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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Iran"

The U.S. Has Joined Secret Talks With Israel and the U.A.E. The Topic? Iran.

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-diplo-facebookJumbo The U.S. Has Joined Secret Talks With Israel and the U.A.E. The Topic? Iran. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations State Department Iran Hook, Brian H Embargoes and Sanctions Economic Conditions and Trends

WASHINGTON — The United States is participating in secret talks between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to confront threats posed by Iran, a shared adversary among the three countries.

The talks aim to broaden cooperation for military and intelligence sharing between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, two cautiously allied Middle Eastern nations, a foreign official with knowledge of the diplomacy said on Thursday.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel already share some security connections, experts said, and have held below-the-radar discussions in the past. Both view Iran as a top threat to the region, and Israel has sold fighter jet upgrades and spyware to the United Arab Emirates.

But including the United States in a new phase of security talks could signal the United Arab Emirates’s intent to demonstrate its commitment to the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran — even as Emirati officials have stepped back from some of their own hard-line policies targeting Tehran.

The three-sided talks, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, grew out of a February conference in Warsaw that was billed as a Middle East security forum but was used by the Trump administration to push its campaign against Iran. Since then, the three allies have met twice.

The foreign official confirmed the talks were being coordinated by Brian H. Hook, the senior State Department envoy on Iran issues. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the secret discussions.

Neither the State Department nor the Israeli Embassy in Washington responded to requests for comment, and Emirati officials refused to discuss the issue.

Last month, the United Arab Emirates pulled most of its forces from Yemen after years of supporting Saudi Arabia’s efforts there against Houthi rebels supported by Iran. Emirati officials also recently held maritime security talks with Tehran.

Emirati officials are trying to “strike a very careful balancing act,” said Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“They want to signal to the Trump administration and members of Congress — especially Republicans — that they aren’t walking away from the administration’s policies and the maximum pressure campaign against Iran,” he said.

The Trump administration’s campaign against Iran has been met with mixed success since the United States withdrew in May 2018 from a nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

United States sanctions have stopped Iran from exporting oil and other goods to foreign buyers, starving its economy. But the economic constraints have also irritated American allies and other nations that had sought to open markets in Iran.

On Thursday, in a sign of the diplomatic strain, the authorities in Gibraltar released an Iranian oil tanker that the United States had sought to seize. Gibraltar is a semiautonomous British territory.

The United Arab Emirates and other Arab states are generally careful to avoid appearing too close to Israel, given longstanding disputes over the rights of Palestinians and access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

Mr. Goldenberg said it was surprising that Emirati officials would agree to allow the United States into its longstanding and secretive talks with Israel.

“It is a sign they are willing to lean further forward, that they are not as worried about secrecy as they were,” said Mr. Goldenberg, who worked on regional security issues at the State Department and Pentagon during the Obama administration.

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Tom Cotton Says He Still Believes Iran’s Behavior Warrants a Retaliatory Strike

Westlake Legal Group tom-cotton-620x349 Tom Cotton Says He Still Believes Iran’s Behavior Warrants a Retaliatory Strike Tom Cotton Strait of Hormuz Resurgent Conference Iran Front Page Stories

A day after President Trump announced his intent to pull thousands of men and women out of Afghanistan, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) — who some critics suggest has a desire to see the U.S. back in a so-called “forever war” like Iraq and Afghanistan — took the stage Friday in Atlanta at the annual Resurgent Conference and discussed how to deal with Iranian aggression.

Cotton, who appeared at the behest of Atlanta-based radio host Erick Erickson, spent a few minutes sharing details of his book, “Sacred Duty” before being questioned by Erickson as to his opinion on recent moves by Iran to seize European oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

“For understandable reasons, the president is practicing forbearance right now,” Cotton told Erickson, likening Trump’s restraint following Iran’s provocations to President Ronald Reagan’s during the 1980s while he also dealt with an increasingly belligerent Iran.

“But Reagan’s forbearance did not stop Iran. Iran is lashing out like this for the same reason they did in the 1980s: because they’re backed against a wall,” Cotton said.

The senator from Arkansas notably recently called on the U.S. to consider a retaliatory strike on Iran, who ramped up aggression in the Gulf after the U.S. pulled out of former president Obama’s Iran deal. Currently, oil tankers are reportedly intentionally masking their global tracking systems as they move through the Strait of Hormuz.

Britain, who had a tanker seized in the Strait last month, has ruled out a swap for an Iranian tanker they seized in Gibraltar they said were violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria. Tensions have run high for U.S. allies; however, Germany has indicated it will not join a U.S. led naval mission that seeks to secure tankers traveling near the Iranian coast.

Cotton indicated Friday he still believes Iran’s conduct warrants retaliatory strikes, and noted the increase in U.S. sanctions against Iran two months ago “really put [Iran] in the hurt locker.”

“Iran used to export 9 million barrels of oil a day…now they’re down to 100 thousand a month,” Cotton said.

The post Tom Cotton Says He Still Believes Iran’s Behavior Warrants a Retaliatory Strike appeared first on RedState.

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Hmmm: Trump to waive Iran sanctions again?

Westlake Legal Group pompeo-mnuchin Hmmm: Trump to waive Iran sanctions again? waivers The Blog Steve Mnuchin Sanctions Mike Pompeo john bolton Iran deal Iran Europe donald trump

If Mike Pompeo and John Bolton agree on something, how likely would Donald Trump to go in the opposite direction? The smart money would normally go against it, but according to Josh Rogin’s sources, that’s precisely what will happen this week on Iran. Trump has decided to extend sanctions waivers on Iran again after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin argued he needed more time to negotiate:

After an internal policy battle, the Trump administration is set to announce later this week that it will once again waive five different nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, preserving a key part of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. The decision will upset Iran hawks in Washington and be welcomed by Russia, China, European allies and the Iranian leadership. The issue is emblematic of the tension inside the administration over the implementation of President Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy.

In an Oval Office meeting last week, Trump sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who argued that the administration should again renew sanctions waivers related to five separate parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Mnuchin prevailed over the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, according to six administration officials. Pompeo, who is the lead official on the issue, will nevertheless support Trump’s decision when it is announced later this week.

Mnuchin, these six officials said, argued to Trump that if the sanctions were not again waived as required by law by Aug. 1, the United States would have to sanction Russian, Chinese and European firms that are involved in projects inside Iran that were established as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. The Treasury Department asked for more time to navigate the collateral effects of these sanctions.

Is that the real reason, though? According to NBC’s sources, the decision allows for the retention of the skeleton of Barack Obama’s deal with Iran. Some within the administration want it kept on life support, so to speak, as a potential opening position for a new deal, a view shared by US allies in Europe:

The underlying argument that has played out at the White House over the past year hinges on whether the United States would have more leverage in any future talks with Iran by totally dismantling the 2015 deal, or whether it is better to preserve the accord as a starting point for negotiations, U.S. officials say.

Proponents of keeping the waivers believe “the best way to position for a new deal, is to keep the old deal around in the meantime,” one source said. “There is an active group within the State Department, Treasury Department and Energy Department that sees value in keeping the rump JCPOA alive.”

Britain, France and Germany had urged the White House to extend the waivers, saying that it was in the interests of the United States and Europe to ensure Iran stuck to a plan to convert various nuclear sites to civilian purposes.

Perhaps it’s just that the administration would prefer to concentrate on one crisis at a time. The existing sanctions have already caused Iran to start lashing out in the Persian Gulf, actions that have created further distance between Tehran and Europe. Better to let those play out to their natural end before doing something that could shift focus in Europe back to the Trump administration rather than on the real threat in Iran.

That won’t make John Bolton too happy, of course, and at least theoretically he’s correct. Cranking up the pressure is better than standing pat, and it may be better to completely jettison the JCPOA and start over on any negotiations from scratch. However, that’s still outside our power; Europe is still clinging to the JCPOA in hopes of keeping Iran accountable. Until they’re ready to let it go completely, it still has to stay in our calculations too.

It’s tough to imagine that these waivers will last forever, though. It’s not in Trump’s nature to keep loopholes open for antagonists, especially not when Pompeo and Bolton are both on the other side of that decision. If Europe wants to keep a “rump JCPOA” alive much longer, they’d better get the mullahs to come back to the table soon.

The post Hmmm: Trump to waive Iran sanctions again? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Tapper to Rashida Tlaib: Why do you only want to boycott Israel and not, say, Egypt or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia?

Westlake Legal Group rt-4 Tapper to Rashida Tlaib: Why do you only want to boycott Israel and not, say, Egypt or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia? The Blog Saudi Arabia rashida tlaib palestinian Israel Iran Egypt boycott bds

I would happily boycott Egypt or Saudi Arabia for human rights violations, Tlaib insists, responding to Tapper’s question.

Okay, he says. Then why don’t you?

I would do it if those boycott movements existed, she replies, or if there was a resolution on the House floor to that effect.

You can anticipate the reply to that: Why don’t those boycott movements exist? She’s begging the question Tapper is asking here.

And she’s a farking congresswoman. She could introduce a resolution about Egypt herself. Certainly she could use the enormous public megaphone that the Squad (and the president) have given her to broaden public awareness of human rights violations across the Middle East. So, again, to paraphrase Tapper, why doesn’t she?

The most charitable read on her comments is that Rashida Tlaib, social justice warrior, simply will not lift a finger to pressure a foreign regime unless someone else does so first. She’ll join the parade once it’s started, but don’t bug her to get it going. Just let her know where to show up after it’s begun.

The less charitable read is that, as the quote in the clip from Chuck Schumer suggests, the BDS movement and its progressive adherents have a special animus towards Israel that isn’t similarly inflamed by Islamic fascist regimes. Supply your own theory as to why.

Enjoy her displays of civic and geopolitical derring-do while you can, by the way, because Josh Kraushaar’s right that she’s probably not long for Congress:

The same identity-centered politics that generates so much attention for Tlaib and her three like-minded colleagues (Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley) is what’s jeopardizing her standing back home in her Detroit-area district. Tlaib struggled to win significant African-American support in her narrow primary win last year, and she faces the threat of a one-on-one matchup against established Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in next year’s election.

Unlike Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, who capitalized on the diversification of their districts to defeat white incumbents, Tlaib underperformed with the nonwhite voters in her district last year. She benefited from numerous African-American candidates splitting up the black vote, allowing her to win with just 31 percent of the vote, a narrow 900-vote plurality. (With fewer candidates on the ballot, Jones defeated Tlaib narrowly in a concurrent primary election to serve out the last eight weeks of the term after Rep. John Conyers’s resignation.)

How’d Tlaib pull off her win? White progressives, of course. She’s the sort of person who runs around calling for a $20 minimum wage (while offering her own interns $15) and insisting that the left’s bete noire, Israel, be isolated internationally. Ideologues handed her her term in the House, and Tlaib must be keenly aware that her only chance at a second term depends on them turning out en masse for her in next year’s primary against Jones (who’ll doubtless have establishment Dem support in hopes that she can rid Pelosi of her Tlaib headache). That is, if nothing else, it’s in Tlaib’s political self-interest to single out Israel for special opprobrium. It’s the sort of policy trash her base wants.

She did at least acknowledge Israel’s right to exist here, albeit quickly noting that it exists to the detriment of Palestinians. Doesn’t sound too two-state-y.

The post Tapper to Rashida Tlaib: Why do you only want to boycott Israel and not, say, Egypt or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Here we go? Iran apparently tested a missile this week

Westlake Legal Group Zarif Here we go? Iran apparently tested a missile this week The Blog Mike Pompeo Iran Foreign Policy donald trump Denmark

North Korea isn’t the only country testing out their missile capabilities. CNN’s Barbara Starr reported yesterday afternoon Iran also sent a missile into the air on Wednesday.

Not much is out about the missile and the alarm seems to be more muted than the one displayed by South Korea over North Korea. The Iranian government is staying silent on the test although state-owned PressTV suggested it was true.

Iran has not yet confirmed the missile test, but has repeatedly said its military might poses no threat to other countries, and that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.

Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN that Iran “will never start a war,” but “will defend its territory” against any act of aggression.

Speaking to Fareed Zakaria in New York, Zarif said Iran has never started a war and will never start one, “but we will defend ourselves and anybody who starts a war with Iran will not be the one who ends it.”

How President Donald Trump and the Pentagon reacts to the new test will be telling. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said multiples times on Thursday he’d be willing to do direct talks with Iran – but wants them to make the first call. Via Reuters:

Asked if he would be willing to go to Tehran, Pompeo said in an interview with Bloomberg TV: “Sure. If that’s the call, I’d happily go there… I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people.”

Tensions between Iran and the United States have ratcheted up since last year, when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iranian nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, saying it was not strong enough. Washington also reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Trump and Iranian leaders have both publicly said talks were possible, but the prospect for dialogue appeared to recede on Wednesday when the top military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would not negotiate with Washington under any circumstances.

Public posturing is always fun.

It seems like there are global concerns on if there is an actual ‘plan’ when it comes to Iran and protecting oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. There is at least one country waiting for more information before committing to some sort of plan. Again, via Reuters.

A senior diplomat in Japan, Washington’s key Asian ally, told Reuters that Pompeo had talked with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by telephone on Friday, but that Japan was not in a position to decide if or how it could join any maritime force until the United S[t]ates provided a blueprint of how such an operation would work.

“We don’t know where they want to lead,” he said, asking not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Denmark Foreign Affairs Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted this morning his country was interested in some sort of role in the Strait of Hormuz.

The caveat is obviously whether Parliament decides to get the Danes involved in whatever the actual plan ends up entailing. It should involve negotiations between Iran and the U.S – since they’re the major players – of course, it won’t come to anything if the countries decide to just negotiate in the media. Or decide to just talk ‘at’ each other with demands they know won’t be met under any circumstance.

Congress will need to assert its role in the decision-making process should it appear the United States is going to get involved in a military conflict. The Constitution – yes, that old thing everyone claims to have some sort of adherence towards when it suits their fancy – requires a congressional vote on war. Any military action against Iran would be an act of war – unless it ended up being something self-defense in nature. The Constitution does not give Trump the power to do whatever he wants – no matter what he may have said earlier this week. The House and Senate would need to declare war before bombs start falling – should it end up coming to that.

Here’s hoping it won’t and cooler heads will start prevailing.

The post Here we go? Iran apparently tested a missile this week appeared first on Hot Air.

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In Escalation, Iran Tests Medium-Range Missile, U.S. Official Says

Westlake Legal Group shabab3-1-facebookJumbo In Escalation, Iran Tests Medium-Range Missile, U.S. Official Says Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United Nations Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Nuclear Weapons Iran Defense Department

WASHINGTON — Iran fired a Shahab-3 medium-range missile on Wednesday, a United States military official said, playing it down by saying that it did not pose a threat to American or other Western shipping or military bases in the region.

The missile was launched from the southern coast of Iran and landed east of Tehran, the official said on Thursday, adding that it flew about 1,100 kilometers, or about 680 miles, and stayed inside Iran for the entire flight.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence analyses, said that American officials had been closely monitoring the test site as Iran prepared the missile for launch.

Despite the Pentagon’s effort to minimize the strategic importance of the launch on Wednesday, it appears to be a political statement by Iran, acting both as a carefully calibrated effort at escalation — and as a message to Europe.

Missile launches are not forbidden under the 2015 nuclear accord reached between Washington and Tehran, which is one of President Trump’s complaints about the agreement he abandoned last year. But a United Nations Security Council resolution, passed just as the agreement was reached, says that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded that Iran cease all missile launches and testing and give up its arsenal of the weapons. Iran says it is under no obligation to do so, and notes that because it has no interest in nuclear weapons, it is not violating the wording of the United Nations prohibition.

Last week in New York, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that if the United States wanted to discuss missile limitations, it should begin by not supplying Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states with missiles that threaten Iran. The test on Wednesday seemed meant to drive home the point that Iran had no intention on giving up on its own missile fleet.

The Shahab-3 is hardly a new weapon — it has been in the Iranian arsenal for two decades. Based on a North Korean design, called the No-Dong, it can fly about 1,000 kilometers. Variants can range farther, capable of striking the edge of Europe.

But more important, Israel and a number of Western experts say a nuclear weapon can be fashioned to fit in the missile’s nose cone. The test launch may also be meant to demonstrate that American efforts to sabotage the Iranian missile program, chiefly with bad parts, are not impeding its development.

The missile launch in Iran came within hours of North Korea’s launching of two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Thursday. The South Korean government said that the North was expanding its ability to deliver nuclear warheads as Mr. Trump’s efforts resume talks on ending the country’s nuclear weapons program remain stalled.

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Trump with the Leader of Pakistan: In a War with Afghanistan, We Would Wipe the Country ‘Off the Face of the Earth’

Westlake Legal Group AP_18124526461298-620x354 Trump with the Leader of Pakistan: In a War with Afghanistan, We Would Wipe the Country ‘Off the Face of the Earth’ War Uncategorized Oval Office military Middle East Iran International Affairs Imran Khan Government Front Page Stories donald trump Allow Media Exception Afghanistan

President Donald Trump tells reporters a time and place for his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has been set and will be announced soon, as he leaves for Dallas to address the National Rifle Association, in Washington, Friday, May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)




On Monday, the President made a stunning statement, and not one necessarily geared toward de-escalation: As reported by USA Today, Trump claimed that the U.S. could wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the Earth.”

Words of peace?

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office during a meeing with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump noted the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’s ability to blow $#!* up:

“If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.”

Well. That’s nice of him.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has maintained a military presence in Afghanistan. However, the Trump administration’s been working toward an agreement with Pakistan allowing those forces to diminish.

Presently, approximately 14,000 U.S. personnel reside in the landlocked mountainous nation.

The Donald called America’s long run “ridiculous,” having crossed three presidencies.

The “off the earth” remark wasn’t exactly groundbreaking for Trump: In June, he told Meet the Press that a war with Iran would rain down “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

Though I expect he’s correct on both counts, hopefully we never find out if either statement is accurate.



See 3 more pieces from me:

Fed Up With Officials’ Failure To Address The Homeless Crisis, Some LA Businesses Are Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

The American Psychological Association Creates A Task Force To Promote Polyamorous Relationships

AOC’s Chief Of Staff Admits The Real Goal Of The Green New Deal – It Wasn’t Fighting Climate Change

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The post Trump with the Leader of Pakistan: In a War with Afghanistan, We Would Wipe the Country ‘Off the Face of the Earth’ appeared first on RedState.

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Bob Seely: In the Gulf, we are paying the price for starving defence of funding for so long

Bob Seely is Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight.

As if the Brexit crisis wasn’t enough for Boris Johnson’s first week as Prime Minister, he now has an international crisis in the Gulf too; one that, if handled badly, may lead to conflict. As Harold MacMillan said, when asked what throws a Government off course: events, dear boy, events.

On Friday, a UK-registered tanker, the Stena Impero, was seized by Iran, one of a series on incidents in the past three months between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK. Iran, under pressure from US sanctions, is readying to cause chaos in the Gulf.

Here are some immediate thoughts:

The UK is caught between rock and a hard place. The Iran crisis is stretching the already strained alliance between the US and Europe – and we are feeling it more than most.  On the Iranian Nuclear Deal – which is at the heart of this crisis – we are diplomatically aligned with the EU in supporting the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), whilst we remain deeply embedded in the US military alliance which, regardless of who is president, retains remarkable importance for us.

Second, we are paying the price for not paying for defence. Our emaciated presence in the Gulf is due to two decades of under-funding of the Navy and the Armed Forces more generally. We reaped the peace dividend at the end of the Cold War but refused to reinvest in the mid-2000s when the world became a more dangerous place. The Conservative-Liberal Coalition was a particularly shameful low-point in absolute cuts made to defence.

In the 1980s, the Royal Navy’s Armilla patrol in the Gulf had up to four destroyers or frigates (small destroyers). Then, the Navy had over 40 frigates or destroyers. We have 19 now. Whilst technology has made these vessels more powerful, we no longer have mass. At the same time potential adversaries, be in Iran or Russia, have invested in many varieties of power, including hard power, whilst some military technology, such as drones, have become much cheaper and more widespread. Despite this changing balance, our strategic responsibilities have stayed the same. We are trying to do the same with less as our rivals have more. Our only legally binding expenditure is on aid, which has gone up to £13 billion. Politically, in the last decade we have prioritised virtue signalling over protecting our national interests. This needs to change.

Third, warfare and conflict has changed and will continue to evolve. Two decades ago we entered the era of full spectrum warfare, sometimes known as hybrid or asymmetric warfare. This is where nations and non-state actors (think ISIS, Hezbollah, etc.) chose to use non-traditional methods to achieve their aims, either because they cannot match US technology, or because non-conventional methods of conflict are more effective in the era we live in. Iran, alone with China and Russia, are the major proponents of full-spectrum warfare. The seizure of the Stena Impero was an example of this.

Iran’s full spectrum tools also include influence or control over religious, political or paramilitary groups across the Middle East: the Houthi in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Alawite regime in Syria, proxies in Iraq and religious groups in the Gulf states. In case of further conflict, Iran will very likely initially seek to damage UK, US, Saudi Arabian or UAE targets in the Middle East, through its proxies, overtly or covertly. Lobbing a UK missile at a no-doubt empty target in Iran will achieve nothing except threaten British lives and interests across the Middle East.

Fourth, Iran wants to internationalise this crisis. It is suffering under new US sanctions since they were imposed when President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018. US sanctions have been surprisingly successful. However, as a result moderates in Iran have been weakened, and anti-Western and illiberal elements strengthened. The thinking from those who know Iran is that, if Iran is going to suffer, it will make the rest of the Middle East suffer too. That could mean a mix of destabilising attacks on shipping, paramilitary attacks or assassinations in the Middle East.

So what’s the answer?

In the short term in the Gulf, the UK needs to renew international and regional alliances and find convoy partners. We should additionally put in place what deterrence forces we can in local bases in Bahrain and elsewhere; another destroyer or two if we can muster it, swift boats, helicopters and drones.

In the longer term, we need to work with the US, the EU and Iran to find a way out from the ongoing crisis. In practice, that means finding a realistic set of proposals acceptable to the US and Iran that gets the JCPOA back on track. Mike Pompeo has outlined 12 demands. These are seen to be unrealistic, but there is some chance for a more modest set of US proposals being put forward that Iran could sign up to, or at least use as the basis for negotiation.

Finally, and more broadly, we need to plan for the decades ahead. We are not doing so.

In February I launched a Global Britain study with the Henry Jackson Society. In that report, I outlined some key aims: reinvest in hard power whilst ensuring that we are capable of understanding and countering full spectrum warfare; integrate overseas policy and possibly even departments; redefine aid to allow DfID funds to fund peacekeeping options; and provide for a significant uplift to the BBC World Service Radio and TV. Most importantly, the UK should develop a global strategy for the next decade and two, driven by a UK Strategy Council.

The UK has benefitted from the international order constructed after the Second World War. We need to invest to defend it. That doesn’t mean, as the predictable line of questioning on the BBC in the last couple of days put it, wanting to be the world’s policeman or boss others about, but it does mean delivering an overseas policy which allows the UK to remain a leading player in the global order, and by so doing, defend our just interests.

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Spain isn’t happy with the Iran tanker seizure by the UK

Westlake Legal Group british-frigate Spain isn’t happy with the Iran tanker seizure by the UK United Kingdom The Blog Spain john bolton Iran Great Britain donald trump

Spain has a problem with Great Britain’s decision to seize the Iran oil tanker off Gibraltar earlier this month. Although the situation is all very “he said, she said,” it does paint a rather interesting diplomatic picture on what may have led up to the July 4th raid. EL PAÍS in Spain reports the kerfuffle is all about a territorial dispute but there may be more lurking in the shadows (emphasis mine).

According to the official version of events, London alerted Madrid about the presence of the supertanker and warned that “there was going to be an intervention by British forces to detain it in the port of Gibraltar.”

But the seizure did not take place in the port, which is part of Gibraltar’s territory, but further out in waters that Spain considers its own. In spite of it, Madrid made no attempt at halting the boarding operation.

“Spain did not want to interfere because this was about upholding EU sanctions,” said a ministry source. A Civil Guard patrol boat was sent out to monitor the operation…

While Gibraltarian authorities did not mention a US intelligence tip-off, Spain believes this is what triggered the operation. Acting [Foreign Minister Josep] Borrell said that Washington had alerted London about the supertanker’s presence in European waters, rather than informing Spain.

Also of note is the fact it appears Spain knew about the tanker not from the British, but from the United States. From EL PAÍS, last week:

Washington advised Madrid of the arrival of the supertanker 48 hours ahead of time, and the Spanish Navy followed its passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. It was expected to cross via international waters, as many Iranian vessels do without being stopped.

Surprisingly, on the night of July 3, it entered into waters that London classes as British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW), and dropped anchor just two miles off the Gibraltarian coast in order to resupply.

That was the moment that the Gibraltar police, supported by 30 British marines, took advantage of to board the tanker. A Spanish Civil Guard patrol boat headed toward the vessel, but the Royal Navy cut off its path.

That is quite interesting and casts National Security Adviser John Bolton’s “excellent news” tweet in a bit of a different light. It almost comes off more like Hannibal Smith’s, “I love it when a plan comes together,” versus a Montgomery Burns-like “Excellent.” That’s if, of course, the U.S. intelligence community was involved in tipping off the British to the tanker and its contents after calling Spain. Simon Tisdall at The Guardian believes this is the case, writing Great Britain was duped by Bolton into engagement. He’s also worried how the seized tanker situation might affect the Iran Deal which has been on wobbly legs since Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

What makes this situation more curious is the response – or lack thereof – by the European Union over the raid. Keele University lecturer Barry Ryan wrote at The Conversation about his perplexion towards the EU’s silence on the tanker seizure and the aftermath.

[T]here was no statement from the office of the European External Action Service, the EU body responsible for conducting the bloc’s foreign and security policy. Not a word of gratitude. Not even a nod. This was a deliberate and strategic use of silence…

Another glaring silence followed from the EU a few days later when the Iranians, quite theatrically, dispatched around 30 of its elite forces to harass an Isle of Man-registered BP supertanker in the Straits of Hormuz, The British were compelled to send a warship to the region to protect their commercial fleet, implicitly joining the American’s motley maritime coalition in the Gulf of Arabia against Iranian threats to the shipping corridor.

Once again, other than passing a cursory warning about the situation, the EU’s foreign and security body did not comment. The silence conveyed its dissatisfaction to the US at the way it was manipulating EU sanctions to its own ends. More pointedly, the silence was trained upon Britain’s cumbersome attempt to court US military objectives while claiming to support the delicate diplomacy favoured by the EU towards Iran.

EL PAÍS suggested the U.S. let Great Britain and Gibraltar take the lead on the raid because it would be easier to get judges to approve seizing the tanker.

The counter-theory is from Patrick Cockburn in a piece in The Independent theorizing this is just another in a laundry list of mistakes the UK has made over the Middle East, especially in light of its Brexit plan.

[G]iven the inevitability of the Iranian reaction against British naval forces too weak to defend British-flagged tankers, the British move looks more like a strategic choice dictated by a lack of other options.

Confrontation with the EU over Brexit means that Britain has no alternative but to ally itself ever more closely to the US…

Iran expresses no doubt that Britain is acting as a US proxy, though this has been true for a long time. But life as a proxy may be particularly dangerous in the Gulf at the moment because of the peculiar nature of the confrontation between the US and Iran in which neither side wants to engage in an all-out war.

This makes it necessary to act through proxies like the UK, an approach that minimises the chances of Americans being killed and Donald Trump having no option but to retaliate in kind.

Iran is being visibly hurt by sanctions but Iranians are more likely to blame the US for their sufferings than their own government. The US is not going to launch a ground invasion, as it did in Iraq in 2003, and, so long as this is off the table, Iran can sustain the military pressures.

It sounds like Dread Empire by Glen Cook mixed with a bit of Cold War espionage for good measure.

This is why U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s potential involvement with soothing tensions with Iran is a positive sign. Should America and Iran reach some sort of detente it would keep Great Britain from being dragged in as some sort of proxy in a war – giving it time to settle whatever hurt feelings remain with the EU over Brexit. The territorial disputes would remain; however, the anger over the raid would dissipate over time and the complaint would be forgotten.

The post Spain isn’t happy with the Iran tanker seizure by the UK appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump: “Zero truth” that Iran busted a CIA ring

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No truth at all? Not even a smidgen? Earlier today, Iran claimed to have broken up a CIA spy ring in their country back in March, arresting 17 Iranians in a major sweep. According to the Iranians, they have already tried some and sentenced them to death, but with tensions rising apparently felt that this was an appropriate time to spike a football:

Iran said Monday it has arrested 17 Iranian nationals allegedly recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on the country’s nuclear and military sites, and that some have already been sentenced to death. The arrests took place in the Iranian calendar year ending in March 2019 and those taken into custody worked on “sensitive sites” in the country’s military and nuclear facilities, an Iranian intelligence official told a news conference in Tehran.

He didn’t say how many of them got the death sentence or when the sentences were handed down. Iranian state television published images Monday it said showed the CIA officers who were in contact with the alleged spies, the Reuters news agency reports.

It’s always best to take declarations from Tehran with a Lot’s Wife-sized grain of salt. The timing of this is self-serving too, coming during an economy on its way to crashing as the mullahs seem to be playing for an outright war in the Persian Gulf. The claim itself, however, isn’t necessarily outrageous; after all, it’s almost beyond imagination that the CIA hasn’t at least tried to build a spy network there. If any hot spot in the world called for highly aggressive intelligence recruitment by the CIA, Iran would be it.

Nevertheless, Trump found the claim provocative enough to deny it on Twitter:

He may well be right — Trump has access to more intel than any of us — but what purpose does this serve? He’s not battling the mullahs in the polls, after all. If the IRGC really did penetrate a CIA ring, that would hardly be Trump’s fault either. Under the circumstances, it might be best to keep silent and keep the mullahs guessing as to whether they really got the CIA’s sources, if in fact they did anything at all.

Besides, the Iranians themselves have heard these claims before, and are not likely terribly convinced by them:

Iran has in the past arrested and executed alleged spies working for foreign powers, including the U.S. state-linked media in June, citing the country’s military, reported that Iran had executed a defense ministry contractor accused of spying for the CIA. Last year, Iran’s intelligence minister said “dozens of spies” had been arrested in a crackdown on espionage.

Iranian authorities have a history of using clampdowns on foreign agents, including dual citizens, to boost its claims that enemies are trying to infiltrate it. Some cases can be used for years in state propaganda. Last month, Iranian state TV launched a three-part TV-series glorifying the arrest of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who was detained in 2014 and held for more than 500 days on charges of espionage.

This is likely an attempt to distract Iranians from the fact that the mullahs are provoking a fight not just with the Great Satan but also with the UK. That’s another good reason not to respond to thinly sourced claims coming out of Tehran. Right now Theresa May is chairing a “Cobra meeting” on their next response to Iran’s latest tanker seizure:

Prime Minister Theresa May has been chairing the government’s emergency committee Cobra to receive updates and discuss security in the area.

Her official spokesman described the seizure of the ship as “unacceptable and highly escalatory”.

The foreign secretary is expected to set out next steps to MPs later.

It comes amid reports ministers are considering freezing Iranian assets.

If and when that happens, the Iranian economy’s decline will take a sharper drop, and that won’t be the fault of the US. May is also considering an alliance specifically to confront Iranian military in the region in order to protect shipping, a point which we should have reached a couple of weeks ago but will send a very tough message to Tehran — and to Moscow, where Vladimir Putin has been miiiiiiighty quiet lately. Perhaps Trump should start pitching his Twitter messaging in that direction instead.

The post Trump: “Zero truth” that Iran busted a CIA ring appeared first on Hot Air.

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