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From Hanoi Kerry to Tehran Kerry in 50 Short Years

September 14, 2018

Former secretary of state and failed Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry has been trying to salvage Obama’s awful Iran Deal – by going around the Trump administration and holding meetings with Iran. Who elected Kerry?

by Aleister September 13, 2018 Gateway Pundit

Source Link: DEEP STATE: John Kerry Held Meetings With Iran – Advised Them To ‘Wait Out’ Trump Presidency

{Once again, we see Kerry giving aid and comfort to our enemies…and getting away with it. – LS}

FOX News reports:

“John Kerry slammed for ‘shameful’ shadow diplomacy after admitting to meetings with Iran”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is being slammed for conducting shadow diplomacy with Iran after admitting to multiple meetings with Iranian officials behind the backs of the Trump administration — including over the scrapped nuclear deal.

An administration official on Thursday told Fox News Kerry’s meetings are “shameful,” pointing out what Iranian-backed militias are doing to kill and injure people in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Other Republicans suggested it may not even be legal.

“John Kerry is out giving advice to Iran about how to maneuver around what Donald Trump is doing, it’s insidious,” Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for George W. Bush, said Wednesday on Fox News’s “Special Report.” “I don’t know if it’s legal or illegal, I don’t care about that side of it. It’s wrong.”…

Later Wednesday, during an appearance on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” Kerry did not deny the suggestion he’s telling the Iranians to wait out Trump until there is a Democratic president again.

“I think everybody in the world is talking about waiting out President Trump,” said Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and who has not ruled out a 2020 bid.

As Ari Fleischer points out in the video below, Kerry had no business doing this:

Michael Rubin of the Washington Examiner says Kerry deserves jail for this:

John Kerry deserves jail for secret Iran diplomacy

In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that he’s been working behind-the-scenes to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. “What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better,” he explained. Kerry’s backchannel with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has not been a one-time deal. “I think I’ve seen him three or four times,” Kerry said, and acknowledged that his talks were occurring without the Trump administration’s approval.

Perhaps Kerry believes he is not violating the Logan Act of 1799 which states that: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

What would have happened if someone from the Bush administration decided to go around Obama in this way while he was president?

 

A Coalition of Willing Hostages

September 4, 2018

Among other workarounds, the Europeans are thinking of devising a new way of transferring money electronically that is free from U.S. influence.


A peddler holds Iranian currency for sale in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Aug. 9, 2018.Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP – Getty Images file

by Josh Lederman and Dan De Luce / Sep.04.2018 NBC News

Source Link: How Europe plans to skirt Trump’s sanctions and keep doing business with Iran

{Leave it to European ingenuity to find a way to make money as a hostage. – LS}

WASHINGTON — America’s allies in Europe are plotting ways to bypass President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Iran as they work to keep the nuclear deal alive without the United States.

With a second round of U.S. sanctions set to take effect in November, European officials are working at cross-purposes with Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign as they try to preserve as much business as possible with Iran. The goal is to persuade Iran’s leaders to stay in the deal for a few more years — perhaps long enough for Trump to be replaced and for a new U.S. president to rejoin the deal.

Among the creative workarounds under discussion in Brussels and other capitals: Devising an alternative — free from U.S. influence — to the current electronic system used to transfer money from place to place, European officials told NBC News. And since commercial banks must stop handling transactions with Iran or face U.S. penalties, European countries are considering using their own central banks to transfer funds to Iran, wagering that Trump wouldn’t go so far as to sanction an ally’s central bank.

The Trump administration is working to foil the Europeans, threatening to sanction anyone — from American bank executives to small foreign companies — who doesn’t comply. Caught in the middle are foreign companies that must choose between flouting the Trump administration or their own governments.

In the last few weeks, U.S. diplomats in Europe have started working to help local companies that do business with Iran find new markets and business opportunities to offset their losses, a senior Trump administration official said, describing a program that has not been made public. The official said that the U.S. Commercial Service — diplomats who work abroad for the Commerce Department — have been holding seminars and reaching out to business groups to find ways to help small and medium-sized businesses find alternatives to Iran.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Commercial Service didn’t respond to several requests for comment.

The looming sanctions have become the latest flashpoint between the Trump administration and European allies, particularly the three that brokered the nuclear deal with the Obama administration in 2015: France, Germany and the U.K. Those tensions are exacerbated by Trump’s trans-Atlantic trade battle and intermittent hostility toward NATO.

“Europe can no longer rely on the United States alone for its security,” French President Emmanuel Macron said this week.

To the Trump administration, the allies’ efforts constitute an egregious attempt to undermine the president’s foreign policy and ignore the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and other troubling activities. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, recently blasted the European Union for making a $21 million payment to Iran, saying it “sends the wrong message at the wrong time.” The Europeans argue the payment shows Europe’s continuing commitment to the nuclear deal.

Trump administration officials have privately blamed President Barack Obama’s top aides, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and top Treasury Department officials, for what they say is an organized campaign to undercut the current U.S. foreign policy. Trump officials pointed to recent speeches, visits to Europe and op-eds by former Obama aides calling for Europe to stay in the deal, suggesting that Obama’s team is aiding foreign countries in evading sanctions.

The president took aim at Kerry more publicly over the weekend, calling him “the father of the now terminated Iran deal” and noting the speculation that Kerry may run against him in 2020. “I should only be so lucky,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

But some economists worry that the overuse of sanctions, particularly when other countries disagree with them, will lead the rest of the world to develop workarounds that may eventually diminish America’s economic dominance. The concern is that other economic powers like China will market themselves as attractive alternatives where international corporations can bank without being told what to do.

A president who doesn’t fear ‘third rails’

Under the 2015 deal struck by Obama, Iran and world powers, Tehran received billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in May. As a result, some U.S. sanctions kicked back in earlier this month, and others take effect in November, including a prohibition on processing financial transactions for Iran.

European officials involved in discussions with Iran say that the Iranians want to stay in the deal despite the U.S. withdrawal, as long as they continue receiving enough economic benefits for it to be worthwhile. Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog that monitors the deal, said in a new report that Iran is still complying with its obligations under the deal, despite the U.S. withdrawal.

But the sanctions include a U.S. threat to ban anyone who does business with Iran — even non-U.S. banks — from the American financial system. Because of the dominance of the U.S. banks, nearly every global transaction touches the U.S. in one way or another, even if only for a second as transactions are “cleared.” So the sanctions essentially force businesses and banks to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States.

To big, multi-national corporations, the choice has been obvious. Since Trump announced sanctions would be returning, major companies have started shutting down their Iran-related operations, including auto maker German automaker Daimler AG, French oil company Total SA and both British Airways and Air France, in a blow to the nuclear deal.

“There is clearly money to be made in Iran, but nothing like the business opportunities available in the U.S. market,” said Adam Smith, a former senior sanctions official in the Obama Administration and partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

As a result, the Europeans have narrowed their focus to small- and medium-sized businesses that have a footprint in Iran but no U.S. operations, and therefore may be more willing to take the risk.

“There are many companies in Europe able to fall into that category,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But they need small banks to do the financing, or central banks. People have to be paid, and it has to be converted to local currency.”

That problem has led the Europeans to consider using their own central banks to transfer the money. Under that scheme, a central bank would collect hundreds or even thousands of planned transactions and “bundle” them together, sending the funds to Iran in one lump sum that would then be re-distributed to the intended recipients in Iran.

European central banks that send money to Iran would still be violating the same sanctions as commercial banks, and could be punished. But the countries are betting that Trump won’t, given the dramatic economic implications of the U.S. slapping sanctions on the central bank of an ally.

Yet Iran hawks say if any president would take that risk, it’s Trump.

“I think that actually is realistic under this president,” said Richard Goldberg of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates for a hard U.S. line on Iran. “There have been so many third rails of trade relations that the president has not been afraid to touch.”

Another major U.S.-flashpoint is SWIFT, a financial messaging service that is used ubiquitously by banks to send money from one place to another. November’s sanctions call for Iran to be disconnected from SWIFT and say anyone who allows them to stay on the system will face sanctions. The U.K., Germany and France have all urged the U.S. to let Iran stay on the system, but Trump is expected to rebuff that request.

SWIFT is based in Belgium, but its board includes top U.S. bank executives from Citigroup and J.P. Morgan, making it difficult for the messaging service to say no to Trump and risk sanctions. So European officials have been looking at creating their own “clearing mechanism” for transactions or alternative to SWIFT so transactions with Iran can continue.

“I want Europe to be a sovereign continent, not a vassal,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said recently. “And that means having totally independent financing instruments that do not today exist.” The idea has stoked divisions even within European governments. After German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas advocated creating a SWIFT alternative to “protect European companies from sanctions,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out against it, warning it could undermine the transparency of the SWIFT system that helps root out fraud and terror financing.

Other ideas the Europeans have floated have sputtered. A proposal to use the European Investment Bank to lend to European projects in Iran was shot down by the EIB’s board, which was loath to risk sanctions.

The European Union this summer also revamped an arcane, little-used law known as the “Blocking Statute,” created in the 1990s to protect European businesses against the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The law prohibits European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions, and threatens to punish those who comply anyway.

That forces European companies who do business in Iran to make a choice: Break EU law by cutting off business with Iran, or break U.S. law by continuing.

But would the EU really punish its own companies for stopping business with Iran? How could they prove it was due to sanctions and not an unrelated business decision?

Those complications have led even EU officials to concede that while the blocking statute sends a powerful diplomatic message — that the EU has its companies’ backs — it is unlikely to be enforced in any meaningful way.

The Europeans have also been scrambling to figure out how strictly they must comply with Trump’s sanctions requiring countries to stop importing Iranian oil. The Trump administration has given mixed messages, at first saying imports must drop to “zero” by November 5, then suggesting there could be some leniency. The law calls vaguely for “significant” reductions, which the Trump administration hasn’t specifically defined.

Some major importers of Iranian oil — like India, Japan and South Korea — are expected to continue to import some oil, creating a game of chicken as countries wager how much they can get away with without Trump punishing them. Another complication is the effect on oil prices and global supply-and-demand.

Other countries are exploring more novel ways to sidestep the oil embargo. Under one idea being discussed, Russia would increase its oil imports under a goods-for-oil barter deal, then rebrand it as Russian oil before reselling it to third countries.

 

Holding the West Hostage With the Threat of More Nuclear Research for Peaceful Purposes

September 1, 2018

IRAN has issued a clear warning to signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, threatening to once again build up its arsenal unless economic ties with Tehran are guaranteed.


Iran wants more guarantees now that the US is imposing sanctions (Image: GETTY)

By DAN FALVEY
PUBLISHED: 03:02, Sat, Sep 1, 2018 | UPDATED: 03:05, Sat, Sep 1, 2018
The Express

Source Link: Iran threatens to WITHDRAW from nuclear pact and DEMANDS more guarantees from signatories

{Imagine the threats if Iran really had the bomb…assuming they do not. – LS}

Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, warned on Thursday his country was willing to pull out of the agreement if those within the nuclear deal did not honour the terms of the pact.

His statement comes after Donald Trump reintroduced sanctions on the Middle Eastern country and threatened to impose sanctions on any companies from other countries doing business with Tehran.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Zarif threatened: “If preserving JCPOA is the goal, then there is no escape from mustering the courage to comply with commitment to normalise Iran’s economic relations instead of making extraneous demands.

“Being the party to still honoUr the deal in deeds & not just words is not Iran’s only option.”

The UK, US, Russia, France, China, and Germany all signed the agreement in 2015 which aims to limit the country’s nuclear capabilities.

It was also signed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, but the Republican pulled out of the agreement earlier this year.

Trump has argued the Iran nuclear agreement is too lenient and called for tougher sanctions to be imposed on the rogue state.

The US President has previously called the agreement “not a fair deal” and claimed: “It’s a deal that should have never ever been made.”

The remaining signatories of the JCPOA have all tried to reassure Iran they remain committed to the agreement, but the Middle East regime wants more guarantees.

A €50million (£45million) international aid package was adopted for Iran by the European Commission last week in an attempt to prove their intention to uphold the deal.

Further, a joint statement released at the start of last month by the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK said the deal was “crucial” for international security.

It said: “We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231.

“This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.”

Those countries involved in the agreement are desperate to ensure firms continue to trade with Iran rather than listen to the threats from the US.

Trump has warned companies doing business with Iran: “Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.”

A Farewell to Iran

August 31, 2018

THE US is “expected to invade Iran” with military force by the end of his year after the war of sanctions escalates, an expert has claimed.


The US and Iran are currently at loggerheads over sanctions (Image: GETTY)

By Matt Drake
PUBLISHED: 22:21, Thu, Aug 30, 2018 | UPDATED: Fri, Aug 31, 2018
The Express

Source Link: US will INVADE Iran with military FORCE by ‘end of the YEAR’ expert claims amid WW3 FEARS

{Sounds a bit far fetched, but hell folks, many think it’s entirely possible. No one knows for sure what will happen when more sanctions kick in, not even the fake news media, and for that matter, not even Iran. Regardless, Tehran continues to invest heavily in their proxy warriors even when the Iranian people are paying the biggest price while searching for more US currency to settle their debts. In defiance of everyone else, the mullahs continue to set the stage for yet another proxy fight, but on a larger scale, maybe larger than they can imagine. Meanwhile the bearded ones are hoping everyone will be too scared to take them on. But we’ve already seen Donald Trump is not your usual President. He could very well be the first to take the fight directly to Tehran. If that happens, then all bets are off for Tehran. I even doubt their proxies would engage the US military in their defense. We shall see. Hint…watch for the biggest exodus in the history of Mullah-dom. – LS}

The US and Iran are currently at loggerheads over sanctions following the breakdown of the Nuclear Deal, and the Islamic Republic has gone to the highest court of the United Nations to contest it.

But German political scientist Josef Braml believes the decision by the International Court of Justice will be ignored by the US.

He goes on to say that Donald Trump is probably already planning air strikes and he not only wants to hit the regime in Tehran, but also China.

When asked if he expected military strikes, Mr Braml said: “Yes, I assume that the Americans will take military action against Iran later this year.

“I can’t really imagine an attack with ground troops. Presumably there will be targeted air strikes to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“This is only logical: If the then German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was right, that a war was prevented with the 2015 deal, we must conclude that war is coming after the one-sided resignation by America.”

He goes on to say that there are only two options.

The expert added: “Either the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia agree that Iran may, in principle, continue to develop nuclear capacity, or not.

“If not, it will mean what the late Senator John McCain and Trump’s current security advisor John Bolton have openly demanded years ago: Bomb Iran!”

The expert’s comments come after Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, warned the country’s President and his cabinet they can’t rely on the support from European countries for the landmark agreement after the US withdrew itself from the accord.

Mr Khanmenei said Iran might take the extreme step to abandon the deal altogether because of a lack of faith in the ability of European countries.

He made the remarks during a meeting with the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

Mr Khanmenei said in a post on his website Iran “should give up hope on Europe over economic issues or the nuclear deal”.

He added: “The nuclear deal is a means, not the goal, and if we come to this conclusion that it does not serve our national interests, we can abandon it.”

European countries have been working hard to keep Iran in line with the nuclear deal by making sure Tehran receives economic benefits.

The swift action from European leaders follows Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the historic agreement.

Since the US withdrew from the accord, Iran has endured economic problems as a result of sanctions implemented by Trump.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.)

 

Living in a State of Denial

August 29, 2018


President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, second from left, arriving in Parliament in Tehran on Tuesday to answer lawmakers’ questions. He blamed United States sanctions for Iran’s troubles. Credit Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

By Richard Pérez-Peña Aug. 28, 2018 New York Times

Source Link: Iran’s Parliament Gives President a Rare Rebuke

{When politics has the power to define reality, you’re in big trouble. – LS}

LONDON — Iran’s Parliament summoned President Hassan Rouhani to answer questions on Tuesday about the country’s economic crisis, and then voted to reject his explanation, in a remarkable rebuke of a sitting leader.

Mr. Rouhani blamed United States sanctions, not government management, for his country’s troubles. But after he answered five questions about economic challenges like high unemployment and the collapsing value of the national currency, the rial, a majority of lawmakers voted that they were “not convinced” by four of his answers.

Elected by wide margins in 2013 and 2017, Mr. Rouhani is seen as a moderate in Iranian politics, and he campaigned on easing hostilities between his country and the West, and increasing economic opportunity. In 2015, his government struck a deal with the United States and other powers to give up elements of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

But this year, President Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement and reimposed sanctions not only on Iran but also on companies doing business with the country. That has persuaded many European businesses to stay away from the Islamic republic, though their countries’ governments still support the deal.

Iran experts say that unwinding the agreement could strengthen the hand of hard-liners who oppose both the deal and Mr. Rouhani’s reformist agenda. His government runs many of the country’s daily affairs, but the ultimate power rests with the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the unelected Guardian Council.

The lawmakers’ vote came two days after Parliament dismissed the finance minister. In the last few weeks, the country’s central banker and its labor minister have also been fired.

It was not clear what impact the rebuke of Mr. Rouhani would have. Officials said the matter could be referred to the judiciary, which could, in theory, find grounds for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Some analysts, however, said that impeachment was unlikely. They pointed to Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent admonition against calls for Mr. Rouhani to resign — even though Mr. Khamenei himself has been more critical of the president lately.

“Khamenei, and other members of the Iranian leadership, likely believe that removing a sitting president would further destabilize the country’s already precarious economy and potentially undermine support in the Islamic Republic’s structure,” said Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

More likely, Mr. Rome said, are further efforts to remove those members of Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet deemed responsible for Iran’s economic travails, including the agriculture and industry ministers.

Mr. Rouhani’s allies remain the largest faction in Parliament. And in a country where tensions are high and protests have cropped up in many places, the potential for civil unrest could tamp down any party’s appetite for trying to remove a president and call new elections.

In an arresting aside during the proceedings, Mr. Rouhani attributed much of the economic troubles to street protests that began on Dec. 26, “when people saw suddenly that some people were chanting on the streets, and the slogans little by little went out of bounds.”

The protests, he said, encouraged Mr. Trump to declare his intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement. “His threat of withdrawal and the domestic turbulence and international threats frightened the people,” undercutting the economy, Mr. Rouhani added.

Lawmakers said that a decision on referral to the judiciary would not be made before next week, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

The agency quoted Mr. Rouhani as telling Parliament, “Nobody, including the noble people of Iran, our friends and enemies around the world, must think that today is the start of a rift between the government and the Parliament.”

 

Turkey Prepares For First Batch Of Russian S-400 Air Defense Missiles

August 23, 2018

Rosoboronexport’s Director General Alexander Mikheev said that the defense company would begin implementing a contract for the supply of its advanced S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey in 2019, the RIA Novosti reported.

By by Tyler Durden Thu, 08/23/2018 Zerohedge

Source Link: Turkey Prepares For First Batch Of Russian S-400 Air Defense Missiles

{I wonder if these systems will respond to another Russian infraction into Turkish air space. – LS}

“The contract [on the S-400 supplies to Turkey] will be implemented within the agreed time limits. In 2019 we will start implementing the contract,” the company’s director general and CEO Aleksandr Mikheev told reporters on Tuesday.

Washington has expressed great concern that NATO member Turkey’s upcoming deployment of the Russian S-400s could pose a serious security risk for U.S.-made weapons used by Turkey, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, a fifth-generation combat aircraft.

Rosoboronexport told Turkey it would switch to the Lira, instead of using the dollar to complete the transaction, the RIA news agency reported.

In April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed to expedite the delivery of the missile systems for 2019.

The S-400 system also called the Triumph Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS), is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy aircraft, drones, missiles as far as 402 kilometers (250 miles) away. Moscow had previously sold the missile systems to China and India. The Economist described the S-400 in 2017 as “one of the best air-defense systems currently made.”

Ankara’s decision to acquire the missile systems stems from last year after Moscow and Turkey signed a $2.5-billion deal for the transfer of the technology.

Washington immediately threatened to halt delivery of the F-35 stealth jets if Ankara finalized the agreement with Russia. With the recent passage of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (passed by the Senate earlier this month), it warned about the US supplying fifth-generation fighters to Turkey amid declining diplomatic relations.

President Erdogan told Washington that it did not want to depend on Western technology, which is why the country had been turning towards Russia.

“We will not just buy the S-400s and place them in a storehouse. We will use them if need be,” Erdogan said in June.

President Trump’s response was to sign a Pentagon bill into law restricting the delivery of F-35 jets. The bill also called for the US Secretary of Defense to submit a report within three months addressing the impacts of Turkey’s purchase of S-400s on US-made weapon systems in the region.

Both NATO allies have discussed various ways on how to resolve this dispute but it seems that has failed with Turkey migrating towards Russia.

Diplomatic ties between Turkey and the US have plummeted in the last month over the detention of US evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, which could likely be a front for a much larger issue: Washington wants to destroy the Eurasia integration via economic warfare.

The first victim? Well, of course, it was Turkey, as President Trump launched economic and political sanctions on the country, which collapsed the Turkish Lira against the US dollar.

As to why Turkey is buying the world’s most advanced missile system, well, it is preparing for military conflict.

 

US ready to drive Iranian oil exports to zero, says US national security adviser

August 22, 2018

Donald’s Trump’s sanctions would drive Iranian oil exports down in order to force behaviour change on Tehran regime


US national security adviser John Bolton.

By Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor The Guardian Wed 22 Aug 2018

Source Link: US ready to drive Iranian oil exports to zero, says US national security adviser

{The Mother of All Economic Bombs is fixing to drop. – LS}

The US is prepared to use sanctions to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero, the US national security adviser, John Bolton, has said.

“Regime change in Iran is not American policy, but what we want is massive change in the regime’s behaviour,” Bolton said on a visit to Israel, as he claimed current sanctions had been more effective than predicted.

Donald Trump took the US out of Iran’s nuclear deal with the west in May and is imposing escalating sanctions, both to force Iran to renegotiate the deal and to end Tehran’s perceived interference in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Complete removal of Iranian oil from world markets would cut oil supply by more than 4% probably forcing up prices in the absence of any new supplies.

Bolton was speaking as the new UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, met the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for the first time in Washington to discuss how to reduce Iranian influence, despite Britain’s continued support for the nuclear deal.

In an interview with Axios, a US political website, Hunt praised Trump’s willingness to talk with leaders deemed to be hostile to the US, denying he was an isolationist. Trump has already met the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and has even hinted at talks with the Iranian leadership.

“The traditional western foreign policy has been that if we disapprove of something someone’s done, we don’t just take action but we stop the engagement as well,” he said. “[Trump] takes the view that actually you need to engage with people. I think it’s a business mentality. He’s always looking for a way to recast the deal.”

Hunt is maintaining UK support for the deal signed in 2015, and according to Iran, the UK has even stepped in to advise Tehran on how to remain compliant with the deal by limiting plutonium from one of its heavy nuclear reactors.

Hunt has suggested the existing level of US sanctions already has the potential to change Iran’s “destabilising regional behaviour”, but additional pressure that led Iran to pull out of the nuclear deal completely might lead only to a more dangerous anti-western government being installed in Tehran.

Hunt stressed that the UK would not withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, but acknowledged it was an open question whether Tehran would decide if the remaining economic benefits warranted remaining inside the deal.

Sweeping US secondary sanctions on businesses that trade with Iran make it difficult for European governments to persuade EU companies it is worth the risk of continuing to do business with the country.

Bolton was bullish about the growing impact of sanctions. “We expect that Europeans will see, as businesses all over Europe are seeing, that the choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear to them,” he said.

“[Trump] has made it very clear – his words – he wants maximum pressure on Iran, maximum pressure, and that is what is going on.”

British officials acknowledge that the US administration policy for the moment has secured Trump the best of both worlds – Iranian refusal to restart its nuclear programme due the EU’s continued support for the deal, and the imposition of a regime of secondary economic sanctions that is placing great pressure on the Iranian economy.

Fuller US sanctions, including actions against countries that trade in Iranian oil are due to come into force on 5 November, 180 days after the initial Trump announcement to withdraw.

The measures against Iranian oil importers, and banks that continue to trade with the Central Bank of Iran, will ratchet the pressure to a higher level.

Pompeo has set up an Iran Action group inside the US State Department to coordinate US leverage on companies and countries that cannot show that their trade, including in oil, has fallen significantly by November.

Measures may also be taken against firms that insure ships carrying Iranian crude.

It is expected some of the major Iranian oil importers, such as Russia, China and Turkey, will either ignore the threat of US sanctions, or, possibly in the case of Iraq, Japan and South Korea, seek exemptions.

China takes a quarter of all Iran’s oil exports, and with Chinese banks little exposed to the US it can avoid the impact of Trump’s sanctions.

Major importers of Iranian crude in Europe include Italy’s ENI and Saras, Spain’s Repsol, France’s Total, and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum. All these companies depend on access to US dollar financing and US suppliers, and most have significant operations in the US.

The EU in August introduced a blocking statute designed to give European firms immunity from US sanctions for trading with Iran. But its legal force is questionable since it requires EU firms to sue the US government for any losses caused by US sanctions. The statute is untested in court.

EU foreign ministers will meet at the end of the month to discuss the measures they have taken to protect the deal.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javed Zarif, this week demanded clearer practical steps from Europe to protect the deal, saying: “Europeans have been very good in declaring their positions, but to pay that price they need to make a decision and they have only a limited time for that decision and cannot wait for ever.”

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maase, in an article in the German business daily, Handelsblatt, on Wednesday called for the EU to protect itself from secondary sanctions by increasing its autonomy from the US financial system.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she agreed with her foreign minister that relations with the US were changing but she stopped short of backing his call for a separate EU system for cross-border payments system to save the nuclear deal with Iran.

 

Top Iranian cleric threatens Tehran will target Israel if US attacks

August 22, 2018

‘Any aggression against Iran will inflict costs not only on America, but also on Zionist regime,’ Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami warns


In this January 5, 2018 photo, Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami delivers his sermon during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

By Michael Bachner and TOI staff August 22, 2018 Times of Israel

Source Link: Top Iranian cleric threatens Tehran will target Israel if US attacks

{Now that’s some real sound military strategy…when attacked, retaliate against your attacker’s ally. Sounds a bit suicidal, but then Tehran seems to prefer the hostage approach. Remember how that worked out for Saddam? – LS}

A senior Iranian cleric on Wednesday warned that Tehran would target Israel if the United States harmed the Islamic Republic, continuing an escalating war of words over sanctions reimposed by Washington.

“The costs of a possible US war on Iran will be definitely heavy for Americans, and any aggression against Iran will inflict costs not only on America, but also on its ally, the Zionist regime,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.

In June, the deputy commander of Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps boasted that Iranian-backed forces in Syria and Lebanon were awaiting orders to eradicate the “evil regime” of Israel.

“We are creating might in Lebanon because we want to fight our enemy from there with all our strength,” he stated. “Hezbollah today has tremendous might on the ground that can on its own break the Zionist regime. The Zionist regime has no strategic-defensive depth.”

In the speech for the anti-Israel al-Quds Day, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hossein Salami said that “the life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.”

The US has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Iran’s regional rivals and has demanded that Tehran curb its ballistic missile program. It is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force it to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear pact.

In May, the US announced it was abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposing nuclear-related sanctions, threatening global companies with heavy penalties if they continue to operate in Iran.

In a bid to salvage the accord, the EU and European parties to the deal — Britain, France, and Germany — presented a series of economic “guarantees” to Iran last month, but they were deemed “insufficient” by Tehran.

Khatami also dismissed US President Donald Trump’s proposal to hold talks with Tehran, claiming his administration wasn’t open to concessions.

“Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks,” he charged, according to comments carried by Iran’s Mizan news agency and translated by Reuters. “So this is not negotiation, but dictatorship. The Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation would stand up against dictatorship.”

Trump has offered talks on a “more comprehensive deal” but Iran has balked at negotiating under the pressure of sanctions and has instead leaned on its increasingly close ties with fellow US sanctions targets Turkey and Russia.

The sanctions that went into effect earlier in August target US dollar financial transactions, Iran’s automotive sector, and the purchase of commercial planes and metals, including gold. Even stronger sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank are to be reimposed in early November.

AFP and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

August 15, 2018


The US says it does not know what the satellite is or why it is behaving strangely

By BBC News, 08/15/2018

Source Link: Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

{Not a moment too soon for a formal Space Force. The race is on and I’m betting Russia can’t afford it no more than they did when challenged by Reagan years ago. – LS}

A mysterious Russian satellite displaying “very abnormal behaviour” has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official.

“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August.

She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon.

Russia has dismissed the comments as “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicious”.

The satellite in question was launched in October last year.

“[The satellite’s] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland.

“Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development,” she added, citing recent comments made by the commander of Russia’s Space Forces, who said adopting “new prototypes of weapons” was a key objective for the force.

Ms Poblete said that the US had “serious concerns” that Russia was developing anti-satellite weapons.

Alexander Deynko, a senior Russian diplomat, told the Reuters news agency that the comments were “the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on”.

He called on the US to contribute to a Russian-Chinese treaty that seeks to prevent an arms race in space.

‘Lasers or microwaves’

Space weapons may be designed to cause damage in more subtle ways than traditional weapons like guns, which could cause a lot of debris in orbit, explained Alexandra Stickings, a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute.

“[Such weapons may include] lasers or microwave frequencies that could just stop [a satellite] working for a time, either disable it permanently without destroying it or disrupt it via jamming,” she said.

But it was difficult to know what technology is available because so much information on space-based capabilities is classified, she added.

She also said it would be very difficult to prove that any event causing interference in space was an intentional, hostile action by a specific nation state.

Ms Poblete’s comments were particularly interesting in light of President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a sixth branch of the US armed forces named Space Force, added Ms Stickings.

“The narrative coming from the US is, ‘space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing’ – ignoring the fact that the US has developed its own capabilities.”

The BBC has asked the UK’s Ministry of Defence for comment.

 

When the peace plan is ready, it will be unveiled

August 10, 2018

State Department spokeswoman rejects reports that Trump administration’s peace has been delayed.


Netanyahu meets Kushner and Greenblatt Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

By Elad Benari, 10/08/18 Arutz Sheva

Source Link: When the peace plan is ready, it will be unveiled

{Trump always walks from a bad deal. So far, Trump has not walked. I say we wait and see what’s in the final details. – LS}

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday rejected reports that the Trump administration’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been delayed.

Nauert was asked during her daily press briefing whether the plan, being prepared by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and his Middle East envoy Jared Kushner, was indeed being pushed back.

“We have not unveiled the peace plan at this time. That will be unveiled by Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt when it is ready. And when it’s ready to be unveiled, they will unveil it,” she promised.

Earlier this week, a source said that the U.S. National Security Council has published a tender to hire experts for a steering committee to be established for the plan. The committee would allegedly be chaired by Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt.

According to the source, the administration would not be able to present the final peace plan until 2019.

National Security Spokesperson Garrett Marquis later told Arutz Sheva that the report was false.

“No such committee is being established. Further, the report that we will not release the plan in 2018 is also false. As we have said before, the release of the plan is not related to domestic United States or Israeli politics but when the plan is complete and the timing is right,” said Marquis.

The U.S. peace plan, despite not having been made public yet, has thus far been met with resistance from PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his aides. They have refused to engage with the U.S. in protest over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem of Israel’s capital and his relocating the U.S. embassy to the city.

Trump recently declined to offer a timetable for announcing the proposed peace plan, saying only that “progress” had been made in tackling the complex issue.

“A lot of progress has been made in the Middle East, a lot,” he said in late June after a meeting at the White House with King Abdullah II of Jordan.