ANALYSIS: New evidence Iran is a huge threat to world peace


Iran has no plans to revise its strategy and is not impressed by the actions of the Trump Administration and Israel.

Yochanan Visser, 24/05/18

 

Display featuring missiles and portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Khameni

Iran is continuing to deceive the world about its long-range missile program and is also continuing its military build-up in Syria despite a devastating Israeli offensive which destroyed 50 Iranian military sites on May 10.

At the same time, the Islamist regime in Tehran has set itself on a crash course with the United States after President Donald J. Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, the nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran, and announced he would re-instate biting sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

On Wednesday, The New York Times revealed the existence of a new secret underground facility in the remote Iranian desert where Iran is apparently working on the development of long-range ballistic missiles or even intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM’s) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Times reporter Max Fisher wrote that a team of California-based weapon researchers and five other experts had analyzed satellite images which showed “compelling evidence that Iran is developing long-range missile technology.”

Fisher quoted “Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who reviewed the material,”who said there was “circumstantial evidence” the satellite images could show “preliminary steps for developing an ICBM five to 10 years down the road, should Tehran wish to do so.”

The facility is located 40 kilometers from the town Shahrud, which was the site of a missile test-launch in 2013, according to Fisher.

The American researchers, reviewing earlier satellite images, discovered the number of buildings at the secret site had increased over time.

The team also found “telltale ground scars” in a crater outside the facility which they said were recent and indicated new test-launches.

“One appeared in 2016, the other in June 2017,” according to Fisher.

The most recent test in 2017 “used a stand estimated to be 370 tons, suggesting the engine powered between 62 and 93 tons of thrust — enough for an intercontinental ballistic missile,” according to the researchers who said the facility is still in use.

The Iranians use heavy vehicles in Shahrud which are coming in and out of a huge tunnel indicating they are building “a large subterranean structure” according to the scientists.

They are confident that the absence of fuel tanks indicates Iran is building missile engines that use solid fuel such as ICBM’s.

The new discovery shows Iran has secret facilities related to its missile and nuclear program the world didn’t know about or chose to ignore, observers say.

It is possible that U.S. intelligence knew about the site but was told by the previous administration to hide the information in order not to jeopardize the negotiations about the JCPOA.

Under UNSC resolution 2231, which formalized the JCPOA, Iran was “called upon” not to undertake “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

It is not the first time Iran was recently caught developing underground sites for its missile and nuclear program.

At the end of March the Washington-based Institute For Science And International Security (ISIS) released a report dealing with a secret underground facility in Qusayr in the Qalamoun Mountains in west Syria, near the Lebanese border.

The report said “there is reason to believe that Syria, apparently with help from North Korea and Iran, built a new underground nuclear facility in Qusayr.”

In fact the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is controlling the underground nuclear site in the Syrian town.

A Hezbollah commander called the Qusayr site “ the atomic factory” which was guarded by “Iranian officers” according to members of the Free Syrian Army.

Qusayr was one of the main targets of the IAF during the massive four-hour-during Israeli offensive against Iran in Syria in night of May 10.

The Israeli offensive has not deterred Iran, however.

The Quds Force of the IRGC and its Shiite allies continue their entrenchment in Syria and are also continuing to encroach on the Israeli border on the Golan Heights ,forcing the IAF to launch new pre-emptive strikes.

On Monday, unknown warplanes attacked an Iranian operations center at the headquarters of the Syrian Department of Electronic Warfare near Damascus after a large cargo plane arrived from Tehran.

The airstrike also destroyed a number of barracks of Iranian-backed Shiite militias at a state security school in the area.

This was followed on Tuesday by reports Shiite militias, including Hezbollah, were suddenly withdrawing from the Daraa and Quneitra provinces in Syria after “intensive reconnaissance flights over the region,” most likely by the IAF.

The IDF, using artillery, had earlier prevented Hezbollah from setting up camp near Quneitra once again.

Other evidence Iran has no plans to revise its strategy for the Middle East and is not impressed by the actions of the Trump Administration and Israel came from high ranking Iranian officials.

President Hassan Rouhani said “the Iranian nation is not afraid of empty threats” by “the extremists” in Washington and claimed Iran would be “victorious” in a conflict with the U.S.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Trump’s policy change is an indication of “US officials’ despair and desperation in the face of the Iranian nation,” and said nobody is entitled to tell Iran what polities to adopt in the Middle East, “its own region”.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicted Trump would “vanish from history” like his predecessors and that the U.S. would be defeated.

Responding to the 12 basic requirements to issued by the Trump Administration in the aftermath of the decision to quit the JCPOA, Khamenei invoked the cat and mouse adventures of Tom and Jerry.

“The US has tried various political, economic, military and propaganda undertakings to hit the Islamic Republic but all these plots failed. Like the famous cat in Tom and Jerry they will lose again,” Khamenei said.

The Iranian dictator has now threatened to expand its nuclear program beyond the limits of the JCPOA and demands from the Europeans that they facilitate trade via their banks and buy oil in Iran.

At the same time Ali Shamkhani the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) vowed Iran would continue to develop missiles and would not stop its support for “Hamas, Islamic Jihad Movement, Hezbollah and the axis of resistance in the region.”

Shamkani also said Iran would give “a crushing response” to new “violence by the Zionist regime” and to “US adventurism” in the region.

Israel National News

The satellite images that exposed Iran’s secret rocket program


05/24/2018

Poker players have a tell. So did the late Iranian General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam: He liked his buildings painted aquamarine.

Earlier this year, weapons researcher Fabian Hinz was looking through Iranian media accounts of Moghaddam, who led the country’s rocket program. The general died in an explosion at a test facility in 2011, but in one picture taken shortly beforehand, Hinz told Quartz he spotted a box marked for delivery to Shahrud, a town in northern Iran.

Poring through satellite imagery provided by the earth-imaging company Planet, Hinz and his colleagues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies found tell-tale blue roofs in the desert. Moghaddam had ordered another rocket facility painted the same color because of his passionate fandom for the Iranian soccer team Esteghlal F.C., whose players sport blue uniforms. Researchers had suspected the buildings near Shahrud were connected to a rocket program, and this quirk helped confirm their suspicions.

The color wasn’t just a legacy; the rocket lab they had discovered was active. Their findings, first reported in the New York Times, suggest Iran has been building rockets that are far more powerful than it has previously admitted.

“We started going back to see if, when Moghaddam died, did the program stop? Had they given up on this entirely?” David Schmerler, one of the researchers, told Quartz. “They started testing, clearly the program’s not dead.”

They were able to conclude this because Planet’s flock of small earth imaging satellites repeatedly survey the entire earth daily. Analysts looked back at historic data collected by the company and saw the facility expand over time. You can see new buildings popping up between 2015 and 2018 in this juxtaposition:

One sign this is a rocket facility are the earthen berms around the buildings, designed to contain explosives in the event of an accident. Those berms were missing at the facility where Moghaddam was killed.

Nearby, the researchers hit pay-dirtspotting a site used to test powerful rocket engines, a fairly definitive proof of on-going rocket development. The explosive force required to loft something across the globe at supersonic speeds can’t be demonstrated indoors, and a characteristic of the rocket industry are facilities in fairly remote areas where explosions won’t endanger the public.

An area where solid rocket boosters are tested in northern Iran.
An area where solid rocket boosters are tested in northern Iran. (Planet/SkySat)

Particularly important are the marks created on the desert floor by the red-hot exhaust of the rockets, which shows that the Iranians are actually firing the booster. The analysts suspect the two scars above were created by tests in 2017 and 2016.

What might these tests look like closer up? Here is a video of the US company Orbital ATK testing a rocket booster for NASA’s Space Launch System. This booster is one of the largest ever built, but the principles behind it are the same:

Solid rocket boosters are simpler than liquid-fueled rocket engines, but their simplicity also makes them more reliable and faster to deploy, a key consideration for missiles that are often intended to be hidden and then launched on short notice on a pre-set flight plan. The Middlebury researchers believe the rocket motors could provide enough thrust for a missile that could cross between continents, slightly less powerful than the US Minuteman III ICBM, which can carry nuclear weapons.

Just yesterday, Planet’s satellites snapped a new image that show Iranian workers paving roads at the site with asphalt. “I can see vehicles on the road, which parts have been paved, which parts haven’t,” Schmerler told Quartz. “They may be paving while this image was taken. You can’t get this imagery anywhere.”

An image of the suspected rocket test facility taken May 23, 2018, showing on-going road maintenance.
An image of the suspected rocket test facility taken May 23, 2018, showing on-going road improvements. (Planet)

The development of missiles, including those that could carry nuclear weapons, wasn’t prohibited by the deal reached by Iran with Europe, China, Russia and the US to halt the country’s nuclear weapons program in 2015. This exception was one reason president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal, leaving its future in jeopardy, though non-proliferation experts say it is far more important to prevent the development of nuclear weapons, a bigger technical challenge.

This new evidence suggests that Iran did not stop developing rocket technology while the deal was in effect. Iranian diplomats did not respond to requests for comment, but the country’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said that Iran will not make missiles that could fly more than 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles). The rocket motors on these test stands would provide the power to exceed this limit.

There is significant uncertainty about the pace of this program and what its results could be. Once operational, the boosters could be used to launch conventional explosive weapons, or satellites into space, or nuclear weapons. The only certainty is that with a diplomatic process in shambles, Iran has a freer hand to pursue all possibilities.

 

QZ

Iran Leader Says US Will Fail Like Cat in “Tom & Jerry”


Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, has likened the ties between Washington and Tehran to the “Tom and Jerry”, saying that the Americans will ultimately fail “like the famous cat” in the animated series.

05/24/2018

Addressing a meeting with government authorities and officials on Wednesday, the Leader said, “Since the beginning of the 1979 Revolution till today, the US has committed all kinds of animosity to hit the Islamic Republic and has plotted various political, economic, military and propaganda schemes against the Islamic Republic.”

“All these actions aimed at ‘overthrowing’ the Islamic Republic, a word which is repeated constantly, is not something new,” he added.

“All their plots have failed. You can compare the Islamic Republic now to forty years ago, and see that it is moving forward with various capabilities. So, all their plots have failed… just like Tom from the well-known Tom and Jerry cartoon; and they will fail again in the future.”

The Leader said “we have no doubt in the failure of the enemy; and anyone who is familiar with Islamic thought knows this.”

“The current US president will have no better fate than that of his predecessors, like Bush, the other Neocons, and Reagan; he and will be lost in history.”

 

Six Lessons to Learn from Past Experiences

The Leader went on to say, “The introduction to every decision is that we refer to our own experiences, if we do not learn from past experiences, we will surely be at loss. We have several experiences before us, as I refer to some salient examples, all of you will admit: these are important for decision making, today, and for the next generations.”

“The first lesson is that the Islamic Republic government cannot interact with the US. This is the first experience. Why? Because the US does not live up to its commitments. Don’t say this is only true for the administration of Trump. No! The previous administration in the US, with whom we had meetings and talks, behaved in the same manner, but they rejected the agreement in a different manner. They also threatened [us] and went against their commitments. This is an answer to all those who, repeatedly, over time asked me, “why don’t we negotiate with the US, or why don’t we develop relations with the US?”

“The second experience is related to the depth of the US’ animosity towards Iran,” the Leader noted, adding that the animosity of the US is not based on an issue like the nuclear issue, but it goes beyond such matters.”

“The Islamic Republic is a government that has grown powerful; it, in no way, compromises with the US; and has raised the flag of Islam. The US is strongly opposed to such a government. The US seeks to obliterate the factors of power in the Islamic Republic.”

“The third experience is that flexibility with regard to this enemy will not make it less aggressive, but it makes it more aggressive. When the Iranian government at the time of George W. Bush showed some flexibility, the US named it [part of] the Axis of Evil. If you want to do something to reduce the animosity, do it; but it is not realized through flexibility and compromise.”

Referring to the fifth experience that consisted of the cooperation of Europe with the US on important issues, he stressed, “We do not want to fight Europe, but these three countries have proved that, on the most sensitive issues, they follow the US. The immoral behaviour of France as the bad cop in nuclear negotiations and the obstructionism of the UK in production of Yellow Cake were some examples.”

He then added, “The sixth experience is to never rely on the JCPOA and foreign matters for our domestic matters… we should not attach domestic matters to some affairs which are out of our control.”

“We must learn from our mistakes, and from our experience, and must not be satisfied with marginal effects. For example, it is said that the US lost face in this JCPOA business. That is right. But did we negotiate so that they lose face, or did we negotiate to lift the sanctions? Now they are saying that there will be secondary sanctions.”

“Or, it is said that the relationship between the US and Europe has deteriorated. But did we sit at the negotiating table for this? Of course Europe will not stand in the United States’ way,” he added.

“Let’s be realistic and not count on probabilities. It was said at the beginning of the negotiations that 100 billion dollars would enter the country. This was not true. Now, the insolent president of the United States sometimes even says that 150 billion dollars was given to Iran by them. What nonsense. When did you ever give us anything?”

He further noted that what we project about our interests must be true and told to the people clearly.

The economy of Iran cannot be resolved by the Europeans in JCPOA, the Leader said, adding that “there is much evidence. Some European companies have left. Some of them are leaving, or they say they are not sure if they will remain. The heads of European countries say different things.”

“For our economy, we cannot rely on JCPOA and the Europeans. These three countries acted against their word some thirteen or fourteen years ago; in the nuclear negotiations, they promised and didn’t keep their promise, now they should prove that they won’t repeat the same untruthfulness and prevarication this time.”

Conditions for Remaining in Iran Nuclear Deal

“During the last two years, the US violated the JCPOA several times, and Europe remained silent. Europe must compensate for that silence,” the Leader noted.

The continuation of the JCPOA is possible only if Europe provides the following concrete guarantees, the Leader stressed.

1- The US has rejected the UNSC Resolution 2231; Europe needs to issue a resolution against the US’ violation of it.

2- Europe must promise not to raise the issues of missiles and regional affairs of the Islamic Republic.

3- Europe must encounter any sanction against the Islamic Republic and explicitly stand to US’ sanctions.

4- Europe must guarantee that Iran’s oil will be completely sold. If the US can damage the sale of our oil, we must be able to sell as much oil as we want. Europeans must guarantee that they compensate for the loss, and that they buy Iran’s oil.

5- European banks must guarantee trade with the Islamic Republic. We have no conflicts with regard to these three countries; but we do not trust them, based on previous experience.

“If the Europeans linger over our demands, Iran has the right to resume its nuclear activities. When we see that the JCPOA was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities.”

“Our enemy has placed the war room in the treasury department, instead of the Ministry of Defence. In the same way, we must place the entity for encountering the malignancy of this enemy in the economic centre of the government, and the foreign ministry must cooperate.”

ifpnews

The Truth Will NOT Set You Free


When Israel exposed Iran it gave the world a choice. Allow Iran to continue destabilizing the region, guaranteeing a future conflict, or curtail Iran’s ability to wage war now.

05/24/2018

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Head of Mossad Yossi Levy, Israel exposed the truth (Photo – GPO)

When Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu unveiled stolen nuclear files from the heart of Tehran, he brought to light something that many world leaders had tried desperately to keep in the dark. And yet they still continue with the charade.

Against the backdrop of lever arch files, countless CDs and a power point presentation Netanyahu showed, with supported evidence, exactly how Iran – a regime that he has warned about for so many years – had been lying to the entire world. They lied about never having a nuclear weapons program. They lied about destroying archival information. They lied about every aspect on which their nuclear deal with the West was made.

In other words the entire deal that President Obama and the rest of the world made with Iran was based on nothing more than lies.

Now, in any contractual and legal agreement, a deal like this would be declared null and void, because it was concluded on the basis of false information.

And yet this truth – this obvious truth, backed up by over one hundred thousand documents – has done little to move the world into accepting the true dangers that Iran poses.

Instead, rather than be appalled at the duplicitous nature of the Iranians, the majority of the authors of this deal had instead banded together in a vain attempt to urge US President Donald Trump not to abandon it and recommit to it instead.

But what they actually mean is that they have chosen to ignore all of Iran’s transgressions, its lies, its falsifications, its deceit – as if nothing has changed – all in the interests of avoiding war.

Iran has been a destabilizing force in the region for many years now. They have not only threatened Israel, but Saudi Arabia as well by backing Houthi rebels in Yemen who have attacked US interests in the area.

They have supported the brutal regime of Assad through the deployment of army officers and advanced weaponry – used with regular occurrence on civilians.

They are also listed as the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world by the US State Department, supplying Hezbollah and Hamas with weapons which are used to attack Israeli civilians.

With an odious track record like this, the western allies are delusional in thinking that the “peace” they profess to want with Iran will actually lead to “peace for our time,” as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain also once hoped, when dealing with the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain thought that if he could keep a rogue nation like Germany at bay, then Hitler’s desire for territorial conquest would be quelled.

But, as is the nature of rogue nations, Germany had no intention of keeping that “peace” and emboldened by the world’s failure to act, they confidently marched forward in their quest for European domination. The world chose to appease them, rather than face them, and by the time they were forced into a confrontation, Germany was already too powerful – leading to World War 2 and the tragic deaths of 50 million people.

No rational person wants war, but when a sovereign state threatens to destroy another sovereign state and builds up the means to achieve nuclear capability along with a substantial ballistic arsenal, the world should be worried.

Iran has been caught out in a blatant lie, which should demand harsh consequences, including renewed sanctions and penalties that will hurt its ability to develop further, yet many of the lessons from the past are being ignored once again.

It’s no different when Palestinian Authority dictator Mahmoud Abbas unleashed a tirade of antisemitism just a few weeks ago, showing exactly the kind of person he is. While he was rebuked in a rare occurrence, the UN still failed to actually condemn him for his actions, remaining fixated on the myth of him being a “man of peace” despite all contrary evidence.

Today, the nature and truth of Iran has been laid bare for all to see, leaving the world with a choice. It can either allow Iran to continue to threaten its neighbours, destabilizing the region and almost guaranteeing a future conflict, or it can curtail Iran’s ability to wage war in an effort to preserve a semblance of calm.  However, left unchecked, there is little doubt that Iran will increase its reach and continue to build and achieve higher levels of military capability placing every European city within its grasp.

Truth, when found, should be the greatest weapon in any negotiation. It will set you free from guessing the intentions of your negotiating partners allowing you to make rational decisions based on logic and facts and evidence. But should you choose to ignore it, it will cage you, imprisoning you in a windowless cell unable or unwilling to see the world around you for what it truly is.

____________________

Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues.

 [Find this article interesting? You can find more in depth articles on Israel and the Middle East @en.mida.org.il

False Encounters of the Hypocritical Kind


Once again the world beats its chest with false morality as it bashes Israel, conveniently hiding in sanitized hallways of the EU and the UN, while seeing no fault in the actions of terrorists.

05/24/2018

 

There are many countries around the world that have been wringing the hands together this past week, in mock indignation and outrage at the ‘massacre’ in Gaza – a ‘massacre’ that never took place at all.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said “the right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.” He would know about human rights violations, since his native Jordan expelled Jews, ripped out tombstones, destroyed synagogues and turned Jewish holy sites into latrines during his country’s illegally occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.

The European Union’s foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel to “respect the right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force”. I can only assume she missed the Facebook memo from Hamas that encouraged ‘protestors’ to bring knives and guns to the border, keeping them hidden under their shirts until such time as the border could be breached and Israeli civilians and soldiers could be kidnapped.

France condemned the “violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators” and further went on to say that Israeli authorities had a duty to “protect civilians, especially minors.” Perhaps they too forgot their own duty when they rounded up almost 14000 Jews including 4000 children and sent them to their deaths in Paris in 1942.

Then there is that wonderful beacon of democracy Turkey, whose leader still aspires to be a new sultan of a re-established empire that exists only in his dreams and our nightmares. Without any shame he stands behind the terrorist group Hamas and has the sheer nerve and audacity to call Israel a terror state, even as his own troops unleash terror on Kurdish citizens in Turkey and Syria. Of course this won’t be printed over there, since he’s already locked up all the journalists…

South Africa has recalled their ambassador to Israel as they continue their slide towards a rotten banana republic. And just today the ruling party solidified its rampant anti-Semitism comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and encouraging Jews to reject their homeland.

So once again, the world is beating its chest with all the false morality it can muster as it gets out its Israel bashing handbook and throws out words like “international law”, “disproportionate response” and “unarmed peaceful demonstrators.”  Many world leaders continue to avoid the reality that Israelis face each day, preferring to preach about “excessive force,” while hiding out in sanitized hallways in Brussels or the United Nations headquarters.

Yet they still fail to condemn Hamas for using human shields.

They still fail to condemn those Arab demonstrators that destroy the only cargo crossing through which Israel ships fuel and gas. The Arabs destroy their own means of energy and then cry poverty and hardship.

They’ll claim the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem has unleashed the violence, yet ignore the decades of violence they perpetrated before that.

They still fail to condemn Hamas for building terror tunnels designed to kill using money they provided.

In their jaded eyes, Arabs were having a picnic on a nearby field until Israeli troops opened fire without cause or reason. They continue to live in a bubble of make believe, failing to see the truth of what is happening in Gaza, even though Hamas’s intent has been made clear through their videos, their speeches and their statements – all publically available.

So how does Israel show the world a truth that it refuses to see?

Sadly it can’t, because we are living in a world where Jews are expected to just lie down and die as they did so often in the past. And yet this plucky little country refuses to follow that same script. How dare they defend themselves against these peaceful Arabs who only want to go home – a home that was never theirs. How dare they ignore the sage advice of countries in whose soil the blood of Jews runs deep.

Well, they dare indeed.

Israeli troops stood guard at the fence, staring down 40000 Arabs, fuelled and incited by hatred, many who were attacking them with pipe bombs, grenades and rocks, all under the cover of burning tyres. They were clamouring to tear down that fence and rip the hearts out of innocent people. Israel stood firm against a wave of darkness and terror that, if not confronted, would sweep over the land like a tidal wave, destroying all in its path.

So while Israel might want the support and understanding of the world, it doesn’t really matter if they get it or not. Because ultimately Israel will exercise its inalienable rights as a sovereign and proud nation – to defend themselves by all means necessary against all who would do them harm.

____________________

Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues.

En.mida

EU Turns Toward Russia as Trans-Atlantic Union Bursting at Seams


05/24/2018

European countries are turning to Russia as an ally in their confrontation with Washington over Donald Trump’s tariff measures and sanctions spree against Moscow and Tehran. In this context German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit has marked a potential thaw in EU-Russia relations.

Russia has apparently emerged as a potential EU strategic partner, as the bloc is seeking ways to resist US President Donald Trump’s trade policies and Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s May 18 meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi has come as a signal of a potential thaw in relations between Moscow and the EU following the bloc’s introduction of anti-Russia sanctions over Crimea’s reunification with the state in 2014.

“We spoke about the difficult situation amid the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. Germany, the United Kingdom, France and all our colleagues in the European Union are supporting this agreement and we are going to continue to abide by it in the future,” Merkel told a joint press conference.

During the Sochi summit Merkel and Putin not only reiterated their commitment to the JCPOA, but also signaled their determination to further implement the Nord Stream 2 project and deepen business ties between the countries.”Moscow and Berlin have more and more reasons for rapprochement,” notes Sputnik contributor Natalia Dembinskaya. “The main issue is the fatigue caused by endless sanctions which impede business operations. That is why bilateral economic relations came to the forefront.”

Germany is one of the most important trade and economic partners of Russia, second only to China. Russia supplies a third of Germany’s natural gas and oil demands. In 2017 the trade turnover between the countries increased by almost 25 percent for the first time since 2014.

‘RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance’?

Besides the introduction of additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in March by the US president, Trump’s anti-Russia sanctions spree hit European and Germany’s businesses. Washington’s April restrictions against some of Russian individuals and companies such as carmaker GAZ and aluminum group Rusal were specifically painful for the Germans, as they have been closely cooperating with the firms.

On April 23, however, the Treasury Department extended the “wind-down” period for Rusal — businessman Oleg Deripaska’s asset. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled that the restriction would go into effect if Deripaska, included on Trump’s sanctions list, does not relinquish control of the company. Since then the company’s fate has been hanging in the balance.Trump’s May 8 decision to exit the Iran nuclear deal and resume sanctions against Tehran, most notably its petroleum sector, has become the final straw for the EU bloc.

“The West as we once knew it no longer exists. Our relationship to the United States cannot currently be called a friendship and can hardly be referred to as a partnership,” Klaus Brinkbaumer of Der Spiegel noted in his May 11 op-ed.

The same day, James Traub, a fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, notedthat although “the partnership with America had a long and fruitful life — Europe is ready to start over,” in an article with the eloquent title “RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018.”

The ceremony of launching the JSC Gazprom's gas distribution station Zapadnaya opened after reconstruction near the village of Atolino (Minsk District). (File)
© SPUTNIK / EGOR ERYOMOV
The ceremony of launching the JSC Gazprom’s gas distribution station Zapadnaya opened after reconstruction near the village of Atolino (Minsk District). (File)

‘Bulgarian Stream’

While Russia and Germany continue to implement the Nord Stream 2 project with Putin assuring Berlin that the new pipeline would not automatically lead to the suspension of gas transit through Ukraine, Bulgaria hinted that it is interested in a direct natural gas pipeline route from Russia.

“As for the supplies from Russia, Bulgaria needs drop shipment of the gas through the Black Sea. Let’s call it ‘Bulgarian Stream,’” Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told Russian daily Kommersant on Monday.

While the country’s authorities are planning to rely on the Turkish Stream, which is currently under construction, Radev opined that the “Bulgarian Stream” idea is motivated by common sense, energy efficiency and security and does not differ much from Berlin’s desire to implement Nord Stream 2.

EU’s Blocking Statute and Other ‘Concrete Decisions’

Meanwhile, European countries are mulling over “concrete decisions” to counter Trump’s economic policies: On May 17, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Brussels was “launching the process to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996.”

For his part, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire proposed three measures to tackle the existing challenges: activate the “blocking statute,” exit the US-controlled SWIFT and set up “an independent financial instrument to allow our companies to freely work where Europe deems fit” through the European Investment Bank.

Meanwhile, it was reported that diplomats from Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China, are due to meet in Vienna this week to discuss the future of the Iran nuclear deal, purportedly leaving the US out in the cold. The four states have signaled their willingness to adhere to the JPCOA provisions and keep the deal alive. For its part Tehran confirmed that if the P4+1 remain committed to the agreement it would continue to fulfill its obligations.

The views of the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Sputnik

Iran to Continue Boosting Its Missile Capabilities: Shamkhani


05/24/2018

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani says the country’s missile program is non-negotiable and the Islamic Republic continues to strengthen its defensive capabilities.

 
 In an interview with Aljazeera on Wednesday, Shamkhani said along with its missile program, Iran will also keep supporting resistance groups in the region.

“We will continue our support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad Movement, Hezbollah and the axis of resistance in the region,” he said, according to a report by Fars News Agency.

Touching on the situation in Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s acts of sabotage, he said while Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement welcomed Europe’s call for a ceasefire in the Arab country during the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia rejected it.

Thousands of Yemenis including women and children have been killed and many others injured in Saudi airstrikes on Yemen since March 2015. The UN has warned against the worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen over the past decades.

Shamkhani also referred to the currently severed ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia and said Tehran is ready for constructive and reasonable talks with Saudi Arabia without any preconditions.

He also dismissed the latest threats by the US officials against Iran and said the US doesn’t have the guts to wage a military war on Iran and its efforts to slap further economic sanctions on Iran will end up in failure.

In his first major foreign policy address, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Washington would increase its financial pressure on Iran by imposing the “strongest sanctions in history” on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refused to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

Shamkhani also reacted to the statements by some Russian official calling for the withdrawal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces from Syria and said the Islamic Republic will never leave Syria because its presence is at the request of the Syrian government.

On the possible adventurism of the US in the region, Shamkhani said Iran will give a direct and immediate crushing response to any violence by the US.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he also referred to the latest violence by the Zionist regime against Syria and the Arab country’s response to the military violation and said the Zionist regime has received a clear message that any act of violence would be faced with direct and crushing response.

ifpnews

Erdoğan signals economic sanctions against Israel after elections


05/24/2018

 

Amid a diplomatic row between Ankara and Tel Aviv over the killing of more than 60 Palestinians last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said Turkey would take economic steps against Israel after elections on June 24.

“We will evaluate our relations, especially economic and trade relations [with Israel] again. We will take steps in this direction after the elections [on June 24],” Erdoğan told a group of journalists on the presidential plane returning from a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Recalling that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had taken a decision to recommend a boycott of Israeli products, Erdoğan said, “I hope OIC countries will take steps in line with the recommendation.”

Last week President Erdoğan called an extraordinary summit of the OIC and a large public rally to protest the Israeli government for the killing of over 60 Palestinians on May 14.

The rally took place on Friday ahead of the OIC emergency meeting in Istanbul, which concluded that an international protection force must be developed for the Palestinian people. The OIC also declared that action must be taken against countries and individuals that follow the example of the US in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite Erdoğan’s move to hold the summit and rally to protest Israel and the US, TankerTrackers.com revealed that an oil tanker had carried more than a million barrels of oil from the Turkish port of Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon on May 19.

A motion proposing the annulment of economic, military and political agreements between Turkey and Israel was voted down by President Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its election ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in Parliament on May 17.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on May 15 called on Muslim countries to reassess their ties with Israel, the day after Israeli security forces killed over 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border.

President Erdoğan on May 14 called Israel a “terror state” and added that “the assault on the Gaza protesters exposed Israel’s ugly face, one that is carrying out genocide in Gaza.”

Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel ordered a freeze on the import of agricultural products from Turkey following the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara and statements made by Erdoğan, Israelnationalnews.com reported on Tuesday.

turkishminute

Only Israeli security cabinet is authorized to declare war – new ruling


05/24/2018

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked Wednesday put before the security cabinet meeting an amended rule: Henceforth, only a security cabinet plenum has the authority to declare war on behalf of Israel. This decision overruled the previous ruling which permitted  the prime minister and defense minister to decide on war on their own in extreme circumstances.  The session took place in the new underground National Center for Crisis Management

Debka

If Iran resumes enrichment, the US and Israel poised to attack its facilities


05/24/2018

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: If Europe fails to back Iran against the US, Tehran will resume uranium enrichment. He is asking for trouble. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei tried Wednesday, May 23, to counter Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ultimatum with one of his own for the European powers, the UK, France and Germany, which are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal after the US walkout. The dictates he put before them included: European banks must safeguard trade with Iran and stop seeking new negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional Middle East activities to gratify the US president. The Europeans must further guarantee Iran’s oil sales and compensate Tehran for losses incurred from US sanctions. If Europe fails to meet Khamenei’s demands, Iran will go back to enriching uranium, effectively turning its back on the 2015 nuclear deal, he warned.

This was Tehran’s first authoritative response to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from that deal and Pompeo’s threat of tough sanctions unless Tehran changed its ways. Iran’s leaders will not have forgotten that in late April, President Trump threatened “severe consequences” for their resumption of uranium enrichment and will have taken into account that these consequences could run to a US and/or Israel military strike on their enrichment facilities. Iran has accordingly accelerated the deployment of advanced Bavar-373 surface to air missile (SAM) defense systems around those facilities.
Iranian strategists are also aware that American and Israeli air force planes are armed with weapons capable of destroying the Bavar-373 batteries. On April 24, Israeli warplanes bombed those systems during an air strike on the Syrian army’s 47th Division’s weapons depots and command centers outside Homs. But the Iranian missiles had just been delivered and were still unpacked in crates and not operational.

Amid these beating war drums, Israel’s air force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin showed the image of an F-35 stealth plane over Beirut to a meeting n Wednesday of 20 air force chiefs who are spending the week in Israel. He was conveying the message that if the F-35 stealth plane could reach the sky over Beirut, it was equally capable of flying over Tehran and reaching the Natanz enrichment center.

Israel is now back to square one, i.e. 2012, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, then defense minister, and Eliezer Shekedi, air force chief at the time, had girded Israel up for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, only to be held back by the Obama administration’s push for nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

Debka