Iran Gulf & Nuclear Drama

Iran Ups the Ante in Persian Gulf, Seizing Three Tankers in Two Weeks; Tehran Commits Second Major Breach of Nuclear Accords, Enriches Uranium Past Limit; US Warship Shoots Down Iranian Drone

Two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran exceeded a key limit for enriching uranium. Yukiya Amano, who heads the agency, said that Iran is “enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235.” It was the second major breach of the deal by Iran in recent months. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Furthermore, Iran appears unrepentant. Until it achieves “full rights” to an economic relationship with the European Union, Iran says it will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal. The statement was made by Ali Shamkhani, a senior official and representative of Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt believes that if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, it could lead to a “very toxic and dangerous situation” unless the nuclear deal is restored because other countries in the region would acquire nuclear weapons as well. Hunt said that Iran was “a good year away from developing a nuclear weapon” and that he thought “there is still some closing but small window to keep the deal alive.” Hunt cautioned that “What we are looking for is to give Iran a way out of this so that they can get back into compliance with the nuclear deal.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a UN session that Iranians are “subjected to the most brutal form of ‘economic terrorism’ – deliberately targeting innocent civilians to achieve illegitimate political objectives.” Zarif also told the UN that “unlawful, extraterritorial” sanctions “represent the greatest threat to the achievement of sustainable development goals of Iran and many of our neighbors.” Reported by i24 News. Read more… In a Tweet last week, Zarif said that Iran had to manufacture missiles to defend itself. “For 8 YEARS, Saddam showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West,” Zarif wrote. “Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain.” Zarif also Tweeted that “Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam’s reincarnations.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

In addition to the breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, also warned that the United Kingdom would face “repercussions” over the “mean and wrong” seizure of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar three weeks ago. Rouhani said in a statement that the UK was “an initiator of insecurity” and would “understand its repercussions.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…An Iranian cleric, Kazem Sedghi, an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Iranian state television that “Iran’s strong establishment will soon slap Britain in the face for daring to seize the Iranian oil tanker.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Within a day of Rouhani’s comments, five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. A British warship about five miles behind the tanker intercepted the Iranian vessels and warned them away. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by The Guardian. Read more… British ships in the Gulf had been put on the highest alert the day before the attempted intercept. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is trying to limit U.S. President Donald Trump’s ability to act against Iran. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 251-170 to pass legislation requiring Trump to get authorization from Congress to conduct military strikes against Iran. The vote also repealed a 2002 law authorizing war in Iraq. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Trump’s pick to become the military’s top officer, says Iran has raised its “intensity of malign activity” since the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Milley also said that Iran has “been a malign actor for many, many years.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Britain’s foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said that he told his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, that Britain would speed up the release of the seized Iranian oil tanker if Iran guaranteed that it would not go to Syria. In a Tweet, Hunt stated, “Just spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Constructive call. I reassured him our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace One & that UK would facilitate release if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria, following due process in Gib courts.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Britain, however, was taking no chances, dispatching the HMS Duncan, a destroyer, to the Persian Gulf. It will join the HMS Montrose, a frigate, which is already there, and four minesweepers, along with US Gulf allies. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iran may have seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker. The tanker, MT Riah, stopped transmitting its location after straying into Iranian waters. INSA, a semi-official Iranian new agency, said, “An international oil tanker was in trouble due to a technical fault in the Persian Gulf. After receiving a request for assistance, Iranian forces approached it and used a tugboat to pull it towards Iranian waters for the necessary repairs to be carried out.” A tracking report shows the vessel was tracked changing course and heading into Iranian waters. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Iran’s state television later announced that government forces had captured a foreign tanker with 12 crew accused of smuggling oil. It was unclear which country or company the tanker belonged to. Hours later, the USS Boxer, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, loaded with 2000 Marines and dozens of helicopters entered the Persian Gulf. Reported by Fox News. Read more… (ed. note it is also unclear whether it was the MV Riah).

The US Navy last week shot down an Iranian drone that came too close to the USS Boxer. President Trump announced the downing, saying the USS Boxer “took defensive action” and that the drone was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.” Iran, however, insists that it was not missing any of its drones. In response, Trump said, “No doubt about it, no — we shot it down.” John Bolton, Trump’s National Security advisor later confirmed, “There is no question that this was an Iranian drone.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Further reported by Fox News. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… (Iran denial). On Friday, Iran released video they claim is proof the USS Boxer did not shoot down its drone. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran made good its threat, seizing a UK-flagged oil tanker, and briefly detaining a second ship on Friday. Stena Bulk, which owns the UK-flagged Stena Impero, stated the ship “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.” The company said it was unable to contact the vessel, which was shown heading north towards Iran. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces state the ship was seized for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations.” An hour later, IRGC forces boarded the Liberian-flagged tanker Mesdar, but later released it and allowed the ship to go on its way. Reported by Fox News. Read more… An audio recording was released of a British Navy frigate trying to stop IRGC from seizing the Stena Imperio. Iranian officials have reportedly stated the seizure of the Steno Imperio was in response to Britain’s role in impounding the Iranian tanker near Gibraltar three weeks ago. Reported by Fox News. Read more…Britain called the seizure a “hostile act,” while US President Donald Trump said Iran was “nothing but trouble.” Washington condemned the seizure and accused Iran of engaging in “escalatory violence. The US stated that it “will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.” Reported by i24 News. Read more… The UK is reportedly ready to impose sanctions against Iran in response to the seizure of the Steno Imperio. Iranian officials claimed the tanker was seized after it was allegedly involved in an incident with an Iranian fishing boat. Reported by i24 News. Read more… Iran says that the fate of the tanker depends upon the cooperation of its crew with an investigation. “All of them are in full health, they are on the vessel and the vessel is… anchored in a safe place,” said Allah-Morad Afifipoor, director-general of the Hormozgan province port and maritime authority, who added, “We are ready to meet their needs. But we have to carry out investigations with regards the vessel. The investigation depends on the cooperation by the crew members on the vessel, and also our access to the evidence required for us to look into the matter. God willing, we will make every effort to gather all the information as soon as possible.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Leave a Reply