Archive for May 14, 2019

Iran Vows to Attack Israel if Assaulted by US

May 14, 2019

Source: Iran Vows to Attack Israel if Assaulted by US | Al Bawaba

Published May 14th, 2019 – 07:34 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

Iran has aimed fire at the deployment of US military forces in the Gulf and threatened an attack on Israel if the aircraft carrier was ever used against them.  

Speaking to reporters on Sunday the Iranian Parliament’s vice-speaker Ali Motahhari said the military forces based in the region had started a ‘psychological’ war in the region and warned the US against an attack on the Middle Eastern nation.

The comments come after the Pentagon deployed the USS Lincoln, the fifth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the United States Navy, to the Middle East in a move that officials said was to counter ‘clear indications’ of threats from Iran.

In addition to the deployment of the aircraft carrier, the country has also sent over B-52 bombers to the area.

The aircraft, which has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and was commissioned in 1989, will be replacing another carrier that was removed from the region in April.

Mr Motahhari told FARS news agency: ‘The US military forces’ deployment in the Gulf is more of the nature of psychological warfare. They are not ready for a war, specially when Israel is within our range.’

His comments resonate with those of the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force Amir Ali Hajizadeh who called the move a ‘serious threat’ and said that if the US decided to make a move, Iran would be forced to retaliate.

Speaking to the Iranian Students’ News Agency he said: ‘An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past.

‘But now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities.

‘If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head.’

In addition to having allies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Iran also has a number of explosive missiles aimed at Israel making the country a dangerous threat.

Fearing that ‘anything could happen’ former finance Minister of Israel Yuval Steinitz told Ynet news: ‘Things are heating up. I wouldn’t rule anything out. Iran may fire rockets at Israel.’

He added: ‘The American sanctions are breaking the neck of the Iranian economy, and a new and stronger wave [of sanctions] is still to come.’

On Sunday it was revealed that President Trump had increased economic pressure on Iran and was looking to cut off all its oil exports in a bid to get Tehran to curb its nuclear and missile programs.

Iran threatens to ‘target’ an American aircraft carrier after the USS Abraham Lincoln is deployed to the Persian Gulf

By Reuters and Chauncey Alcorn for the DailyMail.com

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned on Sunday that the presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Gulf used to be a serious threat, but now represents a target, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

The U.S. has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that officials said was to counter ‘clear indications’ of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.

The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month.

President Donald Trump has increased economic pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all its oil exports in a bid to get Tehran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as end support for proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Speaking to CNBC in an interview to be broadcast on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. deployments came in response to intelligence about potential Iranian attacks and aimed both to deter them and to be able to respond if necessary.

‘We’ve seen this reporting,’ Pompeo said. ‘It’s real. It appears to be something that is current, that is things we’re worried about today.’

‘In the event that Iran decided to come after an American interest – whether that be in Iraq or Afghanistan or Yemen or any place in the Middle East – we are prepared to respond in an appropriate way,’ he said, adding that ‘our aim is not war.’

Iranian navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday that American forces must exit the Gulf, according to ISNA. ‘The presence of the Americans in the Persian Gulf region has reached its end and they must leave the region,’ Khanzadi said.

Major General Hossein Salami, appointed head of the Guards last month, told parliament on Sunday the United States had started a psychological war in the region, the parliamentary spokesman said.

‘Commander Salami, with attention to the situation in the region, presented an analysis that the Americans have started a psychological war because the comings and goings of their military is a normal matter,’ spokesman Behrouz Nemati said, according to parliament’s ICANA news site.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

 

U.S. envoy urges response ‘short of war’ to Gulf tankers attack 

May 14, 2019

Source: U.S. envoy urges response ‘short of war’ to Gulf tankers attack – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war,” Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters.

BY REUTERS
 MAY 14, 2019 12:34
Port officials take a photo of a damaged Andrea Victory ship at the Port of Fujairah, UAE, May 13

RIYADH/DUBAI – The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Washington should take what he called “reasonable responses short of war” after it had determined who was behind attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Iran was a prime suspect in the sabotage on Sunday although Washington had no conclusive proof, a U.S. official familiar with American intelligence said on Monday. Iran has denied involvement.

“We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war,” Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh in remarks published on Tuesday.

“It’s not in (Iran’s) interest, it’s not in our interest, it’s not in Saudi Arabia’s interest to have a conflict.”

Four commercial vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged on Sunday near Fujairah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE and a bunkering hub just outside the Strait of Hormuz. UAE authorities did not say who was behind the attack.

Distancing Tehran from the incident, Iran’s Foreign Ministry called it “worrisome and dreadful.”

Iran is embroiled in a war of words with the United States over sanctions and the U.S. military presence in the region.

Washington has increased sanctions on Tehran, saying it wants to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero, after quitting the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and global powers last year.

The U.S. Maritime Administration said last week that Iran could target U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through Middle East waterways. Tehran has called the U.S. military presence “a target” rather than a threat.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared information on what he called escalating threats from Iran during meetings with EU counterparts and the head of NATO in Brussels on Monday, the U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook said.

Hook declined to say whether he believed Iran played a role in the attacks off Fujairah or if Pompeo blamed Iran. He said the UAE had sought U.S. help in the investigation.

COOL HEADS MUST PREVAIL

Newspapers in the UAE, which are heavily controlled by the government, ran editorials urging caution in responding to the attack, which risks undermining the Gulf Arab state’s image as a regional bastion of stability and security.

“While further details are yet to emerge about this worrying incident, cool heads must prevail, and proper measures should be taken to ensure that this situation does not spin out of control,” wrote the editorial board of Abu Dhabi-based The National.

Gulf News, a state-linked Dubai daily, said “rogue actors must be brought to book.”

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Monday that the attack aimed to undermine security of global crude supplies.

A fifth of global oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz from Middle East crude producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond. The narrow waterway separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula.

Oil prices were up slightly on Tuesday, though checked amid an escalation in the trade war between the U.S. and China.

Gulf Arab stock markets rebounded in early trading. The Saudi index was up 1.4 percent after two days of heavy losses and Dubai stock index was trading 2.4 percent higher after its biggest one-day loss in years on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to force Tehran to agree a broader arms control accord and has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what U.S. officials have said are threats to U.S. troops in the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, designated a terrorist organization by Washington, threatened last month to close the Hormuz chokepoint if Tehran was barred from using it.

 

Israeli TV claims Iran weighing attack on Saudi oil production facilities

May 14, 2019

Source: Israeli TV claims Iran weighing attack on Saudi oil production facilities | The Times of Israel

Channel 13 says Tehran has ruled out striking at US bases; quotes Arab sources saying some in IRGC want to hit Israeli targets, others warn of ‘suicidal’ risk of conflict with US

Illustrative photo from 2004 of an industrial plant that strips natural gas from freshly pumped crude oil at Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oil field at Shaybah in Saudi Arabia's Rub al-Khali desert. (AP Photo/Bruce Stanley, File)

Illustrative photo from 2004 of an industrial plant that strips natural gas from freshly pumped crude oil at Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oil field at Shaybah in Saudi Arabia’s Rub al-Khali desert. (AP Photo/Bruce Stanley, File)

Israel has warned the US that Iran is contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities, an Israeli TV report said Friday night, as tensions between Tehran and the Trump Administration soar.

The unsourced Channel 13 report said the Iranians were “considering various aggressive acts” against American or American-allied targets. Tehran had looked at targeting American bases in the Gulf, but that had been deemed too drastic. The main target they were interested in was “Saudi oil production facilities,” the TV report said. Such a strike would also send world oil prices soaring and enable Iran to get more income from its oil sales, the report added.

Channel 13 also quoted unnamed Arab intelligence sources saying there was a debate raging in the Iranian leadership about striking US and US-allied targets, with some in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pushing for attacks, including against Israeli targets, while others cautioned that it would be “suicidal” to get into serious military conflict with the US.

The Channel 13 report came four days after the same TV channel first reported that the Israeli Mossad had tipped off the White House two weeks ago about an Iranian plan to attack either a US or US-allied target. That earlier report did not specify potential targets for such an ostensible attack.

The Israeli intel was conveyed by an Israeli delegation led by National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, which met with American intelligence officials at the White House late last month, the May 6 TV report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair MK Avi Dichter, left, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, right, at an FADC meeting in the Knesset, November 19, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing US pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against US interests in the Gulf,” an official was quoted as saying.

Channel 13’s military analyst Alon Ben-David said Friday that the Iranians might be “underestimating American determination” to defend US interests. “In Israel, there is an assessment that the prospect of confrontation between the US and Iran is growing — because the US is ready to respond harshly to any attack” including on Saudi Arabia, he said.

Ultimately, he added, the decision on whether to attack US and US-allied targets would rest with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 9, 2019 in Washington, DC (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Thursday threatened a “swift and decisive” US response to any attack by Iran, in the latest of a series of escalating statements and actions.

“The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve,” he said.

The Pentagon said Friday that the US would move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East region to counter threats from Iran.

The department provided no details, but a defense official said the move comes after intelligence showed that the Iranians have loaded military equipment and missiles onto small boats.

Also on Friday, the US Maritime Administration warned that Iran could try to attack American commercial vessels, including oil tankers, Reuters reported.

US officials announced Sunday that they would rush an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region.

The United States had already announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region, saying it had information of plans for Iranian-backed attacks.

An American official said the decision to send in more forces was based in part on intelligence indicating that Iran had moved short-range ballistic missiles by boat in waters off its shores.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not clear whether the boats with missiles represented a new military capability that could be used against US forces or were only being moved to shore locations.

The moves have frightened some European allies as well as President Donald Trump’s Democratic rivals, who fear the administration is pushing for war based on overhyped intelligence.

Pompeo, who earlier canceled a trip to Greenland to rush back to Washington, however said: “We do not seek war.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks to board a plane before departing from London Stansted Airport, north of London, on May 9, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / POOL / AFP)

“But Iran’s 40 years of killing American soldiers, attacking American facilities, and taking American hostages is a constant reminder that we must defend ourselves,” said Pompeo, referencing the 1979 Islamic revolution that transformed Iran from close US ally to sworn foe.

Meanwhile Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the United States Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters he would bring the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln through the Gulf’s sensitive Strait of Hormuz if need be.

“If I need to bring it inside the strait, I will do so,” Malloy said. “I’m not restricted in any way, I’m not challenged in any way, to operate her anywhere in the Middle East.”

Iran on Wednesday said it would suspend some commitments under a 2015 nuclear accord rejected by Trump, frustrated that renewed US sanctions have prevented the country from enjoying the economic fruits of compliance with the deal.

Earlier Thursday, Trump said he sought talks with Iran.

“What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,”Trump told reporters at the White House. “We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask.”

US President Donald Trump (C) speaks during event on ending surprise medical billing at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 9, 2019. (Jim WATSON / AFP)

Trump also said Washington was not looking for a conflict with Tehran, but refused to divulge why the carrier had been dispatched.

“We have information that you don’t want to know about,” Trump said, according to Reuters. “They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places.”

Asked about the possibility of a military confrontation, he said “I don’t want to say no, but hopefully that won’t happen,”

 

Saudi Arabia oil infrastructure hit by drones; Iran-backed rebels claim attack

May 14, 2019

Source: Saudi Arabia oil infrastructure hit by drones; Iran-backed rebels claim attack | The Times of Israel

Two pumping stations hit, bringing flow of crude to a halt as pipeline closed; assaults come days after Israeli TV said Israel warned the US that Iran was weighing such attacks

Illustrative photo from 2004 of an industrial plant that strips natural gas from freshly pumped crude oil at Saudi Aramco's Shaybah oil field at Shaybah in Saudi Arabia's Rub al-Khali desert. (AP Photo/Bruce Stanley, File)

Illustrative photo from 2004 of an industrial plant that strips natural gas from freshly pumped crude oil at Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oil field at Shaybah in Saudi Arabia’s Rub al-Khali desert. (AP Photo/Bruce Stanley, File)

Saudi Arabia said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday, shortly after Yemen’s rebels claimed a coordinated drone attack on the Sunni power.

The assaults marked the latest incidents challenging Mideast security after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates earlier this week amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen. The spokesman of the rebels, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, told The Associated Press: “This is a message to Saudi Arabia, stop your aggression.”

“Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing everyday against the Yemeni people,” he added.

The assaults came days after an Israeli television report said Israel had warned the US that Iran was considering targeting Saudi oil production facilities.

In a statement carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that drones attacked a petroleum pumping station supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea.

A fire broke out and firefighters later brought it under control, though the state-run Saudi Aramco stopped pumping oil through the pipeline.

Falih said Saudi Aramco had “temporarily shut down” the pipeline to “evaluate its condition” but added that oil production and exports had not been interrupted.

“The company (Saudi Aramco) is working on restoring the pumping station before resuming operations,” he said in the statement.

A fire broke out and firefighters later brought it under control, though the state-run Saudi Aramco stopped pumping oil through the pipeline.

Falih said Tuesday’s incident was an “act of terrorism… that not only targets the kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy”.

The kingdom’s state security body also said two petroleum pumping stations in the greater region of Riyadh, the landlocked capital, were targeted at the same time. The statement described it as a “limited targeting” of petroleum stations in areas al-Duadmi and Afif in the Riyadh region, without elaborating.

Falih called the attack “cowardly,” saying that recent sabotage acts against the kingdom’s vital installations not only target Saudi Arabia, but the safety of the world’s energy supply and global economy. He said this reaffirms the need of the international community to confront the activities of groups like the Houthis. He also promised the production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.

Benchmark Brent crude traded at $71 a barrel Tuesday, up $1.27 on the day.

The attack on Saudi oil targets comes after four oil tankers anchored in the Mideast were damaged by what Gulf officials described as sabotage, though satellite images obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday showed no major visible damage to the vessels.

Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker on Sunday remained unclear, and Gulf officials have declined to say who they suspected was responsible. But it demonstrated the raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies as tensions are increasing between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The US has warned sailors of the potential for attacks on commercial sea traffic, and regional allies of the United Arab Emirates condemned the alleged sabotage as the tankers were off the coast of the UAE port city of Fujairah.

A US official in Washington, without offering any evidence, told the AP that an American military team’s initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, agreed to reveal the findings only if not quoted by name. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast and operates from a base in Fujairah, has repeatedly declined to comment.

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Energy and Oil Minister, talks during the opening ceremony of the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition & Conference, ADIPEC, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 12, 2018. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

The US already had warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

On Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates that was part of a US-led combat fleet from near the Persian Gulf because of mounting US-Iran tensions. The Ministry of Defense said the Méndez Núñez, with 215 sailors on board, will not cross the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf together with the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Spanish frigate was the only non-US vessel in the fleet.

Citing heightened tensions in the region, the United Nations called on “all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security” and freedom of navigation, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Israel has warned the US that Iran is contemplating targeting Saudi oil production facilities, an Israeli TV report said Friday night.

The unsourced Channel 13 report said the Iranians were “considering various aggressive acts” against American or American-allied targets. Tehran had looked at targeting American bases in the Gulf, but that had been deemed too drastic. The main target they were interested in was “Saudi oil production facilities,” the TV report said. Such a strike would also send world oil prices soaring and enable Iran to get more income from its oil sales, the report added.

The Channel 13 report came four days after the same TV channel first reported that the Israeli Mossad had tipped off the White House two weeks ago about an Iranian plan to attack either a US or US-allied target. That earlier report did not specify potential targets for such an ostensible attack.

Tensions in the region have risen since Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored US sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The oil tankers were visible in satellite images provided Tuesday to the AP by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies. A boom surrounded the Emirati oil tanker A. Michel, indicating the possibility of an oil leak. The other three showed no visible major damage from above.

Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 when Iran-backed rebels captured the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 to help government troops facing the Houthi advance. The US supported the coalition for years despite its airstrikes killing civilians, and is only recently beginning to step back after the October killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents.

This isn’t the first time Yemen’s Houthis have used drones as weapons — a bomb-laden drone launched by the rebels exploded over a military parade in January for the Saudi-led coalition, killing at least six people.

The use of drones also raises new concerns over Iran’s influence in the conflict. Coalition officials have recently displayed a series of drones they claim show a growing sophistication of the Houthis, starting first with plastic foam models that could be built by a hobby kit, to one captured in April that closely resembled an Iranian-made drone.

Those drones have been flown into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile batteries, according to the research group Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

Iran has been accused by the US and the UN of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthis, which Tehran denies.

Such drones remain difficult to shoot down with either light or heavy weapons. Iraqi forces learned this from driving out the Islamic State group from northern Iraq, where the extremists would load drones with grenades or simple explosives to target their forces.

ToI staff contributed to this report.

 

Kremlin slams US ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran as Pompeo arrives in Russia 

May 14, 2019

Source: Kremlin slams US ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran as Pompeo arrives in Russia | The Times of Israel

US secretary of state to meet with Putin, Russian FM amid sharp divides between countries on Syria, arms control

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on May 14, 2019. (Pavel Golovkin/Pool/AFP)

SOCHI, Russia — The Kremlin on Tuesday slammed Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the highest-level US-Russian talks in nearly a year.

US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, who arrived in the sunny Black Sea resort of Sochi late Tuesday, was to meet with Putin to see if Russia and Washington can make headway on a raft of disagreements from arms control to the raging Venezuela and Iran crises.

Pompeo’s visit to Russia — his first as secretary of state — came as tensions mounted dangerously in the Gulf, with Iran and the United States engaged in a new war of words over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Saudi Arabia has said four ships in the Gulf, including two of its oil tankers, suffered “sabotage” on Sunday, and on Tuesday it shut down a major oil pipeline after a drone attack on it by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking US official to see Putin since July when Trump met him in Helsinki and stunned the US political establishment by appearing to accept the Russian leader’s statement at face value that he did not meddle in the US election, contrary to US intelligence evaluations.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrive to attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

“On some issues we may agree, on others we may disagree, but when it’s in our national interests, it is our responsibility to find a way forward,” Pompeo tweeted.

Putin was expected to receive Pompeo later Tuesday after the latter held talks and a dinner with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

“I am here today because President Trump is committed to improving this relationship,” Pompeo said as he met with Lavrov.

Lavrov told Pompeo that Moscow was ready to open a new page in ties.

“I believe it’s time to start building a new, more responsible and constructive model of mutual perception of each other… We are ready for this,” he said.

Saber-rattling

Ahead of the negotiations Putin was to tour a top military flight test center in southern Russia and inspect a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile dubbed Kinzhal (Dagger).

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the display of military muscle was designed to send a message to the Americans.

At a meeting Monday, Putin also tasked his top brass with developing defenses against hypersonic weapons.

Peskov slammed what he called Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, saying it would only drive Tehran into a corner.

Pompeo cancelled a stop in Moscow Monday to instead have an unscheduled meeting in Brussels with European foreign ministers, who have been uncomfortable with the hawkish direction of the United States on Iran.

The United States has pulled out of a nuclear deal backed by the Europeans, Russia and China and has slapped sweeping sanctions on Iran in an all-out effort to curb Tehran’s regional clout.

The United States has recently ramped up the pressure by saying the deployment to the region of an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers was to counter vaguely described threats from Iran.

In this Thursday, May 9, 2019 photograph released by the US Air Force, a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron is seen through night vision coming in for a landing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar (Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner, US Air Force via AP)

The renewed diplomacy between Moscow and Washington follows a long-awaited report by investigator Robert Mueller. He found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election but that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Besides Iran, Washington and Moscow are at loggerheads on an array of urgent strategic questions, including Venezuela, the Syrian civil war and the conflict in Ukraine.

The United States has been trying for more than three months to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Pompeo has repeatedly blamed Russia for giving him a lifeline.

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Sunday, March 11, 2018, a Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic missile flies during a test in southern Russia (AP Photo/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, File)

Both the United States and Russia hope to make some progress on arms control. Moscow is seeking a five-year extension of the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits and is set to expire in 2021.

The Trump administration this year pulled out of another key arms control agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, with NATO allies saying a Russian missile system was in violation. Moscow has denied the claims.

Last year Putin revealed a new generation of “invincible” nuclear weapons and warned of a new arms race if America pulled out of weapons treaties.

‘Regime slays dissidents’

Trump on Monday announced that he expected a “very fruitful meeting” with Putin at the G20 summit in Japan next month, only for Peskov to deny Washington had requested such a meeting.

The US president’s enthusiasm for courting Putin has little support in Washington, even within his own administration, which has kept up a campaign of pressure including sanctions on Russia over alleged election meddling and Moscow’s support for armed separatists in Ukraine.

Pompeo, despite his close relationship with Trump, left little doubt on where he stood in remarks Saturday in California.

Addressing the conservative Claremont Institute, Pompeo said that US policymakers in recent decades had “drifted from realism,” He chastised them for believing that “enfolding the likes of China and Russia into a so-called rules-based international order would hasten their domestic evolution towards democracy.”

“We can see now 30 years on, after the end of the Cold War, that the Putin regime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbors,” Pompeo said.

 

Iranian lawmaker blames ‘Israeli mischief’ for tanker attacks off UAE coast

May 14, 2019

Source: Iranian lawmaker blames ‘Israeli mischief’ for tanker attacks off UAE coast – www.israelhayom.com

Parliamentary spokesman Behrouz Nemati blames Israel for “events” that damaged ships. Meanwhile, satellite images of vessels indicates that damage might not be significant, despite reports.

The tanker attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were “Israeli mischief,” an Iranian parliamentary spokesman said on Tuesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“The events that took place in the Emirates were Israeli mischief,” Behrouz Nemati said, without providing any details on what role Israel may have played in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers were among those attacked off the coast of the Emirates and described it as an attempt to undermine the security of crude supplies amid tensions between the United States and Iran.

The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels were sabotaged near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. It did not describe the nature of the attack or say who was behind it.

Meanwhile, satellite images obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday showed no major visible damage to the vessels.

Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker on Sunday remained unclear, and Gulf officials have declined to say who they suspected was responsible. But it demonstrated the raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies as tensions are increasing between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The U.S. has warned sailors of the potential for attacks on commercial sea traffic, and regional allies of the United Arab Emirates condemned the alleged sabotage as the tankers were off the coast of the UAE port city of Fujairah.

A U.S. official in Washington, without offering any evidence, told the AP that an American military team’s initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, agreed to reveal the findings only if not quoted by name. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Middle East and operates from a base in Fujairah, has repeatedly declined to comment.

 

Report: White House reviews updated military plans against Iran

May 14, 2019

Source: Report: White House reviews updated military plans against Iran – www.israelhayom.com

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration last Thursday, which according to the New York Times envisions sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.

The top U.S. defense official has presented an updated military plan to U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration that envisions sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Citing unnamed administration officials, the Times said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented the plan at a meeting of Trump’s top security aides on Thursday.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Pentagon declined to comment.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have intensified since Trump pulled out of a 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activities and imposed increasingly strict sanctions on Tehran.

Trump wants to force Tehran to agree to a broader arms control accord and has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what U.S. officials have said are threats to U.S. troops in the region.

Iran has said the U.S. is engaging in “psychological warfare,” called the U.S. military presence “a target” rather than a threat and said it will not allow its oil exports to be halted.

The Times said among those attending the Thursday meeting were Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.

Several plans were detailed, the Times said, and “the uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.”