President Donald Trump said on Thursday, July 18, that the USS Boxer amphibious assault ship took defensive action in the Strait of Hormuz and destroyed an Iranian drone which closed into the near distance, approximately 1000 yards away. The action was taken after multiple calls for the drone to stand down were ignored, “threatening the safety of the ship and ship’s crew.”
Speaking at the White House on Thursday afternoon, Trump called on other nations to defend Iranian attempts to “disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce” and to “protect their ships as they go through the Strait of Hormuz. The incident came hours after Tehran said it had taken over an oil tanker with its 12-man crew, without identifying its owner.
Friday, July 19, 2019
Iran is determined to "leave all doors open" to save the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, President Hassan Rouhani told French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, according to Reuters.
"We are determined to leave all doors open to save the nuclear deal ... The Europeans should accelerate their efforts to salvage the pact," Rouhani was quoted as having told Macron in a telephone conversation.
US President Donald Trump withdrew last May from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.
The European signatories to the 2015 deal did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the agreement and vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
Several weeks ago, Iran met in Vienna with European, Russian and Chinese officials to discuss ways to save the 2015 nuclear following the US withdrawal.
Iran’s envoy to the meeting in Vienna said that European countries had offered too little to persuade Tehran to back off from its plans to breach limits imposed by the deal.
The EU earlier this year introduced a trade mechanism that would bypass US sanctions on Iran, in a bid to save the 2015 deal, but Iran has rejected that mechanism thus far.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Three years after the botched coup against him, Turkey’s hotheaded leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan risks a major confrontation with the West over his policies in the Middle East.
The crisis in the relationship between Turkey and the West began after Erdogan accused the CIA of being behind the botched coup which some observers think was a false flag operation to give the autocratic leader more executive powers.
In the aftermath of the botched coup Erdogan decided to seal-off the Incirlik airbase which was used by NATO warplanes in the battle against ISIS and where the US army has stored tactical nuclear weapons.
Erdogan later demanded the US extradite the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and who Erdogan claimed had been orchestrating the failed coup.
At about the same time, Erdogan demanded the US army in Syria end its cooperation with the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which controls roughly one-third of Syrian territory along the Turkish border.
The US didn’t give in, however, and Erdogan then decided to improve relations with Russia after solving a crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of a Russian warplane by the Turkish army.
The Turkish leader later decided to purchase the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense shield, a move which set him on a crash course with NATO of which Turkey is a prominent member.
As a result of the purchase of the S-400 system by its ally Turkey, the Trump Administration decided to scuttle the delivery of the Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter plane but hasn’t decided yet to apply the so-called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Turkey.
During the recent G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Erdogan met with US President Donald J. Trump to discuss the looming crisis over the delivery of the S-400 missile shield. READ MORE
The United States announced on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program in the wake of Ankara accepting the delivery of the S-400 advanced Russian missile defense system last week.
The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.
Washington says the S-400 poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey was also planning to buy.
The US also believes the S-400 sale is part of Russian efforts to disrupt the alliance amid Western concern over Erdogan's burgeoning relationship with Putin.
Turkish officials insist that the deal to purchase the S-400 does not affect the security of the US and have repeatedly stressed that they will go ahead with the deal despite Washington’s objections.
“The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
“The United States is spending between $500 and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain,” she added.
Used by NATO and other US allies, the F-35 stealth fighter jet is the world’s most advanced jet fighter. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information of the stealth system.
“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.
Washington has long warned the acquisition may lead to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.
Responding to the US move, the Turkish foreign ministry said that the country’s removal from the F-35 fighter jet program is not based on a legitimate reason and does not suit ally spirit.
In a statement, the foreign ministry called on the United States to return from what it characterized as a mistake, saying it would harm strategic ties between two NATO allies.
On Saturday, officials said that President Donald Trump’s team has settled on a sanctions package to punish Turkey over the S-400 deal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later said that Trump has the authority to waive sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the Russian air defense systems and should find a "middle ground" in the dispute.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday that his country is capable of shutting the strategic Strait of Hormuz but doesn’t want to do it.
"We certainly have the ability to do it, but we certainly don’t want to do it because the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are our lifeline," said Zarif, adding, "It has to be secured. We play a big role in securing it, but it has to be secure for everybody."
Iran regularly holds drills at the Strait of Hormuz, which is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes.
The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.
In Wednesday’s interview, Zarif also asserted that the US “shot itself in the foot” by pulling out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.
He added that the European countries that are part of the original agreement have not stepped up to carry out their own commitments under the deal.
Iran has the capability to pursue nuclear weapons but “we’re not going to build” them because Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a “religious commitment” that they were forbidden, Zarif told Bloomberg.
“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we could have built it a long time ago,” claimed Zarif, who was in New York to address a United Nations meeting.
Nevertheless, he signaled that Iran will continue to pursue what he called the Islamic Republic’s rights under the accord to respond to the US pullout and failed European efforts to deliver promised benefits to the Iranian economy.
Two weeks ago, Iran announced that it had exceeded the amount of enriched uranium permitted under the deal. Several days later, Iran followed up by saying it had begun to enrich uranium to 5% purity instead of the 3.67% limit imposed under the JCPOA.
On Monday, Iran warned the EU that it is prepared to end all of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear, and restore its nuclear program to the status quo ante, under which Tehran placed no limits on any areas of nuclear development.
Pressed on how to engage with the US in a way that eases tensions, Zarif suggested that the burden falls on Trump. He also expressed skepticism of renegotiating the 2015 accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to include talks on Iran’s missile program.
“You don’t buy a horse twice,” he said.
Zarif rejected the idea that Iran is waiting for next year’s election in the US to put a Democratic president in office who might be open to reentering the deal.
“No country in their right mind would make their foreign policy based on results they don’t have any control over,” he said. He went on to give Trump a “better than 50% chance” of winning reelection.