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Westlake Legal Group > Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

Iran’s Seizure of British Vessel Further Roils Gulf Region

LONDON — Iran seized at least one British oil tanker in a vital Persian Gulf waterway on Friday, a sharp escalation of tensions with the West that revived fears of a military clash, even as voices on both sides appeared to be seeking room for negotiations.

The impoundment of the tanker by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps naval patrols came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone menacing an American warship in the region.

But Iran’s standoff with Britain, in particular, carries its own complications. Britain occupies a pivotal place in a bloc of European states that have tried to broker some resolution to a broader conflict between Tehran and Washington over the fate of a 2015 deal with the world powers designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain convened an emergency meeting of advisers late Friday night to respond.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said in a statement issued before the meeting that he was “extremely concerned” and called the seizure “unacceptable.”

At the time Mr. Hunt spoke, Iran had at least briefly detained a second British-owned ship, and Mr. Hunt said the meeting would address “what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.” He noted that no British citizen had been among the crews.

“We’re not looking at military options; we’re looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation,” Mr. Hunt said later. “But we are very clear that it must be resolved.”

The United States Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. operations in the Middle East, said in a statement that “patrol aircraft in international airspace” were monitoring the Strait of Hormuz and the Navy was in contact with American ships in the area “to ensure their safety.”

The display of force by the Revolutionary Guards was publicly welcomed by hard-line Iranian officials. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose hostility toward Britain and the United States is well known, appeared to revel in the achievement of capturing the British vessel.

“The country’s proud defense capabilities are a result of the pressures and cutting ties with foreigners” during the era of Iran’s long war with Iraq in the 1980s, the ayatollah said in a post on social media.

He also appeared to encourage Iranians to persevere through the crippling economic sanctions that were imposed by the United States in May and set off the current escalation.

“The movement now to rely on only ourselves will yield important results including economically,” the ayatollah said.

Tensions between Britain and Iran spiked earlier this month when the British military impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar on suspicion of having violated a European Union embargo on the sale of oil to Syria. Iran called the seizure “piracy,” accused Britain of acting on a pretext at the behest of Washington and threatened to capture a British ship in retaliation.

Iranian vessels first tried to stop a British tanker in the Persian Gulf region a few days later, on July 11. After a short standoff, an accompanying British warship drove them away.

But late Friday afternoon, Iranian news agencies reported that Revolutionary Guard seamen had indeed seized at least one British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow Gulf waterway that is a critical conduit for maritime oil traffic.

The news agencies quoted the Guards as saying the tanker had “violated three international naval regulations,” including turning off a GPS locator, breaking the traffic pattern in the Strait of Hormuz and polluting the water by dumping crude oil residue.

“We asked the armed forces to guide this tanker to Bandar Abbas port so we can investigate further,” Allah Morad Anifipour, the head of Iran’s shipping and port organization, said, according to official Iranian accounts.

The ship’s owners reported that the Stena Impero, a 30,000-ton vessel bound for Saudi Arabia, had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

Westlake Legal Group scoop-oil-tanker-attack-master-articleLarge Iran’s Seizure of British Vessel Further Roils Gulf Region Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

Why This Narrow Strait Next to Iran Is So Critical to the World’s Oil Supply

Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz.

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The second tanker, at least temporarily detained, was the Mesdar, owned and operated by the Glasgow-based shipping firm Norbulk, but flying a Liberian flag. It too lost contact for a time, but Fars, the semiofficial Iranian news agency, reported that the Iranian authorities had only warned it to abide by environmental regulations.

It was unclear late Friday if the British authorities had confirmed the release of the second tanker.

At least one senior American military official on Friday appeared to play down the latest escalation by Iran, calling it a foreseeable response to the British seizure of the Iranian tanker near Gibraltar.

“They look for things that are proportional in nature,” Lt. Gen Robert P. Ashley Jr., the top military intelligence officer, said in a discussion with journalists at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “They aren’t looking to go to war but at the same time they are looking to project strength,” he said.

The capture of the Stena Impero followed an increasingly heated exchange of threats between Iran and Washington, set off by the Trump administration’s attempts to scrap and renegotiate the 2015 nuclear accord, under which the United States and six other world powers, including Britain, promised Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

After pulling out last year, President Trump in May imposed new sanctions that seek to block all exports of Iranian oil, the mainstay of its economy.

Denouncing the sanctions as “economic warfare,” Iran has sought to put pressure on Washington and its European allies by taking gradual steps to exceed its own commitments under the deal to dismantle and suspend its nuclear program.

Britain has so far continued to try to preserve the 2015 deal in defiance of the Trump administration. Along with the other European powers, Britain has largely accepted Iran’s position that its steps to restart its nuclear program are justified under the terms of the deal as responses to the reimposition of American sanctions.

Britain has even joined other Europeans in attempting to develop an alternative trading system that would allow Iran to bypass the U.S. sanctions.

But among the European powers, diplomats say, Britain is also the most skeptical of Iran and the most sympathetic to the White House. If Britain now chooses to re-impose its own sanctions on Iran, that would all but completely extinguish any hope of preserving the nuclear deal.

At the same time, the United States and its allies have accused Tehran of using naval mines to damage six ships in two attacks in the Persian Gulf, evidently in a tacit threat to the crucial oil shipping lanes that flow past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has denied carrying out those attacks but it boasted that it shot down an American surveillance drone last month.

Trump, in response, ordered a missile strike on Iran, only to call it off only minutes before launch.

On Thursday, a day before the capture of the British tanker, the United States said that it had brought down an Iranian drone that had come too close to an American amphibious assault ship. “The latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran,” Mr. Trump called it.

Iranian officials, however, refused to acknowledge that any of their drones were shot down. A “false claim rooted in Trump’s illusions,” Gen. Abolfazi Shekarchi was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

While some voices on each side have continued to ratchet up the bluster, others have in recent days seemed to probe for paths out of the confrontation. Mr. Trump, sometimes sounding at odds with his more hawkish advisers, has repeatedly said he would be open to negotiations without preconditions. This week, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky offered himself as a mediator.

Iranian officials have offered their own olive branches. Speaking with American journalists in New York while attending a United Nations meeting, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to seek to break the impasse by suggesting that Iran might submit to more comprehensive international inspections of its research facilities in exchange for a revival of the deal for sanctions relief.

The seizure of the British tanker on Friday, however, threatened to sideline such diplomacy, and other Iranian hard-liners celebrated it as a triumph.

“The Persian Gulf will always belong to us,” Morteza Avini, a conservative filmmaker who documents Iran’s conflicts, wrote on social media. The capture, he wrote, “means that even the United States and Britain must abide by the rules that we set. This means a powerful Iran.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Seizure of British Vessel Further Roils Gulf Region

Westlake Legal Group merlin_158176272_ab77ab5f-9c7e-46c7-80d5-9811ff551bf4-facebookJumbo Iran Seizure of British Vessel Further Roils Gulf Region Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

LONDON — Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on Friday, the latest confrontation in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Iranian authorities had also seized another tanker, adding that he was “extremely concerned” and that British officials were working “to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.”

But Iran quickly disputed that account, saying that the second tanker “was not seized,” according to Fars, the nation’s semiofficial news agency.

Instead, it said, the second ship “was given a warning by Iran’s armed forces about observing environment regulations and safety precautions and it went on its way.”

The ship’s manager, Norbulk Shipping UK, said in a statement that the vessel “was boarded by armed personnel” on Friday, but that it was later released and allowed to continue its voyage. No one was injured, it said.

Mr. Hunt said the Iranian actions were “unacceptable,” adding, “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

He said the ships’ crews included “a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.” He said the British ambassador to Iran had been in communication with the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The seizure came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied, and after weeks of dispute between Britain and Iran over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s Fars News Agency said the seized ship, the Stena Impero, had been impounded because it was “violating maritime rules and regulations.” Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency, reported that the tanker had turned off its GPS locator, was polluting the waters of the Persian Gulf, and had tried to enter the Strait of Hormuz in an area where most ships exit, creating the risk of an accident.

The ship’s owners issued a statement that the Stena Impero, which was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left international sea lanes, had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The United States’ most senior military intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., said on Friday that Iran was seeking to find an equivalent response to the seizure of an Iranian tanker by Britain earlier this month.

“They look for things that are proportional in nature,” General Ashley told reporters at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “They aren’t looking to go to war but at the same time they are looking to project strength.”

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that announcement.

A spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the “unfounded claim” had been intended to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the focal point of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in recent months, after a series of incidents in the waterway, a narrow stretch through which a fifth of the world’s supply of oil flows.

Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States described the incidents as attacks by Iran, though Tehran denied any role.

On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had detained a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The Revolutionary Guards said the vessel had been smuggling fuel, just days after a United Arab Emirates vessel with the same name disappeared in the Persian Gulf.

Relations between Iran and the United States have been deteriorating since last year, when Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a series of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 agreement had limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for economic relief. With the new sanctions battering Iran’s economy, Tehran set deadlines for the European signers of the deal to come up with a strategy to ease their impact.

Since early July, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Seizes British Tanker in the Persian Gulf

Westlake Legal Group merlin_158176272_ab77ab5f-9c7e-46c7-80d5-9811ff551bf4-facebookJumbo Iran Seizes British Tanker in the Persian Gulf Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

LONDON — Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on Friday, the latest confrontation in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Iranian authorities had also seized another tanker, adding that he was “extremely concerned” and that British officials were working “to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.”

But Iran quickly disputed that account, saying that the second tanker “was not seized,” according to Fars, the nation’s semiofficial news agency.

Instead, it said, the second ship “was given a warning by Iran’s armed forces about observing environment regulations and safety precautions and it went on its way.”

The ship’s manager, Norbulk Shipping UK, said in a statement that the vessel “was boarded by armed personnel” on Friday, but that it was later released and allowed to continue its voyage. No one was injured, it said.

Mr. Hunt said the Iranian actions were “unacceptable,” adding, “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

He said the ships’ crews included “a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.” He said the British ambassador to Iran had been in communication with the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The seizure came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied, and after weeks of dispute between Britain and Iran over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s Fars News Agency said the seized ship, the Stena Impero, had been impounded because it was “violating maritime rules and regulations.” Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency, reported that the tanker had turned off its GPS locator, was polluting the waters of the Persian Gulf, and had tried to enter the Strait of Hormuz in an area where most ships exit, creating the risk of an accident.

The ship’s owners issued a statement that the Stena Impero, which was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left international sea lanes, had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The United States’ most senior military intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., said on Friday that Iran was seeking to find an equivalent response to the seizure of an Iranian tanker by Britain earlier this month.

“They look for things that are proportional in nature,” General Ashley told reporters at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “They aren’t looking to go to war but at the same time they are looking to project strength.”

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that announcement.

A spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the “unfounded claim” had been intended to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the focal point of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in recent months, after a series of incidents in the waterway, a narrow stretch through which a fifth of the world’s supply of oil flows.

Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States described the incidents as attacks by Iran, though Tehran denied any role.

On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had detained a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The Revolutionary Guards said the vessel had been smuggling fuel, just days after a United Arab Emirates vessel with the same name disappeared in the Persian Gulf.

Relations between Iran and the United States have been deteriorating since last year, when Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a series of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 agreement had limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for economic relief. With the new sanctions battering Iran’s economy, Tehran set deadlines for the European signers of the deal to come up with a strategy to ease their impact.

Since early July, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Seizes Two Tankers in Persian Gulf, Britain Says

Westlake Legal Group merlin_158176272_ab77ab5f-9c7e-46c7-80d5-9811ff551bf4-facebookJumbo Iran Seizes Two Tankers in Persian Gulf, Britain Says Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

LONDON — Iran seized two ships in the Persian Gulf, the British government said Friday, in the latest episode in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Iranian authorities had seized “a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel” in the Strait of Hormuz. He added that he was “extremely concerned” and that British officials were working “to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.”

Earlier Friday, Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, and the ship’s owner said it had lost contact with the vessel as it appeared to be heading toward Iran.

“These seizures are unacceptable,” Mr. Hunt said. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

Mr. Hunt said the ships’ crews included “a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.” He said the British ambassador to Iran had been in communication with the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The seizure came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied, and after weeks of dispute between Britain and Iran over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s Fars News Agency said the Stena Impero had been impounded because it was “violating maritime rules and regulations.”

The ship’s owners issued a statement that the Stena Impero had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The British Defense Ministry said it was urgently looking into what had happened to the Stena Impero, a 30,000-ton British-flagged ship, which was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left the international sea lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that announcement.

A spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the “unfounded claim” had been intended to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the focal point of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in recent months, after a series of incidents in the waterway, a narrow stretch through which a fifth of the world’s supply of oil flows.

Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States described the incidents as attacks by Iran, though Tehran denied any role.

On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had detained a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The Revolutionary Guards said the vessel had been smuggling fuel, just days after a United Arab Emirates vessel with the same name disappeared in the Persian Gulf.

Relations between Iran and the United States have been deteriorating since last year, when Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a series of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 agreement had limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for economic relief. With the new sanctions battering Iran’s economy, Tehran set deadlines for the European signers of the deal to come up with a strategy to ease their impact.

Since early July, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Seizes Two Tankers in Persian Gulf, Britain Says

Westlake Legal Group merlin_158176272_ab77ab5f-9c7e-46c7-80d5-9811ff551bf4-facebookJumbo Iran Seizes Two Tankers in Persian Gulf, Britain Says Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

LONDON — Iran seized two ships in the Persian Gulf, the British government said Friday, in the latest episode in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Iranian authorities had seized “a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel” in the Strait of Hormuz. He added that he was “extremely concerned” and that British officials were working “to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.”

Earlier Friday, Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, and the ship’s owner said it had lost contact with the vessel as it appeared to be heading toward Iran.

“These seizures are unacceptable,” Mr. Hunt said. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

Mr. Hunt said the ships’ crews included “a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.” He said the British ambassador to Iran had been in communication with the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The seizure came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied, and after weeks of dispute between Britain and Iran over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s Fars News Agency said the Stena Impero had been impounded because it was “violating maritime rules and regulations.”

The ship’s owners issued a statement that the Stena Impero had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The British Defense Ministry said it was urgently looking into what had happened to the Stena Impero, a 30,000-ton British-flagged ship, which was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left the international sea lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that announcement.

A spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces said that the “unfounded claim” had been intended to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency.

The Strait of Hormuz has been the focal point of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in recent months, after a series of incidents in the waterway, a narrow stretch through which a fifth of the world’s supply of oil flows.

Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States described the incidents as attacks by Iran, though Tehran denied any role.

On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had detained a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The Revolutionary Guards said the vessel had been smuggling fuel, just days after a United Arab Emirates vessel with the same name disappeared in the Persian Gulf.

Relations between Iran and the United States have been deteriorating since last year, when Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a series of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 agreement had limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for economic relief. With the new sanctions battering Iran’s economy, Tehran set deadlines for the European signers of the deal to come up with a strategy to ease their impact.

Since early July, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Said to Seize British Tanker in Persian Gulf

Westlake Legal Group defaultPromoCrop Iran Said to Seize British Tanker in Persian Gulf Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

LONDON — Iran said Friday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, and the tanker’s owner said it had lost contact with the vessel as it appeared to be heading toward Iran. The British government said it was urgently seeking information about the incident.

The possible seizure of the ship, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, was the latest in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West. It came a day after the United States claimed it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied.

Britain and Iran have been embroiled in a dispute for the past few weeks over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.

Iran’s Fars News Agency said the Stena Impero had been impounded because it was “violating maritime rules and regulations.”

The ship’s owners issued a statement that the Stena Impero had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north toward Iran,” the owners, Stena Bulk, and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said in the statement.

The British Defense Ministry said it was urgently looking into what happened to the Stena Impero, a 30,000-ton British-flagged ship, which was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left the international sea lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Earlier Friday, Iranian officials denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that claim.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran Denies That U.S. Downed Its Drone in Strait of Hormuz

Westlake Legal Group 19IRAN-01-facebookJumbo Iran Denies That U.S. Downed Its Drone in Strait of Hormuz Zarif, Mohammad Javad United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Strait of Hormuz Persian Gulf Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran

Iranian officials on Friday denied that the American military had downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a day after President Trump and Pentagon officials first made that claim.

A spokesman for the Iranian Armed Forces, in rejecting Mr. Trump’s assertion, also said that the “unfounded claim” had been intended to increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Tasnim, an official Iranian news agency.

Pentagon officials on Thursday said a small, uncrewed Iranian drone came within “threatening range” of a United States Navy ship in the strait, a strategic Persian Gulf waterway that has been a flash point in the simmering conflict between Tehran and Washington.

President Trump, during a ceremony in the White House on Thursday, said that the downing of the drone had been an act of self-defense and “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran.”

Iranian officials provided a different narrative.

“Contrary to the false claim rooted in Trump’s illusions, all unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.s) of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz have returned safely to their bases after completing their scheduled reconnaissance and patrol missions,” Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi said in a statement on Friday quoted by Tasnim and other Iranian news outlets.

Other Iranian officials offered similar statements, denying the loss of any Iranian drone in the area. On Thursday night — just hours after Mr. Trump made the claim of a downed drone — Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters at the United Nations that Tehran had “no information about losing a drone.”

Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said in a Twitter posting that, “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” before adding that perhaps American forces had shot down their own drone.

The United States said the drone — a high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned aircraft — had stayed in international airspace.

Tehran maintained that the American drone had ventured into airspace eight miles off the country’s coast, inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that Iran claims as its territorial waters.

Sanam Vakil, who studies Iran at Chatham House, a research institute in London, said that while the conflicting accounts can be confusing, they are, in her view, part of a strategy by both Tehran and Washington.

Part of the Iranian strategy, she said, “is this policy of plausible deniability about everything, and they are employing it in many ways, whether it’s about the tankers or the missing ship or the drones.”

By employing aggressive rhetoric against Washington and denying a drone was downed, Tehran’s leaders have been able to shield themselves from the American claims while continuing to appear strong to the Iranian public.

“They have the ability to deny and deny and obfuscate everything, and it’s kind of working for them,” she said.

The Trump administration is also “playing in that space,” she added.

Tensions with the United States have simmered since last year, when President Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and began imposing a series of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 agreement had limited Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the economic relief. With the new sanctions battering Iran’s economy, Tehran set deadlines for the European signers of the deal to come up with a strategy to ease their impact.

And since early July, Iran has begun slowly reducing its compliance with the accord.

Incidents in the Strait of Hormuz have only ratcheted up the pressure. Six tankers were damaged in May and June in the Gulf of Oman. The United States said the incidents were attacks by Iran, which Tehran has denied.

Hours before American officials said on Thursday that the United States had downed of the Iranian drone, the Iranian news media reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had detained a foreign oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

It said the vessel had been smuggling fuel, just days after a United Arab Emirates vessel with the same name disappeared in the Persian Gulf.

But Mr. Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat, appeared to be taking steps ease the situation while visiting New York on Thursday.

Mr. Zarif proposed some modest concessions that Iran could offer as part of new talks between the United States on Iran. The proposal would accelerate a process laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal, scheduled for 2023, in which Iran would allow more intrusive inspections in the country by nuclear monitors.

Under that proposed agreement, the United States would lift the sanctions that President Trump reimposed on Iran last year.

Ms. Vakil, the Chatham House expert, said that the diplomat’s proposals were also part of the push and pull between Washington and Tehran.

“They are negotiating with each other but also threatening each other,” she said. “But it’s quite calibrated actually.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight

A week ago, a small tanker ship approached the Persian Gulf after a 19-day voyage from China. The captain, as required by international rules, reported the ship’s position, course, speed and another key detail: It was riding high in the water, meaning it was probably empty.

Then the Chinese-owned ship, the Sino Energy 1, went silent and essentially vanished from the grid.

It reported in again on Sunday, near the spot where it had vanished six days earlier, only now it was heading east, away from the Strait of Hormuz near Iran. If past patterns hold, the captain will soon report that it is riding low in the water, meaning its tanks are likely full.

As the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iranian oil and petrochemical products have taken hold, some of the world’s shipping fleets have defied the restrictions by “going dark” when they pick up cargo in Iranian ports, according to commercial analysts who track shipping data and intelligence from authorities in Israel, a country that backs the Trump crackdown.

[Iran breached a nuclear fuel limit in what it said was a response to the reimposition of sanctions by the Trump administration.]

“They are hiding their activity,” said Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, a company that uses satellite imagery to identify tankers calling on Iranian ports. “They don’t want to broadcast the fact that they have been in Iran, evading sanctions. It’s that simple.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 02ghostships-articleLarge To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

Smaller ships like the Sino Energy 1 are harder to track than big oil tankers when they go off the grid.CreditMartin Klingsick

A maritime treaty overseen by a United Nations agency requires ships of 300 tons or more that travel international routes to have an automatic identification system. The gear helps avoid collisions and aids in search-and-rescue operations. It also allows countries to monitor shipping traffic.

It is not illegal under international law to buy and haul Iranian oil or related products. The Trump administration’s sanctions, which went into effect last November after the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, are unilateral.

But foreign companies doing business with American companies or banks risk being punished by the United States. Actions can include banning American banks from working with them, freezing assets and barring company officials from traveling to the United States, said Richard Nephew, a research scholar at Columbia University who oversaw Iran policy on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

“We have sanctioned dozens of Chinese state-owned enterprises for nuclear, missile, arms and other forms of proliferation,” Mr. Nephew said. “But it is not entered into lightly.”

A State Department spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

Chinese Tankers Keep Disappearing in the Persian Gulf

Westlake Legal Group 1 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

The SC Mercury, an oil and chemical tanker owned by Sinochem until April 2019, sails regularly from Chinese ports into the Persian Gulf.

Westlake Legal Group 2 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

On the morning of Jan. 27, 2018, it disappeared. The Mercury’s A.I.S. transponder — a device that broadcasts a ship’s location continuously, required by an international maritime treaty — fell silent.

Several days later, the transponder came back to life, tracking the Mercury as it sailed toward ports in India. Having deposited its cargo, it turned back toward the gulf.

On Feb. 15, 2018, the ship went dark again as it navigated the Strait of Hormuz, reappearing days later to begin a weekslong journey back to Shanghai.

All ships 300 tons or greater on international journeys are required to broadcast their location, course and speed on the system, but sometimes, to hide their activities from competitors, ships “go dark,” analysts say.

Westlake Legal Group 3 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

The Persian Gulf isn’t the only place in the world where ships go silent. It also happens in the South China Sea, but there, one analyst said, the reason may be because the sheer number of ships overwhelms the system.

Westlake Legal Group 4 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

In the case of the Mercury, outages appeared to be more selective. In April and May 2018, the ship’s transponder stayed active as it visited ports in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

When a ship goes dark in the Persian Gulf, it may be related to dodging sanctions, not technical problems, said Samir Madani of TankerTrackers.com, which uses satellite technology to monitor ships. Countries and companies that import Iranian oil risk punishment from the United States.

Westlake Legal Group 5 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

In the past 18 months, the five ships, which regularly sail between China and the Persian Gulf, made only two port visits in Iran, according to information from their A.I.S. data. In contrast, those ships made close to 50 stops in ports in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. In another 28 instances, the ships vanished in the region for days or weeks.

By Rich Harris and Derek Watkins. Source: VesselsValue

debug 1128: waiting for message…….

Brian Hook, the United States special representative for Iran, told reporters in London on Friday that the United States would punish any country importing Iranian oil. Mr. Hook was responding to a question about reports of Iranian oil going to Asia, according to the Reuters news agency.

President Trump’s efforts to halt Iranian oil and petrochemical exports are at the heart of rising tensions between the two countries. Last month, he imposed new sanctions on Iran’s leaders after it downed an American surveillance drone and nearly precipitated a counterstrike that was called off at the last minute. The attack on the drone came a week after the United States accused Iran of being responsible for explosions that had crippled two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

American and Israeli intelligence agencies say the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is deeply entwined with its petrochemical industry, using oil revenues to swell its coffers. Mr. Trump has labeled the military group a terrorist organization.

Iran has been trying to work around the American sanctions by offering “significant reductions” in price for its oil and petrochemical products, said Gary Samore, a professor at Brandeis University who worked on weapons issues in the Obama administration.

Brian Hook, left, the United States special representative for Iran, has said the American government would punish any country importing Iranian oil.CreditYasser Al-Zayyat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When shipping companies defy the sanctions, they weaken their effectiveness, especially if the companies — or the countries where they are based — see no consequences, analysts said. Some shipping companies with direct Iranian ties do not try to hide their movements, according to data collected by the commercial tracking sites.

Last month, the Salina, an Iranian-flagged oil tanker under American sanctions, docked in Jinzhou Bay, a port in northeastern China, according to data from VesselsValue, a website that analyzes global shipping information. The Salina regularly reported its position, course and speed via the automatic identification system.

Oil tankers like the Salina, which can transport as much as a million barrels of crude, or about 5 percent of the daily consumption of the United States, are so big that they can call on only a limited number of ports. They are also more easily spotted by satellites than smaller ships like the Sino Energy 1.

That vessel, and its more than 40 sister ships, are far more difficult to track when they go off the grid. They were owned until April by a subsidiary of Sinochem, a state-owned company in China that is one of the world’s biggest chemical manufacturers.

Sinochem has extensive business ties in the United States. It has an office in Houston and works with big American companies including Boeing and Exxon Mobil. In March, it signed an agreement with Citibank to “deepen the partnership” between the two companies, Sinochem said. In 2013, a United States subsidiary of Sinochem bought a 40 percent stake in a Texas shale deposit for $1.7 billion.

In April, it sold a controlling share in its shipping fleet to a private company, Inner Mongolia Junzheng Energy & Chemical Group Co., whose biggest shareholder is Du Jiangtao, a Chinese billionaire who made his fortune in medical equipment, chemicals and coal-generated power.

A person answering the phone at Junzheng’s investor relations office was not familiar with the newly acquired shipping business. For now, Junzheng owns 40 percent of Sinochem’s former shipping fleet, with the rest owned by two Beijing companies.

Frank Ning, the chairman of Sinochem, speaking in a brief interview in Dalian, China, said that shipping had not been central to the company’s business. In a statement, the company said it had “adopted strict compliance policies and governance on export control and sanctions,” though a former employee who had helped manage the shipping business, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the company had shipped petrochemicals from Iran for years.

The tracking data also show that some of the Sinochem ships made trips to Iran before the fleet was sold, and both before and after the American sanctions went into effect.

In April 2018, for example, one of the ships, the SC Brilliant, was moored at Asalouyeh, a major Iranian petrochemical depot on the Persian Gulf, according to data from VesselsValue. The SC Brilliant’s voyage was easy to plot. Its captain made constant reports via the automatic identification system, broadcasting its course, speed and destination.

But after Mr. Trump’s announcement last August that he would reimpose sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry, the SC Brilliant’s voyages became less transparent.

In late September and early October, shortly before the sanctions took effect, the ship went off the grid for 10 days in the same stretch of the Strait of Hormuz where the Sino Energy 1 disappeared last week. When the SC Brilliant went off the grid, it appeared empty; when it re-emerged, it appeared full.

The pattern was repeated in February, with the ship disappearing for four days, according to the tracking data.

That month, another Sinochem ship, the SC Neptune, stopped transmitting its position when it approached the Strait of Hormuz, the tracking data show. Four days later, for a brief period, it appeared back on the grid, transmitting its location from an export terminal on Iran’s Kharg Island. It then went quiet for another 24 hours, reappearing on its way out of the strait.

Iran’s Kharg Island (pictured in a screenshot from Google Maps), where a Chinese ship called SC Neptune briefly reported its position in February after going off the grid.

In some parts of the world, including the South China Sea, it is not uncommon for ships to go silent because the automatic identification system may be overloaded by the volume of vessels, said Court Smith, a former officer in the United States Coast Guard who is now an analyst at VesselsValue. Sometimes they do so for competitive reasons, he added.

But in the Persian Gulf, where traffic is lighter, Mr. Smith said, vessels generally do not turn off the system, known in the industry as A.I.S.

“If the A.I.S. signal is lost, it is almost certainly because the A.I.S. transponder has been disabled or turned off,” Mr. Smith said of ships in the Persian Gulf. “The captain has decided to turn off the A.I.S.”

Another possible clue that Iran-bound ships are disabling their reporting systems is that ships making trips to countries on the western part of the gulf are not going off the grid.

The SC Mercury, another of the Sinochem ships, disappeared for about nine days at the end of December and into January, vanishing close to where the Sino Energy 1 disappeared last week, the tracking data show. But in early April, the ship’s course through the Persian Gulf had no interruptions in its signal. The destination that time was the United Arab Emirates.

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White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including Cyberattacks, to Deter Iran

Westlake Legal Group 23DC-shadow-facebookJumbo White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including Cyberattacks, to Deter Iran United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Ships and Shipping Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Cyberwarfare and Defense central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war, according to current and former officials.

The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted on Thursday and that echo the shadow war the United States has accused Tehran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, according to American officials briefed on the effort. Iran maintains that it was not responsible for the attacks on the tankers.

The cyberattacks were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region. The American operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group, at least temporarily. A separate online operation was aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.

The White House has told military and intelligence officials it also now wants options in line with the kind of operations conducted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the officials said.

President Trump has made clear he believes that, at this point, a direct strike would be escalatory, although he has repeatedly warned Iran against further aggression.

Intelligence and military officials have told White House policymakers, including Mr. Trump, that without an additional American response, Iran will continue to destabilize the region.

Some divisions of opinion in the administration remain. A number of senior national security officials agree that further action against Iran is needed, but they are divided about how public that action needs to be.

Officials did not provide specifics about the secret operations under consideration by the White House. But they could include a wide range of activities such as additional cyberattacks, clandestine operations aimed at disabling boats used by Iranians to conduct shipping attacks, and covert operations inside Iran aimed at fomenting more unrest. The United States might also look for ways to divide or undermine the effectiveness of Iranian proxy groups, officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive, confidential administration planning.

The C.I.A. has longstanding secret plans for responding to Iranian provocations. Senior officials have discussed with the White House options for expanded covert operations by the agency, as well as plans to step up existing efforts to counter Iran’s efforts, according to current and former officials.

One former American military commander said there was a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. could pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have “crystal-clear attribution” to the United States. An American operation that was not publicly announced could still deter further action by Tehran, if Iran understood what United States operatives had done, the former officer said.

The types of responses the United States could undertake are broad if the United States was willing to use the same tactics that Iran has mastered, said Sean McFate, a professor at the National Defense University and the author of “The New Rules of War.”

“If we want to fight back, do it in the shadows,” he said.

Mr. McFate said the United States could put a bounty on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces. That would create an incentive for mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies. American intelligence forces also could find new ways to assist existing protests against the Iranian government. Such efforts could include spreading information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders, he said. The United States could also look at ways to make protests by Iran’s labor movement more effective at weakening the government.

Current and former officials say that Iran’s covert attacks against shipping and its downing of an American drone are an attempt to try to raise pressure on the United States. Iran, they say, hopes that by sowing chaos in the Persian Gulf it can drive up oil prices, which will put pressure on Mr. Trump and American allies dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Iran maintains that the drone it shot down had violated its airspace; American officials insist it had been over international waters.

“From the Iranian perspective, unconventional attacks, threats against Gulf shipping and air routes and bellicose rhetoric represent the best ways to pressure the international community to compel the U.S. to relieve sanctions without igniting a conventional conflict,” said Norman T. Roule, a former national intelligence manager for Iran and a C.I.A. Middle East expert.

Some officials believe the United States needs be willing to master the kind of deniable, shadowy techniques Tehran has perfected in order to halt Iran’s aggressions. Others think that, while helpful, such clandestine attacks will not be enough to reassure American allies or deter Iran.

Iran will probably pause its activities for a time, senior American officials said. But, with sanctions biting, they say Iran will once again resume attacks on shipping. That will once more force the White House to consider a direct military strike.

While so-called gray zone operations are meant to stay below the threshold of inciting open conflict, the moves always run the risk of touching off exactly what both sides are trying to avoid: a shooting war.

Moreover, some online operations are far easier than others. Knocking an intelligence agency’s computers offline, as the United States did with Russia last year during the midterm American elections, is fairly basic. But getting inside a missile launch operation is much harder; although the United States succeeded in doing so in North Korea, it took a long time and prompted the North Koreans to build an entirely different missile system.

The Iranians also now have much greater capability to strike back in the cyber realm than they did a decade ago. Their foray into American banks in 2012 and 2013 was, in retrospect, a training exercise. When the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on Saturday about Iranian cyberthreats, it described much greater capabilities. Iran’s “cyber corps” has now had years of training in causing damaging attacks, like the one it conducted on a Las Vegas casino and other targets in the United States.

Mr. Roule also agreed the United States response needed to be public and clear. “The best U.S. options will not be covert,” he said. “Overt options send the strongest message of deterrence. Iran needs to know that the U.S. — supported by the international community — will not tolerate its behavior.”

Mr. Trump has been stung by criticism about his decision to call off the strikes after the Iranian drone attack. But the president believes a combination of covert operations by the C.I.A. and clandestine operations by the military’s Cyber Command and other military forces will demonstrate his resolve as commander in chief, a senior administration official said.

The president is eager to avoid a messy shooting war with Iran, which he believes would violate his campaign promise to keep America out of protracted conflicts in the Middle East. A shadow war would reduce the exposure of American troops and, if Iran was unsure of whether the United States or its allies were responsible, its response could be muted.

Authoritarian powers, like Iran, have an easier time with hybrid conflicts built on deceptions and falsehoods.

For example, Russian tactics in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated the effectiveness of hybrid warfare in a post-Cold War era. Russia was able to leverage confusion, obfuscation and violence to achieve geopolitical gains.

Russian special forces without insignia, the so-called little green men, helped Moscow seize Crimea. And Russian-backed separatists, commanded by Russian military officers, have effectively cut off eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country, despite international outcry.

Iran has its own track record of using hybrid tactics, mostly through the use of its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran became adept at striking the United States without provoking a direct response. Tehran’s militia proxy forces regularly fired rockets at American bases in Iraq, and Iran flooded the battlefield with a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb that penetrated some of the best American military armor.

In past decades, though, the United States was much better at thinly veiled, shadow operations. During the Cold War, the United States regularly used unconventional tactics, proxy forces and its intelligence agency to keep adversaries off balance.

The C.I.A. began mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984: The nominally covert, but well publicized, operations were not aimed at sinking ships. Instead, the agency’s real target was the international insurance markets.

The Reagan administration, which was backing the Contra rebels, hoped raising insurance rates would reduce shipping, raising prices on critical goods and increasing public pressure on the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Iran’s strikes on tankers in recent weeks echo that old C.I.A. operation, current and former officials said. After initial strikes on tankers last month, Lloyd’s of London, the international insurance company, announced it would effectively raise insurance rates for the entire Persian Gulf.

Reviving America’s old tactics and finding a way to copy Iran’s new ones could be the best way to try to halt Tehran’s current campaign, Mr. McFate said. The defensive measure the United States has taken, including deploying an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile batteries to the region, have not halted Iran’s activities.

“Iran is playing by the new rules, he said, “while we are using the obsolete ones, and wonder why Iran’s behavior is not changing.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including in Cyberspace, to Deter Iranian Attacks

Westlake Legal Group 23DC-shadow-facebookJumbo White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including in Cyberspace, to Deter Iranian Attacks United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Ships and Shipping Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Cyberwarfare and Defense central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war, according to current and former officials.

The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted on Thursday and that echo the shadow war the United States has accused Tehran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, according to American officials briefed on the effort. Iran maintains that it was not responsible for the attacks on the tankers.

The cyberattacks were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region. The American operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group, at least temporarily. A separate online operation was aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.

The White House has told military and intelligence officials it wants options in line with the kind of operations conducted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the officials said.

President Trump has made clear he believes that, at this point, a direct strike would be escalatory, although he has repeatedly warned Iran against further aggression.

Intelligence and military officials have told White House policymakers, including Mr. Trump, that without an additional American response, Iran will continue to destabilize the region.

Officials did not provide specifics about the secret operations under consideration by the White House. But they could include a wide range of activities such as additional cyberattacks, clandestine operations aimed at disabling boats used by Iranians to conduct shipping attacks and covert operations inside Iran aimed at fomenting more unrest. The United States might also look for ways to divide or undermine the effectiveness of Iranian proxy groups.

The C.I.A. has longstanding secret plans for responding to Iranian provocations. Senior officials have discussed with the White House options for expanded covert operations by the agency, as well as plans to step up existing efforts to counter Iran’s efforts, according to current and former officials.

One former American military commander said there were a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. can pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have “crystal-clear attribution” to the United States. An American operation that was not publicly announced could still deter further action by Tehran, if Iran understood what United States operatives had done, the former officer said.

The types of responses the United States could undertake are broad if the United States was willing to use the same tactics that Iran has mastered, said Sean McFate, a professor at the National Defense University and the author of “The New Rules of War.”

“If we want to fight back, do it in the shadows,” he said.

Mr. McFate said the United States could put a bounty on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces. That would create an incentive for mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies. American intelligence forces also could find new ways to assist existing protests against the Iranian government. Such efforts could include spreading information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders, he said. The United States could also look at ways to make protests by Iran’s labor movement more effective at weakening the government.

Current and former officials say that Iran’s covert attacks against shipping and its downing of an American drone are an attempt to try to raise pressure on the United States. Iran, they say, hopes that by sowing chaos in the Persian Gulf it can drive up oil prices, which will put pressure on both Mr. Trump and American allies dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Iran maintains that the drone it shot down had violated its airspace, while American officials insist it had been over international waters.

“From the Iranian perspective, unconventional attacks, threats against Gulf shipping and air routes and bellicose rhetoric represent the best ways to pressure the international community to compel the U.S. to relieve sanctions without igniting a conventional conflict,” said Norman T. Roule, a former national intelligence manager for Iran and a C.I.A. Middle East expert.

While a number of senior American national security officials agree that further action against Iran is needed, they are divided about how public that action needs to be.

Some officials believe the United States needs be willing to master the kind of deniable, shadowy techniques Tehran has perfected in order to halt Iran’s aggressions. Others think that, while helpful, such clandestine attacks will not be enough to reassure American allies or deter Iran.

Iran will most likely for a time pause its activities, said senior American officials. But, with sanctions biting, they say Iran will once again resume attacks on shipping. That will once more force the White House to consider a direct military strike.

While so-called gray zone operations are meant to stay below the threshold of inciting open conflict, the moves always run the risk of touching off exactly what both sides are trying to avoid: a shooting war.

Moreover, some online operations are far easier than others. Knocking an intelligence agency’s computers offline, as the United States did with Russia last year during the midterm American elections, is fairly basic. But getting inside a missile launch operation is much harder; while the United States succeeded in doing so in North Korea, it took a long time and prompted the North Koreans to build an entirely different missile system.

The Iranians also now have much greater capability to strike back in the cyber realm than they did a decade ago. Their foray into American banks in 2012 and 2013 was, in retrospect, a training exercise. When the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on Saturday about Iranian cyberthreats, it described much greater capabilities. Iran’s “cyber corps” has now had years of training in causing damaging attacks, like the one it conducted on a Las Vegas casino and other targets in the United States.

Mr. Roule also agreed the United States response needs to be public and clear. “The best U.S. options will not be covert,” he said. “Overt options send the strongest message of deterrence. Iran needs to know that the U.S. — supported by the international community — will not tolerate its behavior.”

Mr. Trump has been stung by criticism about his decision to call off the strikes following the Iranian drone attack. But the president believes a combination of covert operations by the C.I.A. and clandestine operations by the military’s Cyber Command and other military forces will demonstrate his resolve as commander in chief, a senior administration official said.

The president is eager to avoid a messy shooting war with Iran, which he believes would violate his campaign promise to keep America out of protracted conflicts in the Middle East. A shadow war would reduce the exposure of American troops and, if Iran was unsure of whether the United States or its allies were responsible, its response could be muted.

Authoritarian powers, like Iran, have an easier time with hybrid conflicts built on deceptions and falsehoods.

For example, Russian tactics in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated the effectiveness of hybrid warfare in a post-Cold War era. Russia was able to leverage confusion, obfuscation and violence to achieve geopolitical gains.

Russian special forces without insignia, the so-called little green men, helped Moscow seize Crimea. And Russian-backed separatists, commanded by Russian military officers, have effectively cut off eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country, despite international outcry.

Iran has its own track record of using hybrid tactics, mostly through the use of its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran became adept at striking the United States without provoking a direct response. Tehran’s militia proxy forces regularly fired rockets at American bases in Iraq, and Iran flooded the battlefield with a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb that penetrated some of the best American military armor.

In past decades, though, the United States was much better at thinly veiled, shadow operations. During the Cold War, the United States regularly used unconventional tactics, proxy forces and its intelligence agency to keep adversaries off balance.

The C.I.A. began mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984: The nominally covert, but well publicized, operations were not aimed at sinking ships. Instead, the agency’s real target was the international insurance markets.

The Reagan administration, which was backing the Contra rebels, hoped raising insurance rates would reduce shipping, raising prices on critical goods and increasing public pressure on the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Iran’s strikes on tankers in recent weeks echo that old C.I.A. operation, current and former officials said. After initial strikes on tankers last month, Lloyd’s of London, the international insurance company, announced it would effectively raise insurance rates for the entire Persian Gulf.

Reviving America’s old tactics and finding a way to copy Iran’s new ones could be the best way to try to halt Tehran’s current campaign, said Mr. McFate. The defensive measure the United States has taken, including deploying an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile batteries to the region, have not halted Iran’s activities.

“Iran is playing by the new rules, he said, “while we are using the obsolete ones, and wonder why Iran’s behavior is not changing.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com