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Failing upward? After botched Venezuelan regime-change, Elliott Abrams picked as Iran rep

RT | August 6, 2020

The US is putting Iran on regime-change notice, appointing Iran-Contra convict Elliott Abrams as Special Representative for Iran in addition to his duties as Special Representative for Venezuela, a State Department release shows.

Abrams, who oversaw a series of failed coups in Venezuela both in the past year and during the botched 2002 coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, will take over from Brian Hook, who has “decided to step down,” according to a press release from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo lauded Hook’s efforts in the statement, declaring he had “achieved historic results countering the Iranian regime.” The outgoing official oversaw the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, leveling sanction upon sanction against the Islamic Republic after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018. Hook praised his own record to the New York Times on Thursday, declaring that “by almost every metric, the regime and its terrorist proxies are weaker than three and a half years ago.”

“We have been very successful,” he said.

Tensions between the two countries nearly spiraled into war in January after a US airstrike killed Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, provoking a barrage of missiles from Iran targeting two coalition bases in Iraq. The US has also flooded the Persian Gulf with military assets and placed bounties on Iranian ships and other military assets.

Abrams has been a ubiquitous presence in the US’ regime-change efforts in Latin America, helping to replace left-leaning governments with right-wing dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala and attempting similar makeovers in Nicaragua and Venezuela. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two minor criminal counts regarding the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the CIA illegally funneled weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras. However, he was subsequently pardoned by then-President George HW Bush and went on to continue undermining democratically-elected governments under George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The promotion comes ahead of a hotly-anticipated UN Security Council vote on extending the arms embargo on Iran. If the measure does not pass, the US has threatened to trigger “snapback” sanctions agreed upon as part of the 2015 nuclear deal – despite having pulled out of the deal years ago and therefore lacking an ability to enforce its provisions as a “participating nation.”

August 6, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

Iran’s natural gas network reaching full penetration rate: Minister

Press TV – August 3, 2020

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh says the country will reach almost a full natural gas penetration rate next summer.

Zanganeh said on Monday that more than 95 percent of all households in Iran would have access to natural gas once the current administrative government leaves office in August 2021.

Zanganeh said that the figure, which he described as unique in the world, would be above a target set in 2013.

“We do not have such a level of extensive gas penetration in the world, this is an important infrastructure which people have a good grasp of it,” he said.

Iran is the second largest holder of natural gas reserves in the world. It has significantly boosted production in recent years despite sanctions imposed by the United States on the country’s energy sector.

Growing production has become possible thanks to massive development plans in the sprawling South Pares gas field, the world’s largest gas reserve which is shared between Iran and Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

Zanganeh, who was speaking at a video conference session to inaugurate new gas projects, said building out South Pars had allowed Iran to expand the coverage of its national gas network to thousands of villages across the country.

Elaborating on gas export figures, he said that Iran is currently pumping some 75 million cubic meters (mcm) of gas through pipelines to neighboring countries.

He said production at South Pars would reach 750 mcm by March 2021, adding that the figure would almost be a three-fold increase compared to 2012.

Iran’s total gas production is set to break through one billion cubic meters per day by next year. Total consumption by households normally hits record highs of 600 mcm a day during cold winter months.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Russia: Iran’s nuclear capacity ‘absolutely legitimate’

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna
Press TV – August 3, 2020

Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna says Iran’s nuclear capacity is “absolutely legitimate” as it fits within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“These opportunities and capabilities are absolutely legitimate as a long as they are used for peaceful purposes,” Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted on Sunday.

“The duty of IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) is to certify non-diversion of nuclear materials,” he added. He was apparently referring to the United Nations nuclear agency’s repeated verification of non-diversion of Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The envoy made the assertions in response to a tweet by Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ policy institute that has been identified as part of the Israeli lobby in the United States, and works hard to promote Washington’s policies against certain countries, including Russia and Iran.

In that tweet, Dubowitz had criticized what he called the “atomic capability” given to Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic and world countries.

Ulyanov, however, asserted, “The atomic opportunities were given to Iran by #NPT.” He added that those who disagree with the nature of the IAEA’s duty being verification of various nuclear programs’ non-diversion ”work against NPT.”

The United States left the JCPOA in 2018, despite the fact that the agreement has been ratified by the UN Security Council as its Resolution 2231.

Ever since, Washington has been ceaselessly trying to undermine the deal.

Washington has also been threatening other JCPOA signatories into forsaking their duties under the accord.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

US cannot disarm Lebanon’s Hezbollah through sanctions: Russian ambassador to Beirut

Press TV – August 1, 2020

The Russian ambassador to Beirut says US officials are under the illusion that they can disarm the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement through sanctions.

“Disarming Hezbollah is the primary purpose of US sanctions… I do not think that such a goal would be achieved through this method. The United States will not manage to force Hezbollah into laying down its weapons. This is an illusion,” Zasypkin said in an exclusive interview with Beirut-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Friday.

In late October 2018, US President Donald Trump’s administration imposed a new round of sanctions on Hezbollah, targeting individuals and international organizations that do business with the group.

“Over the past year, we have levied the highest sanctions ever imposed on Hezbollah, in a single year, by far. Just a few moments ago, I signed legislation imposing even more hard-hitting sanctions on Hezbollah to further starve them of their funds. And they are starving for them,” Trump said during an event in Washington, DC, that marked the 35th anniversary of an attack on US marine barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Zasypkin added, “We (Russia) have made efforts in Syria. This is not only beneficial to Syria, but also to Lebanon as it protects the country against the potential threat of terrorism. If terrorism prevails in Syria, it will be easy for thousands of terrorists to cross into Lebanon, and this would lead to the partitioning of the country.”

He noted that Iran plays a positive role in the Middle East region, condemning the recent harassment of an Iranian passenger plane flying from Tehran to Beirut by two US fighter jets over Syria.

“Americans are creating problems and violating international law. The goal is to create tensions and reestablish their presence, role and influence,” the Russian diplomat said.

He went on to say that the balance of power in Syria is changing. “Over the past four years, the balance of power had been in the interest of terrorists. The ensuing terrorism allowed outsiders, including the US-led coalition, to come into play.”

“I think Americans have numerous problems there (in Syria), but al-Tanf region is still under their control. They are clinging to the area in order to have influence. Their main goal is to sever ties between Iran and Syria,” Zasypkin pointed out.

He noted that Moscow honors the principle of non-interference in Syria’s domestic affairs, lauding “close relations” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad as well as military forces of the two countries.

Zasypkin said Russian and Syrian institutions are closely cooperating with each other in various fields, including combat against terrorism, maintenance, reconstruction and humanitarian activities.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Russian ambassador pointed to the recent rafts of economic sanctions against Syria under the so-called Caesar Act.

“The United States has used the leverage of sanctions for decades against Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran. The essence of the idea has been to starve people in those countries in a way that they would ultimately turn against their own ruling systems. The scheme is now being applied to all countries,” Zasypkin highlighted.

He added, “Caesar Act is broad and comprehensive, and affects other parties since Syria has been under sanctions for a long time. Foreign companies are now targeted by the ruling. It is a preemptive battle against the possibility of restoration of ties between Syria and Western or Arab parties.”

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Iran-Russia-China: A Strategic Alliance Is Born While the US Loses Ground and Allies

By Elijah J. Magnier | American Herald Tribune | July 27, 2020

In 2005 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began “looking East” to consolidate Iran’s relationship with Russia and China rather than with Europe and the US. He shared the belief of the Rahbar, Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, that the West could not be trusted.

In 2013, when Sheikh Hassan Rouhani came to power, the Leader of the Revolution did not reject his request to try and break through the “nuclear negotiation” with the Americans. “Go and try but know that if you give the West a finger, it will ask for the entire arm. They are untrustworthy”. Indeed, in 2018, President Donald Trump unlawfully and unilaterally revoked the 2015-signed “nuclear deal”, known as the JCPOA. Moreover, Trump exerted the harshest economic and commercial sanctions on Iran to attempt to break the country’s back and force it to submit. Two years later, in 2020, ties with the West are at their lowest level ever. Iran has accordingly changed its tactical relationship with Russia and China to a deeply- rooted strategic relationship with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of deals now signed for periods of 20 and 25 years.

Following the failure of the US “maximum pressure” on the “Islamic Republic”, Iran is holding firm under the leadership of Sayyed Ali Khamenei, excluding the possibility of contacting President Donald Trump, whether it is to re-negotiate the nuclear deal, offer any concessions, or discuss its missile programs. It is steadily developing its non-military nuclear programme notwithstanding the Israeli sabotage of its Natanz nuclear facility. Moreover, Iran has signed a $400 billions deal with China, without thereby precluding the possibility to sit around the table with a US president when President Trump leaves office in a few months or years. Also, Iran is preparing a new and more robust rapprochement and strategic collaboration with Russia, greater than ever, to create a united front including all countries under US sanctions, united together against Washington.

For the last two years, Europe offered words but no actions sufficient to honour the JCPOA. The European countries did not dare to stand against the unlawful US decision and prevented their banks and companies from respecting already signed contracts with Iran. European leaders have the interests of Israel in mind (after those of the US) above all others, and are unreliable partners. China and Russia are acting independently from the US unilateral sanctions on Iran and other countries are also joining in. The Iranian choice is very simple for us and Sayyed Ali Khamenei has taken a strategic choice which all key decision-makers support. We can’t wait for the next US President, for the day Trump leaves office. We have a clear objective and have the option to look into the US-EU choice once it is serious enough. However, both the US and the EU will no longer be Iran’s first choice of business”, said the Iranian decision-maker. China and Russia are not the only two countries who rejected the US unilateral sanctions. Turkey, India and Pakistan have all refused to cease their commercial and energy relationship with Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif made one of his most important visits to Moscow, a “tested partner in Syria and a real supporter at the United Nations at the most needed time when the US has lost its balance”, said the source. After the deal with China, a comprehensive deal with Russia is on its way to pave the road for Iran to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a member and no longer merely as an observer. This will involve establishing a very long -term partnership on all levels, including the military cooperation with another long-term deal to sign in the near future.

These are exceptional deals with superpower countries. It is unusual for Iran to accept the terms imposed by dealing with such powerful countries; Iran is treading the minefield of article 3 of its constitution. New alliances are emerging, between countries united and strengthened by the imposition of US sanctions imposed on all of them. Meanwhile, the US is losing more ground and more allies.

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July 27, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 6 Comments

‘It’s high time we created club of countries hit by US sanctions’ – Iranian envoy to Russia

RT | July 21, 2020

The states that have been targeted by Washington’s sanctions could unite to jointly counter the US policy, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali has said.

“I believe it’s high time we created a club of countries hit by sanctions,” the envoy said in an interview with Kommersant newspaper, published on Tuesday. “Among its members will be many strong powers with developed economies: Russia, China and Iran.”

Such states should help each other in order to offset the negative influence of US moves, Jalali said, adding that Washington does not want to see any rivals, whose positions in any region would be stronger than those of the US. “They want Russia to be weak, China to be economically subordinated to them, and Iran to become their colony,” the diplomat claimed.

Jalali said on May 21 that partnership between Russia and Iran impedes the influence of external factors on their relations, TASS reported.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran to launch special trade office in China: Businessman

Press TV – July 21, 2020

Iran is to set up a special office in China to streamline trade activities with the East Asian country.

A senior businessman says major Iranian companies are teaming up to create a trade office in China amid growing economic relations between the two countries.

Gholamhossein Jamili, a board member at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), said on Tuesday that the trade office in China would play a major role in protecting Iranian businesses and firms working in the East Asian country against growing restrictions caused by US sanctions.

“We are working to launch this office before the end of the current Christian calendar year,” Jamili was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The announcement comes amid reports of booming economic relations between Iran and China as the two countries move to finalize a 25-year comprehensive partnership agreement that would massively boost bilateral cooperation in areas like energy, infrastructure, tourism and trade.

China was the top buyer of Iranian oil before the United States introduced its unilateral sanctions on Iran two years ago. However, Beijing is still a top economic partner for Iran and the balance of trade between the two countries hit $20 billion in the year ending March, according to Iranian government data.

Other senior Iranian figures involved in trade with China said that the planned trade office would seek to resolve problems facing Iranian businesses and companies in China.

Majid Hariri, who chairs the Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that the office in Beijing would serve as Iran’s economic embassy in the East Asian country.

The official IRNA news agency said the ICCIMA plans similar offices in India, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Iraq, adding that two such offices are being set up in Russia’s Astrakhan and Syria’s Damascus.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China-Iran deal is a major blow to U.S. aspirations in Central Asia

By Paul Antonopoulos | July 16, 2020

“Two ancient Asian cultures, two partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests will consider one another strategic partners” – these were the opening words of an 18-page document that confirmed a multi-billion dollar deal between China and Iran that blatantly defies U.S. imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

According to The New York Times, the agreement that Iran and China drafted is an economic and security partnership that would allow China to invest in Iran’s banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects, “undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions.”

In Tehran’s view, China and Iran are long-standing strategic partners who are now reinforcing their strategies on the international stage to oppose U.S. unilateralism. Both countries had already agreed on a strategic partnership in 2016, but this latest agreement allows Iran’s economy to have a semblance of normalcy with this flurry of desperately needed investments.

The New York Times claims that the military ties include “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.”

Effectively, the agreement between the two countries “represents a major blow to the Trump administration’s aggressive policy toward Iran.” The agreement is expected to guarantee the supply of Iranian oil to China for the next 25 years, which undoubtedly benefits both parties as the U.S. intends to completely block Iranian crude exports to starve the country of foreign money.

The deal is a major win for China’s Belt and Road Initiative as Iran’s major new investments in transportation, rail, ports, energy, industry, commerce and services will improve China’s network in the region. Iran serves as a meeting point between South Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, making it one of the most important countries for the Belt and Road Initiative. The agreement secures the supply of oil and gas to China with an overland route that gives another option away from Southeast Asian waterways, especially at a time when hostilities between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea are increasing.

The deal will see $400 billion worth of Chinese investments into Iran’s infrastructure, including upgrades in the oil industry and the construction of a 900-kilometer railway between Tehran and Mashhad, the second city of Iran and a center of pilgrimage near the borders with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Not only will this railway line connect two of Iran’s most important cities, but as its on the doorstep of Central Asia, it will give both China and Iran greater access into Eurasia.

Zbigniew Brzezinski argued in his book The Grand Chessboard that Central Asia was the center of global power and that it was imperative that no power, indirectly referring to Russia and China, should arise that could challenge U.S. dominance in the region. If something like this happened, the global power of the U.S. would erode. Halford John Mackinder argued in his 1904 article, The Geographical Pivot of History, that whoever ruled the “Heartland,” ruled the world. He defined the Heartland as the great Eurasian expanse of Siberia and Central Asia.

Iran is certainly a major gateway into Central Asia, and China’s enormous investment into the Islamic Republic shows that it is making a strong push to control the region. In accordance to Brzezinski’s and Mackinder’s theories, by China being the major influencer in Central Asia, it is making a strong push to control the entire region and/or world. Although Russia is another major power with vast influence in Central Asia, their relationship with China in the region can be considered cooperative at best or friendly rivals at worst. However, both are making strong efforts to limit U.S. influence in the region.

Russia simply cannot economically challenge China in the region, but due to the long history of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union controlling the region, it still has large influence for historical reasons that also includes a significant Russian minority and Russian being the second language of Central Asia. Although Russia deals with Iran, it does not have the capabilities of investing hundreds of billions into the country, meaning that the Islamic Republic will certainly come under much stronger Chinese influence, and there is not much the U.S. can do to stop it.

“The United States will continue to impose costs on Chinese companies that aid Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” a State Department spokeswoman wrote in response to questions about the draft agreement. “By allowing or encouraging Chinese companies to conduct sanctionable activities with the Iranian regime, the Chinese government is undermining its own stated goal of promoting stability and peace.”

It appears the U.S. will penalize Chinese companies dealing with Iran, but China would have anticipated this. How Beijing plans to deal with such penalizations that can unravel a worsening of already tense relations with the U.S. remains to be seen, but China certainly would have prepared for such a scenario. Despite some harsh words from the State Department, it is highly unlikely that Washington can respond to this immense deal that will give the beleaguered Iranian economy and currency a major lifeline. The deal will also encourage other states wary of U.S. sanctions to begin dealing with Iran again knowing that they can have Chinese support and backing.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 8 Comments

India fully removed from Iranian railway project: Report

Press TV – July 14, 2020

A report says Iran has dropped India from a key railway project located southeast of the country.

An Indian newspaper says Iran has decided to remove India from a partnership on a key railway project that is being constructed southeast of Iran along the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hindu said in a Tuesday report that Iran is now going on with the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway on its own, despite the fact that the project was supposed to benefit from India’s supply of investment and equipment.

The report said recurrent delays by India in bringing in the required investment and the equipment needed to build the rail line finally caused Iran to drop the partnership.

Iran began track-laying for the 610-kilometer railway last week after authorities said they have the finances required to finish the project until the end of the current fiscal year in Iran in March 2021.

Iran has tapped into its sovereign wealth fund to draw more than 300 million euros for the project, according to statements by Iranian officials in the past.

India has been a major contributor to the plans to develop Chabahar, Iran’s sole ocean port on the Sea of Oman and where India seeks to build terminals and port installations to ease its trade access to Afghanistan and other landlocked countries in the Central Asia region.

New Delhi has been hesitant to become actively involved in the Chabahar-Zahedan project mainly because of the threat of the American sanctions.

The report by The Hindu reiterated that India has obtained the required waivers from the US sanctions to contribute to the construction of the rail line.

However, it said that Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) has failed to find equipment suppliers and partners who are not fearful of being targeted by US sanctions four years after it signed an agreement with Iran to become involved in the project.

July 15, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

Iran oil revenue dips but future holds bright promises

Press TV – July 15, 2020

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) says Iran’s revenue from total crude oil exports and oil products in 2019 was just over $19 billion, less than a third of the previous year.

According to the organization’s annual report, Iran’s income from selling oil and oil products amounted to 60.5 billion in 2018, while it was $110 billion in 2011.

Iran’s average daily crude oil exports last year were 651,000 barrels per day, of which about 60,000 barrels went to Turkey and the rest to Asia, it said. In 2018, the figure was 1.85, and in 2017 more than 2.1 million barrels per day.

Iran’s oil industry is at the forefront of an economic war with the United States which has pledged to bring Tehran’s crude exports down to zero. The Islamic Republic exported around one million bpd until May 2019, when the United States tightened its sanctions, banning all oil exports from Iran.

The Iranian economy has been carrying on at a relatively steady clip after a period of turmoil when the Trump administration unleashed its most ferocious economic attack on the country in November 2018 with a pledge to sink its oil exports to zero.

According to OPEC, Iran also exported about 285,000 bpd of oil products including diesel and fuel oil last year.

Barring oil products, revenues from Iran’s crude oil exports last year were less than $9 billion, government officials have said.

The OPEC report said Iran’s total oil and non-oil exports reached $69 billion last year, down about a third from 2018.

Early this year, Industry Minister Hossein Modares Khiabani, then a deputy, told an exports quality summit in Tehran that Iran had exported $32 billion of non-oil goods in the 10 months up to January, shoring up its economy amid the unprecedented US sanctions.

“This is like a miracle in the current economic situation of the country,” he said. “Non-oil exports have almost replaced oil exports, and the country is governed by the revenues of the non-oil sector,” he added.

The Trump administration is tweaking the contours of its sanctions regime to put more aspects of the Iranian economy under strain.

In recent months, the US Treasury Department has announced new sanctions against Iran’s air and maritime transport industries, construction, manufacturing, textiles, mining, aluminum, copper, iron and steel industries to hit much of Iran’s economy as well as Chinese companies that have conducted business with Iran.

Iran-China partnership

China has long been Iran’s largest trading partner and the Islamic Republic is one of its major suppliers of oil. US officials have reportedly been working behind the scenes to pressure China into halting all its oil and condensate imports from Iran.

But recent reports of an imminent finalization of a roadmap for strategic partnership have put the kibosh on those reports.

On Sunday, The New York Times said the sweeping economic and security partnership would clear the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other sectors, undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

The paper said it had obtained details of an 18-page proposed agreement that would vastly expand Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects. In exchange, China would receive a regular supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years, it said.

The partnership — first proposed by China’s leader Xi Jinping, during a visit to Iran in 2016 — was approved by President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet in June, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week.

The deal “represents a major blow to the Trump administration’s aggressive policy toward Iran since abandoning the nuclear deal reached in 2015 by President Obama and the leaders of six other nations after two years of grueling negotiations,” The Times said.

Renewed American sanctions, including the threat to cut off access to the international banking system for any company that does business in Iran, have prompted Tehran to turn to China, which has the technology and appetite for oil that Iran needs.

China gets about 75 percent of its oil from abroad and is the world’s largest importer, at more than 10 million barrels a day last year.

The Chinese investments in Iran would reportedly total $400 billion over 25 years. China will invest $280 billion developing Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors. There will be another $120 billion investment in upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure.

Such an infusion would certainly help to revive Iran’s economy and create more jobs, according to Shireen Hunter, an affiliate fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

“A major reason for Iran’s shift towards China and other Asian countries, known locally as the ‘pivot to the East’, has been the failure of Iran’s repeated efforts, beginning with the administration of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, to expand economic relations with the West as a prelude to better political ties,” she wrote on the Middle East Eye news website.

Hunter cited the latest of Iran’s offers after the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015, including for buying Boeing and Airbus aircraft and welcoming American and European companies such as Total into the country – to which the West responded negatively.

“If the Iran-China agreement is implemented, it would revive Iran’s economy and stabilize its politics. Such an economic and political recovery would improve Iran’s regional position and perhaps incentivize adversaries to reduce tensions with Tehran, instead of blindly following US policies. Arab states could rush to make their own special deals with China,” she wrote.

“By pursuing an entirely hostile policy towards Iran, the US has limited its strategic choices in Southwest Asia and thus been manipulated by some of its local partners, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. China’s more pronounced interest in Iran should alert the US to review its past approach towards Tehran,” she added.

July 15, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Iran slams ‘flurry of disinformation’ about potential China deal

Press TV – July 11, 2020

A senior Iranian foreign ministry official has slammed a “disinformation” campaign that seeks to stoke fears about the impacts of a potential agreement between Iran and China.

In remarks published on Saturday, Reza Zabib, a foreign minister aide for South Asia, dismissed “the hypothetical figures” reported in the media about Iran-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying nothing has yet been finalized about the deal.

“The objective of those who spread this disinformation is to destroy the (bilateral) relations, to prevent the signing of the deal and to pile accusations on the (Iranian) government and system,” said Zabib in an interview with Persian daily Shargh.

The seasoned Iranian diplomat also said that scaremongering about the deal is an attempt by certain political elements inside Iran to extract information about the deal and to force the Iranian government to disclose more information about the ongoing talks with China.

He said that Iran and China are now in agreement about at least 75 percent of the terms of a draft deal that was proposed by Iran during a visit to Beijing last year by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zabib said that the Iran-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will allow the two countries to expand ties in three main fields of politics, military and economy.

He said that the economic part of the agreement would cover a wide range of areas, including energy, technology and infrastructure.

Zabib’s comments come against the backdrop of criticism suggesting that Iran has offered major discounts on its future sales of oil to China in return for Beijing’s long-term and sizable investment in the country.

Iranian authorities have dismissed the claims while also insisting that the potential deal with China would not be an attempt to offset the failure of a 2015 nuclear agreement involving major Western powers.

Zabib said China has always been a major economic partner for Iran, even at the times of normal relations between Tehran and some Western countries.

July 11, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

If US attempts to seize Iranian tankers carrying oil to Venezuela now, de-escalation will be more difficult than ever

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 3, 2020

To expand its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign targeting Iranian oil and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, the US has a warrant to seize the cargo of four tankers heading to Venezuela. We should expect the worst.

Just weeks ago, in May and June, the world watched with bated breath as Iran dispatched five tankers carrying cargoes of gasoline and chemicals desperately needed by the Venezuelan nation, starved as it was of the ability to refine its own gas, due to the US’ stringent economic sanctions. While protesting the move, Washington did nothing to stop it, beyond sanctioning the ships involved. In what appears to be a replay, the Iranian government has now engaged four ships – the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna – to deliver approximately 1,163,000 barrels of gasoline to Venezuela.

In an effort to prevent this, the US government sought, and obtained, a federal forfeiture warrant on the grounds that the sale of the cargo violates the law regarding economic activity conducted by or on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC), previously designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization. The Iranian government has condemned the issuing of this warrant as an act of piracy.

How exactly the warrant will be executed, and what the consequences of such an action will be are scenario dependent. One possible scenario would be for the US to attempt a replay of last year’s gambit to bribe an Iranian ship’s captain to steer his vessel to a country that would then impound the tanker and its contents on behalf of the US.

The Iranian ship in question, a tanker named the Adrian Darya, had been seized by the UK on suspicion of violating EU sanctions regarding the sale of oil to Syria, and held in the port of Gibraltar. Iran, in retaliation, seized a British tanker operating in the Strait of Hormuz. After behind-the-scenes negotiations, a Gibraltan judge ordered the Iranian vessel to be released – but not before the US Justice Department had issued a warrant for the seizure of the ship.

Using the warrant as a stick, the State Department had its Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, contact the Iranian captain by email and offer him several millions of dollars to, in effect, defect with his ship and its cargo. The State Department was using a 1984 program known as ‘Rewards for Justice,’ which had been expanded under the Trump administration to target the IRGC by offering rewards of up to $15 million for information that led to the disruption of illicit Iranian activity.

In the case of the Adrian Darya, the effort failed. However, according to information contained in the complaint filed in support of the warrant, the owner of two of the ships engaged in the transport of gas to Venezuela, the Bella and Bering, both sailing under Liberian registry, indicated that he was concerned over what he called “the American threat.” The Iranian middlemen involved in the transaction had pressured him into undertaking the voyage and had offered to purchase the vessels outright, if needed. The key question for all involved is how the captains of any of the four vessels currently underway would respond if subjected to a similar solicitation of money as was made to the captain of the Adrian Darya.

Even if the US wasn’t able to entice a defection from one or more, possibly all, of the targeted tankers, the threat of seizure alone might suffice to compel the captains to abort their journeys and either return to their ports of origin, or seek to transfer the contents of their respective vessels to other tankers willing to complete the task of delivering the gasoline to Venezuela.

The consequences of a ship’s defection would more than likely be treated by Iran as the equivalent of having the vessels boarded and seized in international waters, as the end result – the confiscation of the ship’s cargo – would be the same.

Given past precedent, it is highly likely that Iran would conduct a tit-for-tat seizure of a vessel of similar capacity that was either sailing under the US flag or carrying a US-destined consignment. This would be a risky move that would probably lead to some sort of confrontation between the Iranian and American navies and might very well escalate into a general regional conflict.

Another option is that the tankers would seek to complete their mission by sailing in international waters with their onboard automatic identification system – a transponder that enables the ship’s movements to be tracked by other vessels using satellites – turned off.

This has been the practice that Iranian and Chinese vessels have engaged in during the delivery of Iranian oil to China in violation of US sanctions. Considered a very risky and dangerous move that could result in a collision with other vessels, it also makes a ship difficult to track and therefore interdict.

The US could respond by placing a screen of US naval vessels just outside Venezuelan territorial waters, creating a de facto blockade that the four tankers would have to run if their respective deliveries were to be made. Whether or not the US would actually attempt a boarding and seizure is another question, as it could be seen as a violation of international law. Moreover, the potential for direct conflict with the Venezuelan navy and air force would be high, given their practice of seeking to escort Iranian tankers once they arrive in Venezuelan waters.

In the past, both Iran and the US have shown restraint in seeking to avoid any major force-on-force confrontation between their respective militaries, knowing that once initiated, de-escalation would be difficult, and the transition to a general regional war all but assured. The social, economic, and political costs to all parties involved would be prohibitively high – a universally accepted reality that usually serves as a deterrent against rash action by either Iran or the US. But the present time finds US President Donald Trump in the political fight of his life, with polls indicating a difficult, uphill fight for re-election in November.

By undertaking this attempted delivery of gasoline to Venezuela, the Iranian government has placed Trump in a dilemma that he’s worsened by seeking, and getting, a warrant for the seizure of the involved tankers. Any inaction on the part of the US will be seized on by Trump’s political opponents as a sign of his impotence as a national leader, while a seizure that results in a war with Iran would destroy any chance of the post-pandemic economic recovery he’s betting on to help carry him to victory this fall.

Once again, the world is forced to watch while its collective future is decided not in terms of what is best for the global collective, but in terms of how an action is best interpreted from an American domestic political perspective.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment