Archive for July 7, 2019

Iran general: After drone downed, US warned us of ‘limited’ retaliation

July 7, 2019

Source: Iran general: After drone downed, US warned us of ‘limited’ retaliation | The Times of Israel

Head of Civil Defense Organization says Tehran informed Washington through intermediaries that ‘we regard every operation as the beginning of the war’; Trump later scrapped raid

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization (Screen capture: YouTube)

A top Iranian general said on Sunday that the United States conveyed to the Islamic Republic through an unnamed third party last month that it would carry out limited strikes to retaliate for the downing of its drone.

“After the downing of its intruding drone, the United States told us through diplomatic intermediaries that it wanted to carry out a limited operation,” said Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization and senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“But Iran’s response was that we regard every operation as the beginning of the war,” he said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Last month, Trump declared that “Iran made a very big mistake” by shooting down the US drone over the Strait of Hormuz. But he also suggested that shooting down the drone was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation of the tensions.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The US military made preparations on June 21 for limited strikes on Iran in retaliation for the downing of a US surveillance drone — which Washington insists was over international waters but Tehran says was within its airspace — but approval was abruptly withdrawn before the attacks were launched.

Trump later said the US was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran, but canceled the strikes 10 minutes before they were to be carried out after being told some 150 people could die.

“I didn’t think it was proportionate,” he said in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.

Reuters reported at the time that Trump had urged Iran to come to the table to hold talks in a message conveyed through Oman, and warned that a US strike against the Islamic Republic in response to the drone incident could be imminent.

The aborted attack was the closest the US has come to a direct military strike on Iran in the year since the administration pulled out of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb the Iranian nuclear program and launched a campaign of increasing economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.

A year after Trump pulled the US from the deal, Iran already has broken through the limit the deal put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. On Sunday, officials announced they would enrich beyond its 3.67 percent limit “in a few hours.”

All this comes as America has rushed thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast. Mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz that the US and Israel blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran shooting down a US military drone have raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing the region.


Netanyahu: Iran’s breach of enrichment cap a ‘dangerous step’

July 7, 2019

Source: Netanyahu: Iran’s breach of enrichment cap a ‘dangerous step’ | The Times of Israel

PM compares Tehran’s violation of 2015 deal to Nazis’ 1936 occupation of Rhineland, urges European countries to intervene and impose sanctions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 7, 2019. (ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday likened Iran’s “dangerous” flouting of the nuclear deal to the Nazis occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, in a call for European countries to sanction the Islamic Republic over its ramped-up uranium enrichment.

Iran said Sunday it was set to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by the 2015 nuclear accord within hours as it seeks to press signatories into keeping their side of the bargain. The Islamic Republic also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the agreement.

The move to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent comes despite opposition from the European Union and the United States, which has quit the deal.

“This is a very dangerous step and I am urging my friends, the leaders of France, Britain, Germany: You signed this deal, and you said the moment this step would be taken, there would be harsh sanctions… Where are you?” said Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, listens to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif prior to a meeting in Tehran, Iran, November 24, 2015. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, the prime minister compared the stepped-up enrichment to the Nazis’ first act of military aggression.

“I discussed this morning…  how World War II began in Europe. It began when Nazi Germany took one small step, reentering the Rhineland. It was a small step, no one said anything and no one did anything. The next step was the Anschluss… and the step after that was the entry into Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The rest is known,” Netanyahu said.

Turning to Europe, he appealed to his allies to respond with economic penalties.

“I’m asking you — not to provoke, but out of joint knowledge of history and what happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward things that are very dangerous to us all — take the steps that you promised. Enact the sanctions.

“We’re doing our part. We are always fighting Iranian aggression, we aren’t allowing it to entrench [militarily] in Syria. We are acting, trying to nip it in the bud,” added Netanyahu, urging EU countries to do their part.

Netanyahu’s comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Paris would not seek to trigger the nuclear deal’s so-called dispute resolution mechanism, which sets off a series of negotiations that could end with reimposed UN sanctions on Iran within 65 days.

“It’s not an option at this moment,” a source in Macron’s office told Reuters.

Macron said Saturday he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume dialogue between Iran and Western partners. Macron’s office said in a statement that the French leader spoke for more than an hour Saturday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani amid a standoff between Tehran and the US.

French President Emmanuel Macron during a media conference at the end of an EU summit in Brussels on June 21, 2019. (AP/Riccardo Pareggiani)

Macron expressed “strong concern about new weakening” of the 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He said they would “explore between now and July 15 conditions for resumed dialogue among all parties.” The statement didn’t elaborate.

The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia — and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Washington began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fueling a deep recession.

It is not yet clear how far the Islamic Republic will boost enrichment.

But a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.

Spokesperson Behrooz Kamalvandi said Sunday that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was fully ready to enrich uranium “at any amount and at any level” if ordered to do so.

The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.