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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Persian Gulf"

Saudi Arabia and Iran Make Quiet Openings to Head Off War

Westlake Legal Group 05saudi-iran-facebookJumbo Saudi Arabia and Iran Make Quiet Openings to Head Off War Zarif, Mohammad Javad Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Syria Saudi Arabia Rouhani, Hassan Persian Gulf Pakistan Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Middle East Mahdi, Adel Abdul Larijani, Ali Khan, Imran Jubeir, Adel al- Israel Iraq Iran Indyk, Martin S Houthis General Assembly (UN) Defense and Military Forces

After years of growing hostility and competition for influence, Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken steps toward indirect talks to try to reduce the tensions that have brought the Middle East to the brink of war, according to officials from several countries involved in the efforts.

Even the prospect of such talks represents a remarkable turnaround, coming only a few weeks after a coordinated attack on Saudi oil installations led to bellicose threats in the Persian Gulf. Any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have far-reaching consequences for conflicts across the region.

It was President Trump’s refusal to retaliate against Iran for the Sept. 14 attack, analysts say, that set off unintended consequences, prompting Saudi Arabia to seek its own solution to the conflict. That solution, in turn, could subvert Mr. Trump’s effort to build an Arab alliance to isolate Iran.

In recent weeks, officials of Iraq and Pakistan said, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, asked the leaders of those two countries to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.

Iran welcomed the gestures, stating privately and publicly that it was open to talks with Saudi Arabia.

In a statement to The New York Times on Friday, the Saudi government acknowledged that Iraq and Pakistan had offered to mediate talks between the two countries but denied that Prince Mohammed had taken the initiative.

“Efforts at de-escalation must emanate from the party that began the escalation and launched attacks, not the kingdom,” the statement said.

Distrust between the two Middle Eastern powers remains intense, and the prospect of high-level direct talks any time soon appears remote. But even a slight warming could echo far outside their respective borders, where their rivalry fuels political divides from Lebanon to Yemen.

Iran has long wanted to wrest the Saudis from their alliance with Iran’s archenemies, Israel and the United States, which are waging a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran to try to force it to restrict its nuclear program and stop backing militias in the region.

Iran’s receptiveness for contact with the Saudis contrasts with its chilly tone toward the United States. Last week, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, dodged an opportunity to speak directly with Mr. Trump while both were attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The new overtures between Saudi Arabia and Iran began in the aftermath of last month’s drone and cruise missile strikes on two Saudi oil facilities, which Saudi Arabia and the United States accused Iran of orchestrating.

Despite tough threats by the Trump administration, the president declined to order a military response. The demurral raised questions for the Saudis about the American commitment to Saudi security, which has underpinned the strategic layout of the Persian Gulf for decades.

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan met with Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah last month. Days later, while Mr. Khan was at the General Assembly, he told reporters that Prince Mohammed had asked him to talk to Iran.

Prince Mohammed told Mr. Khan, “I want to avoid war,” according to a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “He asked the prime minister to get involved.”

Mr. Khan then spoke with Mr. Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

The Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, visited Saudi Arabia a few days after Mr. Khan did.

A senior Iraqi official said that Prince Mohammed asked Mr. Abdul Mahdi to mediate with Iran, and that Iraq had suggested Baghdad as the venue for a potential meeting.

“There is a big response from Saudi Arabia and from Iran and even from Yemen,” Mr. Abdul Mahdi told journalists in Iraq after his return from the kingdom. “And I think that these endeavors will have a good effect.”

Iran endorsed the idea.

“Iran is open to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region,” Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. “An Iranian-Saudi dialogue,” he added, “could solve many of the region’s security and political problems.”

While they explore back-channel possibilities, both sides have continued to stake out staunchly opposing public positions.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia had not asked anyone to send messages to Iran. Instead, he wrote, other countries he did not identify had offered to serve as intermediaries.

“We informed them that the truce needs to come from the side that is escalating and spreading chaos through aggressive acts in the region,” Mr. al-Jubeir wrote.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran said that his country would “definitely greet Saudi Arabia with open arms” — but only if it prioritized friendly relations with neighbors over purchasing weapons from the United States.

Iran has long sought to pull Saudi Arabia away from the United States and Israel. But it was the lack of an American military response to the strikes on Saudi oil facilities that appeared to have created an opening.

“There are cracks in the armor suggesting Saudi Arabia is interested in exploring a new relationship with Iran,” said Philip Gordon, a former White House coordinator for the Middle East. “The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the U.S. to support them and find out they won’t.”

He added, “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”

Top officials from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi allies which could suffer if open conflict broke out, have spoken publicly of the need for diplomacy to reduce tensions and have made their own efforts to reach out to Iran. The Emirates has held direct maritime security talks with Iran, and has pulled back from the war in Yemen, where it is allied with the Saudis in a battle against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

If Saudi Arabia joins Kuwait and the Emirates in reaching out to Iran, it could undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build an international coalition to ostracize and pressure the Iranians.

“The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it’s crumbling,” Martin Indyk, the executive vice president of Brookings Institution and a former senior diplomat, said Thursday on Twitter. “MBZ has struck his deal with Iran; MBS is not far behind,” he said, referring to the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, or MBZ, and the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS.

He also noted that Mr. Trump’s most hawkish anti-Iran adviser, John R. Bolton, had left the administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is fighting for his political life and Mr. Trump has shown a willingness to talk directly to the Iranians.

For the Saudis, even indirect talks with Iran would represent a significant departure from Prince Mohammed’s approach to his prime regional rival since his father, King Salman, ascended to the Saudi throne in 2015.

He has cast Iran as the root of the Middle East’s problems and argued that political and theological differences make negotiations impossible. He has compared Iran’s supreme leader to Hitler and threatened to instigate violence inside Iran’s borders.

“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said in 2017. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”

His antipathy toward Iran gave him common cause with Israel and the Trump administration. The Saudis have pitched themselves as the United States’ greatest ally against Iran, proposing they carry out joint operations to weaken it and possibly bring about regime change, according to former United States officials.

But Prince Mohammed may now be more willing to explore a possible accommodation.

“We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests,” said Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran.

For now, the rift appears wide, and possibly unbridgeable. The Saudis criticize Iran for backing militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where the kingdom has been mired in a disastrous war against the Houthis for four years.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that seem to have helped prompt the diplomatic initiatives, but many Western experts believed that the Houthis could not have carried out the strikes unassisted.

Mr. al-Jubeir said Tuesday that Iran needed to stop its ballistic missile program, refrain from interfering in Arab states and “act like a normal country, and not like a rogue who sponsors terrorism.”

For its part, Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to freeze its multibillion-dollar arms purchases from the United States, stop its intervention in Yemen and end discrimination against the Shiite Muslim minority in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led absolute monarchy.

At the General Assembly last week, Iran’s president, Mr. Rouhani, aimed part of his speech directly at Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

“It’s the Islamic Republic of Iran who is your neighbor,” he said. “At the day of an event, you and us will be alone. We are each other’s neighbors, not America.”

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Iran to West: Get out of the Persian Gulf

Westlake Legal Group rouhani-dw Iran to West: Get out of the Persian Gulf The Blog Saudi Arabia Persian Gulf Iran Hassan Rouhani donald trump

In fairness, they’ve been saying this for forty years, but now they really mean it. Hassan Rouhani rallied the troops, literally, in demanding that the US and other Western nations exit the Persian Gulf region and leave it to Iran’s tender mercies. Rouhani talked about the use of “foreign troops” while busily extending their reach through Syria to the Mediterranean, from where Western nations would like to keep Iran out too:

Iran’s president called Sunday on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticizing a new U.S.-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic’s military arsenal. …

Rouhani said Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to Persian Gulf nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes.”

“Those who want to link the region’s incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed,” the president said. “If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region.”

Rouhani added that the U.S. and Western nations should “distance” themselves from the region.

“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region,” he said.

Rouhani plans to present a peace plan at his UN visit this week, but don’t expect it to go anywhere. According to Politico, Iran wants the region to reorganize itself under Tehran’s leadership, which is the same plan that the Shi’ites have had for the last 1300 years or so. The Sunnis have a plan to make sure the Shi’ites never succeed in doing so. Those are the “past mistakes” that Iran proposes to forgive … once they do homage to the ayatollahs of Tehran, that is.

Needless to say, the Saudis are not going to jump at the opportunity to put themselves under Ali Khameini’s thumb. Nor will they want the US and the West to exit the Middle East stage, not while Iran’s shooting cruise missiles at their oil facilities. It’s the kind of demand and proposal that even Rouhani has to know will generate laughs rather than handshakes. While the Arabian peninsula is not as strategic to the US as it used to be before we took the handcuffs off our own petroleum extraction, it’s still strategic enough for us to retain a keen interest in isolating Iran’s expansionist ambitions, which Rouhani apparently will be good enough to prove in his upcoming UN speech.

Rouhani’s blowing smoke in more ways than one. If Rouhani wanted the US out of the region, he has his best opportunity in decades. Donald Trump is the first post-war non-interventionist president, the man who wants us to exit both sides of Iran — Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan — without a firm victory in either place. All Iran had to do was not act crazy, and they can’t even do that long enough to let Trump order the US out of the region. Iran’s actions in seizing ships and firing missiles make it impossible for Trump to retreat now.

However, Iran isn’t crazy, at least not in that sense. Their leadership caste truly believes in the Twelfth Imam prophecy and the worldwide conflagration that has to precede it. They want an Armageddon, only on their terms, in order to complete their non-rational ambitions of Shi’ite Islamist global conquest. In that sense, they need the US as a part of that conflict, which is why Rouhani’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. Apart from force of habit, of course.

The post Iran to West: Get out of the Persian Gulf appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group rouhani-dw-300x159 Iran to West: Get out of the Persian Gulf The Blog Saudi Arabia Persian Gulf Iran Hassan Rouhani donald trump   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Friend’s Ties to Mideast at Heart of Lobbying Inquiry

WASHINGTON — As Donald J. Trump was preparing to deliver an address on energy policy in May 2016, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, had a question about the speech’s contents for Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top campaign fund-raiser and close friend of Mr. Trump.

“Are you running this by our friends?” Mr. Manafort asked in a previously undisclosed email to Mr. Barrack, whose real estate and investment firm does extensive business in the Middle East.

[Watch “The Weekly”: The Money Behind the Most Expensive U.S. Inauguration]

Mr. Barrack was, in fact, coordinating the language in a draft of the speech with Persian Gulf contacts including Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who is close to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.

The exchanges about Mr. Trump’s energy speech are among a series of interactions that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors looking at foreign influence over his campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, according to documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.

Investigators have looked in particular at whether Mr. Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said.

The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Mr. Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and “confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.”

Mr. Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. Asked about the status of the inquiry, a representative for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

The relationship between Mr. Barrack, Mr. Manafort and representatives of the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, including Mr. al-Malik, has been of interest to federal authorities for at least nine months. The effort to influence Mr. Trump’s energy speech in 2016 was largely unsuccessful.

The special counsel’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ended and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have signaled that it is unlikely they would file additional charges in a separate hush money investigation that ensnared members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

But as the scrutiny of Mr. Barrack indicates, prosecutors continue to pursue questions about foreign influence. Among other lines of inquiry, they have sought to determine whether Mr. Barrack and others tried to sway the Trump campaign or the new administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two closely aligned countries with huge stakes in United States policy.

Between Mr. Trump’s nomination and the end of June, Colony Capital, Mr. Barrack’s real estate investment and private equity firm, received about $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through investments or other transactions like asset sales, Mr. Barrack’s aides said. That included $474 million in investment from Saudi and Emirati sovereign wealth funds, out of $7 billion that Colony raised in investment worldwide.

An executive familiar with the transactions had provided The New York Times with somewhat different figures last year.

Investigators have also questioned witnesses about Mr. Barrack’s involvement with a proposal from an American group that could give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology. And they have asked about another economic development plan for the Arab world, written by Mr. Barrack and circulated among Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Aides to Mr. Barrack, who is of Lebanese descent and speaks Arabic, said he had always acted as an independent intermediary between Persian Gulf leaders and the Trump campaign and administration, never on behalf of any foreign official or entity.

“The ideas he was giving voice to were his ideas,” said Tommy Davis, Mr. Barrack’s former chief of staff, who continues to work for him. “These are ideas that he has been advocating for decades.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_138491229_be193c2e-3c62-4ed0-8759-054baa703c3a-articleLarge Trump Friend’s Ties to Mideast at Heart of Lobbying Inquiry United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2016 Persian Gulf Middle East Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Inaugurations foreign agents registration act Ethics and Official Misconduct Colony Capital LLC Barrack, Thomas J Jr

President Trump with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

He said Mr. Barrack had no incentive to lobby on behalf of any particular country or countries in the Persian Gulf because his business interests and policy concerns span the entire region and countries at odds with one another.

Nor is there any evidence, Mr. Barrack’s aides said, that either Mr. Barrack or his Los Angeles-based company has profited from his efforts.

“There is zero pay to play here,” Mr. Blicksilver, Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, said. “That is supported by the facts and the numbers.”

For Mr. Barrack, 72, the inquiry has unfolded amid a series of other setbacks. A friend of Mr. Trump since the 1980s, he had anticipated that his efforts to elect Mr. Trump, help run his transition team and manage his inauguration would land him a prominent role in the administration.

But Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, blocked Mr. Barrack from becoming a special envoy to the Middle East. A proposed role as a kind of superambassador to Central and South America did not materialize either.

At the same time, Colony Capital encountered substantial difficulties after a troubled merger drove down its stock price and forced a series of management changes.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack: The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.

But critics claimed the inaugural became a hub for peddling access to foreign officials and business leaders, or people acting on their behalf. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan opened an investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law, focusing partly on whether foreigners, who were barred from contributing to the $107 million inaugural fund, illegally funneled donations through Americans.

Questions about whether Mr. Barrack complied with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, arose during the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and were referred to the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Three of the six former Trump aides who were charged by the special counsel acknowledged violating the foreign lobbying statute in their guilty pleas: Mr. Manafort, Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

But while the Justice Department has been trying for several years to step up criminal enforcement of FARA requirements, such cases are typically difficult to prove. Whether someone is acting at the behest of a foreign official “is a very hard thing to investigate or to decide,” Adam S. Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division, said in a recent interview.

Central to the inquiry into Mr. Barrack are his dealings with Mr. al-Malik, who is well connected in the court of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates widely known by his initials, M.B.Z., and is close to the prince’s brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who oversees the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence services. Sheikh Hamdan is considered to be Mr. al-Malik’s patron and a major financier of his business activities.

When Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. al-Malik received a coveted invitation to the inaugural’s most exclusive event — the chairman’s dinner, hosted by Mr. Barrack.

In early 2018, Mr. al-Malik gave an interview and provided documents to federal prosecutors who questioned whether he had been acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter. After he was interviewed, Mr. al-Malik left for the United Arab Emirates and has not returned to the United States.

William F. Coffield, a lawyer for Mr. al-Malik, said that he “voluntarily cooperated with the special council’s office,” adding, “They accepted his cooperation and they certainly aren’t going after him.”

Investigators have documented a string of instances in which Mr. Barrack appears to have tried, with feedback from Mr. al-Malik and others, to shape the message of the Trump campaign or new administration in ways that were more friendly to Middle East interests.

Although he was not always successful, Mr. Barrack had substantial sway within the campaign when it was overseen by Mr. Manafort, a longtime friend, and Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Mr. Gates.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack. The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Barrack recommended that Mr. Trump hire Mr. Manafort, who rose to campaign chairman before he was fired over a separate foreign lobbying scandal. Mr. Manafort, who was awash in debt and had no income, had hoped that after the campaign Mr. Barrack would use his deep ties to the oil-rich nations to drum up business for them both, according to people familiar with the situation.

In one email to the U.A.E.’s ambassador in Washington, Mr. Barrack promoted Mr. Manafort as someone who was “totally programmed” on the alliance between the Saudis and Emiratis.

Mr. Manafort, in turn, was willing to describe Mr. Barrack to foreign officials as someone who could speak for the campaign on all subjects.

The Times learned of some of Mr. Barrack’s electronic correspondence from people critical of Emirati foreign policy and from people familiar with his work with the Trump campaign.

In early May 2016, Mr. Barrack asked Mr. al-Malik and other Persian Gulf contacts to propose language for a draft of an energy speech that Mr. Trump was to deliver in Bismarck, N.D., that month.

Mr. Barrack’s draft of the speech cited a new generation of leaders in the Gulf region, naming both the Emirati crown prince and his ally, Mohammed bin Salman, then deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi prince, often referred to by his initials, M.B.S., has now consolidated his control of the kingdom.

Mr. Barrack’s aides said he tried to influence Mr. Trump’s address because he cares deeply about United States relations with the Persian Gulf region and was worried that Mr. Trump’s inflammatory campaign messaging would damage them. Among other provocative statements, Mr. Trump had vowed that, if elected, he would bar Muslims from entering the United States.

When Mr. Trump and a campaign speechwriter rejected Mr. Barrack’s draft, Mr. Manafort wrote to Mr. Barrack, “Send me an insert that works for our friends and I will fight for it.”

In the end, to Mr. Barrack’s disappointment, Mr. Trump made only a passing reference to the need to work with “gulf allies” on “a positive energy relationship as part of our antiterrorism strategy.”

A few days later, Mr. Manafort emailed Mr. Barrack that “on the platform issue there is another chance to make our gulf friends happy.” He was referring to language in the Republican Party platform to be approved at the convention where Mr. Trump would formally become the nominee.

In late June, Mr. Manafort alerted Mr. Barrack that Mr. Trump had softened his stance on a Muslim ban. Mr. Barrack quickly forwarded the email to Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirates’ powerful ambassador in Washington.

Then in July, Mr. Barrack informed Mr. Otaiba that the Trump team had removed language from the proposed Republican platform that would have called for the disclosure of redacted pages related to Saudi Arabia in a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Really confidential but important,” he wrote, enclosing campaign emails on the subject. “Please do not distribute.”

Two days later, Congress released the passages, which detailed contacts between Saudi officials and some of the hijackers.

Mr. Barrack tried to set up a meeting that summer between Mr. Manafort and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince, but it was canceled at the last moment.

The month after Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Mr. Barrack traveled to the Persian Gulf and met with the Saudi prince and the Emirati crown prince, aides said. At a dinner meeting in Saudi Arabia, he was briefed on the kingdom’s economic plan.

In a subsequent text to Mr. Manafort, Mr. Barrack sounded elated.

“Amazing meetings. Off the map,” he wrote. “A lot to talk about and do.”

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

Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying

WASHINGTON — As Donald J. Trump was preparing to deliver an address on energy policy in May 2016, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, had a question about the speech’s contents for Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top campaign fund-raiser and close friend of Mr. Trump.

“Are you running this by our friends?” Mr. Manafort asked in a previously undisclosed email to Mr. Barrack, whose real estate and investment firm does extensive business in the Middle East.

Mr. Barrack was, in fact, coordinating the language in a draft of the speech with Persian Gulf contacts including Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who is close to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.

The exchanges about Mr. Trump’s energy speech are among a series of interactions that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors looking at foreign influence over his campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, according to documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.

Investigators have looked in particular at whether Mr. Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said.

The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Mr. Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and “confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.”

Mr. Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. Asked about the status of the inquiry, a representative for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

The relationship between Mr. Barrack, Mr. Manafort and representatives of the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, including Mr. al-Malik, has been of interest to federal authorities for at least nine months. The effort to influence Mr. Trump’s energy speech in 2016 was largely unsuccessful.

The special counsel’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ended and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have signaled that it is unlikely they would file additional charges in a separate hush money investigation that ensnared members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

But as the scrutiny of Mr. Barrack indicates, prosecutors continue to pursue questions about foreign influence. Among other lines of inquiry, they have sought to determine whether Mr. Barrack and others tried to sway the Trump campaign or the new administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two closely aligned countries with huge stakes in United States policy.

Between Mr. Trump’s nomination and the end of June, Colony Capital, Mr. Barrack’s real estate investment and private equity firm, received about $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through investments or other transactions like asset sales, Mr. Barrack’s aides said. That included $474 million in investment from Saudi and Emirati sovereign wealth funds, out of $7 billion that Colony raised in investment worldwide.

An executive familiar with the transactions had provided The New York Times with somewhat different figures last year.

Investigators have also questioned witnesses about Mr. Barrack’s involvement with a proposal from an American group that could give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology. And they have asked about another economic development plan for the Arab world, written by Mr. Barrack and circulated among Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Aides to Mr. Barrack, who is of Lebanese descent and speaks Arabic, said he had always acted as an independent intermediary between Persian Gulf leaders and the Trump campaign and administration, never on behalf of any foreign official or entity.

“The ideas he was giving voice to were his ideas,” said Tommy Davis, Mr. Barrack’s former chief of staff, who continues to work for him. “These are ideas that he has been advocating for decades.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_138491229_be193c2e-3c62-4ed0-8759-054baa703c3a-articleLarge Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2016 Persian Gulf Middle East Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Inaugurations foreign agents registration act Ethics and Official Misconduct Colony Capital LLC Barrack, Thomas J Jr

President Trump with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

He said Mr. Barrack had no incentive to lobby on behalf of any particular country or countries in the Persian Gulf because his business interests and policy concerns span the entire region and countries at odds with one another.

Nor is there any evidence, Mr. Barrack’s aides said, that either Mr. Barrack or his Los Angeles-based company has profited from his efforts.

“There is zero pay to play here,” Mr. Blicksilver, Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, said. “That is supported by the facts and the numbers.”

For Mr. Barrack, 72, the inquiry has unfolded amid a series of other setbacks. A friend of Mr. Trump since the 1980s, he had anticipated that his efforts to elect Mr. Trump, help run his transition team and manage his inauguration would land him a prominent role in the administration.

But Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, blocked Mr. Barrack from becoming a special envoy to the Middle East. A proposed role as a kind of superambassador to Central and South America did not materialize either.

At the same time, Colony Capital encountered substantial difficulties after a troubled merger drove down its stock price and forced a series of management changes.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack: The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.

But critics claimed the inaugural became a hub for peddling access to foreign officials and business leaders, or people acting on their behalf. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan opened an investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law, focusing partly on whether foreigners, who were barred from contributing to the $107 million inaugural fund, illegally funneled donations through Americans.

Questions about whether Mr. Barrack complied with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, arose during the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and were referred to the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Three of the six former Trump aides who were charged by the special counsel acknowledged violating the foreign lobbying statute in their guilty pleas: Mr. Manafort, Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

But while the Justice Department has been trying for several years to step up criminal enforcement of FARA requirements, such cases are typically difficult to prove. Whether someone is acting at the behest of a foreign official “is a very hard thing to investigate or to decide,” Adam S. Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division, said in a recent interview.

Central to the inquiry into Mr. Barrack are his dealings with Mr. al-Malik, who is well connected in the court of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates widely known by his initials, M.B.Z., and is close to the prince’s brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who oversees the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence services. Sheikh Hamdan is considered to be Mr. al-Malik’s patron and a major financier of his business activities.

When Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. al-Malik received a coveted invitation to the inaugural’s most exclusive event — the chairman’s dinner, hosted by Mr. Barrack.

In early 2018, Mr. al-Malik gave an interview and provided documents to federal prosecutors who questioned whether he had been acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter. After he was interviewed, Mr. al-Malik left for the United Arab Emirates and has not returned to the United States.

William F. Coffield, a lawyer for Mr. al-Malik, said that he “voluntarily cooperated with the special council’s office,” adding, “They accepted his cooperation and they certainly aren’t going after him.”

Investigators have documented a string of instances in which Mr. Barrack appears to have tried, with feedback from Mr. al-Malik and others, to shape the message of the Trump campaign or new administration in ways that were more friendly to Middle East interests.

Although he was not always successful, Mr. Barrack had substantial sway within the campaign when it was overseen by Mr. Manafort, a longtime friend, and Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Mr. Gates.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack. The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Barrack recommended that Mr. Trump hire Mr. Manafort, who rose to campaign chairman before he was fired over a separate foreign lobbying scandal. Mr. Manafort, who was awash in debt and had no income, had hoped that after the campaign Mr. Barrack would use his deep ties to the oil-rich nations to drum up business for them both, according to people familiar with the situation.

In one email to the U.A.E.’s ambassador in Washington, Mr. Barrack promoted Mr. Manafort as someone who was “totally programmed” on the alliance between the Saudis and Emiratis.

Mr. Manafort, in turn, was willing to describe Mr. Barrack to foreign officials as someone who could speak for the campaign on all subjects.

The Times learned of some of Mr. Barrack’s electronic correspondence from people critical of Emirati foreign policy and from people familiar with his work with the Trump campaign.

In early May 2016, Mr. Barrack asked Mr. al-Malik and other Persian Gulf contacts to propose language for a draft of an energy speech that Mr. Trump was to deliver in Bismarck, N.D., that month.

Mr. Barrack’s draft of the speech cited a new generation of leaders in the Gulf region, naming both the Emirati crown prince and his ally, Mohammed bin Salman, then deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi prince, often referred to by his initials, M.B.S., has now consolidated his control of the kingdom.

Mr. Barrack’s aides said he tried to influence Mr. Trump’s address because he cares deeply about United States relations with the Persian Gulf region and was worried that Mr. Trump’s inflammatory campaign messaging would damage them. Among other provocative statements, Mr. Trump had vowed that, if elected, he would bar Muslims from entering the United States.

When Mr. Trump and a campaign speechwriter rejected Mr. Barrack’s draft, Mr. Manafort wrote to Mr. Barrack, “Send me an insert that works for our friends and I will fight for it.”

In the end, to Mr. Barrack’s disappointment, Mr. Trump made only a passing reference to the need to work with “gulf allies” on “a positive energy relationship as part of our antiterrorism strategy.”

A few days later, Mr. Manafort emailed Mr. Barrack that “on the platform issue there is another chance to make our gulf friends happy.” He was referring to language in the Republican Party platform to be approved at the convention where Mr. Trump would formally become the nominee.

In late June, Mr. Manafort alerted Mr. Barrack that Mr. Trump had softened his stance on a Muslim ban. Mr. Barrack quickly forwarded the email to Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirates’ powerful ambassador in Washington.

Then in July, Mr. Barrack informed Mr. Otaiba that the Trump team had removed language from the proposed Republican platform that would have called for the disclosure of redacted pages related to Saudi Arabia in a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Really confidential but important,” he wrote, enclosing campaign emails on the subject. “Please do not distribute.”

Two days later, Congress released the passages, which detailed contacts between Saudi officials and some of the hijackers.

Mr. Barrack tried to set up a meeting that summer between Mr. Manafort and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince, but it was canceled at the last moment.

The month after Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Mr. Barrack traveled to the Persian Gulf and met with the Saudi prince and the Emirati crown prince, aides said. At a dinner meeting in Saudi Arabia, he was briefed on the kingdom’s economic plan.

In a subsequent text to Mr. Manafort, Mr. Barrack sounded elated.

“Amazing meetings. Off the map,” he wrote. “A lot to talk about and do.”

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U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker

LONDON — Britain on Saturday warned Iran that “there will be serious consequences” for seizing a British-owned oil tanker the previous evening as the government warned ships to avoid the crucial shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

The British defense minister, Penny Mordaunt, said in a television interview on Saturday that the ship had been intercepted in Omani, not Iranian, waters and called the seizure “a hostile act.”

The British government said in a statement earlier on Saturday after an emergency meeting that it had “advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.” By Saturday afternoon, Britain had summoned the Iranian ambassador to register its protest, and a second emergency cabinet meeting was set to begin.

The capture of the tanker sharply escalates a crisis between Iran and the West after three months of rising tensions that last month brought the United States within minutes of a military strike against targets in Iran. A fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran, and oil prices spiked sharply on Friday even before the British warning.

But the crisis has also caught Britain at a singularly vulnerable moment, with Prime Minister Theresa May expected to resign on Wednesday. As it seeks to craft a response to the seizure, the British government has been all but paralyzed by a leadership contest within the governing Conservative Party to determine her successor.

What’s more, the favorite in the leadership race, Boris Johnson, a former foreign minister, is famously unpredictable. He has said during his campaign that he stands with the other European powers in their desire to avoid a confrontation with Iran. But Mr. Johnson has also sought closer ties to President Trump, who set the current cycle of confrontation in motion by attempting to squeeze Iran into renegotiating a 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

Westlake Legal Group scoop-oil-tanker-attack-master-articleLarge U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

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.

That has increased speculation that the clash over the tanker may move Britain out of its current opposition to Mr. Trump over his feud with Iran. Britain has so far stood with the other European powers seeking to defy the president and preserve the accord.

“There has to come a moment where the British government, and maybe France and Germany ask, ‘Is it really worth fighting Trump on all these fronts?’” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London research institute.

Setting the stage for a prolonged standoff, Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday that all 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker would be held onboard in Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port during a criminal investigation of the ship’s actions.

None of the crew members is British or American; their nationalities include Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, the ship’s owner said in a statement.

A spokesman for Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, which oversees major foreign policy decisions, sought on Saturday to justify the seizure as “reciprocal action” after British forces had impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar two weeks earlier.

“The rule of reciprocal action is well known in international law,” the spokesman, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

But other Iranian authorities on Saturday added different new rationales for the seizure of the ship, saying for the first time that the vessel had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and that the tanker had ignored distress calls.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is in charge of Iranian naval activities in the Persian Gulf, had said on Friday that it had seized the ship for deviating from traffic patterns and polluting the waters. The Revolutionary Guards had not mentioned a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the ship, Stena Impero, said the tanker had been in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations” when it was intercepted.

In Washington on Friday, President Trump called Iran “nothing but trouble.” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, “We’ll be working with the U.K.” Referring in vague terms to the close American alliance with Britain, he added, “We have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement that is longstanding.”

United States Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, repeated in a statement late Friday that it was working on a “multinational effort” under the name Operation Sentinel to police the shipping routes.

The operation “will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” the statement said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154652511_cf8d9f3b-c400-4399-ae6a-f1642fdc1716-articleLarge U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

An anti-United States rally in Tehran in support of Iran’s decision to pull out of some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

But it emphasized that Washington would not shoulder the burden alone: “While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed.”

France in a statement on Saturday called on Iran to respect “the principle of freedom of shipping in the Gulf.” Germany strongly condemned Iran’s actions as “unjustifiable.”

“Another regional escalation would be very dangerous” and “undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis,” the German government warned in a statement.

The back-and-forth between Iran and the West has already included the imposition of sweeping new American economic sanctions. Iran has responded with the calibrated resumption of an Iranian nuclear energy program that the West fears might lead to a nuclear bomb.

The United States and Britain have accused Iran of sabotaging six tankers in a tacit threat to gulf shipping routes. The United States and Iran have each said it had shot down an unpiloted surveillance drone flown by the other side.

In a reminder that each minor collision risks the explosion of a more violent confrontation, Mr. Trump last month ordered a missile strike in retaliation for the Iranian downing of the American drone. He ultimately called the strike off only minutes before the launch.

The USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea off Oman on Tuesday. “We’ll be working with the U.K.,” President Trump told reporters Friday night, referring to the American alliance with Britain.CreditAhmed Jadallah/Reuters

Mr. Trump said the next day that he had concluded the loss of life from a missile strike would have been a disproportionate to the shooting down of a drone. But he later threatened the “obliteration” of parts of Iran if it targeted “anything American.”

At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate the 2015 accord, which the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Having pulled the United States out of the deal last year, the Trump administration added comprehensive sanctions in May that were intended to block all of Iran’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy. Iranian officials denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

Iran has sought to push back against all the major powers, forcing them to feel some cost for their effective default on the promises 2015 accord as a result of Mr. Trump’s sanctions. That set the backdrop for a parallel clash with Britain that led to the seizure of the tanker.

Two weeks ago, the British military helped impound the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on the suspicion that it was delivering oil to Syria in violation of European Union embargoes.

Iranian officials called the seizure of their ship an act of piracy and accused Washington of masterminding the capture as part of its pressure campaign. Officers of the Revolutionary Guards threatened retaliation against a British ship. Iranian boats sought unsuccessfully to stop one a few days later, but an accompanying British warship drove them away.

The old Grand Bazar in Tehran. At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, on Saturday charged that Iran’s seizure had violated international law but said that Britain had followed proper legal procedures in stopping the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, near Gibraltar.

“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Mr. Hunt wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. “As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust,” Mr. Hunt added. “We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.”

He added later that he had “expressed extreme disappointment” in a phone call with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Recounting a conversation they had a week earlier, Mr. Hunt said that Mr. Zarif had said he sought de-escalation but that “they have behaved in the opposite way.”

“This has 2 be about actions not words,” Mr. Hunt said on Twitter.

Mr. Hunt is challenging Mr. Johnson in the runoff within the Conservative Party to become Britain’s next prime minister. If Mr. Hunt loses, his role overseeing the standoff with Iran might keep him in the job for the immediate term in the interest of continuity. But the results would also put a question mark over his standing and staying power, further complicating the British response.

The fate of the Iranian tanker impounded near Gibraltar is in the hands of the courts there, and an early release of the ship to mollify the Iranians would “look very weak,” said Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute, an independent research center.

“I don’t think we are in a position where we have the luxury of backing down,” he added.

That, in turn, adds to the pressure on the nuclear accord. Britain has collaborated with the other European powers in seeking to preserve the deal, even joining efforts to set up an alternative trading platform that would allow Iran to evade the American sanctions.

If Britain joins the United States in re-imposing sanctions on Iran, that would all but snuff out any hope of saving the 2015 accord.

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U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship

LONDON — Britain on Saturday warned ships to stay out of the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping route for the world’s oil supplies, as the government pressed Iran to release a British-owned oil tanker seized the previous evening, dramatically escalating tensions in the region.

“We have advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period,” the British government said in a statement released early Saturday after an emergency meeting. “There will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved,” the government warned.

The capture of the tanker is a sharp step up after three months of rising tensions between Iran and the West that last month brought the United States within minutes of a military strike against targets in Iran.

A fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran, and oil prices spiked sharply on Friday even before the British warning.

Iranian news agencies reported that all 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker would be held onboard in the Bandar Abbas Port in Iran during a criminal investigation of the ship’s actions. The nationalities of those crew members included Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, the ship’s owner said in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group scoop-oil-tanker-attack-master-articleLarge U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

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.

The Iranian authorities also added reasons for the seizure of the ship, saying for the first time on Saturday that the vessel had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and that the tanker had ignored distress calls.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is in charge of Iranian naval activities in the Persian Gulf, said on Friday that it had seized the ship for deviating from traffic patterns and polluting the waters, but it had not mentioned any episode with a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the ship, Stena Impero, said the tanker had been in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations” when it was intercepted.

In Washington on Friday, President Trump called Iran “nothing but trouble.”

We’ll be working with the U.K.,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. Referring in vague terms to the close American alliance with Britain, he added, “We have no written agreement, but I think we have an agreement that is longstanding.”

United States Central Command, the division of the military that oversees the Middle East, repeated in a statement late Friday that it was working on a “multinational effort” under the name Operation Sentinel to police the shipping routes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_154652511_cf8d9f3b-c400-4399-ae6a-f1642fdc1716-articleLarge U.K. Warns Tankers to Stay Out of Strait of Hormuz After Iran Seizes Ship United States International Relations United States Persian Gulf Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Hunt, Jeremy Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Great Britain Embargoes and Sanctions

An anti-United States rally in Tehran in support of Iran’s decision to pull out of some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

The operation “will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” the statement said.

But it emphasized that Washington would not shoulder the burden alone: “While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed.”

France on Saturday called on Iran to respect “the principle of freedom of shipping in the Gulf,” according to a statement on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The German government strongly condemned Iran’s actions in a statement on Saturday, calling the seizure “unjustifiable.” “Another regional escalation would be very dangerous,” the statement said, adding it would “undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.”

Both countries urged Iran to free the ship and its crew as soon as possible.

The back-and-forth between Iran and the West has already included the imposition of sweeping new American economic sanctions followed by the calibrated resumption of an Iranian nuclear energy program that the West fears might lead to a nuclear bomb. The United States and Britain have accused Iran of sabotaging six tankers in a tacit threat to gulf shipping routes. Both United States and Iran have said it had shot down an unpiloted surveillance drone flown by the other side.

In a vivid reminder that each minor collision risks the explosion of a more violent confrontation, Mr. Trump initially ordered the missile strike last month in retaliation for the Iranian downing of an American surveillance drone. He called the strike off only minutes before the launch.

The USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea off Oman on Tuesday. “We’ll be working with the U.K.,” President Trump told reporters Friday night, referring to the American alliance with Britain.CreditAhmed Jadallah/Reuters

Mr. Trump said the next day that he had concluded the missile strike would have been a disproportionate response. Then he later threatened the “obliteration” of parts of Iran if it targeted “anything American.”

At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Having pulled the United States out of the deal last year, the Trump administration added comprehensive sanctions in May that were intended to block all of Iran’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy. Iranian officials denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

Iran has sought to push back against all the major powers, forcing them to feel some cost for their effective default on the promises 2015 accord as a result of Mr. Trump’s sanctions. The conflict with Washington has set the backdrop for a parallel clash with Britain that led to the seizure of the tanker.

This is a delicate moment for Britain. Its governing Conservative Party this coming week will pick a new prime minister — either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt — and is set to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

The old Grand Bazar in Tehran. At the core of the confrontation with the West is the Trump administration’s attempt to rip up and renegotiate a 2015 accord that the United States and other world powers had reached with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.CreditAbedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

The current confrontation began this month, when the British military helped impound an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on the suspicion that it was on its way to deliver oil to Syria in violation of European Union embargoes.

Iranian officials called the seizure of their ship an act of piracy and accused Washington of masterminding the capture as part of its pressure campaign. Officers of the Revolutionary Guards threatened to retaliate against a British ship, and Iran appears to have done so on Friday.

Mr. Hunt, the British foreign secretary, on Saturday charged Iran with violating international law but asserted that Britain had followed proper legal procedures in stopping the Iranian tanker, Grace 1, near Gibraltar.

“Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria,” Mr. Hunt wrote on Twitter Saturday morning.

“As I said yesterday our reaction will be considered but robust,” Mr. Hunt added. “We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping.”

Britain has so far joined the other world powers in seeking to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran despite Mr. Trump’s opposition. European states have even attempted to set up an alternative trading platform that would allow Iran to evade the American sanctions.

But of all the European powers, Britain is the most dubious toward Iran. If Britain chooses to join the United States in re-imposing sanctions on Iran, that would all but completely snuff out any hope of saving the 2015 accord.

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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.”

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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