Bloomberg: Gulf States Are Backpedaling on Iran

Bloomberg: Gulf States Are Backpedaling on Iran

Source

By Staff, Bloomberg

An expanded soccer tournament, a direct flight, clandestine meetings and a pledge to release prisoners of war; diplomacy is breaking out as Gulf Arab nations back away from a Donald Trump-inspired confrontation with Iran. And the signs are everywhere.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain played their first games of the 2019 Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar after a last-minute decision to take part.

Meanwhile, Oman is quietly hosting high-level meetings, and even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hinted at direct channels with the UAE.

Spooked by the prospect of a catastrophic war with Iran and its allies across the region, Gulf monarchies are in the midst of a strategic rethink. The UAE, whose economic model relies in large part on its international links, quickly realized it had most to lose from a military escalation. It had pulled out most of its troops from Yemen by the end of a turbulent summer that saw oil tankers targeted and a US drone downed in the Gulf without significant American response.

While the humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the war on Yemen trained an unwelcome spotlight on Saudi Arabia, it took a brazen strike on Saudi oil installations – which knocked out half the country’s crude production – to ram home the risks and prove that Trump was not about to ride to his allies’ rescue.

“The attacks shattered any illusion of this magical US security umbrella,” said David Roberts, an assistant professor at King’s College London who studies the Gulf. “It burst the bubble and showed that Iran had the willingness to both do something astonishing like the attack on Aramco facilities and the capability to carry it out.”

In the meantime, the Trump administration withdrew last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], known commonly as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions that have crippled its oil exports.

Rolling back Iran’s power remains a priority for the Gulf Arab leadership. There’s an increasing recognition, however, that no one stands to gain from a military escalation in the world’s top oil-exporting region.

In search of a breakthrough, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, shuttled between Tehran and Riyadh in October. He met Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Sheikh Hassan Rouhani, as well as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman [MBS], describing talks as “encouraging.”

As they explore ways forward, Gulf States are moving at different speeds.

The UAE broke with the US and Saudi Arabia by not naming Iran as the culprit behind attacks in May and June on oil tankers as they sailed toward the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s foremost oil shipping chokepoint.

It sent coast guard officials to Iran for the first time in six years and Rouhani hinted at other meetings with senior UAE officials. “We’re moving toward improved relations,” he said Oct. 14. Saudi Arabia is catching up.

However, where the US holds back, others are crowding in. Russian President Vladimir Putin has forged a partnership with Iran, created an oil alliance with Saudi Arabia and built ties with Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who was warned by the US last month against plans to purchase Russian jets.

Putin traveled to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in October after visits by the Saudi king and the UAE’s de-facto leader Mohammad bin Zayed to Moscow. The two Gulf countries and Russia have signed deals valued at billions of dollars.

For Iran’s Rouhani, the case for regional engagement is obvious.

“Don’t you know that Iran is going to stay here and we will remain neighbors throughout history?” he has said, referring to Iran’s Arab neighbors. “Trump will only be around for a few years and will go back to whatever it was he was doing.”

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Iranian tanker previously detained in Gibraltar allegedly offloads oil in Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:15 P.M.) – The Iranian oil tanker, ADRIAN DARYA (previously Grace 1), that was previously detained in Gibraltar has allegedly offloaded its cargo in Syria, the Middle East Eye reported.

According to the Middle East Eye, the ADRIAN DARYA offloaded at least 55 percent of its cargo, a similar claim made to Al-Masdar from a Lebanese journalist that asked to remain anonymous.

The journalist added that the cargo on the ADRIAN DARYA oil tanker is worth approximately $130 million (U.S.).

At the same time, a Syrian source in Damascus told Al-Masdar that the oil was delivered using several small ships. He said the ships later moved the oil to the Syrian port-city of Baniyas in the Tartous Governorate.

Earlier this week, the ADRIAN DARYA was tracked off the coast of Baniyas; however, its fate was unknown at that time, as there were reports that it was heading to both Turkey and Lebanon.

Another Iranian ship named the SAVIOR was also tracked off the coast of Syria before it turned off its GPS. The vessel’s destination was supposed to be Port Said in Egypt.

The Iranian vessel was last tracked off the coast of Syria before it turned off its GPS.Credit: Marine Traffic

These reports remain unconfirmed at this time, as neither Iran nor Syria has made any statement on the alleged oil delivery.

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Gibraltar releases Iran-operated tanker despite US pressure

Press TV

Thu Aug 15, 2019 02:40PM [Updated: Thu Aug 15, 2019 04:35PM ]

This file photo taken on July 20, 2019, shows Gibraltar defense police officers guarding the Iranian-operated oil tanker Grace 1 as it sits anchored after being seized last month by British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar, southern Spain. (Photo by Reuters)

This file photo taken on July 20, 2019, shows Gibraltar defense police officers guarding the Iranian-operated oil tanker Grace 1 as it sits anchored after being seized last month by British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar, southern Spain. (Photo by Reuters)

Gibraltar’s government has released an Iranian-operated supertanker, which was seized by British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4, despite pressure from the United States for the vessel’s continued detainment.

“Authorities in Gibraltar have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions,” Reuters quoted the Gibraltar Chronicle as reporting on Thursday.

According to the report, the chief justice of Gibraltar’s supreme court, Anthony Dudley, said there was no US application currently before the court.

Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said that since Iran had guaranteed in writing that the destination of the Grace 1 would not be a country “subject to European Union sanctions… there are no longer reasonable grounds to suspect that the detention of the Vessel is required.”

Spain’s Foreign Ministry reported after the incident that the UK had seized the vessel at the request of the US, which has been trying to trouble Iran’s international oil vessels as part of its campaign of economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.

Gibraltar Chronicle

@GibChronicle

Authorities in have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1m barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

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Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar said that the US had applied to seize the Iranian-operated oil tanker after British media reported that the vessel’s release was imminent following a set of diplomatic exchanges between Tehran and London.

“The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered,” the Gibraltar government said in a statement.

It added that the “matter will return to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) today.”

A diplomatic dispute broke out between Iran and the UK on July 4, when Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the Arab country.

However, reports show the confiscation took place upon a call by the US.

Tehran rejected London’s claim that the tanker was heading to Syria, slamming the seizure as “maritime piracy.”

Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said Tuesday that Britain was expected to soon free Grace 1, after the two sides exchanged certain documents to pave the way for the supertanker’s release.

Iran’s FM: Trump’s piracy attempt indicates his contempt for law

Soon after the report emerged about the release of the Iranian-operated tanker, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter noting that the seizure of the tanker proved the Trump administration’s contempt for the law.

“This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin’s contempt for the law,” Iran’s top diplomat said.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its —including depriving cancer patients of medicine— the US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas.

This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump admin’s contempt for the law.

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Zarif added that the US effort to prevent release of the Iranian tanker was aimed at abusing “the legal system to steal our property on the high seas.”

He said this vain attempt followed the US failure in achieving its anti-Iranian goals through economic terrorism.

‘US faced humiliating defeat in its effort to prevent tanker’s release’

Following the decision by the Gibraltar court, Iran’s Ambassador to UK Hamid Baeidinejad said in a tweet on his official Twitter page that the decision by the officials of Gibraltar put an end to 40 days of illegal seizure of the tanker, which carries the Iranian oil.

Hamid Baeidinejad@baeidinejad

لحظاتی پیش با تصمیم مقامات جبل الطارق و تایید دادگاه، نفتکش حامل نفت ایران از توقیف غیرقانونی آزاد گردید.کشورمان درتمامی۴۰ روز گذشته بامشارکت نهادهای ذیربط داخلی تحت مدیریت وزارت خارجه گفتگوهای مستمری در سطح سیاسی،حقوقی و فنی با طرف انگلیسی برای رفع این اقدام غیرقانونی انجام داد.

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“Up to the last minute, the United States tried in vain to prevent the release of the tanker, but was faced with a humiliating defeat,” Iran’s UK envoy added.

Hamid Baeidinejad@baeidinejad

آمریکا با تلاشهای مذبوحانه ی آخرین لحظه ی خود قصد داشت مانع رفع توقیف نفتکش شود که با شکست تحقیرآمیزی مواجه شد.
با تلاشهای روزهای گذشته تمام مقدمات و تمهیدات فنی لازم برای حرکت نفتکش به دریای آزاد نیز تامین شده است و کشتی بزودی منطقه ی جبل الطارق را ترک خواهد نمود.

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Baeidinejad stated that all preliminary steps have been taken to ensure the tanker’s movement toward free waters and “the vessel will soon leave the Gibraltar region.”
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Iran: UK to Release Iranian Oil Tanker Soon

By Staff- Agencies

Iran revealed on Tuesday that its oil tanker Grace 1 that was seized by the UK in Gibraltar’s waters in July is going to be released in the near future.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the deputy director of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran for maritime affairs, Jaleel Eslami, said the UK is going to let Iran’s supertanker go.

The UK has seized Iran’s supertanker deliberately, he deplored, adding that the documents on the settlement of the issue have already been exchanged between Iran and the UK.

“They [the UK officials] have voiced willingness for the resolution of the problem,” Eslami stated.

He said the Iranian oil tanker will soon be released and resume sailing freely with the flag of Iran.

Following Iran’s move to capture a British oil tanker that had violated the maritime law in the Strait of Hormuz, the US and the UK tried to carry out a plan for restrictions on maritime traffic in the strait, but their ploy ended in failure after it was given the cold shoulder by other countries, Eslami added.

On July 4, the British Royal Marines seized the giant Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar for trying to take oil to Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned London that it will definitely pay the price for the illegal seizure of Grace 1 in international waters.

Gibraltar Says to Ease Standoff with Iran over Tanker Seizure

Gibraltar on Tuesday said it plans to de-escalate tensions with Iran over the seizure of Grace 1 supertanker, reinvigorating hopeful speculations that it might release the large vessel soon.

Gibraltar announced on Tuesday it was seeking to de-escalate issues arising with Iran since the detention of the Grace 1 tanker 40 days ago.

Calling seizure of Grace 1 as “lawful”, a spokesman for Gibraltar said “we continue to seek to de-escalate issues rising since the detention”, adding that the current detention order on the vessel expires on Saturday night.

Fars News Agency@EnglishFars

Captured-Tanker Captain: British Troops Used Excessive Force Against Unarmed Crewhttp://fna.ir/dbboh7 

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See Fars News Agency’s other Tweets
In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria “in violation” of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Iran condemned the “illegal move” of London and described it as “tantamount to piracy”. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, rejecting London’s claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran’s oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, “sabotage operations” on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.

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British Marines Used ‘Excessive Force’ While Seizing Iranian-operated Tanker – Captain

By Staff, Agencies

The captain of an Iranian-operated supertanker that has been seized by the UK said the British marines used excessive force while detaining the vessel in the Strait of Gibraltar off Spain.

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, the captain, an Indian national, said he received a radio call for police to board his ship and that he lowered the ladder at the time of the incident on July 4.

But instead of police boarding, he said, a military helicopter landed on the ship in “a very dangerous move,” and about 30 marines disembarked.

He said the marines then acted aggressively even though the crew was unarmed.

“How do you come on a ship like this with armed forces and such brute force? For what reason?” he said.

He said he identified himself as the captain, but the marines ignored him and instead had his unarmed crew kneel at gunpoint, shouting “Look forward, look forward!”

“They didn’t care whether I was master… there was no regulations… we had 28 unarmed crew. I was in a state of shock, everybody was in a state of shock,” the captain said.

The marines could have boarded the ship and simply told him he had been arrested, he said.

This is while Gibraltar police had earlier claimed that “minimum force” was used to detain the vessel.

The British naval forces seized the supertanker Grace 1 on the allegation that it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of the European Union [EU]’s unilateral sanctions on the Arab country.

Iran denied that the vessel was heading for Syria, and Spain later said that London had ordered the confiscation at the request of the United States, which has been trying to hamper Iran’s international oil sales.

Tensions escalated quickly between Tehran and London after the illegal seizure.

Later in the month, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker sailing in the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf because it refused to stop after hitting an Iranian fishing boat, a violation of international maritime rules.

Tehran has sternly cautioned London against attempting further provocation.

Britain has, however, dispatched two warships — the HMS Duncan and the HMS Montros — to the Gulf under the pretext of trying to “protect” the British ships sailing in the waters.

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ما دور روسيا في «الحرب الناعمة» بين أميركا وإيران في سورية؟

يوليو 29, 2019

د. عصام نعمان

الحرب بين أميركا وإيران متواصلة ومتصاعدة. طابعها الظاهر اقتصادي، لكنها في الواقع متعدّدة الساحات والجوانب. آخر مظاهرها اللافتة ما حدث ويحدث في الجولان السوري. ففي غضون شهر ونصف الشهر شنّت حليفتها «إسرائيل» هجومين على موقعٍ للجيش السوري في تل الحارة يشكّل نقطة استطلاع بصري والكتروني الى مسافة بعيدة داخل الأراضي التي تحتلها قوات العدو في سورية.

يدّعون في «إسرائيل» انّ إيران وحزب الله أقاما، بالتعاون مع سورية، بنية تحتية مكوّنة من مواقع استطلاع ومنشآت استخبارتية لجمع المعلومات التي تخدم تنفيذ عمليات ضدّها. كما تدّعي «إسرائيل» انّ حزب الله ووحدات المقاومة التي يديرها في المنطقة هو مَن يقوم بتنفيذ هذه العمليات. ذلك انّ رجال الحرس الثوري الإيراني ممنوعون، بموجب «الاتفاق» الذي تمّ التوصل إليه بوساطة روسية، من التواجد على بُعد أقلّ من 80 كيلومتراً إلى الشرق من الحدود مع الجولان المحتلّ راجع مقالة المحلل العسكري رون بن يشاي في «Ynet»، 2019/7/24 .

لا يجوز، بطبيعة الحال، الركون الى ما تتقوله وسائل الإعلام العبري، لكن من الأكيد انّ ما تكشفه في هذا المجال، سواء كان صحيحاً او مختلَقاً، يتمّ بموافقة الرقابة العسكرية ويمثّل تالياً وجهة نظر «إسرائيل».

في هذا السياق، كان رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية بنيامين نتنياهو قد كشف في مقابلة مع صحيفة «يسرائيل هَيوم» 2019/7/19 انه في الإجتماع الثلاثي الذي عُقد في نهاية الشهر الماضي بين مستشاري الأمن القومي لأميركا وروسيا و»إسرائيل» في القدس المحتلة جرى التوصل الى اتفاق لإخراج إيران من سورية.

قناةُ التلفزة الإسرائيلية 13 كانت قد نقلت عن مسؤول أميركي رفيع المستوى انّ تل ابيب وواشنطن طالبتا روسيا بضرورة ان يشمل ايّ اتفاق مستقبلي بشأن الوضع في سورية إنسحاباً عسكرياً إيرانياً ليس من سورية فقط بل من لبنان والعراق ايضاً «معاريف» 2019/7/18 . القناةُ نفسها أوضحت أنه لم تتوافر أنباء بشأن الردّ الروسي على المطالب الإسرائيلية والأميركية، لكنها أشارت في الوقت عينه إلى أنه في اثر اللقاء الأمني المذكور، دافع مستشار الأمن القومي الروسي بتروشيف عن إيران وأكد دعم روسيا لوجودها العسكري المستمرّ في سورية.

إلى ذلك، جاء في التحليل العسكري لرون يشاي المُشار اليه آنفاً «انّ قوات الشرطة العسكرية الروسية تقوم بمراقبة المنطقة وتنفيذ الاتفاق فيها». المنطقة المقصودة هي محيط موقع تل الحارة الذي استهدفته «إسرائيل» فجرَ يوم الأربعاء الماضي، والمقصود بالاتفاق ما تزعمه «إسرائيل» عن وجود تفاهم بين أميركا وروسيا و»إسرائيل» يقضي بمنع قوات الحرس الثوري الإيراني من التواجد على بُعد أقلّ من 80 كيلومتراً الى الشرق من الحدود مع الجولان المحتلّ.

كلّ هذه الواقعات والتقوّلات المار ذكرها، سواء كانت صحيحة او مختلَقة، تشير الى انّ ثمة تفاعلات وعمليات تجري في جنوب سورية، والمرجّح أنها تصبّ في مخطط الولايات المتحدة و»إسرائيل» الرامي الى تفادي الحرب بالنار مع إيران بالنظر الى تكلفتها الباهظة، والإستعاضة عنها بتأجيج الحرب الناعمة ومن ضمنها مشاغلة حلفاء إيران، وفي مقدّمهم سورية وحزب الله، بصنوف من المناوشات والضغوط والعمليات العسكرية المحدودة، كلُّ ذلك بقصد تشديد الحرب الإقتصادية على إيران وحلفائها. ذلك انّ إدارة ترامب تظنّ انّ الحرب الاقتصادية بدأت تعطي ثمارها بدليل انّ إنتاج إيران من النفط انخفض من 2,5 مليون برميل يومياً، كما كانت عليه الحال قبل العقوبات، الى أقل من 400 الف برميل يومياً الأمر الذي سيُكره طهران على الرضوخ لمطلب واشنطن بالعودة الى المفاوضات وذلك تفادياً لخروج الناس الفقراء الى الشوارع، بحسب تقديرات واشنطن.

«إسرائيل» المشغولة بانتخاباتها البرلمانية في شهر أيلول/ سبتمبر المقبل تميل قياداتها السياسية والعسكرية الى التسليم بجدوى الحرب الاقتصادية الأميركية، كما تفضّل عدم التصعيد في هذه الآونة تجنّباً لاستفزاز إيران وحلفائها ودفعهم الى ردّ الكيل كيلين. ذلك انّ فريقاً من القياديين السياسيين والعسكريين في الكيان الصهيوني يتخوّفون من ان تكون أطراف محور المقاومة قد تقوّت مؤخراً بما حدث من مجابهات ووقوعات في المنطقة صبّت في مصلحتها. فالناقلات التي جرى نسفها في موانئ الإمارات العربية المتحدة، والناقلة البريطانية التي حجزتها البحرية الإيرانية وجرّتها الى ميناء بندر عباس بعد أن رفعت عليها العلم الإيراني، وإعلان الإمارات عن عزمها سحب قواتها العاملة في جبهات الحرب اليمنية، وتصعيد الحوثيين وحلفائهم حرب الطائرات المسيّرة على القواعد العسكرية والمطارات السعودية في الرياض وأبها، ونجاح حزب الله وسورية في بناء معامل متخصّصة بتأمين دقة تصويب الصواريخ الدقيقة… كلّ هذه الأحداث والإنجازات قد تحمل إيران وحزب الله في حسبان بعض القياديين الإسرائيليين على تصعيد عمليات ميدانية، برية وبحرية، من شأنها إرباك حكومات أميركا وبريطانيا و»إسرائيل» في وقت يمرّ كلٌ منها في ظروف داخلية دقيقة.

غير انّ كلّ هذه التطورات والاحتمالات لا يمكن ان تحجب سؤالاً ملحاحاً يمور في أذهان قادة محور المقاومة السياسيين والميدانيين: ما دور روسيا في كلّ ما يجري، لا سيما في جنوب سورية وشمالها الشرقي وغربها؟ هل هي حليف مشارك، ام حليف مساند، ام مجرد شرطي مراقب لمدى امتثال الأطراف المتحاربة لبنود اتفاقات سياسية وميدانية قيل إنه جرى إقرارها بين دول كبرى وأخرى إقليمية؟

وزير سابق

PEPE ESCOBAR: US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero

July 27, 2019

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News – by special agreement with the author)

PEPE ESCOBAR: US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero

All bets are off in the geopolitical insanity stakes when we have the President of the United States (POTUS) glibly announcing he could launch a nuclear first strike to end the war in Afghanistan and wipe it “off the face of the earth” in one week. But he’d rather not, so he doesn’t have to kill 10 million people.

Apart from the fact that not even a nuclear strike would subdue the legendary fighting spirit of Afghan Pashtuns, the same warped logic – ordering a nuclear first strike as one orders a cheeseburger – could apply to Iran instead of Afghanistan.

Trump once again flip-flopped by declaring that the prospect of a potential war in the Persian Gulf “could go either way, and I’m OK either way it goes,” much to the delight of Beltway-related psychopaths who peddle the notion that Iran is begging to be bombed.

No wonder the whole Global South – not to mention the Russia-China strategic partnership – simply cannot trust anything coming from Trump’s mouth or tweets, a non-stop firefight deployed as intimidation tactics.

At least Trump’s impotence facing such a determined adversary as Iran is now clear: “It’s getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran.” What remains are empty clichés, such as Iran “behaving very badly” and “the number one state of terror in the world” – the marching order mantra emanating from Tel Aviv.

Even the – illegal – all-out economic war and total blockade against Tehran seems not to be enough. Trump has announced extra sanctions on China because Beijing is “accepting crude oil” from Iran. Chinese companies will simply ignore them.

Okay With ‘OK Either Way’

“OK either way” is exactly the kind of response expected by the leadership in Tehran. Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran confirmed to me that Tehran did not offer Trump a “renegotiation” of the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal, in exchange for the end of sanctions: “It’s not a renegotiation. Iran offered to move forward ratification of additional protocols if Congress removes all sanctions. That would be a big win for Iran. But the US will never accept it.”

Dehghan: U.S. bases would be targeted. (Wikimedia Commons)

Marandi also confirmed “there is nothing big going on” between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and tentative Trump administration negotiator Sen. Rand Paul: “Bolton and Pompeo remain in charge.”

The crucial fact is that Tehran rejects a new negotiation with the White House “under any circumstances,” as expressed by Hossein Dehghan, the top military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Dehghan once again made it very clear that in case of any sort of military adventure, every single base of the U.S. Empire of Bases across Southwest Asia will be targeted.

This neatly ties in with Iran’s by now consolidated new rules of engagement, duly detailed by correspondent Elijah Magnier. We are well into “an-eye-for-an-eye” territory.

And that brings us to the alarming expansion of the sanctions dementia, represented by two Iranian ships loaded with corn stranded off the coast of southern Brazil because energy giant Petrobras, afraid of U.S. sanctions, refuses to refuel them.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a fervent Trump groupie, has turned the country into a tropical U.S. neo-colony in less than seven months. On U.S. sanctions, Bolsonaro said, “We are aligned to their policies. So we do what we have to.” Tehran for its part has threatened to cut its imports of corn, soybeans and meat from Brazil – $2 billion worth of trade a year – unless the refueling is allowed.

This is an extremely serious development. Food is not supposed to be — illegally — sanctioned by the Trump administration. Iran now has to use mostly barter to obtain food — as Tehran cannot remit through the CHIPS-SWIFT banking clearinghouse. If food supplies are also blocked that means that sooner rather than later the Strait of Hormuz may be blocked as well.

Beltway sources confirmed that the highest level of the U.S. government gave the order for Brasilia to stop this food shipment.

Tehran knows it well – as this is part of the “maximum pressure” campaign, whose goal is ultimately to starve the Iranian population to death in a harrowing game of chicken.

Chokepoint: The Strait of Hormuz. (Flickr)

How this may end is described by an ominous quote I already used in some of my previous columns, from a Goldman Sachs derivatives specialist:

“If the Strait of Hormuz is closed, the price of oil will rise to a thousand dollars a barrel representing over 45 percent of global GDP, crashing the $2.5 quadrillion derivatives market and creating a world depression of unprecedented proportions.”

At least the Pentagon seems to understand that a war on Iran will collapse the world economy.

And Now for Something Completely Different

But then, last but not least, there’s the tanker war.

Dutch analyst Maarten van Mourik has noted significant discrepancies involving the UK piracy episode in Gibraltar – the origin of the tanker war. The Grace 1 tanker “was pirated by the Royal Marines in international waters. Gibraltar Straits is an international passage, like the Strait of Hormuz. There is only 3 nautical miles of territorial water around Gibraltar, and even that is disputed.”

Mourik adds, “The size of the Grace 1 ship is 300,000 MT of crude oil, it has a maximum draught of about 22.2 meters and the latest draught via AIS indicated that she was at 22.1 meters, or fully laden. Now, the port of Banyas in Syria, which is where the offshore oil port is, has a maximum draft of 15 meters. So, in no way could the Grace 1 go there, without first having to offload elsewhere. Probably a very large quantity to get within max draught limitations.”

Zarif (r.) negotiating nuclear deal with then US Secretary of State John Kerry in July, 2015. (Wikimedia Common)

That ties in with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif refusing on the record to say where Grace 1 was actually heading to, while not confirming the destination was Syria.

The tit-for-tat Iranian response, with the seizure of the Stena Impero navigating under the British flag, is now evolving into Britain calling for a “European-led maritime protection mission” in the Persian Gulf, purportedly to protect ships from Iranian “state piracy.”

Observers may be excused for mistaking it for a Monty Python sketch. Here we have the Ministry of Silly Seizures, which is exiting the EU, begging the EU to embark on a “mission” that is not the same mission of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign. And on top of it the mission should not undermine Britain’s commitment to keep the JCPOA in place.

As European nations never recede on a chance to flaunt their dwindling “power” across the Global South, Britain, Germany and France now seem bent on their “mission” to “observe maritime security in the Gulf,” in the words of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. At least this won’t be a deployment of joint naval forces – as London insisted. Brussels diplomats confirmed the initial muscular request came from London, but then it was diluted: the EU, NATO and the U.S. should not be involved – at least not directly.

Now compare this with the phone call last week between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron, with Tehran expressing the determination to “keep all doors open” for the JCPOA. Well, certainly not open to the Monty Python sketch.

That was duly confirmed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who said Iran will “not allow disturbance in shipping in this sensitive area,” while Iranian vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri rejected the notion of a “joint European task force” protecting international shipping: “These kinds of coalitions and the presence of foreigners in the region by itself creates insecurity.”

Iran has always been perfectly capable, historically, of protecting that Pentagonese Holy Grail – “freedom of navigation” – in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran certainly doesn’t need former colonial powers to enforce it. It’s so easy to lose the plot; the current, alarming escalation is only taking place because of the “art of the deal” obsession on imposing an illegal, total economic war on Iran.

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