Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday took the White House's aggressive anti-Iran message to a U.S.-sponsored meeting in Poland on peace and security in the Middle East. Pence used his address to the conference in Poland's capital Warsaw to demand that European countries withdraw from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that President Donald Trump's administration has already abandoned.
Iran is capable of producing a nuclear weapon within two years, if it steps up work on its nuclear program and violates the 2015 deal with the West, according to a recent Israeli intelligence assessment. The assessment was released as the controversial US-led summit against Iran opened in Warsaw, where Israel is expected to pressure the European Union against trying to prop up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action following the American withdrawal last May.
The Trump White House has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran's missiles and rockets, according to current and former administration officials, who described it as part of an expanding campaign by the United States to undercut Tehran's military and isolate its economy. Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The Trump administration is meeting in Warsaw today with leaders from dozens of countries at a critical moment in the effort to stop Iran's dangerous behavior. Tehran's support for terrorism and its illegal missile development program are top priorities, but the people coming to Warsaw will face headwinds. The effort to make real and sustainable progress on these matters has been impaired by the European Union's stubborn adherence to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - a nuclear framework which didn't make sense when it was signed and doesn't make sense today.
...David Ibsen, president of United Against a Nuclear Iran, pointed out that the ambivalence of European nations to confronting Iran was enabling its regional and international agenda. Not just Britain over Yemen but also the German and French stance towards salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal was undermining US efforts to put pressure on Tehran, he said. "Iran has furthered its terrorism against the West, facilitated criminal activities, and advanced its ambitions of regional hegemony."
The growing support for the BDS movement that promotes the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of companies doing business with Israel is deeply troubling.The fact that proponents of the movement have been silent on the human rights abuses, terrorism, and regional mayhem unleashed by the Islamic Republic of Iran raises a fundamental question: Is there no limit to the hypocrisy of supporters of BDS?
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
John Bolton did not get his wish. A few months before he was appointed National Security Adviser last year, Bolton wrote an op-ed arguing that: America's declared policy should be ending Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution before its 40th anniversary. The anniversary is upon us and the revolution remains, stubbornly resisting 40 years of war, sanctions, flashes of internal dissent and any number of bellicose op-eds. But if things haven't changed much in Tehran throughout that period, they certainly have in the industry that defines its economy and its neighborhood: oil.
US Fails To Halt Iran Bid To Free Frozen Billions | AFP
An international court Wednesday ruled Iran can proceed with a bid to unfreeze assets in the United States, rejecting Washington's claims the case must be halted because of Tehran's alleged support for international terrorism. Washington had argued that Iran's "unclean hands" - a reference to Tehran's suspected backing of terror groups - should disqualify its lawsuit to recover $2 billion in assets frozen by the US Supreme Court in 2016.
TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Jaish al Adl, a militant group operating in southeast Iran, claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack against Iran's Revolutionary Guards which left 20 dead, according to the Fars news agency. A bus carrying members of the Guards was targeted by a suicide car bomb, the Guards reported in a statement on Wednesday.
Iran will take revenge for a suicide attack against the Revolutionary Guards which left at least 20 dead, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Wednesday, according to the Fars news agency. "The self-sacrificing military and intelligence children of the people of Iran will take revenge for the blood of the martyrs of this incident," Qassemi said, according to Fars.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is linking a suicide bombing targeting the country's elite Revolution Guard to an ongoing, U.S.-sponsored Mideast meeting in Warsaw. Zarif tweeted Wednesday night: "Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that (hashtag) WarsawCircus begins? Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots?"
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Azam Jangravi's heart was pounding when she climbed atop an electricity transformer box on Tehran's busy Revolution Street a year ago. She raised her headscarf in the air and waved it above her head. A crowd formed. People shouted at her to come down. She knew all along she was going to be arrested. But she did it anyway, she says, to change the country for her eight-year-old daughter.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran is in possession of improved and dangerous weapons systems that give Tehran the ability to threaten some of the world's most important waterways, according to the top American admiral in the Middle East. "They have a growing capability in cruise missiles, they have a growing capability in ballistic missiles, they have a growing capability in unmanned surfaced systems, all these things that we watch that are offensive, and destabilizing in nature," Vice Adm. James Malloy, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, told a small group of reporters in Bahrain on Wednesday.
The US and Poland host a Middle East conference Thursday that's meant to address a broad range of security challenges, but looks set to be dominated by Iran, which has become a source of tension between the US and allies and is reportedly causing friction within the administration as well. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set the tone Wednesday, declaring the gathering in Warsaw important because it gives Arab countries and Israel a chance to meet openly "to advance the common interest of war with Iran."
From its beginning 40 years ago this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn't been kind to their sympathy. "The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false," wrote Princeton's Richard Falk of the Ayatollah Khomeini in an op-ed for The Times on Feb. 16, 1979. "Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country."
Inside the government, some officials called her "Wayward Storm." Her real name was Monica Elfriede Witt, an exemplary Air Force counterintelligence agent who had studied Farsi and carried out covert missions in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But by mid-2013, Ms. Witt had become disillusioned with the government - why, exactly, remains a mystery - and had left the military.
The Trump administration had delicately said the meeting of five dozen nations in Warsaw would focus on "Middle East security." But the unmistakable voice of Rudolph Giuliani, an avowed proponent of regime change in Iran, set a different tone. Hours before the meeting began, Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and President Trump's lawyer, told an anti-Iran rally outside Warsaw's main stadium that Iranian leaders are "assassins, they are murderers and they should be out of power."
Divisions over Iran are hindering the Trump administration's efforts to build consensus with NATO allies on Middle East policy, with European powers balking at joining top U.S. officials in Poland's capital for an event on regional security. Washington has made isolating Tehran a focus of its foreign policy. Its major North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, including Britain, Germany and France, seek to preserve ties with Tehran and salvage the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord from which the U.S. withdrew last year, before reimposing sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States and its regional allies on Thursday for a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed 27 members of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards, Iranian state TV reported. The force said on Wednesday a suicide bomber driving a vehicle laden with explosives had attacked a bus transporting members of the Guards in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan.
Iran can only lose by negotiating with the United States and must be careful to limit any dealings with some "untrustworthy" European states, the Islamic Republic's top leader said on Wednesday. Tensions ramped up between the United States and Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions. The U.S. sanctions are putting unprecedented pressure on Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month.
Dismissing U.S. objections, judges at the International Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled that the U.N. body has jurisdiction to hear a claim by Iran to recover $1.75 billion in assets frozen by Washington. The ruling opens the way for the court to hear the case on its merits, a process that could take years. The case filed in June 2016 centers on assets from the Iranian national bank, Bank Markazi, seized by U.S. courts to compensate families of victims of a 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps. base which Washington blames on Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday at a security conference in Warsaw that Iran is the top threat in the Middle East and confronting the country is key to reaching peace in the entire region. Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the opening session at the conference and said "pushing back" against Iran was central to dealing with all the region's other problems.
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first described this week's big international conference in Warsaw, he left little doubt about its purpose. At the meeting, he said last month, America and its allies would discuss "how it is we together can get Iran to behave like a normal nation." Now Pompeo is in Warsaw, and official discussion is about everything butIran.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
A suicide bomber killed at least 27 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and wounded 13 on a bus in a restive region of southeast Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media reported. It was among the deadliest attacks in Iran in years. The Revolutionary Guards, an elite Iranian paramilitary force, quickly blamed the United States for the assault, which came during the week that Iran's leaders have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the American-backed shah in 1979.
Since last year, the United States has been ramping up economic pressure on Iran and has plans to redouble the pain later this spring with even tighter sanctions. Will that financial chokehold be enough to strangle the Iranian economy and bring America's bête noire to heel? The balance of expert opinion is that there is still a lot of resistance left in Iran's oft-proclaimed "resistance economy."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Foreign publications reported that Hezbollah fighters and Iranian forces set up a network of observation posts just a few kilometers away from the Golan Heights border fence to keep track of IDF forces in the area, according to Walla! news. If Hezbollah did conduct this activity in the area, it would contradict Russia's promise that foreign forces would keep their distance from the border.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Hezbollah "has active cells" in Venezuela, adding that it and Iran are "impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America." Some observers dismissed Pompeo's remarks as an escalation in the war of words between the US and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro - rhetoric without basis in reality.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the leaders of Turkey and Iran for talks about a Syria peace settlement as expectations mount for an imminent and final defeat of the Islamic State group. The talks are expected to kick off in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday. Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is getting increasingly impatient about militants in Syria's Idlib province.
Israel's prime minister on Wednesday sent out a belligerent rallying cry to his Arab partners at a U.S.-backed Mideast conference, saying he planned to focus on the "common interest" of confronting Iran. Netanyahu made the comments during an off-the-cuff interview with reporters on a Warsaw street, shortly after meeting Oman's foreign minister.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu startled Iranians and even the White House on Wednesday with a strident call for Israeli-Arab action against the government in Tehran that was translated by his office as urging "war with Iran." Although Israeli officials tried to soften the reference by altering the English translation, the provocative comment was likely to further the perception that Israel, its Gulf Arab neighbors and the United States are interested in using military action to topple the government of Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, in what could be a possible gaffe, that his meetings with Arab leaders in Poland are "in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran." The comments were made to reporters on the sidelines of the Warsaw Middle East ministerial following Netanyahu's meeting with the Sultanate of Oman's Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
An Iranian-linked terrorist group has released a statement threatening attacks on American and British targets in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Saraya al-Ashtar, recognized by the United States and the United Kingdom as a terrorist organization, accused "American and British intelligence" of operating in Bahrain, and said: "so we say to the conspirators against our people that your support for the occupying Khalifa regime will carry a high price for you and will make you a legitimate target for our attacks."
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
US and Israeli leaders gathered Wednesday in Warsaw for a conference they hope will pile pressure on Iran, just as the country's elite Revolutionary Guards were hit by one of the deadliest attacks in years. Opening with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw's old town, the two-day meeting looks to promote a US-led vision of the Middle East but is as notable for its absences as its attendees.
France and Iran are close to exchanging ambassadors after Paris suspended nominating an envoy to Tehran last year over claims Iranian intelligence officials had planned an attack on an opposition group in Paris, France's foreign minister said. "We protested vigorously against an attempted attack that was stopped in the Paris region which led us to suspend the nomination of our ambassador to Tehran and Tehran responded reciprocally," Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament's foreign affairs committee.