Archive for May 24, 2018

Trump may mull naval blockade, no-fly zone against N. Korea: expert

May 24, 2018

Published : May 23, 2017 Korea Herald

Source Link: Trump may mull naval blockade, no-fly zone against N. Korea: expert

{Naval blockade? If this happens, I’m going to need plenty of popcorn. – LS}

The Donald Trump administration may push for naval blockades or the imposition of a “no-fly” zone against North Korea should it succeed in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, an expert here said Tuesday.

Trump would view it as a red line for the nuclear-armed communist nation, according to Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

In case of the North’s successful development of ICBMs, “Taking military actions against Pyongyang will be the most appealing option on the table from Trump’s perspective,” he said in a paper released to media ahead of a security forum to be co-organized by Korea National Defense University and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (foundation).

The forum will be held in Seoul on Wednesday with the theme of “The New US Administration and Its Alliance Relations: Change and Continuity.” Shin plans to give a presentation at the conference.

Shin pointed out that Trump will be restrained from launching a direct military strike against the North due to concerns about massive retaliatory attacks.

“He can still create military tensions through other options without carrying out a direct military attack on North Korea,” the professor said. “That is, military operations, naval blockades, and the imposition of a no-fly zone could also escalate tensions in Northeast Asia.”

For these reasons, he added, attention needs to be paid to the US decision to keep deploying its aircraft carrier Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the East Sea after May.

Another key question is how China and Russia will respond to such US actions if taken.

Both Beijing and Moscow may seek to avoid a direct military confrontation with the US and step up efforts to nudge Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table on its nuclear program, Shin said.

Or they may try to check such unilateral military actions by the US, creating military tensions among the regional powers and exacerbating the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

If regional players fail to manage pending risk factors, he added, Northeast Asia is likely to slide into the vortex of armed confrontations. (Yonhap)

Trump cancels Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

May 24, 2018

by By Mike Calia | May 24, 2018 CNBC

Source Link: Trump cancels Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Bonus Link: Donald Trump Tells Kim Jong Un: Summit Canceled — but Thanks for the Hostages

Bonus Link: Trump says U.S. military ready if North Korea’s Kim acts foolishly

{Kim scared to leave country? Who knows for sure, but I’m not surprised the meeting is off for now. Trump is positioning for more sincerity on the part of Kim Jong Un. – LS}

President Donald Trump has canceled his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month.

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

The news came as North Korea made a show of dismantling a nuclear test site, but also on the heels of some sharp words from the North Korean government about America denuclearization demands.

Doubts had grown in recent days about whether the summit would actually happen. North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea out of anger over joint military tests with the U.S. in the Korean peninsula. While Trump had repeatedly played up the historic significance of the meeting, he also often leavened his optimism with a cautious “we’ll see.”

Much of the letter was written in conciliatory terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote in the letter.

Earlier Thursday, a top North Korean official, Choe Son Hui, called Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks likening Pyongyang with Libya “ignorant” and “stupid.”

Pence had said North Korea could end up like Libya if it doesn’t make a nuclear deal with Washington.

“As a person involved in U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe said, according to KCNA.

The vice president’s comments also echoed those of Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, who had suggested the U.S. could pursue a Libya-style denuclearization plan with North Korea. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was eventually violently overthrown, a move the U.S. supported. North Korea’s Kim is concerned about regime change.

Trump left the door open for arranging a new meeting with Kim, however.

“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” the president wrote. “This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”

Read the full text of the letter here:

May 24, 2018

His Excellency
Kim Jong Un
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democractic People’s Republic of Korea

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that i pray to God they will never have to be used.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.

Sincerely yours,

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States of America


Iran using imprisoned British mom to con cash from U.K.

May 24, 2018

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, and her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, were detained in Iran in 2016 while attempting to board a flight to Britain to see her husband Richard Ratcliffe. File Photo courtesy of

by By Struan Stevenson | May 24, 2018 UPI

Source Link: Iran using imprisoned British mom to con cash from U.K.

{Yet another reason to put the squeeze on the Mullahs. If they can extort using this poor woman, imagine what they will extort using a nuclear arsenal. – LS}

May 24 (UPI) — The British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 39-year-old charity worker serving a five-year jail sentence, was told in a Tehran court on Saturday that she faces new charges of “spreading propaganda against the state. ”

In a barefaced display of Iranian injustice, Judge Abolghassem Salavati, clutching a 200-page dossier, informed the young mother that she was likely to be convicted. He then dismissed her choice of lawyer as “not approved.”

The move against Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been in prison for two years, was not unexpected, as the charge of “spreading propaganda” echoes the accusations made by the Iranian regime following U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson‘s dangerous gaffe regarding her case. Johnson told the foreign affairs select committee in Westminster last November that she had been in Iran “training journalists,” a completely unfounded and ludicrous assertion.

In fact, Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the charitable Thomson-Reuters Foundation and was on holiday in Iran, bringing her then 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella to meet her parents. She was arrested at Tehran Airport in April 2016 as she tried to board a plane for London. Charged with spying, she was found guilty following a mock 45-minute trial. Full details of the charges against her have never been revealed, even to her.

Insiders say she is being held as a bargaining-counter against an alleged £450 million arms deal debt that Britain had arranged prior to the overthrow of the shah in 1979. The Iranian regime claims the arms were never delivered and although Britain has now agreed to repay the £450 million, there is an ongoing dispute over the amount of outstanding interest accrued over the past four decades. The new false charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe are the theocratic regime’s way of placing further pressure on the U.K.

The British mother has consistently denied that she was involved in any form of plotting against the state and certainly denies that she was in Iran to train journalists. She has always stated that she was simply in the country on holiday. But Johnson’s reckless outburst now looks set to cost this innocent woman, being held hostage by one of the most dangerous and corrupt regimes in the world, her ultimate freedom.

On Saturday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe pleaded for clemency and asked Judge Salavati to allow her “to go home and have another baby,” stating that as she is nearing 40 it may be her last chance. She told the judge that her daughter Gabriella will be 4 in three weeks, adding, “There is something called clemency. Give me that for the sake of my baby. She hasn’t seen her father for over two years now.”

It is well known that many women are in prison in Iran, guilty of nothing more than opposing the oppressive mullah’s regime, or attempting to uphold human rights. Iran, under the so-called “moderate” leadership of President Hassan Rouhani, has in fact risen to the No. 1 spot globally as the country that executes most people per capita. Over 3,500 men, women and often children have been hanged since Rouhani took office nearly five years ago.

Executions are often carried out in public, as are other medieval and barbaric sentences such as floggings, amputations and eye gouging. Since the nationwide uprising that began in late December and is still continuing in cities throughout Iran, thousands more men and women have been arrested and imprisoned. Fourteen have been tortured to death.

Iran is also the world’s godfather of terror, backing Bashar al-Assad‘s bloody civil war in Syria, the ferocious Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq and the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Iranian regime’s fingerprints are on every conflict in the Middle East. This is a country that should be openly condemned by Britain for its catalog of human rights abuse and serial misogyny. Yet Britain is standing fast behind the discredited nuclear deal dumped by the United States recently.

The U.K. and other EU countries believe that lucrative commercial contracts with the fascist Iranian regime are of more importance than human rights and the fate of an innocent young mother like Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Her husband, Richard, has made frantic efforts to have his wife freed, disclosing that she is now ill and suffering from extreme stress, although apparently, she was allowed to phone the “new British ambassador” from prison at the weekend, the first time she had been permitted to have any contact with the embassy in over two years. She was able to update the ambassador on the new charges she faces and she apparently asked him to issue a formal diplomatic note protesting at the invented accusations.

There is no such thing as justice in Iran and it is outrageous that a young mother and British citizen could be facing a further 16 years in a hellhole prison on such trumped-up and ridiculous charges. The White House strategy of maximum pressure on North Korea led to the release of three American hostages and an agreement to hold peace talks. Instead of simpering appeasement, Britain and the EU should be pursuing a policy of maximum pressure on the pariah Iranian regime.

We need to take a firm line with the mullahs in all areas, including renewed diplomatic and trade sanctions, until innocent hostages, including Zaghari-Ratcliffe, are released.

Struan Stevenson, coordinator of Campaign for Iran Change, was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.



If Iran resumes enrichment, the US and Israel poised to attack its facilities 

May 24, 2018

Source: If Iran resumes enrichment, the US and Israel poised to attack its facilities – DEBKAfile

 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: If Europe fails to back Iran against the US, Tehran will resume uranium enrichment. He is asking for trouble. 

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei tried Wednesday, May 23, to counter Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ultimatum with one of his own for the European powers, the UK, France and Germany, which are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal after the US walkout. The dictates he put before them included: European banks must safeguard trade with Iran and stop seeking new negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional Middle East activities to gratify the US president. The Europeans must further guarantee Iran’s oil sales and compensate Tehran for losses incurred from US sanctions. If Europe fails to meet Khamenei’s demands, Iran will go back to enriching uranium, effectively turning its back on the 2015 nuclear deal, he warned.

This was Tehran’s first authoritative response to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from that deal and Pompeo’s threat of tough sanctions unless Tehran changed its ways. Iran’s leaders will not have forgotten that in late April, President Trump threatened “severe consequences” for their resumption of uranium enrichment and will have taken into account that these consequences could run to a US and/or Israel military strike on their enrichment facilities. Iran has accordingly accelerated the deployment of advanced Bavar-373 surface to air missile (SAM) defense systems around those facilities.
Iranian strategists are also aware that American and Israeli air force planes are armed with weapons capable of destroying the Bavar-373 batteries. On April 24, Israeli warplanes bombed those systems during an air strike on the Syrian army’s 47th Division’s weapons depots and command centers outside Homs. But the Iranian missiles had just been delivered and were still unpacked in crates and not operational.

Amid these beating war drums, Israel’s air force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin showed the image of an F-35 stealth plane over Beirut to a meeting n Wednesday of 20 air force chiefs who are spending the week in Israel. He was conveying the message that if the F-35 stealth plane could reach the sky over Beirut, it was equally capable of flying over Tehran and reaching the Natanz enrichment center.

Israel is now back to square one, i.e. 2012, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, then defense minister, and Eliezer Shekedi, air force chief at the time, had girded Israel up for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, only to be held back by the Obama administration’s push for nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

US cannot be trusted to keep agreements, Iranian leader says 

May 24, 2018

Source: US cannot be trusted to keep agreements, Iranian leader says – Israel Hayom

At least 12 killed in presumed US-led airstrike in Syria 

May 24, 2018

Source: At least 12 killed in presumed US-led airstrike in Syria – Israel Hayom

Report: Satellite images reveal secret Iranian missile development site

May 24, 2018

Source: Report: Satellite images reveal secret Iranian missile development site – Israel Hayom