DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran began enriching uranium Monday to levels unseen since its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and also seized a South Korean-flagged tanker near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, a double-barreled challenge to the West that further raised Mideast tensions.
Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated near the capital Tehran, the country’s defence ministry has confirmed.
Fakhrizadeh died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.
Western intelligence agencies believe Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
“If Iran ever chose to weaponise (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency in 2014.
In a statement on Friday, Iran’s defence ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organisation.
“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.
“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”
Iranian media report nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the Islamic Republic, where drinking alcohol is banned and where those who do rely on bootleggers. An Iranian doctor helping the country’s Health Ministry told The Associated Press on Friday the problem was even greater, giving a death toll of around 480 with 2,850 people sickened.
The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.
“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts here,” said Dr. Hossein Hassanian, an adviser to Iran’s Health Ministry who gave the higher figures to the AP. “We have to both cure the people with alcohol poisoning and also fight the coronavirus.”
Given the timing, I doubt was intentional, but I bet Iran had a hand in it.
Evidence suggests an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran, possibly in error, Western leaders say.
The leaders of Canada and the UK called for a full and thorough investigation into the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.
Iran has ruled out a missile strike by its air defences.
The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.
The news out of Iraq is disturbing, if not unexpected. Pray for the safety of our people and our allies.
Also, be very cautious about reacting to the news of the moment. We will know more tomorrow and even more next week. This could be a relatively empty show of force by Iran’s leaders for the benefit of domestic concerns. It could be the beginning of a full-scale attack (unlikely). It could be a hasty reaction with no clear strategic direction. It could be a lot of things. Time will tell. Right now, prayers and sober, thoughtful consideration is the order of the day.
Things in the Middle East are not always as they seem and I am not convinced that we know the whole story here. It is exceedingly strange for Iranian militants to operate in Iraq as the Iraqis look on, but that appears to be what happened. Why? Who is really behind it? What was the purpose? What reaction are they trying to get out of the U.S.? In any case, beefing up security to make it clear that we will defend our people is a prudent course of action.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Charging that Iran was “fully responsible” for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, President Donald Trump ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days.
No U.S. casualties or evacuations were reported after the attack Tuesday by dozens of Iran-supported militiamen. U.S. Marines were sent from Kuwait to reinforce the compound.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday night that “in response to recent events” in Iraq, and at Trump’s direction, he authorized the immediate deployment of the infantry battalion from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He did not specify the soldiers’ destination, but a U.S. official familiar with the decision said they will go to Kuwait.
“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Esper said in a written statement.
Additional soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, were prepared to deploy, Esper said. The U.S. official, who provided unreleased details on condition of anonymity, said the full brigade of about 4,000 soldiers may deploy.
Tuesday’s crowds, which included militia leaders and Shiite politicians, did not breach the embassy compound itself, but they did make it past an outer wall, charging up to the embassy security gates, staring U.S. security personnel in the face and smashing and torching property outside.
How was that possible?
“Because it was planned,” said Ganyard. “Look at the overhead views of the protest. Carefully abiding by set limits. … It was staged and had the approval of the Iraqi government.”
“The Iraqi government was never going to let Iranian proxies take over the U.S. embassy,” he added. But they had to let them get far enough to let off steam and to dissipate some of the anger in those ranks.
Iran, however, doesn’t want things to go so far that the U.S. has a reason to strike its personnel.
This is horrible from two perspectives. First, we are abandoning a staunch ally in the region. Second, it further encourages Iran to be belligerent against Saudi Arabia and Israel to test America’s resolve to support our allies.
US troops have begun withdrawing from positions in northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish operation against Kurdish fighters in the border area.
Kurdish-led forces have until now been a key US ally in Syria, where they helped defeat the Islamic State group, but Turkey regards them as terrorists.
The main Kurdish-led group called the surprise US move a “stab in the back”.
But President Donald Trump defended the pullout, saying it was time “to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars”.
The withdrawal represents a significant shift in US foreign policy and goes against the advice of senior officials in the Pentagon and state department. It follows a White House statement issued late on Sunday, saying US troops were stepping aside for an imminent Turkish operation.
Ha! I think I remember this tactic on the playground. Punch someone in the nose and then say that you want peace before they have a chance to hit back. Clever, if utterly insincere.
The UN has welcomed a proposal from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels to end all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative.
A statement said the proposal could send “a powerful message of the will to end the war”.
The offer comes a week after drone and missile strikes hit Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
Houthi rebels have claimed to have carried out the attack, but the US and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran.
In a televised announcement, Houthi Supreme Political Council chair Mahdi al-Mashat said the group would end all strikes on Saudi Arabia, provided the kingdom and its allies did the same.
“We reserve the right to return and respond in the case there is no reaction to our initiative,” he said, and called on all parties in Yemen to work towards “comprehensive national reconciliation”.
Iran attacked by way of their Yemeni proxies, but that’s how Iran always attacks.
Ten drones launched by Iran-backed militants sparked a huge fire at the world’s largest oil processing facility and a major oilfield in Saudi Arabia in the early hours of this morning.
The fires at Abqaiq in Buqyaq, which contains the world’s largest oil processing plant, and Khurais, which contains the country’s second largest oilfield, have now been brought under control since the drone attacks at 4.00am local time.
Tensions are running high in the region after attacks in June and July on oil tankers in Gulf waters that Riyadh and Washington blamed on Iran.
A military spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, considered an Iranian proxy force in the region, has claimed responsibility for today’s attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, two major facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia run by state-owned oil giant Aramco.
The British-flagged oil tanker ‘Stena Impero’ was heading to Saudi Arabia’s port of Al-Jubail from the UAE port of Fujairah when it was seized by the IRGC, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Friday, citing a statement from the IRGC.
The IRGC statement said the ship was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, “disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass,” Fars reported.
The ship has been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormozgan province for further legal procedures and investigations, Fars said.
Shrug. This is why we withdrew from the agreement. We didn’t expect Iran to abide by it anyway.
Iran acknowledged Monday it had broken the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by the 2015 nuclear deal, marking its first major departure from the unraveling agreement a year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the accord.Iran had been expected for days to acknowledge it broke the limit after earlier warning it would do so. It held off on publicly making an announcement as European leaders met Friday in Vienna to discuss ways to save the accord. Iran has threatened to increase its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels by July 7.
The announcement comes as tensions remain high between Iran and the U.S. In recent weeks, the wider Persian Gulf has seen Iran shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone, mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launching bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.
Yup. They’re still at it.
Crowds chanted ‘Death to America, death to Israel’ as hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered at rallies to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Ceremonies were held across the state today to observe the anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the coup.
Iran’s army declared its neutrality on February 11, 1979 and paved the way for the collapse of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the closest ally of the US in the Middle East.
The US has rebuffed high-level pleas from the European Union to grant exemptions to European companies from its sanctions against Iran.
In a letter to European nations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US rejected the appeal because it wants to exert maximum pressure on Iran.
It said exemptions would only be made if they benefited US national security.
The EU fears that billions of dollars’ worth of trade could be jeopardised as a result of Washington’s new sanctions.
Wow. It’s more and more clear that Obama was running a Chicago-style criminal organization.
The Obama administration went out of its way in early 2016 to help Iran recoup previously sanctioned oil revenue stranded in an overseas account after the nuclear deal went into effect and actively misled Congress regarding those efforts, according to the results of a nearly two-year Republican investigation released early Wednesday.
But the unfreezing of Iran’s U.S. accounts would be the end of it, the Obama administration said at the time. Both before and after the deal was implemented, officials repeatedly told Congress that Iran, under remaining non-nuclear sanctions, would have no access whatsoever to the U.S. financial system or institutions.
To facilitate the transaction, Obama officials engaged in lengthy discussions with Iranian and Omani officials; appealed to the two American banks to undertake the transfer; privately issued a special Treasury license that would guarantee it was allowed under still-existing U.S. sanctions; and even approached the New York Federal Reserve Bank for help.
At the end of the day, nothing worked. Eventually, according to the report, Oman took a slower and more complicated route, gradually buying small amounts of euros in Europe that could be transferred to Iran. No one involved seems certain whether Iran has yet received all of its $5.7 billion.
But in undertaking the effort and not disclosing it to Congress, Subcommittee Chairman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in an interview, “the Obama administration misled the American people by saying that Iran was not going to be granted access to the U.S. financial system. I think they did it because they were so eager to get an agreement with Iran.”
Such access, said Portman, a longtime opponent of the Iran deal, “is the crown jewel, what all these countries would love. Yet our government offered it, while at the same time telling the American people they weren’t offering it.”
This reaction just has me even more confident that Trump made the correct choice.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader chastised President Donald Trump on Wednesday over his decision to pull America out of the 2015 nuclear deal, while lawmakers lit a paper U.S. flag on fire inside parliament, shouting, “Death to America!”
The government backlash reflected broad public anger in Iran over Trump’s decision, which threatens to destroy the landmark agreement. While Iranian officials, including the parliament speaker, say they hope Europe will work with them to preserve the deal, many are pessimistic.
In comments before school teachers, Khamenei told Trump: “You cannot do a damn thing!” The exhortation from Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, follows a pattern of Iranian leaders declaring their nation’s ability to resist foreign pressure or interference.
Khamenei described Trump’s speech as having “over 10 lies,” without elaborating on them. He also said Trump’s remarks threatened both Iran’s people and its theocratic government.
Earlier Wednesday, the lawmakers, including a Shiite cleric, held the flaming flag alight as their colleagues joined their chants. They also burned a piece of paper representing the nuclear deal and stomped on the papers’ ashes.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to follow through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, according to two people familiar with his thinking, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.
It wasn’t immediately clear which sanctions that were lifted under the deal might be quickly reimposed, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Trump has several options, and a limited move could leave him more room to potentially stay in the deal after all if other members agree to toughen it.
Take notice of the incredible bias in the AP story. Trump is following through on a campaign “threat” instead of a “promise.” He is dealing a “profound blow to U.S. allies” but no mention of our enemies. That’s just the first paragraph!
My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Trump has until the end of the week, but he’ll be announcing today. Here’s the conclusion:
The 2015 Iran deal is not working. It is not preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is helping Iran by lifting sanctions and opening an economic spigot that Iran’s leaders can use to further their nuclear ambitions. The agreement has not ended Iran’s support of terrorists or tyrannical regimes. The agreement has not softened Iran’s confrontational relationship with the West or its neighbors. For all of these reasons, Trump should withdraw the United States from the agreement.
The deadline for the U.S. to withdraw is Saturday. While several of our allies are lobbying Trump to stay in the deal, the interests of our nation and the world dictate otherwise. The path to a lasting peace with Iran is through a diplomatic solution, but the 2015 agreement that Obama struck has taken us off that path.
The “historic regret” is making the deal in the first place. Now all that is left is bad options.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that the US will face “historic regret” if Donald Trump scraps the nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Mr Rouhani’s comments come as the US president decides whether to pull out of the deal by a 12 May deadline.
Mr Trump has strongly criticised the agreement, calling it “insane”.
Is anyone shocked by this? Anyone?
(CNN)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has evidence Iranian officials were “brazenly lying” when they said Iran wasn’t pursuing nuclear weapons and that the Islamic republic is keeping an “atomic archive” at a secret compound.
“Tonight, I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied — big time,” Netanyahu said late Monday during an address from the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.Calling it one of the greatest achievements in the history of Israeli intelligence, Netayahu displayed what he said were files that demonstrate Iran planned to continue pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite the 2015 deal it brokered with the international community.Speaking in English, Netanyahu accused Iran of ramping up efforts to obscure the files in 2015 and moving them to a secret location in Tehran last year.
The files were kept in massive vaults inside an “innocent-looking compound” in Shorabad District, the Prime Minister said. The 100,000 files contain, among other things, blueprints, charts, photos, videos and presentations dealing with nuclear weaponry.
“Iran planned at the highest level to continue work related to nuclear weapons under different guises and using the same personnel,” he said.
Since we were remembering Obama’s Middle East Policy, what about Trump’s?
Such absurd New York real estate boasting aside, in his first year in office, Trump has taken a number of truly radical steps. In December, he promised to meet a longstanding Israel wish: moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has also challenged the Palestinians frontally, closing the spigot of funds the U.S. provides to the UN under the rubric of refugee assistance.
Neither move is likely to advance a “peace process” that has been moribund almost from birth. Both have spurred condemnation worldwide. But neither move has sparked the kind of conflagration on the Arab street that was predicted by so many experts.
Indeed, both moves might even be called Reaganesque. By staking out firm positions, stating obvious truths and aligning the U.S. more closely with the only democracy in the region, the Trump administration is forcing all the players in the region to reconsider stale positions that have brought them nothing but sporadic violent collisions with Israel for half a century.
If Reagan-like boldness can be detected in some of Trump’s statecraft, so can Obama-like fecklessness, or worse. In dealing with Iranian imperial ambitions, Trump has been talking loudly and carrying the smallest of sticks.
Trump came into office pledging to tear up the Iranian nuclear deal and set new “red lines” on Iranian behavior. But when push came to shove, he has let the Iranians do the shoving while allies of the U.S. have been pushed around.
The most dramatic case in point concerns treatment of our longstanding ally, the Kurds. This past October, less than two days after Trump blasted the Iranian revolutionary guard’s Quds Force as the “corrupt personal terror” militia of Iran’s supreme leader, and then promised to “work with our allies to counter the (Iranian) regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region,” the United States did precisely the opposite of what he pledged.
The U.S. stood by as Iraqi troops, aided by the very same Quds Force Trump had just promised to resist, conquered the Kurdish-held oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the nucleus of a future independent Kurdistan. This betrayal of an ally was not preordained. It was also not an irony but the opposite of irony if one considers that during the presidential campaign Trump jumbled the Quds with Kurds and was unable to say which was which.
Of a piece with this passivity is Trump’s response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons. Readers will recall that while serving Chinese President Xi Jinping “the most beautiful chocolate cake” in Mar-a-Lago back in April, Trump informed his guest that a fusillade of 59 American cruise missiles had just been launched toward a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a poison gas attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province.