Archive for July 4, 2019

Gibraltar detains Syria-bound supertanker with Iranian oil

July 4, 2019

Source: Gibraltar detains Syria-bound supertanker with Iranian oil

29 minutes ago
A view of the Grace 1 super tanker i near a Royal Marine patrol vessel in the British territory of Gibraltar, Thursday, July 4, 2019. Spain’s acting foreign minister says a tanker stopped off Gibraltar and suspected of taking oil to Syria was intercepted by British authorities after a request from the United States. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

MADRID (AP) — Authorities in Gibraltar said they intercepted Thursday an Iranian supertanker believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Tehran’s crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.

A senior Spanish official said the operation was requested by the United States. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency described the incident as “an illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.”

Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by Britain’s Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 early Thursday, authorities on the British overseas territory at the tip of Spain said in a statement.

It added that the vessel was believed to be headed to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, a government-owned facility under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and subject to the EU’s Syrian Sanctions Regime.

The EU and others have imposed sanctions on Assad’s government over its continued crackdown against civilians. They currently target 270 people and 70 entities.

Spain’s caretaker foreign minister Josep Borrell said the tanker was stopped by British authorities after a request from the United States.

Iran later summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to answer questions about the operation. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet that Rob Macaire was summoned over the “illegal interception” of the ship.

Mousavi later called the ship’s seizure “odd and destructive.” ″It can cause an increase in tensions in the region,” he said in a live telephone interview on state television Thursday night.

In Madrid, Borrell told reporters that Spain is assessing the implications of the operation because the detention took place in waters it considers its own.

Britain insists Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom but Spain argues that it is not, and the tanker operation risks offending the Spanish.

“We’re looking into how this (operation) affects our sovereignty,” said Borrell, who was nominated earlier this week to become the EU’s foreign policy chief.

The Gibraltar authorities didn’t confirm the origin of the ship’s cargo but Lloyd’s List, a publication specializing in maritime affairs, reported this week that the Panama-flagged large carrier was laden with Iranian oil.

According to a U.N. list, the ship is owned by the Singapore-based Grace Tankers Ltd.

The vessel likely carried just over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, the data firm Refinitv said. Tracking data showed that the tanker made a slow trip around the southern tip of Africa before reaching the Mediterranean, it said.

The tanker’s detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the U.S. and Iran grow over the unraveling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from last year. Trump has also slapped sanctions onto Iran and recently approved the passage of a carrier group, bombers and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf.

In recent days, Iran has broken through the limit the deal put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and plans on Sunday to boost its enrichment. Meanwhile, oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz have been targeted in mysterious attacks as Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launch bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and F-22 fighters to the region, raising fears of a miscalculation sparking a wider conflict. Last month Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, further stoking those fears.

Iran’s intelligence minister said Thursday that any negotiations with the U.S. would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions. Khamenei has until now ruled out talks with the U.S., saying that Washington cannot be trusted.

On Thursday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Information Minister Mahmoud Alavi as saying “if the supreme leader permits, negotiations between Iran and the United States will be held.” He added, however, that Tehran would not negotiate under pressure.

There was no immediate reaction to the tanker’s detention from Syria, which has suffered severe fuel shortages as a result of the civil war and Western sanctions that have crippled the country’s oil industry, once the source of 20 percent of government revenues.

Iran, which has provided vital military support to Assad, extended a $3 billion credit line for oil supplies beginning in 2013 but the Iranian aid dwindled as Washington restored tough sanctions. In November, the U.S. Treasury Department added a network of Russian and Iranian companies to its blacklist for shipping oil to Syria and warned of “significant risks” for those violating the sanctions.

Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, which has in the past been a transit port for energy shipments without known buyers, said he has informed the EU about developments.

In a statement, the British government welcomed the “firm action” by authorities in Gibraltar.

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Jon Gambrell reported from Tehran. AP reporters Zeina Karam in Beirut and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

 

Explained: IDF Strikes on Iranian Missile-Smuggling Efforts

July 4, 2019

 

 

Happy 4th of July | Happy Independence Day America .

July 4, 2019

Ayn Rand’s on America:

I can say—not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots—that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.

Since the golden age of Greece, there has been only one era of reason in twenty-three centuries of Western philosophy. During the final decades of that era, the United States of America was created as an independent nation. This is the key to the country—to its nature, its development, and its uniqueness: the United States is the nation of the Enlightenment.

America’s founding ideal was the principle of individual rights. Nothing more—and nothing less. The rest—everything that America achieved, everything she became, everything “noble and just,” and heroic, and great, and unprecedented in human history—was the logical consequence of fidelity to that one principle. The first consequence was the principle of political freedom, i.e., an individual’s freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by the government. The next was the economic implementation of political freedom: the system of capitalism.

The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history. All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself. The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals. All previous systems had held that man’s life belongs to society, that society can dispose of him in any way it pleases, and that any freedom he enjoys is his only by favor, by the permissionof society, which may be revoked at any time. The United States held that man’s life is his by right(which means: by moral principle and by his nature), that a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights.

It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders’ motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.

Trump warns Iran nuclear threats will ‘come back to bite you’ 

July 4, 2019

Source: Trump warns Iran nuclear threats will ‘come back to bite you’ | The Times of Israel

President lashes out at Tehran after Rouhani vows to step up uranium enrichment if there is no new nuclear deal

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 22, 2019, before boarding Marine One for the trip to Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 22, 2019, before boarding Marine One for the trip to Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump warned Iran on Wednesday its threats could “come back to bite” after Tehran vowed to exceed the maximum uranium enrichment level allowed by a landmark 2015 nuclear accord.

“Iran has just issued a New Warning. Rouhani says that they will Enrich Uranium to ‘any amount we want’ if there is no new Nuclear Deal,” Trump tweeted, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

“Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!”

Iran is acting on its May 8 threat to suspend parts of the agreement in response to Trump’s reimposition of crippling sanctions after withdrawing from it in May last year.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Iran has just issued a New Warning. Rouhani says that they will Enrich Uranium to “any amount we want” if there is no new Nuclear Deal. Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!

Rouhani said Wednesday’s decision to exceed the enrichment limit was in response to failure by other parties to the deal to keep up their promises and provide Iran relief from the US sanctions.

“On July 7, our enrichment level will no longer be 3.67 percent. We will put aside this commitment. We will increase (the enrichment level) beyond 3.67 percent to as much as we want, as much as is necessary, as much as we need,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting.

In this April 9, 2018 file photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark ‘National Nuclear Day,’ in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP, File)

The enrichment maximum set in the agreement is sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.

Iran insists that it is not violating the deal, citing terms of the agreement allowing one side to temporarily abandon some of commitments if it deems the other side is not respecting its part of the accord.

Rouhani stressed that Iran’s action would be reversed if the other parties to the nuclear deal made good on their side of the bargain — relief from sanctions.

“We will remain committed to the (nuclear deal) as long as the other parties are committed,” he said.

“We will act on the JCPOA 100 percent the day that the other party acts 100 percent (too),” he added using the deal’s acronym.

Iran has sought to pressure the other parties — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — to save the deal.

France reacted quickly by warning Iran that it would “gain nothing” by leaving the deal and said “challenging the agreement would only increase tensions already high” in the Middle East.

Playing with fire

On May 8, Iran announced it would no longer respect the limits set on the size of its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water, and threatened to abandon further nuclear commitments, including exceeding the agreed uranium enrichment maximum from July 7.

Rouhani said Iran will also deliver on its threat to resume construction of a heavy water reactor after July 7 and will bring it to the condition that “according to you, is dangerous and can produce plutonium”.

The Iranian facility near Arak, which may begin separating plutonium in late 2013 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Iranian facility near Arak, which may begin separating plutonium in late 2013 (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But all these measures can be reversed in “hours” if the other parties “live up to their commitments”, he said.

Trump had warned Monday that Iran is “playing with fire” after Tehran said it had exceeded the limit set on its enriched uranium stockpile.

Rouhani said it was the US that started the fire and Washington has to “put it out” by returning to the nuclear deal.

His adviser, Hesamodin Ashena, warned Trump against listening to hawks in his administration, hinting aggression against Iran could make him a “one-term president”.

“We have unseated an American president in the past, we can do it again,” he tweeted, referring to Jimmy Carter whose bid for a second term was marred by the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

Israel urged European states to slap sanctions on Iran for abandoning its nuclear commitments.

Russia voiced regret but said the move was a consequence of US pressure, which has pushed the deal towards collapse.

The diplomatic chiefs of Britain, France, Germany and the EU said they were “extremely concerned” and urged Iran to reverse its decision.

Europe has sought to save the nuclear deal by setting up a payment mechanism known as INSTEX which is meant to help Iran skirt the US sanctions.

Rouhani dismissed the mechanism as “hollow”, saying it was useless to Iran because it failed to provide for financing of purchases of Iranian oil.

He took issue with the EU for calling on Iran to stay committed to the deal.

The deal “is either good or bad. If it’s good, everyone should stay committed to it,” not just Iran, Rouhani said.