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Iranian Tanker Showdown Heads To Turkey

Iranian Tanker Showdown Heads To Turkey

The Iranian tanker which had been detained for the past five weeks in Gilbraltar has suddenly switched its ship data to show it is headed to a Turkish port, instead of arriving at waters off southern Greece, as previously planned. 

Reuters has cited real-time ship tracking website MarineTraffic to show the change in the Adrian Darya’s (formerly called Grace 1) destination. This after the US State Department threatened that should Greece provide any aid or facilities to the vessel carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, it would be tantamount to “material support to terrorism”. 

The Unites States says the tanker is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and thus deems any state’s interaction with it support of a formally designated terrorist group. There’s still an active US seizure warrant for the vessel. 

The Adrian Darya (formerly called Grace 1) supertanker’s destination is now southern Turkey. File image.

While the vessel never planned to actually enter a Greek port, listed as the port of Kalamata — especially given the overladen supertanker sits too low in the water — it’s been widely reported that a ship-to-ship transfer of the oil was to occur off its southern coast. 

A US Statement Department statement issued Monday had warned Greece’s help could be considered “providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization” — this according to a State Department official who spoke to Reuters.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Warns US: Don’t Interfere With Tanker’s Passage, Mulls Naval Escort

Iran Warns US: Don’t Interfere With Tanker’s Passage, Mulls Naval Escort

With the Grace 1 now released after two failed attempts of Washington to bring the Iranian tanker under US custody, since renamed the Adrian Darya and flying the Iranian flag, Tehran officials are still refusing to confirm its ultimate destination where it will offload its 2.1 million barrels of oil.

On Monday Iran’s foreign ministry issued new warnings to the United States not to mount any new attempt to seize the tanker. “If this is done or even stated, it is a threat to free shipping,” a spokesman said. “Through its official channels, and especially the Swiss embassy, Iran has warned U.S. officials not to make the mistake of doing so, as they face bad consequences.”

….and there she goes! After 46 days in Gibraltar Waters sparking an international incident with Iran, the Adrian Darya, formerly the Grace 1, is leaving…

Embedded video

Per a breaking Bloomberg report, Iran issued a formal warning to the US via Switzerland to not interfere with the ship’s passage through international waters. 

Furthermore, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at a press conference in Helsinki while attending diplomatic meetings in Finland that Iran cannot be “very transparent” about the tanker’s destination due to US sanctions

He said the US is trying “bully others from purchasing our oil” but expressed hope the Gibraltar court’s release of the tanker would serve to deescalate tensions, according to Bloomberg

The Adrian Darya’s shipping tracking data shows it intends to head to Kalamata, Greece, with an arrival date of Aug. 25, according to reports, where it’s likely to change crew and get fresh supplies. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Unveils Seizure Warrant For Iran’s Grace 1 Tanker

US Unveils Seizure Warrant For Iran’s Grace 1 Tanker

Apparently the month long saga of the Grace-1 is not at all over, and may now seriously escalate even after it was set free from custody. Just as the Iranian supertanker was released from custody off Gibraltar and is preparing to make its way into the Mediterranean, a seizure warrant filed by the US Department of Justice was unsealed in a US district court late Friday. 

Documents allege “a scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the DoJ said in a statement.

The seizure warrant and forfeiture complaint alleges the now Iranian-flagged tanker along with its over two million barrels of oil aboard it and $995,000 “are subject to forfeiture,” citing terrorism forfeiture statutes, and bank fraud and money laundering. 

The Grace-1, now renamed by Iran the Adrian Darya. Image source: Reuters

“The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1,” US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu said in a press release. “A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments.”

The warrant is addressed to “the United States Marshal’s Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer.”

According to Reuters, the Grace 1 – now renamed the Adrian Darya after Iran began flying its flag over the previously Panamanian-flagged tanker – may not have made it far though it was filmed moving on Friday. “The tanker shifted its position on Friday, but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail soon,” the report said.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russia’s Sound Proposal for Gulf Peace

Russia’s Sound Proposal for Gulf Peace 

There is an eminently reasonable and feasible way to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf, and to secure peace. The principles of multilateralism and international law must be adhered to. It seems almost astounding that one has to appeal for such obvious basic norms.

Fortunately, Russia has presented a roadmap for implementing a security concept in the vital waterway based on the above principles.

Russia’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, outlined a possible international coalition to provide security for commercial shipping through the strategically important Persian Gulf. The narrow outlet accounts for up to 30 per cent of all globally shipped oil on a daily basis. Virtually every nation has a stake in the safe passage of tankers. Any disruption would have huge negative consequences for the world economy, impacting all nations.

The Russian proposal, which has been submitted to the UN Security Council, is currently being considered by various parties. Crucially, the security concept put forward by Moscow relies on the participation of the Gulf nations, including Iran. Rather than being led by an outside power, the Russian proposal envisages a region-led effort.

This multilateral arrangement for cooperation between nations is solidly within the principles of the UN Charter and international law. Potentially, it can build trust and positive relations, and thereby reduce the climate of tensions and uncertainty which have intensified over recent months, primarily between the United States and Iran.

Washington has blamed Iran for several sabotage incidents on commercial shipping since June. The Americans have not provided any proof for their claims. Iran, for its part, denies any malfeasance and instead has pointed to “malign conspiracy”aimed at stoking tensions, or worse, precipitate an all-out military confrontation between the US and Iran. Significantly, too, the problem of alleged sabotage and danger to shipping followed the increased deployment of US forces in the region during May, ostensibly to counter anticipated “Iranian aggression”.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Smoke Will Rise From Tel Aviv”: Iran Warns Israel Against Joining US Maritime Coalition

“Smoke Will Rise From Tel Aviv”: Iran Warns Israel Against Joining US Maritime Coalition

The same day that Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a formal statement warning that any Israeli involvement in the proposed US-led joint maritime coalition in the Gulf is a “clear threat” to Iran’s national security, a separate statement from a senior government official has threatened war would engulf Israel should it send boats into the Strait of Hormuz.

Senior Advisor to the Iranian Parliament, Speaker Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said Friday that “smoke will rise from Tel Aviv” should Israel joint the United States’ maritime patrol in the gulf.

Image source: AFP

“If Israel enters the Strait of Hormuz, it will be engulfed in the wrath of the region and its smoke will rise from Tel Aviv,” the senior official threatened in a statement posted on Twitter.

According to Reuters, Israeli media had quoted Foreign Minister Israel Katz early in the week as confirming discussions were underway among top defense officials over possibly joining a US maritime protection initiative in the Persian Gulf.

Israel’s role could come down to intelligence-sharing, however, given the explosive potential for conflict should its forces actually deploy in the region. Israeli officials have yet to confirm nor deny the reports. 

Abdollahian’s statement explained further: “Iran has a vital role in the security of the Strait of Hormuz. Any US-led military coalition in the strait is a repetition of Iraq and Afghanistan occupation and escalation of insecurity in the region.”

Iran’s leaders have repeatedly warned that only its forces can secure the vital narrow oil shipping waterway, and have said stepped up western patrols will only destabilize the region. 

The Foreign Ministry has warned this week that Iran’s military reserves the right to “counter this threat and defend its territory,” while referring to any hostile foreign powers on or near its territory. 

Forget Iran, Maximum Pressure Has Shifted to China

Forget Iran, Maximum Pressure Has Shifted to China

In the past week the pressure on China by the U.S. has escalated daily. Since the trade delegation came back from China with lunch barely digested the Trump Administration has gone into over drive on demonizing China here at home.

From finally declaring China a currency manipulator after years of threats on Monday the latest is now a planted story in Axios that Vice-President Mike Pence bringing forth a list of Chinese officials to sanction for Human Rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Act.

This is based on a lie, of course. A lie helped along by Bob Fu, the head of ChinaAid, an NGO working, nominally, to alleviate the horrors of the Chinese government. Or, at least, that’s what you’re supposed to believe.

Vice President Mike Pence has signaled that the Trump administration is open to using the Global Magnitsky Act to sanction top officials in Xinjiang, China, where more than 1 million Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps, according to a Chinese religious freedom advocate who met with Pence at the White House Monday. 

Notice how Axios still states this as fact, that the Chinese are running 1 million people in concentration camps, even though the story was quickly debunked as the rogue statement by U.N. committee member, Gay MacDougall, who claimed this 1 million number was real.

It’s not true, because if it was someone credible would have confirmed it. But it’s a lie that has been breathlessly repeated for the past year to create the illusion of reality so that now Pence can pile on to further inflame the ‘China is evil’ story to hapless Trump supporters giddy at their chosen savior’s tough stance on China.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Declining Empire of Chaos Is Going Nuts Over Iran

The Declining Empire of Chaos Is Going Nuts Over Iran 

The transition in recent years from a unipolar to a multipolar world order has created international tensions that seem to threaten to escalate into clashes between regional and global powers.

In 2014 we were almost at the point of no return in Ukraine following the coup d’etat supported and funded by NATO and involving extremist right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. The conflict in the Donbass risked escalating into a conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation, every day in the summer and autumn of 2014 threatening to be doomsday. Rather than respond to the understandable impulse to send Russian troops into Ukraine to defend the population of Donbass, Putin had the presense of mind to pursue the less direct and more sensible strategy of supporting the material capacity of the residents of Donbass to resist the depredations of the Ukrainian army and their neo-Nazi Banderite thugs. Meanwhile, Europe’s inept leaders initially egged on Ukraine’s destabilization, only to get cold feet after reflecting on the possibility of having a conflict between Moscow and Washington fought on European soil.

With the resistance in Donbass managing to successfully hold back Ukrainian assaults, the conflict began to freeze, almost to the point of a complete ceasefire, even as Ukrainian provocations continue to this day.

Tensions were then focussed on Syria, where a mercenary army of at least 200,000 men, armed and trained by the US, UK, Israel, France, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, almost managed to completely topple the country. Russian intervention in 2015 managed to save the country with no time to spare, destroying large numbers of terrorists and reorganizing the Syrian armed forces and training and equipping them with the necessary means to beat back the jihadi waves.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mystery Airstrikes On Iraqi Camp Were Israeli Stealth Jets In “Anti-Iran” Escalation

Mystery Airstrikes On Iraqi Camp Were Israeli Stealth Jets In “Anti-Iran” Escalation

Regional experts had immediately suspected the possibility of an Israeli air raid after a pro-Iranian militia arms depot in Iraq was obliterated during a mysterious attack on July 19, and another reported follow-up attack this past Sunday.

The attack happened around 80 km from the Iranian border and 40 km north-east of Baghdad at Camp Ashraf, former home to the Iranian exile group Mojahedin-e Khalq, but now reportedly in the hands of Iranian intelligence and paramilitaries. 

Speculation was rampant in the days that followed as to the source of the ‘mysterious’ air strikes – or what was also initially reported as a drone strike – however, some pointed the finger at an American operation targeting Iranian militants inside Iraq.

Israeli F-35 stealth fighters. File image: Israeli Defense Forces

But now Israeli and regional media, citing western diplomats, have confirmed it was a nearly unprecedented Israeli operation on Iraqi soil — representing a major escalation and expansion of Israel’s anti-Iran operations. 

Israel reportedly launched a total of two separate air strike operations on the camp using its US-supplied F-35 stealth fighter jets. 

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

Israel has expanded the scope of its anti-Iranian attacks and struck targets in Iraq, the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Tuesday.

According to the report, which cites anonymous Western diplomats, Israel struck Iranian warehouses storing arms and missiles at Camp Ashraf, north-east of Baghdad, twice in the past month.

On July 19, the base was struck by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet, the sources added. The base was allegedly attacked again on Sunday.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“No Quid Pro Quo”: UK Rejects Iran’s Offer To Swap Seized Tankers

“No Quid Pro Quo”: UK Rejects Iran’s Offer To Swap Seized Tankers

Britain this week has rejected an Iranian offer to swap each other’s captured tankers, as the crisis involving the British-flagged Stena Impero and the Iranian oil filled Grace 1 previously captured by Royal Marines off Gibraltar on July 4 has remained deadlocked. 

Most observers agree it’s virtually a “foregone conclusion” that the tankers will ultimately be traded for one another, however, UK officials are still stalling over what they say are the norms of international law.  

“There is no quid pro quo,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asserted on BBC radio. “This is not about some kind of barter. This is about the international law and the rules of the international legal system being upheld and that is what we will insist on.”

UK Royal Marine aboard the Grace 1. Image released by the Ministry of Defence, via BBC.

In boarding the Grace 1 on July 4 just as it sought to enter the Mediterranean, British authorities claimed to have thwarted illegal EU sanctions busting related to Syria, as the Grace 1 was reportedly bound for the Syrian port of Baniyas to offload some 2 million barrels of oil to the fuel-starved, war-torn country. Leaders in Tehran accused the UK of simply doing America’s bidding, however. 

Last Wednesday Iran’s president initially suggested an equal good faith swap of sorts. He proposed that should the UK release the Grace 1, Iran would do likewise and immediately release the Stena Impero. 

“If Britain steps away from the wrong actions in Gibraltar, they will receive an appropriate response from Iran,” Rouhani said Wednesday addressing a weekly cabinet meeting. The words came the same day Britain had reportedly sent a mediator to Iran seeking to negotiate the ship’s return and its 23 detained crew members. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Slams “Hostile Message” As 2nd UK Warship Arrives In Crowded Gulf

Iran Slams “Hostile Message” As 2nd UK Warship Arrives In Crowded Gulf

On the same day the large British warship HMS Duncan arrived in the Persian Gulf to assist the MHS Montrose in providing safety escorts to UK-flagged ships against the threat of Iranian seizure in the vital oil transit waterway, Tehran has again slammed the UK-led initiative of a joint European fleet patrolling the region. 

An Iranian government spokesman warned on Sunday that a joint European task force operating so close to Iran’s coast “sends a hostile message” and is “provocative and will increase tensions,” according to semi-official Fars News Agency. The rhetoric is nothing new; however what is new and poses immense danger for the prospect of stumbling toward major conflict is the frequency of US and UK warships’ movement in the increasingly “crowded” narrow Strait of Hormuz

.@HMSDuncan has arrived in the Gulf, where she will support the safe passage of British-flagged ships along with @HMS_MONTROSE, which has already accompanied 35 merchant vessels. Read more: http://ow.ly/5zQn50vegZY 

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Britain’s controversial call for a “European-led maritime protection mission”quickly gained the support last week of keyEU nations France and Germany, with Denmark and The Netherlands also joining the initiative. 

The BBC reports that the HMS Montrose has thus far escorted 35 vessels through the strait, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The larger HMS Duncan frigate will further join what Britain has dubbed “freedom of navigation” operations not just for UK vessels but “also our international partners and allies,” according Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

This as London has kept up pressure for the release of the still impounded Stena Impero, and after Iran’s leaders last week appeared to offer an “exchange” of vessels of sorts, demanding the release of the Grace 1, which had been seized by Royal Marines early this month off Gibraltar. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

What on Earth were the British politicians and officials thinking who gave the go-ahead for the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar on 4 July? Did they truly believe that the Iranians would not retaliate for what they see as a serious escalation in America’s economic war against them?

The British cover story that the sending of 30 Royal Marines by helicopter to take over the tanker was all to do with enforcing EU sanctions on Syria, and nothing to do with US sanctions on Iran, was always pretty thin.

The Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, has said categorically that Britain took over the tanker “following a request from the United States to the United Kingdom”.

One fact about Iranian foreign policy should have been hardwired into the brain of every politician and diplomat in Britain, as it already is in the Middle East, which is that what you do to the Iranians they will do to youat a time and place of their own choosing.

The US and UK backed Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in 1980, but this was not unconnected – though it was impossible to prove – with the suicide bombing that killed 241 US service personnel in the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Commentators seeking an explanation for the UK’s seizure of the Grace 1 suggest that it was suckered into the action by super hawks in the US administration, such as the national security adviser John Bolton.

But, given the inevitability of the Iranian reaction against British naval forces too weak to defend British-flagged tankers, the British move looks more like a strategic choice dictated by a lack of other options.

Confrontation with the EU over Brexit means that Britain has no alternative but to ally itself ever more closely to the US.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tanker Seizures and the Threat to the Global Economy from Resurgent Imperialism

Tanker Seizures and the Threat to the Global Economy from Resurgent Imperialism 


The British seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar was illegal. There is no doubt of that whatsoever. The Iranian response to the seizure of its tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, by the seizure of a British Tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, was also illegal, though more understandable as a reaction. The implications for the global economy of the collapse of the crucial international law on passage through straits would be devastating.

It may seem improbable that the UK and or France would ever seek to close the Dover Strait, but in the current crazed climate it is no longer quite impossible to imagine the UK seeking to mess up access to Rotterdam and Hamburg. It is still easier to imagine them seeking to close the Dover Strait against the Russian Navy. Yet the essential freedom of navigation through the Kerch strait, respected by Russia which controls it, is necessary to the survival of Ukraine as a country. For Turkey to close the Bosphorus would be catastrophic and is a historically recurring possibility. Malaysia and Indonesia would cause severe dislocation to Australia and China by disrupting the strait of Malacca and the Suharto government certainly viewed that as an advantage from which it should have the right to seek to benefit, and was a continued nuisance in UN Law of the Sea discussions. These are just a few examples. The US Navy frequently sails through the Taiwan Strait to assert the right of passage though straits.

Keeping the Strait of Hormuz open is perhaps the most crucial of all to the world economy, but I hope that the above examples are sufficient to convince you that the right of passage through straits, irrespective of territorial waters, is an absolutely essential pillar of international maritime law and international order.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero

US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero

Donald Trump says he’s ‘okay either way’, whether there’s war with Iran and Tehran seems to be okay  with that too, warns Pepe Escobar.

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. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses

U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses

Photograph Source: Trending Topics 2019 – CC BY 2.0

Today’s world is at war on many fronts. The rules of international law and order put in place toward the end of World War II are being broken by U.S. foreign policy escalating its confrontation with countries that refrain from giving its companies control of their economic surpluses. Countries that do not give the United States control of their oil and financial sectors or privatize their key sectors are being isolated by the United States imposing trade sanctions and unilateral tariffs giving special advantages to U.S. producers in violation of free trade agreements with European, Asian and other countries.

This global fracture has an increasingly military cast. U.S. officials justify tariffs and import quotas illegal under WTO rules on “national security” grounds, claiming that the United States can do whatever it wants as the world’s “exceptional” nation. U.S. officials explain that this means that their nation is not obliged to adhere to international agreements or even to its own treaties and promises. This allegedly sovereign right to ignore on its international agreements was made explicit after Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright broke the promise by President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand eastward after 1991. (“You didn’t get it in writing,” was the U.S. response to the verbal agreements that were made.)

Likewise, the Trump administration repudiated the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration, and is escalating warfare with its proxy armies in the Near East. U.S. politicians are waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, Iran, and oil-exporting countries that the United States is seeking to isolate if cannot control their governments, central bank and foreign diplomacy.

* Keynote Paper delivered at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, July 21, 2019.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran’s Military Vows Attack On All Regional US Bases If War Starts

Iran’s Military Vows Attack On All Regional US Bases If War Starts

Iran has again rejected the prospect of new negotiations with the White House “under any circumstances,” according to an interview with Supreme Leader Ayotallah Ali Khamenei’s Military Adviser Hossein Dehghan, cited in Al Jazeera.

The Islamic Republic’s top military adviser further warned Iran and its regional allies will target all American bases in the region should the US launch war plans, while reiterating Iran’s ability to block the vital Strait of Hormuz to global oil transit. Everyone must be able to freely transit the Persian Gulf waterway or no one at all, Dehghan warned. 

File photo of US troops in Iraq, via the AP

Yesterday, Iranian vice-president, Eshaq Jahangiri, said that Iran rejects UK-led attempts to establish a “joint European task force” to monitor and patrol the Persian Gulf in order to protect international shipping, countering that it would only bring “insecurity”.

“There is no need to form a coalition because these kinds of coalitions and the presence of foreigners in the region by itself creates insecurity,” he said. And added, “And other than increasing insecurity it will not achieve anything else.” France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark indicated Tuesday they would support a European-led naval mission to ensure international vessels’ safe passage in the gulf. 

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister further informed France directly while in Paris meeting with top French officials including the president, that Iran’s own military forces will “secure” the Strait of Hormuz and will “not allow disturbance in shipping in this sensitive area,” Reuters reported earlier.

Meanwhile, threats and counter threats have continued to fly between London and Tehran, with each demanding the release of their tanker while accusing the other of “piracy”. Early this month the Royal Navy seized the Grace 1, carrying 2 million barrels of oil, off Gibraltar; and in turn Iran last Friday captured the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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