US Increases Military Presence in the Persian Gulf
In response to proposed legislation in the Iranian parliament to close the Strait of Hormuz, the United States has “quietly” moved additional fighter jets, minesweepers, stealth warplanes, and other military reinforcements into the region. Navy ships are in place patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, reportedly to ensure that the waterway isn’t mined. “The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’” one senior Defense Department official said (NYT 7/3; The Guardian 7/3).
The senior Defense Department official added, “This is not only about Iranian nuclear ambitions, but about Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions,” (NYT 7/3).
Second Day of War Games Continues in Iran
Today is the second day of war games in the north-central desert area of Semnan province in Iran by Revolutionary Guards Corps. The efficiency of warheads and missile systems, including the Shahab 3 missile and unmanned drones, are being tested partially in response to the implementation of an EU embargo on Iranian oil. Iran has announced a new ballistic missile called Arm, which allegedly has the capacity to detect and hit radar bases (WSJ 7/2; Reuters 7/3).
Russian Think Tank Suggests Russia Could Sell S-300s to Iran
Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, commented today during an interview of anti-aircraft missile sales that, “The S-300 ban was a political decision and these systems are not actually subject to sanctions.” He suggested, “If the Syrian regime is changed by force or if Russia doesn’t like the outcome” of a peaceful transition to a new government, “it most likely will respond by selling S-300s to Iran” (Bloomberg 7/3).
NITC and Sinopec Struggle to Resolve Freight Dispute
Sinopec has nominated 12 million barrels of Iranian crude for delivery in the first 20 days of July, but Iran has no named a vessel to carry out the delivery. As a result of sanctions, China must now rely on National Iranian Tanker Company’s vessels. An Iranian oil official speaking on anonymity said “There is some problem between NITC and (Sinopec’s trading arm) Unipec over the freight issue,” adding, “I hope this can be solved very soon,” (Reuters 7/3).
Technical Talks Begin in Istanbul
Technical talks to discussed unresolved issues after unsuccessful talks in Moscow have begun in Istanbul, even as military exercises continue in Iran. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement, “We hope Iran will seize the opportunity of this meeting to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to meet its international obligations,” (Bloomberg 7/3).
Israeli Defense Minister Sees Iranian “Break-Out” in Several Years
In an interview with Thomas Friedman, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said of the Iranian nuclear “break-out” period, “In my judgment … if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear,” which appeared to be a more distant timeline than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assessment. He added that there were no differences between U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program as there had been in the past (Foreign Policy 7/2).
Iran Prefers a “Win-Win” with the P5+1 Over Confrontation
Iran has said it wants a “win-win” outcome in its talks with the P5+1, adding that the only other choice is confrontation (AP 7/2). Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, “In the talks, the other side has no choice but to find an agreement; otherwise, confrontation will be the alternative. I don’t think that common sense is looking for a confrontation” (AP 7/2).
Iranian Agents Interrogated in Kenya
Two Iranian agents of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, were arrested in Kenya yesterday with 33 pounds of RDX, an explosive, in the city of Mombasa. The two were interrogated by Israeli agents, suggesting their intended targets were Israeli-owned properties in the area of Mombasa (The Telegraph 7/2).
OPEC, Iran Production Down
OPEC production is down for the second month in a row, largely due to a fall in Iranian output. Crude production is down to 31.50 million bpd in June from 31.65 million bpd in May. Iranian production, alone, dropped 150,000 bpd during that time period (WSJ 7/2).
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi has said Iran has discovered new crude reserves near its western Yadavaran oil field, which could add as much as 6 billion barrels to the nation’s recoverable reserves, according to the Oil Ministry’s news agency (Bloomberg 7/3).
UN Drug Watchdog Rebukes Anti-Semitic Speech
Yury Fedotov, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, expressed “dismay and serious concern” in response to Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi’s anti-Semitic comments during a global drug enforcement conference in Tehran last week (Reuters 7/3).
UANI Campaign Against Lebanese Banking Sector
New York-based United Against Nuclear Iran is putting pressure on Wall Street and European investors to abandon holdings in Lebanese debt and securities, claiming that the Lebanese system is being used by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to launder money and evade international sanctions. The letter accuses Lebanon of being a “sovereign money launderer”. There are, however, concerns that Washington’s allies in Lebanon could be harmed if Beirut’s financial position in the region is weakened (WSJ 7/2).
Berman Asks that Tanzania Stop Reflagging Iranian Ships
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) has sent a letter to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete asking that Tanzania stop reflagging Iranian oil tankers with the Tanzanian flag, which has allowed Iranian vessels to continue transporting crude exports despite sanctions (WSJ 7/2).
Repair Normalizes Turkey-Iran Gas Flow
Iran has renewed normal gas flow to Turkey on Monday following an explosion of the pipeline last week (Reuters 7/2).
-“Why the Next Round of Iran Nuclear Talks Could Yield Results”
Ali Vaez writes for Al-Monitor that expectations for P5+1 talks in Istanbul, which start today, should be higher because the hype is lower:
It was during the third meeting in Moscow that for the first time the negotiating parties engaged in substantive discussions over their proposed packages. No agreement was reached, but in retrospect the diplomatic march has followed a logical path: gradually moving from stagnation and no dialogue to a clearer understanding of the other side’s perspectives. Although the two parties remain poles apart, getting rid of chimerical expectations could be an achievement in itself. Tehran now knows that the damaging momentum of sanctions cannot be stifled with a few reversible confidence building measures. Similarly, Washington and Brussels have realized that while sanctions are taking their toll, they are unlikely to force Iran to compromise.
It appears that the decision to continue the discussion at a lower level emanates from this sense of realism. But even if it was an eleventh-hour attempt to buy time and stave off an Israeli military attack, the series of sporadic and high-level meetings had slender chance for success. Short and haphazard sittings among senior representatives left too many gaps, which were filled with posturing and political brinksmanship in the interregnum between the talks. In contrast, technical meetings can take place in a less charged atmosphere. As such, they could offer a suitable avenue for essential duologue between Iranian and American negotiators, without the fear of stirring up a political hornet’s nest back home.
Read the full article at Al-Monitor
– “EU oil embargo could radicalise Iran further and lead to war”
Milad Jokar in Public Service Europe puts current US-Iranian tensions into a historical context, discussing the destabilization and radicalization engendered by previous American interventions in Iran:
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Ultimately, the British were successful. Mossadegh was removed from office and replaced by a more malleable monarchy that accepted an international consortium in the AIOC. This success, however, was short-sighted and unsustainable. It helped light the fuse of a bomb that would explode just two and a half decades later in 1979 with a revolution, which would itself bring a hostage crisis and eight-year Iraq-Iran war that killed almost one million people. The sanctions and coup d’état were a devastating mistake that misjudged the will of the Iranian people and was a major factor in the emergence of a radicalised version of Iranian independence that still haunts us to this day.
So will history repeats itself? With a new oil embargo now in effect – the EU and the US appear to be headed down a similarly disastrous path that will further radicalise Iran’s power structure and exacerbate further tensions and instability. History has demonstrated that an oil embargo is an extremely uncertain move that can spin escalation out of control. More worrying is that as the west escalates the dispute, Tehran will respond in kind – as the last three decades have demonstrated.