Archive for category Atmariar Gulf
November 08, 2019
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northwestern Iran early Friday, killing at least five people and injuring over 300 others, officials said. The temblor struck Tark county in Iran’s Eastern Azerbaijan province at 2:17 a.m., Iran’s seismological center said. The area is some 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Over 40 aftershocks rattled the rural region nestled in the Alborz Mountains, and residents rushed out of their homes in fear. The quake injured at least 312 people, state television reported, though only 13 needed to be hospitalized. It described many of the injuries happening when people fled in panic.
The head of Iran’s emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, gave the casualty figures to state television. There were no immediate video or images broadcast from the area. Rescuers have been dispatched to the region, officials said. State TV reported the earthquake destroyed 30 homes at its epicenter.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage. Iran is on major seismic faults and experiences one earthquake a day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.
A magnitude 7 earthquake that struck western Iran in 2017 killed more than 600 people and injured more than 9,000.
Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat and Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran, Iran, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
October 29, 2019
GENEVA (AP) — Iran and Russia on Tuesday criticized and scoffed at Trump administration plans to protect oil deposits in Syria, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accusing Washington of “illegal” actions.
Lavrov joined Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Geneva to lend support to U.N.-backed talks among Syrian government, opposition and civil society delegations on the country’s constitution starting Wednesday.
The most pointed comments at their joint news conference addressed new Pentagon plans to increase efforts to protect Syria’s oil fields from both the Islamic State radical group and the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian government, even as U.S. forces are withdrawn from other parts of the country.
“Well, it seems that the United States is staying to protect the oil — and at least President Trump is honest to say what the United States intends to do,” said Zarif with a smile. Lavrov accused the United States of looking for a “pretext” to protect the oil deposits. He said any “exploitation of natural resources of a sovereign state without its consent is illegal,” according to a translator of his remarks in Russian.
Cavusoglu, however, remained focused on a top priority for Turkey in Syria: Ensuring that Kurdish fighters whom the United States supported to help drive out ISIS don’t threaten Turkish interests. Ankara has long argued the Kurdish fighters are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a guerrilla campaign inside Turkey since the 1980s. Turkey, U.S. and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Turkey has led a military incursion into northeastern Syria to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) “safe zone” between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish border. Cavusoglu reiterated the hopes of Turkey — along with much of the international community — that Syria won’t split apart. He suggested that areas now controlled by Turkish forces and their allies in Syria could one day be “handed over” to the Syrian government, especially if the talks enhance prospects for peace and stability.
“When times come that the Syrian regime, at the end of this political process, is capable enough to protect the country’s territories and eliminate the terrorist organization (PKK) from that, I think all the territories should be handed over to Syria,” he said. “This is the territory of Syria.”
September 25, 2019
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — An American, a Russian and the first space flyer from the United Arab Emirates blasted off Wednesday on a mission to the International Space Station. A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 6:57 p.m. (1357 GMT) from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to lift a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft into orbit.
The ship carrying NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Hazzaa al-Mansoori, a military pilot from the UAE, docked at the International Space Station about six hours later.
It was the third spaceflight for Skripochka and the first for Meir and al-Mansoori, who flew to the station was on an eight-day mission under a contract between the UAE and Roscosmos. Al-Mansoori was the first of two men chosen by the Gulf Arab nation to fly to the space station.
The trio will join two Russians, three Americans and an Italian aboard the space station. Meir and Skripochka will spend more than six months in orbit. Al-Mansoori will return to Earth next week with Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin and NASA’s Nick Hague.
August 25, 2019
BIARRITZ, France (AP) — A top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit Sunday to the G-7 summit and headed straight toward the heart of the city where leaders of the world’s major democracies have been debating how to handle the country’s nuclear ambitions.
France’s surprise invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was a high-stakes gamble for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is the host of the Group of Seven gathering in Biarritz.
Zarif spent about five hours in Biarritz after his plane touched down at the airport, which has been closed since Friday to all flights unrelated to the official G-7 delegations. A senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Macron personally informed U.S. President Donald Trump about the invitation to Zarif.
The official noted that Macron and Trump met for two hours Saturday and discussed Iran at length, as well as at the informal group dinner Saturday night. Another French official said that France “is working in full transparency with the U.S. and in full transparency with European partners.” The Iranian met with Macron as well as diplomats from France, Germany and Britain at the Biarritz city hall, the official said.
Zarif, who is under U.S. sanctions, had been scheduled to go to Asia as part of a tour to seek support for Iran amid the American campaign against it since Trump withdrew the U.S. from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Trump had not “set preconditions” on negotiations with Iran. Zarif arrived as fissures emerged among G-7 leaders over how to deal with Iran. Macron said the leaders agreed during a dinner the night before that the French president could serve as a G-7 messenger to Iran. Trump denied agreeing to anything, and Macron was forced to play down his role and acknowledge Trump’s status as “the president of the world’s number one power.”
The French official also said that based on Saturday night’s dinner, France considers it important to check in with Zarif to continue to bring positions closer together and ease tensions. The official said the French are not “mediators” but think they can contribute to de-escalation.
Macron said he has no formal mandate to speak for the G-7 leaders in delivering a message to Iran, but that he would be able to address the issue in the context of what they agreed to during the dinner.
For several months, Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. His office said the G-7 leaders agreed he should serve as a go-between with Iran.
“I haven’t discussed that,” Trump said Sunday morning. He described the dinner as “very, very good” and blamed the media for anything that implied otherwise. But it seemed from other accounts that the dinner had been tense, with a clear divide between him and the rest of the G-7.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, greeting Macron for a morning meeting, congratulated the French president and shook his hand. “Well done. Bien joué,” Johnson said, using the French expression for “well played” often uttered in a successful round of cards.
“You did very well last night. My God that was a difficult one. You did brilliant,” he added. Tristen Naylor, deputy director of the G7 Research Group, described the invitation as “a wild-card move.” “The risks to the French president were quite large. He could have evoked a very strong and negative reaction from the American president — everything from outright condemnation to actually the American president just saying enough of this and getting on the plane and flying away,” Naylor said.
But the invitation was also something of a mirror of Trump’s own high-stakes diplomacy. “Something that we’ve learned over the 2 ½ years about the American president is that what works with him, what resonates with him, is surprise, is a big move, something flashy,” he said. “And the French president has taken a page from it, I think, executed a maneuver out of it with great aplomb.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Zarif’s presence was parallel to any G-7 events and that everyone agreed to seek more talks rather than tensions. She added: “It is absolutely right to explore every possibility, and what we discussed yesterday — which wasn’t a formal assignment for anyone. But Iran certainly should know what we discussed.”
After Zarif left, Macron and Trump had several apparently friendly exchanges as they prepped for the group photo of the leaders. “Maybe Macron jumped the gun and misinterpreted. But we haven’t been hearing howls of fury from the American delegation. It wouldn’t be surprising if this is something which was, if not green-lighted, then not red-lighted by Washington,” said Francois Heisbourg, adviser at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. “This may not be the best of ideas from Washington’s standpoint. But it doesn’t hurt the Americans.”
The G-7 leaders focused much of Sunday on what they can do to boost growth at a time of heightened uncertainty. Manufacturers around the world are smarting from the trade dispute between the U.S. and China , which has led to new import taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of goods. Businesses don’t know where tariffs will be imposed next.
The White House had said putting the economy on the agenda was Trump’s idea, but the G-7 has for over four decades always included a focus on the economy. It was founded as a response to the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s and the recession that followed.
The backdrop is particularly worrying this year, with the U.S. economy slowing and Germany and Italy close to recession. Meanwhile, Britain is due to leave the EU in October, and there is no agreement on how it should happen, raising the possibility of a disorderly exit that could wreak havoc for business in Europe.
Johnson said Britain and Europe needed to prepare for that, saying the prospect of a Brexit deal was “touch and go.” The G-7 summit includes the heads of Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy as well as a representative of the 28-country EU.
In the nearby town of Bayonne, protesters demanded Macron do more to protect French workers and the planet. A mix of activists, some wearing yellow vests, carried portraits of the French president as they marched Sunday in solidarity with environmental activists who removed official portraits of Macron from town halls around France earlier this year to protest his climate change policies.
Internationally, Macron is a vocal champion of fighting climate change and has challenged Trump on the issue. At home in France, however, activists accuse him of lagging on promises to wean France from fossil fuels.
Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; Geir Moulson in Berlin; Angela Charlton in Paris; and Zeke Miller and David McHugh in Biarritz contributed to this report.
By Michael Mathes, with Dmitry Zaks in London
June 20, 2019
Saudi Arabia’s controversial military campaign in Yemen suffered a double blow Thursday as US lawmakers voted to block President Donald Trump’s arms sales to Riyadh hours after Britain temporarily suspended similar sales.
In Washington, the Senate voted to prevent $8.1 billion in US arms in a symbolic bipartisan rebuke to the president and his close ties with the kingdom.
A handful of Republicans joined Democrats in voting against 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.
The votes were only assured this week when Republican leadership agreed to hold the sensitive roll calls on the arms sales, which critics say will aggravate the devastating war in Yemen.
Trump’s administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sales in May, declaring Iran to be a “fundamental threat” to regional stability.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by Saudi Arabia’s historic rival Iran, which backs the Huthi rebels in Yemen.
But critics in the United States and Britain have expressed concern about the devastating toll that the four-year Saudi bombing campaign in neighboring Yemen has taken on civilians.
“When they target civilians how can we continue to sell those arms?” Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, author of the resolutions, said Thursday.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and triggered what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst existing humanitarian crisis.
Britain’s temporary sales suspension was announced by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox after a British court ordered the government to “reconsider” the sales due to their toll on non-combatants.
“We disagree with the judgement and will seek permission to appeal,” Fox said in a statement delivered in parliament, adding authorities “will not grant any new licenses to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen.”
Government figures analyzed by CAAT show that Britain, which accounts for 23 percent of arms imports to Saudi Arabia, has licensed nearly 5 billion pounds ($6.4 billion, 5.6 billion euros) in weapons to the kingdom since its Yemen campaign began in 2015.
Germany halted all arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to Saudi opposition columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 killing and called on other EU governments to follow suit.
– ‘Resolve or weakness’ –
The process in Washington, traditionally a major provider of weaponry to the kingdom, is more protracted.
The measures, which passed with votes of 53-45 and 51-45, now go to the Democratic-led House of Representatives, where they are expected to win approval and then head to the president’s desk.
Trump is likely to veto them, and it will remain an uphill climb for Congress to come up with a two-thirds vote to override a veto.
Some of the president’s allies in Congress are outraged by Saudi Arabia’s behavior.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he hoped his vote to block the sales would “send a signal to Saudi Arabia that if you act the way you’re acting, there is no space for a strategic relationship.”
Khashoggi’s murder in Turkey by Saudi agents triggered a full-blown crisis in Riyadh’s relations with the West.
“There is no amount of oil that you can produce that will get me and others to give you a pass on chopping somebody up in a consulate,” Graham said.
Senator Tom Cotton, a hawk who backs Trump’s policies in the Gulf, warned colleagues that Tehran would be watching the Saudi arms sales votes “for signs of resolve or weakness” by Washington.
Congress rebuked Trump in March with a historic resolution curtailing the president’s war-making powers and ending American support for the Saudi-led coalition.
Trump vetoed the measure in April.
Source: Space War.
By Sebastian Smith with Marc Jourdier in Tehran
June 20, 2019
Iran said Thursday it had recovered parts of a US spy drone in its territorial waters, after downing the aircraft in a missile strike slammed by President Donald Trump as a “big mistake.”
Under pressure to respond to the high-stakes incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where a series of tanker attacks have sent tensions soaring with Iran, Trump initially struck a combative tone.
“Iran made a very big mistake!” he tweeted in response to news Iran had shot down the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft — which the Pentagon says was above international waters at the time.
“This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,” he said later at the White House.
But as the overnight incident whipped up fears of open conflict between the United States and its declared foe Iran — sending crude oil prices up more than six percent — Trump moved swiftly to dial back tensions.
“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
The president’s mixed message left the world unsure what Washington’s next move would be.
“You will find out,” Trump said, when asked about possible retaliation.
In Tehran, however, the message came loud and clear.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced late Thursday that parts of the drone had been recovered in Iranian territorial waters, as Tehran moved to bring the incident before the United Nations.
“We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters,” Zarif said.
– Drone violating or victim? –
The Pentagon denounced the “unprovoked attack,” claiming the navy drone was 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.
But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it brought the drone down as it was “violating Iranian air space” over the waters of Hormozgan province.
Zarif provided coordinates to back the claim.
“At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace,” Zarif tweeted. “It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25?59’43″N 57?02’25″E) near Kouh-e Mobarak.”
“We’ve retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”
But the Pentagon published a map showing the flight path of the drone, which indicated it traveled outside of Iranian waters and included a photograph showing it was at the coordinates (25?57’42″N 56?50’22″E) when it was downed.
In a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Iran protested against a “dangerous and provocative act by the U.S. military forces against the territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The drone downing came as Iran was already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on oil tankers in the congested Hormuz area.
Tehran denies involvement but has frequently threatened to block the sea lanes used to ship much of the world’s oil exports.
The commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Sean Kido, said a mine allegedly used in one of the attacks matched Iranian weaponry and that incriminating fingerprints had also been collected.
– Options ‘running out?’ –
Trump has repeatedly said he does not favor war with Iran unless it is to stop the country getting a nuclear weapon — something Iranian leaders insist they are not pursuing.
But Trump critics say his policy of “maximum pressure” — including crippling economic sanctions, abandonment of an international deal to regulate Iran’s nuclear activities, and deployment of extra troops to the region — make war ever more likely.
A key Republican ally of Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said the president’s “options are running out.”
Asked if he believed the countries were nearing conflict, he replied: “I think anybody would believe that we’re one step closer.”
“They shot down an American asset well within international waters trying to assess the situation. What are you supposed to do?”
One of Trump’s biggest opponents, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, warned that “there’s no appetite for wanting to go to war in our country.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu blasted “Iranian aggression” and said “Israel stands by the United States.”
But Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has close relations with Iran’s leadership, said US military retaliation “would be a disaster for the region.”
– Diplomatic, military brinkmanship –
Trump’s arrival in the White House, alongside veteran Mideast hawks like national security adviser John Bolton, has seen sharp deterioration in relations with Tehran.
Trump began last May by abandoning — and effectively wrecking — the 2015 international agreement on bringing Iran in from the diplomatic cold in exchange for verified controls on its nuclear industry.
That has prompted Iran to threaten it will stop observing restrictions agreed to under the deal on enrichment of uranium.
The threat has been seen as an effort to pressure European governments that want to save the nuclear deal to push back against Washington. The US State Department called that “extortion.”
Source: Space War.
by Allen Cone
Jun 11, 2019
Iran formally delivered a new new surface-to-air missile system, called Khordad 15th, to the Air Defense Force of its army in a ceremony in Tehran.
Built in Iran, the system — named after the third month of the Iranian calendar — is capable of detecting six targets within a range of 93 miles at a maximum height of 17 miles and hit them in a range of 75 miles, Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said Sunday in a report by the semi-official Mehr News Agency.
Stealth jets can be targeted at 53 miles and hit within 28 miles, Mehr reported. Other targets include reconnaissance aircraft, bombers and tactical warplanes.
“It can also be prepared for operation in less than five minute,” Hatami said.
The system uses the homegrown Sayyad-3 missile, and is equipped with a phased array radar and independent launch pads.
“Iran will increase its military capabilities to protect its national security and interests, and it will not ask permission from anyone on this matter,” Hatami said at the unveiling.
In February, the country successfully tested the Hoveizeh long-range cruise missile at a range of around 800 miles, including the capability of reaching Israel.
Later in the month, a midget Ghadir-class submarine fired an anti-ship cruise missile for the first time.
Before Sunday’s ceremony, Iran’s foreign minister urged European countries to uphold commitments under the 2015 nuclear accord.
Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized European and Western policies as having “only caused damage in the region.” He said “Europeans are not in a position to criticize Iran for issues outside the JCPOA,” referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
“Now some countries like Germany have stopped selling arms to Saudi Arabia for bombarding the people of Yemen, some other countries haven’t done so,” he added. “In general, the West has allowed the autocratic regimes in our region to commit crimes.”
In early May, Europe and China were given a 60-day deadline for Iran to resume enriching uranium to a higher degree than permitted by the accord if they challenge the U.S. position. Last, year, U.S. President Donald Trump ended the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.
The United States also last month deployed the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf last month, as well as B-52 bombers and an additional 1,500 troops, to counter imminent concerns about Iranian action.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told a Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee last month there was a “very, very credible” intelligence that Iran was preparing to attack U.S. forces or interests in the region.
Source: Space War.