Archive for July 5, 2019

UK Seizure of Iranian Tanker and Iran Uranium Enrichment 

July 5, 2019

 

 

 

Turkey announces ‘trilateral summit’ on Syria with Russia and Iran 

July 5, 2019

Source: Turkey announces ‘trilateral summit’ on Syria with Russia and Iran – World News – Jerusalem Post

The meeting will take place in August.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 JULY 5, 2019 04:26
People walk past a damaged building in the city of Idlib on May 31, 2019.

Turkey announced a meeting in August that will be a “trilateral summit” between Ankara, Tehran and Moscow. This is the latest in numerous meetings the three countries have had on Syria that began with a ceasefire in 2016. It also reflects growing influence for Russia and its ability to try to keep the Syrian crises from escalating while working closely with Turkey on military deals.
The latest summit was announced by Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and it is supposed to focus on tensions in Idlib, where Turkish backed Free Syrian Army rebels have been facing off against the Syrian regime.

There are also numerous extremist fighters in Idlib, many linked to Al-Qaeda. A US airstrike on June 30 targeted Al Qaeda in northern Syria. Turkey has been backing the Syrian rebels for years, but since 2016 it has played an increasing role in Syria, eventually taking over Afrin and setting up observation points in Idlib. Syrian regime forces and Turkish forces have recently exchanged fire near an observation point, leading to concerns there could be a wider war.

Russia doesn’t want that. It wants to deliver its S-400 air defense to Turkey and also keep the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in power and in control. Turkey appears to be working on the Iran-Russia summit and another summit with Russia, Germany and French officials in September. That would be a game changer for Ankara’s prestige and role in Syria and the region.
Oddly, Iran’s Tasnim news reported earlier on Thursday that the meeting was scheduled for late July. The same report, apparently confused as to the date, said the final details of the meeting had not been arranged. This seems to show that Iran’s media is behind the curve and that Turkey has played a more central role. Syrian state media and Russian news agency Tass did not report the upcoming meeting Thursday.
Previous summits took place in February 2019 in Sochi, September 2018 in Tehran, November 2017 in Sochi, April 2018 in Turkey, and of the foreign ministers of the three countries in April 2019 in Kazakhstan.

In the past, these discussions have achieved important discussions of ceasefires and a kind of road map for ending the eight-year Syrian Civil War. However the next meeting also comes amid Turkey-US tensions and also tensions between Israel and Iran over Syria, and the US and Iran. Russia, Turkey and Iran therefore have many things in common in difficult relationships with Washington. That means they may increasingly see eye to eye on Syria even if Russia and Iran are on one side of the Syrian conflict and Turkey ostensibly on the other.

All of them oppose the US role in eastern Syria.

 

IRGC Commander: We will seize UK oil tanker if Iranian vessel not release 

July 5, 2019

Source: IRGC Commander: We will seize UK oil tanker if Iranian vessel not release – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

“Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies,” Rezai said on his Twitter account.

BY REUTERS
 JULY 5, 2019 13:06
IRGC Commander: We will seize UK oil tanker if Iranian vessel not released

DUBAI – Iran should seize a British oil tanker if an Iranian tanker detained off Gibraltar earlier this week is not released immediately, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said in a tweet on Friday.

British Royal Marines seized the supertanker Grace 1 on Thursday for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that drew Tehran’s fury and could escalate its confrontation with the West.

“If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities duty to seize a British oil tanker,” said Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohsen Rezai, who is also secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a powerful state body.

“Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies,” Rezai said on his Twitter account.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday that the Iranian oil tanker was carrying crude oil from Iran, according to the state news agency IRNA.

The Grace 1 was impounded off Gibraltar, a British territory on the southern tip of Spain, after sailing around Africa, the long route from the Middle East to the mouth of the Mediterranean.

While the European Union has banned oil shipments to war-torn Syria, a close ally of Iran, since 2011, it had never seized a tanker at sea. Unlike the United States, Europe does not have broad sanctions against Iran.

 

US: Detention of tanker loaded with Iranian crude is ‘excellent news’

July 5, 2019

Source: US: Detention of tanker loaded with Iranian crude is ‘excellent news’ | The Times of Israel

Panamanian-flagged carrier is believed to be in violation of EU sanctions against war-ravaged Assad regime

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar,, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar,, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

WASHINGTON — White House National Security Advisor John Bolton applauded the interception by Britain’s Gibraltar Thursday of a supertanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria, saying the ship was breaking international sanctions.

“Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” Bolton tweeted.

“America & our allies will continue to prevent regimes in Tehran & Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade,” he said.

Iran condemned the detention of the tanker as an “illegal interception,” but Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement that the cargo was believed destined for the Banyas Refinery in Syria, which is subject to European sanctions.

“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” he said.

The 330 meter (1,000 feet) Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a tiny overseas British territory on Spain’s southern tip.

They were aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.

 

Iran demands ‘immediate release’ of tanker held in Gibraltar, summons UK envoy

July 5, 2019

Source: Iran demands ‘immediate release’ of tanker held in Gibraltar, summons UK envoy | The Times of Israel

Iranian foreign ministry denounces interception of ship suspected of violating EU sanctions, accuses Britain of acting at behest of the US

A picture shows supertanker Grace 1, suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, after it was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

A picture shows supertanker Grace 1, suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, after it was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran demanded Friday that Britain immediately release an oil tanker it has detained in Gibraltar, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States.

A senior foreign ministry official “described the UK move as unacceptable” in a meeting with British ambassador Rob Macaire, who had been summoned to hear a formal protest, the ministry said in a statement.

He “called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available,” the statement added.

Authorities in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean, said they suspected the tanker was carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The detention of the 330-meter (1,000-feet) Grace 1 vessel comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it is poised to breach the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal.

A British Royal Navy ship (L) patrols near supertanker Grace 1, which is suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, after it was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.

The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometers) south of Gibraltar in what it considers British waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish.

It was boarded when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to vessels.

“We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.

“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.

“We have detained the vessel and its cargo,” Picardo said.

At US request

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told reporters the vessel was detained at the request of the United States.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said “we welcome this firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime.”

European Union sanctions against war-torn Syria have been in force since late 2011.

The 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the “violent repression” of civilians.

It has frozen the assets of around 70 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the EU.

In this photo from April 9, 2018, 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 tanker’s detention comes just days after Iran announced it would exceed the uranium enrichment limit set up as part of the 2015 deal to avoid it building up to the level required for a nuclear warhead.

Tehran took the action in response to Washington abandoning the nuclear deal last year and hitting Iran’s crucial oil exports and financial transactions with biting sanctions.

The unilateral move has sent tensions in the Gulf soaring as the administration of US President Donald Trump forges ahead with a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran in coordination with its Middle East allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy towards Tehran, applauded the interception of the supertanker.

“Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” Bolton tweeted.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

According to specialized shipping trade publication Lloyd’s List, which analyses vessel-tracking data, the 1997-built ship is laden with Iranian oil.

It reported that the ship loaded oil off Iran in April and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.