The Islamic Republic of Iran conducts tests of long-range missiles after serious threats emanating from the western imperialist countries of the United States, Britain and France., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Iran missile test: glimpse of what's ahead if nuclear talks fail
An Iran missile test Monday sent a clear warning to the US: Attack our nuclear facilities, and we'll target your military bases. It showed what US-Iran military gamesmanship might look like.
By Howard LaFranchi
Staff writer July 2, 2012
The United States and the European Union began imposing tough new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry this month, with one goal in mind: inflict such economic pain that Iran’s leaders get serious about an international deal to curtail the country’s advancing nuclear program.
But with low-level officials from six world powers meeting with their Iranian counterparts in Istanbul Tuesday to gauge prospects for an agreement, Iran appeared to blast its answer into the skies Monday with the first of three days of ballistic missile drills.
The message: Launch airstrikes on our nuclear facilities, and rest assured we’ll hit you back. And P.S.: Your sanctions may hurt us, but they will never cause us to fold.
The European Union on Sunday imposed a full embargo on imports of Iranian crude oil – last year, the EU purchased about 18 percent of Iran’s oil exports – while the US has begun imposing measures against Iran’s central bank and foreign financial institutions that continue to work with it.
Those sanctions follow a series of negotiations since April between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom – plus Germany, which have so far failed to reach agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama administration officials point to the impact that previously existing sanctions have had on Iran – including a significant drop in oil exports, which cost the country more than $30 billion in revenue last year alone – and they insist that these new sanctions can mean only more hardship.
“Sanctions are having a major adverse impact on Iran’s economy, and things will go from bad to worse unless Iran gets serious about addressing international concerns about its nuclear program,” says a senior administration official, who joined several other administration officials in discussing the impact of sanctions on Iran on condition of anonymity.
Yet while Iran and sanctions experts agree that the West’s measures are having a deep economic impact in Iran – something even Iran’s leaders are increasingly willing to acknowledge – they are less certain that this will lead to concessions at the negotiating table.
“What the West has decided here is that the punitive track is the only way to get the Iranians to respond,” says George Lopez, an expert at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in the use of economic sanctions. “But I’m not sure that’s a certainty.”
One thing that could get in the way is the US presidential election, Professor Lopez says.
The latest sanctions “are going to make the Iranian economy scream within about three to four months,” he says.
Given that, and the parameters of a potential deal on Iran’s uranium enrichment that have surfaced in recent negotiations, he says there would be reason “in a neutral political environment” to consider at least an interim agreement possible by this fall.
But a tight US presidential race makes a deal less likely, in part because both sides would have to accept some concessions, he adds: “The Obama camp knows very well that anything that could be construed as a concession to Iran would be seized by [presumptive Republican nominee Mitt] Romney and his people as a sign of Obama’s weakness and failure to protect Israel.”
Lopez insists that sanctions can work, citing how sanctions brought Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic to the negotiating table and prevented Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from acquiring the weapons of mass destruction he coveted.
Iranian leaders have started to focus their public commentary on how the measures are having their greatest impact on the Iranian people, and the West must be prepared to respond, Lopez says.
“This round [of sanctions] crosses the line and looks more like the broad sanctions à la Iraq than the targeted sanctions [the West] has always said it was imposing,” he adds.
The missile exercises send a different message. Iranian military say the games will target mock bases modeled after those of “adventurous nations” that have military bases in the region. That seems a clear warning to the US, which maintains military facilities within range of Iran’s missiles in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
Iran sanctions threat to regional economy: Official
Mon Jul 2, 2012 5:56PM GMT
An Iranian official says the US-led Western unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic have endangered the interests of some regional countries.
A number of regional countries such as Pakistan, Georgia and some other Arab countries have asked the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to oppose the increasing of sanctions against Iran, Chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM) Mohammad Nahavandian said Monday.
Nahavandian said the call was made in the final statement of the Fourth Regional Meeting for the Broader Middle East and North Africa International Chamber of Commerce in Tbilisi, Georgia in late May.
Regional countries said they would be adversely affected by unilateral sanctions because of the ensuing disruptions in the world’s financial, banking and transport sectors, Nahavandian added.
He further downplayed recent sanctions against the Iranian oil sector and said the countries who have imposed such embargoes will not achieve their “declared political objectives.”
“Westerners were not the only buyers for the Iranian oil and there are other customers across the world who want to buy our country’s crude either directly or indirectly,” Nahavandian said.
On January 23, under pressure from the United States, the European Union foreign ministers approved new sanctions mainly against Tehran’s oil and banking sectors. The sanctions came into force on Sunday.
Later in March, the US administration approved new embargoes on the Iranian crude, which aim to penalize other countries for buying or selling the country’s oil. The bans took effect on June 28.
The sanctions by the US and EU are meant to pressure the Islamic Republic over its nuclear energy program, which Washington, Israel and some of their allies claim includes a military aspect.
Iran dismisses such allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has the right to use the nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Iran sanctions in line with hostile US policies: Foreign Ministry
On the anniversary of the 1988 US Navy missile attack on an Iranian passenger jet, Iran's Foreign Ministry says new sanctions imposed on the country are in line with the hostile American approaches to the country.
“On the anniversary of this tragic event, Iran's Foreign Ministry … regards the new round of pressure and sanctions against the Iranian nation in line with the hostile approach of US officials towards our country, particularly after the victory of the Islamic Revolution [in 1979],” said the ministry in a statement on Monday.
It added that this inhumane crime is a clear evidence of the US failure to remain committed to legal and moral international principles which “will be recorded in the historical memory of the Iranian nation and in the world public opinion forever.”
The US statesmen should reach an understanding that their plots and evil acts in the region and animosity towards nations will only spread the wave of Awakening among the regional countries, the ministry pointed out.
The resistance and continuing progress of the Iranian nation are clear signs of the ineffectiveness of such illegitimate and inhumane measures against free and independent nations, it added.
Iran Air Flight 655 was on a routine flight from Iran's southwestern city of Bandar Abbas to Dubai when it was shot down by the United States Navy's missile cruiser USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers, including 66 children, and crewmembers onboard.
Commanded by Captain William C. Rogers III, the ship fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles at the plane, killing passengers from Iran, Italy, the UAE, India, Pakistan and the former Yugoslavia in a tragic event -- ranked the seventh deadliest aviation accident.
US officials at the time claimed their naval officers had mistaken the Airbus A300 for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
They also claimed that the Vincennes crew had been under a simultaneous psychological condition called 'scenario fulfillment,' and had therefore confused their training scenario with reality and responded accordingly.
Brent crude rises $1 on Iran tensions, Norway strike
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Brent crude climbed $1 as threats from Iran to try and block oil shipments offset concerns that gloomy manufacturing data from China, the United States and Europe will hurt oil demand.
Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has drafted a bill calling for Iran to try to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against it, a move that will threaten supply at a time when a strike in Norway has curbed output.
Brent crude gained $1 to hit an intraday high of $98.34 per barrel while U.S. crude gained 87 cents to $84.62 by 12.22 a.m. EDT.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; editing by Miral Fahmy)
Enemy’s interests in the region within range of Iran’s missiles: general Political Desk
24 June 2012 11:56
TEHRAN – The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that the enemy’s strategic interests in the region are within the range of Iranian missiles.
“In our strategic planning, we have defined a radius named the radius of deterrence, which includes all strategic interests of the enemy in the region, so that we can manage the battle at any level in case of the outbreak of war,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said during a televised interview broadcast live on Iranian television on Saturday.
On the country’s missile capabilities, he said that the IRGC is capable of destroying the enemy’s moving military targets using domestically produced ballistic missiles.
“I say with certainty that we are able to hit all moving targets using ballistic missiles which follow a curved path, travel several times faster than sound after entering the atmosphere, and can hardly be tracked and destroyed,” he said.
In addition, he said that the Naval Force of the IRGC has been equipped with cruise missiles which are radar-evading and enjoy advanced capabilities in terms of range, precision, and maneuverability.
Britain's quiet war on Iran
It may not rule the waves any longer, but Britannia still rules banks and insurance companies and has been wielding that power to try to foil Tehran’s nuclear plans.
By Anshel Pfeffer | Jul.03, 2012 | 7:13 AM
LONDON -- American and British diplomats could hardly believe the reports. Not only was Russian President Vladimir Putin opposing any action to end the deepening bloodbath in Syria: now they had irrefutable proof that Russia was sending a shipment of vital arms to Bashar Assad's forces.
The MV Alaed was steaming south, from the Russian Baltic port of Kaliningrad, in its hold three refurbished Mi-25 heavy attack helicopters, ammunition, missiles and an air-defense system. Choppers like these have been used to bomb rebel forces and civilians.
The ship passed less than 80 kilometers from the coast of Britain bearing a load that violated European Union sanctions against arm shipments to Syria. Yet the vessel was untouchable.
It may have been flying a flag of Curacao, but its ownership was Russian. Any attempt to board would have led to a major diplomatic row with Moscow, dooming all chances of a joint front with Putin on Iran and Syria.
Yet two weeks ago, on June 19, the Alaed turned back. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said this was due to the EU arms embargo and talks with the Russians. But what had forced the ship to return was the decision by British insurance company Standard Club to notify the vessel’s owners, the Russian cargo carriers Femco, that it was withdrawing insurance from all its ships.
Standard Club said that it had not done so on the government's instructions, but due to the fact that Femco had "broken internal rules” by contravening an embargo.
Without firing a shot, or using overt threats, the British government succeeded in denying arms that could have been used against civilians and rebels in Syria. It also sent a message to Russia and its allies in the region that Britain still has ways to project power across the globe.
It has been using similar methods for over two years against Iran, in what some diplomats are calling "unprecedented British economic warfare."
A navy smaller than Brazil’s
At the beginning of last month, when a thousand boats gathered on the Thames to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, nearly all the vessels were civilian – a far cry from Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897, when a massive armada of 165 Royal Navy warships saluted the empress.
This time around, Britain's fabled Senior Service would have been capable of mustering no more than a dozen ships not on operational duty.
A prolonged recession and a drastic change in priorities have led Britain to implement cutbacks to its armed forces. As a result the nation that once ruled the waves today has a smaller navy than India, Turkey and Brazil and its armed forces are smaller than Israel's.
While the generals and admirals warn that deepening cuts will impair the country’s ability to carry out overseas military operations, Britain is playing a leading role in the economic war on Iran, second only to that of the United States. It is a battle being waged with little fanfare, using non-military measures through independent banks and private insurance companies. It is a battle in which one diplomat says that "Britain has redefined the meaning of soft-power."
"The level of economic warfare being waged by Britain against Iran in recent years is unprecedented in modern times," says a legal expert who has represented a number of Iranian companies in recent years.
Despite its eclipse as a military and naval power, Britain, especially the City of London, retains its position as a global financial power, not in terms of GDP or assets but as a hub for international transactions.
In 2010, 20 percent of global cross-border banking business was done through London. In April 2010, 36.7 percent of foreign exchange trading and 45.8 percent of financial derivative trading went through banks based in London.
The city is also a major hub for the insurance trade, especially in the field of marine insurance. London is the only city where all 20 of the world's largest insurers and reinsurers are represented, with Lloyd's of London, the biggest insurance market in the world, at its center.
In October 2009, the British government announced unilateral sanctions on Iran. The UK Treasury ordered all British financial institutions to cease doing business with two Iranian corporations, The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and Bank Mellat.
These sanctions followed similar measures taken by the United States the previous year but were not in conjunction with the United Nations Security Council or the European Union. In official statements, British ministers explained that the sanctions were to prevent Iran from procuring and importing materials for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
A cat-and-mouse game
The British sanctions were implemented long before similarly sweeping sanctions were agreed upon by the EU and Security Council.
According to one diplomat, "it was the way Britain has been pursuing these sanctions, and the power it has through the City of London, that has been increasingly damaging to Iran."
Following the American and British sanctions, what has been described as "a cat-and-mouse" game has developed, with Iran renaming ships, setting up shell corporations and transferring ownership, in an attempt to hide its continuing efforts to import necessary material and components for its nuclear and armament industries and to ship arms to Syria and groups it supports, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
This has led to deepening cooperation on diplomatic, financial and intelligence levels between the UK and Israel, which has often supplied the necessary information for the British government to inform banks and insurance companies of Iranian activities.
"Even when we had diplomatic crises and disagreements with the British," says one former senior Israeli intelligence officer, "we were under strict orders to supply Britain with everything we had on Iran. We gave them the crown jewels of intelligence."
While the powerful banking and insurance sectors in Britain may have opposed more blatant government intervention, they complied when receiving pinpoint information regarding companies, ships and banks that were to be targeted.
"When a bank gets specific details from the government, it will almost always comply with the request," says a veteran advisor to financial institutions in London. "It is much easier to do that quietly instead of having a row with the government."
No official figures exist regarding the damage British sanctions have caused the Iranian economy and its nuclear program. Britain has no interest in revealing its hidden hand and the Iranian regime routinely pretends that its economy is strong in the face of sanctions.
But Iranian propaganda has for years been singling out Britain, along with the United States and Israel, as nations seeking to undermine Tehran. Western diplomats in London have estimated that "the effect of British insurance companies refusing to cover Iranian ships has made it very hard for Iran to continue importing key components for the nuclear program and send arms to its proxies. It hasn't made it impossible, but it has often delayed shipments for months."
There have been many other cases, similar to that of the Alaed, in which ships were forced to turn back when their insurance was suddenly revoked.
London is not only the center for financial organizations, but also the base for two bodies that are central in the coordinated efforts to hamper Iranian operations. Lloyd's List, the world's leading shipping daily newsletter, records sales of marine vessels and the UN's International Maritime Organization tracks shipping and records IMO "hull-numbers," the vessel’s unique identification number, which remains when the ship changes ownership.
London – a step ahead of the rest in sanctions
Last year, in November, Britain once again imposed sanctions on Iran, this time along with the U.S. and Canada, cutting off all banking ties. The British sanctions were the toughest, it was the first time the UK had ever severed all financial relations with another state and unlike other EU members, it did not wait for the entire Union to vote on the sanctions, as it would do months later, but forged ahead on its own. "In terms of anti-Iran rhetoric, France has been more voluble than Britain," says one diplomat to the European Union, "but in actions, London is way ahead of Paris and the rest of the EU."
Some British experts believe their country should not be ahead of the pack on Iran. Sir Richard Dalton, a former ambassador to Iran and today a fellow at the independent policy institute, Chatham House, says that "they (the government) made a mistake in November by adopting certain sanctions unilaterally rather than waiting for others. It was a basic mistake. Iranians use their venomous mistrust of the UK as a cop-out, an excuse for not addressing the problems substantively."
The Iranians certainly blamed Britain. A week after the sanctions were announced, a thousand Iranians stormed the British embassy in Tehran, ransacked the offices, smashed a portrait of the Queen and burnt the flag. While the Iranian government expressed its "regret" over the attack and tried to salvage diplomatic relations, the Cameron government decided to cut off all diplomatic relations and expel all Iranian diplomats within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the British efforts have continued. In March, SWIFT, the company that handles international financial transactions cut Iran off its network. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to praise the decision of the Belgium-based company. His aides leaked that it was the Israeli leader’s urging that had brought about the move. In fact, says one diplomat who was involved, the main SWIFT computers are based in Britain and it was the Cameron government that played the central role.
This week, on July 1, new EU sanctions came into effect, banning further oil imports by its members but more crucially, forbidding European insurance companies from insuring oil tankers, of any country, carrying Iranian oil.
This sanction has serious implications for countries such as South Korea and Japan, major importers of oil from Iran, since their tankers were underwritten by British insurers.
In recent months, senior officials from both countries were in London and Brussels, trying frantically to postpone implementation of the new restriction. The British government firmly opposed their efforts.
While Iran has slashed the price of its oil, countries who continue to purchase it now need to set aside billions of dollars for insurance cover, which will encourage them to find alternative suppliers and further damage Iran's economy.
The forceful policy of economic warfare against Iran is being directed from the very top. Prime Minister David Cameron dedicated the first foreign policy meeting of his new National Security Council in 2010 to the Iranian issue and his foreign minister William Hague and Chancellor of Exchequer, George Osborne are described by insiders as "extremely hawkish" on Iran, urging their civil servants to enforce the sanctions. Diplomats in London give a number of reasons for this policy.
"It is a way for Britain to prove to the United States that it is its key ally in the world," says one. "It also gives the British who have lost their military power a chance to act as if they are still a super-power, thanks to their financial position."
"A lot of the support for the sanctions is for want of a better alternative and sometimes they are in place to keep Israel happy and prevent military action,” says Lord Norman Lamont, who served as Chancellor of Exchequer in the early 1990s and is today the president of the UK-Iran Chamber of Commerce. “It seems also that they have brought the Iranians to negotiating table."
"The UK and Israel are working extremely closely together on Iran and there is a great measure of cooperation and constant dialogue between the two countries," says Britain's ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. "We share the sense of threat and we are clear that we need to be pursuing a diplomatic solution, while continuing to ramp up the economic pressure."