brigade. The militia still maintains three bases in southern Aleppo and near Aleppo international airport. It’s worth noting that all its social media accounts stopped posting about their activity in the area and have since worked under the umbrella of the Syrian LDF.

As the map shows, Iran’s plan was to spread in almost all parts of Syria using a combination of local and foreign militias. The following table explains the actual military strength and involvement of Iran and its allies in Syria in 2020.

The aforementioned Iranian control is no longer limited to military and security presence. Iran’s focus continues to be infiltrating Syrian society and strengthening its presence in the Syrian economic system in order to ensure its survival in Syria—especially in the event that an international agreement is made to neutralize its military presence. The following figures show Iran’s influence and the extent of its military, security, social, and economic control in various Syrian provinces. For example, when it comes to economic control, Iran reactivated the Syrian-Iranian Business Forum in 2018, which played a fundamental role in the spread of Iranian projects in various areas in Syria, mostly focusing on power generation projects.

Iran also works with charitable organizations to better integrate into Syrian society. One of the most significant Iran-backed organizations is Jihad Al-Bina Organization, which focuses mostly on the issue of restoring schools and health centers. The organization is currently active in Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo provinces.

Iran has also recently focused on education outreach, with the number of constructed educational facilities now up to seven, in addition to Iranian cultural centers, which play an important role in spreading Iranian culture in Syrian society. In 2019, Jihad Al-Bina restored sixteen schools in Deir ez-Zor alone. Each had a placard confirming that Iran had supported the operation. Jihad Al-Bina periodically distributes food aid to civilians in an effort to gain loyalty from the local population. During the coronavirus pandemic, Iran established several small medical points in Deir ez-Zor to supply civilians with Vitamin C and surgical masks. Though a minute gesture, many civilians saw the aid as a big deal, while some even saw it as a sign that Iran would never abandon them.

The spread of Iran’s influence in Syria is working accordingly, though not in a fast or clear-cut way. Iran is in Syria for the long term and is taking the time it needs to get results.

Saving the Shi’a oil and wine: Revelation 6

How the Iran-Iraq war shaped oil markets regionally and globally

Napoleon once notably said, “A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets”. Forty years ago, when Iraqi tanks rolled across the Iranian border on September 22, 1980, after early skirmishes and Iraqi complaints of incursions into disputed border regions, they invited the not yet two year-old Iranian revolution to unsheathe those bayonets. The consequences have shaped the Middle East and the world oil system ever since.

Energy was in the firing line immediately. The oil-rich province of Khuzestan was the main target of Saddam Hussein’s aggression. The giant Agha Jari oil-field and the huge Abadan refinery on the Iranian side of the Shatt Al Arab were immediate targets. Just eight days into the war, Iran bombed and badly damaged the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The Iraqis would attack the under-construction Bushehr nuclear power plant several times during the conflict.

In April 1982, Iran’s ally, Syria, shut down the Iraqi pipeline through its territory to the Mediterranean. With Iraq’s narrow Arabian Gulf frontage also unusable, the country’s oil exports were mostly cut off. They would not revive until a new pipeline through Turkey was finished in 1986. Output, which had hit a record 3.5 million barrels per day in 1979 just before the war, would not exceed that until 2015, under a very different management.

Meanwhile, Iran’s exports, which had collapsed during the revolution, were also hit by air attack. They revived from 1982 but have never come close to regaining the levels of 1973-78 in the last years of the Shah.

During 1984-88, both sides attacked shipping throughout the Gulf in the “Tanker War”, with hundreds of ships damaged. The American and Soviet navies ended up protecting reflagged neutral tankers, and the US involvement marked a major escalation in its direct military presence in the Gulf.

Eventually, the bloody stalemate on the ground and growing disillusionment, the American threat and the 1986 collapse in oil prices, together forced Ayatollah Khomeini to accept a ceasefire in 1988.

The political ramifications were also profound. The demands of national defence allowed the Iranian revolutionaries to consolidate power. Much of the regime’s current paranoia, its attempts at self-sufficiency and its attempts to engage its enemies in the theatres of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen rather than on Iranian soil, stem from the wartime experience.

Today’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was president for most of the war; current president Hassan Rouhani was on the supreme defence council and an early player in the US’s Iran-Contra scandal. Much of the esprit de corps and personal relationships of the Revolutionary Guards, including men such as former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and foreign expeditionary mastermind Qassem Soleimani, were forged on the battlefields. These have now burgeoned into corrupt business networks that distort the Iranian economy.

The war has three major energy lessons. The first is the great vulnerability of the Middle East’s oil industries to military action. Despite inadequate and uncoordinated deployment of their (for the time) very modern air-forces, both sides inflicted severe tit-for-tat damage on each other’s facilities. Through air, naval and political action, they were able to choke the enemy’s economic lifeline.

The second lesson is the cost of modern warfare, which far outweighs the value of capturing petroleum assets. Iraq emerged with $86 billion (Dh315.8bn) in debt, a ratio to gross domestic product of 278 per cent. With a large and unemployed army, Saddam was tempted to solve his economic problems by bullying his Gulf neighbours to cut production, then to invade Kuwait in 1990, bringing down on Iraq a yet greater catastrophe.

The scars of those two decades of dictatorship, war and sanctions on Iraq’s mutilated economy and politics have never healed. But the George W. Bush administration in 2003 had not learnt the lesson. They expected a swift reconstruction of Iraq’s oil sector after the US invasion, which would contradictorily bankroll the country’s reconstruction and bring down world prices.

Iran has rebuilt better. Its semi-isolation from the world economy, partly by choice, partly because of international and US sanctions, has been detrimental. Yet it has encouraged a rather diversified industrial base and export industry.

The third lesson is the unpredictable and chaotic long-term political and energy market impacts of conflict.

How would the energy world have evolved if Saddam had not launched his war? The early-1980s oil price spike would not have happened. The market to the mid-1980s would then have been much more oversupplied, with both Iran and Iraq pumping at normal levels. Non-Opec production, such as the North Sea, would not have developed as far and fast; the subsequent oil bust might not have been as long and punishing.

Saudi Arabia would have continued to face two strong rivals within Opec – in the case of Iraq, likely a growing one. If the pragmatism of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the post-war president, had taken hold earlier, Iran might have achieved what it has often promised but not managed, and become a significant gas exporter to its neighbours.

Without the Tanker War intervention and President Bill Clinton’s “dual containment” of the 1990s, the US military build-up in the Gulf, with all its consequences, may not have occurred. The Gulf would have continued to be geopolitically and economically important, and the looming threat of revolutionary Iran’s bayonets would have remained. But the region may not have obsessed military and oil market strategists to the neglect of eastern Europe and east Asia.

Forty years on, these consequences are apparent, even if the counterfactuals must remain speculation. Generations in Iraq and Iran have grown up under the shadow of the human, environmental and financial cost of Saddam’s criminal blunder and Khomeini’s intransigence. Perhaps no other event in human history has so well illustrated the fragility of oil wealth.

Robin M. Mills is chief executive of Qamar Energy and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis

Updated: September 27, 2020 06:39 PM

Khamenei is Correct: Babylon the Great is a Failed Model

US a truly failed model in running a society: Leader

TEHRAN, Aug. 23 (MNA) – Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the US is a real model of failure in governing human society.

Mehr News Agency

Human values such as health, justice and security are being trampled on more in the United States than anywhere else,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a video conference meeting with President Rouhani and his cabinet members on Sunday on the occasion of the National Government Week.

“The social gap in the US is terrible; the number and proportion of hungry and homeless people in the United States is higher than the rest of the world,” he added.

Referring to the statistics revealed by US presidential candidates in their campaigns, the Leader said, “One out of every five American children is hungry, while insecurity and crime rates in the United States are also very high.”

Murder, warmongering and creating insecurity are common actions carried out by the Americans in Syria, Palestine, and Yemen, and before that in Iraq, Afghanistan and areas such as Vietnam and Hiroshima.”

“The fact that the US is headed by people who are a source of humiliation for that country is another sign of the defeat of western models and the decline of western civilization in the world.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Leader called on the government to pave the way for boosting domestic production and reduce reliance on external sources.

“Production is key to employment, to livelihood, to reducing inflation, and to boosting the national currency’s value; therefore, we need to exert every effort possible regarding domestic production,” he said.

Addressing the cabinet members, the Leader stressed, “Try to remove the production obstacles; many of such issues pertain to excessive imports, parts [supply] challenges, and inconsistencies in downstream sectors,”

Hailing the considerable developments, including those made by the Defense Ministry and armed forces, advising to turn into domestic capabilities to supply the needs of the industry.

Iran says sabotage caused fire at Natanz nuclear site. Israel?

Iran admits sabotage caused fire at Natanz nuclear site

Iran’s nuclear body has said that a fire last month at a major nuclear facility was caused by sabotage.

But the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) did not say who it believed was behind the incident at the Natanz uranium enrichment site.

Some Iranian officials have previously said the fire might have been the result of cyber sabotage.

There were several fires and explosions at power facilities and other sites in the weeks surrounding the incident.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a AEOI spokesperson, told state TV channel al-Alam on Sunday that “security authorities will reveal in due time the reason behind the [Natanz] blast”.

• What is behind mysterious ‘attacks’ at key sites?

• Why do the limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment matter?

The fire hit a central centrifuge assembly workshop. Centrifuges are needed to produce enriched uranium, which can be used to make reactor fuel but also material for nuclear weapons.

Mr Kamalvandi said last month that Iran would replace the damaged building with more advanced equipment, but acknowledged that the fire could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges “in the medium term”.

An article by Iran’s state news agency Irna previously addressed the possibility of sabotage by adversaries such as the United States and Israel, but did not accuse either of the countries directly.

Why is Natanz significant?

Natanz, about 250km (150 miles) south of the capital Tehran, is Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg published details of a report by the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which concluded that Iran was attempting to boost uranium enrichment at the plant.

If true, the move would be in violation of a 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with several world powers.

As part of the deal, Iran agreed only to produce low-enriched uranium, which has a 3-4% concentration of U-235 isotopes and can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched or more.

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at its other underground facility, Fordo, until 2031.

In exchange for concessions to it’s nuclear programme, Iran was granted relief from international sanctions.

In November, Iran unveiled advanced centrifuges at Natanz

But last year, Iran began rolling back its commitments after US President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear accord and reinstated crippling economic sanctions.

In November, Iran said it had doubled the number of advanced centrifuges being operated at Natanz and had begun injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at Fordo .

Natanz is one of several facilities being monitored by the IAEA to ensure Iran’s compliance with the 2015 deal.

The IAEA’s new director general Rafael Grossi has said he will visit Tehran on Monday to request access to two suspected former nuclear sites.

The IAEA has criticised Iran for not answering questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at these sites in the early 2000s.

Iran has previously insisted its nuclear programme is not intended for military use. Officials have also denied that Mr Grossi’s visit is related to moves by the United States at the UN Security Council to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran, state media reported.

Babylon the Great Finally Leaving the Iraqi Horn

US President Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

Donald Trump meets Iraq PM, says US troops to exit ‘at some point’

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that American troops would leave Iraq but gave no timetable for the withdrawal, as he met the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi for the first time in Washington.

The meeting comes with attacks on American targets by pro-Iranian fighters on the rise and the Iraqi government facing calls to expel the 5,000 US troops deployed in the country as part of anti-jihadist efforts.

Trump said alongside PM Kadhemi at the White House, “So at some point, we obviously will be gone,”

“We’ve brought it down to a very, very low level”, he added.

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

PM Kadhemi said at the White House that he was “grateful” for US support in the war against the Islamic State jihadist group, which “strengthens our partnership for the best interest for our nation.”

The US military withdrew from Iraq in late 2011, leaving a small mission attached to the US embassy.

Kadhemi faces challenges from factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups with close ties to Iran.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “armed groups not under the full control of the prime minister have impeded our progress,” calling for them to “be replaced by local police as soon as possible.”

On being asked about the plan for cutting the 5,000 US troops now in Iraq, Pompeo said that he had no numbers and urged people “not to focus on that.”

PM Kadhemi has angered armed groups by seizing border posts where they ran lucrative smuggling networks and imposed taxes on traders.

Attacks have risen in recent weeks, with the Iraqi army reporting another rocket attack on Tuesday evening targeting Baghdad airport, where US troops are based. The projectile did not cause damage or casualties, the army said.

Earlier in May, an American soldier and a British soldier, as well as one US contractor, were killed after rockets hit an Iraqi military base north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Baghdad and Tehran must be “state-to-state and not via militias,” the source quoted Kadhemi as saying, adding that groups that “draw their strength from Iran” had bombed Iraqi targets and embezzled money.

In January, the attack at the Baghdad International Airport also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

The Iranian attack came after a US drone attacked on January 3 a convoy at Baghdad International Airport that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

(With inputs from agency)

Babylon the Great Concedes to Iraq and Iran

US-led site handover to Iraq proceeds after attacks by suspected Iran-allied fighters

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred about 50 ammunition storage bunkers and facilities to Iraqi forces at Camp Taji, part of a continuing force consolidation as the Islamic State fight wanes and conflict with Iran-backed fighters ramps up.

The handover Sunday was long-scheduled, officials said, but it came hours after two small rockets struck near the base on Saturday night, the latest attack targeting bases where coalition forces are housed, which the U.S. has blamed on Iranian proxy groups.

The rocket strike at the base north of Baghdad did not impact near coalition forces, Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for the coalition, said on Twitter on Saturday.

Also last week, three rockets fell on Balad Air Base, the Iraqi government said Thursday, then on Friday three more fell on Baghdad’s international airport, it said. On Sunday, one landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, where diplomatic and military mission headquarters are based. None of the attacks resulted in significant damage, the Iraqi government said on Twitter.

The strikes all came after the U.S. seized more than 1 million barrels of Iranian oil from four tankers bound for Venezuela last week.

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

They also come ahead of expected U.S.-Iraq talks, which Central Command boss Gen. Frank McKenzie said would likely involve the long-term presence of American and allied troops.

“I think that is a grave concern to the Iranians because that works against what they want, which is for Iraq to be pretty directly under their control and for us to be out of the theater,” the Marine general said in an online panel hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday.

McKenzie acknowledged that the rocket attacks have forced the coalition to pull back from the ISIS fight somewhat and divert resources to self-protection. He also expected Iran to launch a fresh “response” after failing to expel the U.S. from Iraq earlier this year.

“I do not know what the nature of that response will be, but we will certainly be ready for it, should it occur,” he said.

U.S.-Iran tensions have risen steadily over the past two years, as President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to pressure Tehran into renegotiating an Obama-era nuclear treaty that Trump withdrew the U.S. from.

article continues below 

Sporadic rocket attacks have become commonplace since last fall, and in January a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, leading Tehran to respond with a barrage of ballistic missiles that hit U.S.-occupied bases in Iraq and left more than 100 American troops with traumatic brain injuries.

Meanwhile, the coalition has removed forces from smaller Iraqi bases, a long-planned effort which officials have said was sped up by the increased threat from Iran-backed militias.

Two American troops and a British soldier were killed at Taji in March, but many of the coalition troops that were once at the base to train Iraqi forces have since gone elsewhere in Iraq or been sent home. There remains a small presence of troops who coordinate logistics and security operations, the coalition said.

Some 5,200 American troops remain in Iraq, but as the government forces take on more responsibility for fighting ISIS, the number of U.S. and coalition troops is expected to shrink, McKenzie said last week.

“We don’t want to maintain a huge number of soldiers forever in Iraq,” McKenzie said.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

The Shi’a Horn Strikes Babylon the Great

Iraq: 2 bombs strike US supply convoy

People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Tayaran Square in Baghdad, Iraq on 15 January 2018 [Haydar Hadi/Anadolu Agency]

August 14, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Two bombs have hit convoys supplying US-led coalition forces in Iraq’s southern governorate of Dhi Qar, security sources reported on Wednesday.

“A bomb has targeted a convoy carrying logistical support equipment for the US army on the highway at Al-Batha intersection in the western city of Nasiriyah,” Dhi Qar police commander, Hazem Al-Waeli, was quoted in a statement as saying.

The explosions, which caused no casualties but did some material damage, are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent weeks. On Sunday, another convoy carrying supplies to coalition forces was attacked in southern Iraq.

The attacks have escalated following the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander, Qassem Soleimani, and the leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, in a US drone strike in Baghdad at the start of the year.

Several thousand US forces are still based in Iraq, leading a coalition whose mission is said to be “to fight Daesh”. But following the recent attacks, the troops have withdrawn from seven sites across the country.

On Wednesday, a senior US army official said the number of American troops in Syria and Iraq would be reduced over the coming period, he did not stipulate how many would be withdrawn.

Since October 2019, Iraq has witnessed more than 30 attacks targeting US military and diplomatic bases, but missile attacks have become more rare in recent months.

The Sunni and Shi’a Horns Divide (Daniel)

President Trump says UAE to open diplomatic ties with Israel | Newser

President Donald Trump, accompanied by F=from left, U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, Avraham Berkowitz, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s White House senior adviser Jared Kushner,…   (Associated Press)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.

Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway. Israel and the UAE also have been among Trump’s closest foreign allies.

For Israel, the announcement comes after years of boasting by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged. Netanyahu has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.

For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighboring Gulf Arab states.

And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback. While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter. She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she wrote.

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emiratis “a stabbing in the back of our people.”

The joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the deal.

“This is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region,” he said in a statement. “It also illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small — but strong — nations.”

He added: “Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabruk and Mazal Tov.”

Netanyahu tweeted an Israeli flag with a short message in Hebrew: “Historic Day.”

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999, but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.

In addition to Trump, the main U.S. mediators for agreement were the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The UAE is a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Formed in 1971, the country like other Arab nations at the time did not recognize Israel over its occupation of land home to the Palestinians.

“Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood,” the UAE’s founding ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once pronounced when agreeing to an oil boycott over U.S. military support to Israel in the 1973 Mideast war.

The UAE relied on white-collar Palestinians in creating its nation. Over time, it maintained its stance that Israel allow the creation of a Palestinian state on land it seized in the 1967 war.

But in recent years, ties between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly grown, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel’s distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the militant group Hamas that holds the Gaza Strip.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency acknowledged the deal, framing it as not just a move that helps the UAE and Israel, but one that also carries benefits for the Palestinians. Top Emirati official Anwar Gargash said the move dealt a “death blow” to moves by Israel to annex Palestinian lands.

It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now. In June, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. warned in an Israeli newspaper op-ed that Israel’s planned annexing the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank would “upend” Israel’s efforts to improve ties with Arab nations.

The agreement gives Netanyahu a domestic boost at a time when Israel’s shaky coalition government is plagued by infighting and facing the possibility of early elections in the coming months. Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet as the country grapples with a renewed coronavirus outbreak and skyrocketing unemployment as the result of earlier lockdown measures.

Netanyahu also delivered a valuable diplomatic achievement to his good friend, Trump, ahead of U.S. elections.

Still, by dropping the annexation plan Netanyahu may be hedging his bets ahead of a possible change in the White House. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has made clear that he would oppose any moves by Israel to unilaterally redraw the Mideast map and annex lands sought by the Palestinians.

Netanyahu also risked criticism inside his own hard-line Likud Party, whose members strongly supported annexation. Netanyahu appears to be betting that Likud members — and the small, but influential settler movement — will agree the peace agreement delivers more benefits than unilateral annexation. Opinion polls have shown that annexation is not a high priority for the vast majority of the Israeli public.

Abandoning its annexation plan changes little on the ground. Israel already holds overall control of the West Bank and continues to expand its settlements there, while granting the Palestinians autonomy in a series of disconnected enclaves. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in the rapidly expanding West Bank settlements.

Next year, Israel will take part in the UAE’s delayed Expo 2020, the world’s fair being hosted by Dubai. A secret synagogue also draws practicing Jews in Dubai. The UAE also has announced plans to build the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue.

Israelis traveling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem, though one still can’t make a phone call between the two countries. Israelis also work in Dubai’s gold and diamond trade as well.

Emirati officials also have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi judo tournament. Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

___

Lee reported from Bled, Slovenia, and Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.