Iran


Iran vows to ditch more nuclear curbs in war of words with U.S.

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran said Tuesday it will further free itself from the 2015 nuclear deal in defiance of new American sanctions as U.S. President Donald Trump warned the Islamic republic of "overwhelming" retaliation for any attacks. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have spiraled since last year when Trump withdrew the United States from the deal under which Tehran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The two arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words since Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in what it said was its own airspace, a claim the US vehemently denies. On Monday, Washington stepped up pressure by blacklisting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week. Tehran was defiant on Tuesday, saying the new US sanctions against Iran showed Washington was "lying" about an offer of talks.


Mike Pompeo in Mideast seeks to build coalition against Iran but faces hard sell

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks Monday with the Saudi king and crown prince about countering the military threat from Iran by building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump repudiated last year. With tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20 and Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran's naval commander warned that his forces won't hesitate to down more U.S. drones that violate its airspace. The U.S. has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.


Iran says 'spy drone' violated its airspace in May amid U.S. escalation

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran said on Sunday a "spy drone" had encroached its airspace in May, about a month before it downed an American drone as part of a series of escalatory incidents between Tehran and Washington. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a map saying the U.S.-made MQ9 Reaper drone -- also widely used for carrying out military strikes -- had entered his country's airspace on May 26. Iran shot down a U.S. Global Hawk drone Thursday, saying it had violated its airspace near the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- a claim the United States denies. U.S. President Donald Trump called off a planned retaliatory military strike Friday, saying the response would not have been "proportionate," with Tehran warning any attack would see Washington's interests across the Middle East go up in flames. On Sunday U.S. national security adviser John Bolton cautioned Iran against misinterpreting the last-minute cancellation.


Iran likely at 'inflection point,' launching attacks to change 'status quo,' Defense Intelligence Agency director tells Fox News

FOX News

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., director of Defense Intelligence Agency, gives insight on recent Iranian attacks on tankers and a surveillance drone. EXCLUSIVE – Iran is likely at "an inflection point," and the recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone appear to be part of an effort to change "the status quo," the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told Fox News exclusively. "I'd say that they're probably at an inflection point right now," the director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., explained in his first national TV interview as the leader of the nearly 17-thousand strong agency. Director Ashley said, based on their activity over the last several years, the Iranians would probably say they were in a "favorable" position with their influence over the Iraqi government and the likelihood their longtime regional ally -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- will remain in power. But, Director Ashley -- whose agency's mission is to understand foreign militaries and the operational environment -- said the United States' withdrawal from the Iran deal and subsequent sanctions made a major impact on the regime.


Yemen's Houthi rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Mike Pompeo visit

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in the kingdom Sunday evening as U.S. Secretary of State was on his way to the country for talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia said. Regional tensions have flared in recent days, The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha.


Facing Intensifying Confrontation With Iran, Trump Has Few Appealing Options

NYT > Middle East

President Trump's last-minute decision to pull back from a retaliatory strike on Iran underscored the absence of appealing options available to him as Tehran races toward its next big challenge to the United States: building up and further enriching its stockpile of nuclear fuel. Two weeks of flare-ups over the attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American surveillance drone, administration officials said, have overshadowed a larger, more complex and fast-intensifying showdown over containing Iran's nuclear program. In meetings in the White House Situation Room in recent days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contended that the potential for Iran to move closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon was the primary threat from Tehran, one participant said, a position echoed by Mr. Trump on Twitter on Friday. Left unsaid was that Iran's moves to bolster its nuclear fuel program stemmed in substantial part from the president's decision last year to pull out of the 2015 international accord, while insisting that Tehran abide by the strict limits that agreement imposed on its nuclear activities. Mr. Trump has long asserted that the deal would eventually let Iran restart its nuclear program and did too little to curb its support for terrorism.


Iranian Force Exults in Downing of U.S. Drone With a Feast and a Prayer

NYT > Middle East

Seated on the floor of a villa in northeast Tehran around a tablecloth spread with platters of saffron chicken and rice with barberries, about 30 officials of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and guests gathered Thursday night for a prayerful celebration. "A special blessing for the commander who ordered the attack on the American drone and for the fighters who carried it out," a preacher declared, as recalled by one of the guests present, who said a raucous chorus of "amen" arose from the room. Their success earlier that day at shooting down an unmanned American Global Hawk surveillance drone (list price $131 million) surprised even some leaders of the Revolutionary Guards. They had wondered themselves whether they could hit an American target so high in the sky, according to the guest. In fact, the Revolutionary Guards sought to take out the drone in large part to prove they could do it, according to that guest and four other Iranians, including two senior current members.


Airlines Divert Flights Around Iran After U.S. Drone Is Shot Down

NYT > Middle East

Several international airlines were diverting planes from flying over the Strait of Hormuz and parts of Iran on Friday, a day after the Iranian military shot down an American surveillance drone and the United States went to the brink of launching a retaliatory strike. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order early Friday that prohibited all American flights in Tehran-controlled airspace above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman because of "heightened military activities and increased political tensions." The agency said that flight operations in the area were prohibited "until further notice." United Airlines said in a statement that after a security assessment, it had suspended flights between Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and Mumbai, India, that typically fly through Iranian airspace. The German airline Lufthansa said in an emailed statement that its planes would not fly over the Strait of Hormuz and that the diversion area was likely to expand.


Drone may have tracked tanker

The Japan Times

DUBAI - The "flying object" that flew over a Japanese tanker before it was rocked by a blast in strategic waters in the Middle East earlier this month could have been a reconnaissance drone, experts have said. The owner of the Kokuka Courageous said the tanker's crew saw a "flying object," just before a blast that caused a fire on board the vessel, sparking a crisis between Washington and Tehran. "The crew members are saying that they were hit by a flying object. They saw it with their own eyes," Yutaka Katada, head of Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, said the day after the mysterious June 13 attack. "We have received a report saying that something seems to have flew in, there was an explosion and it created a hole in the body of the ship," he told reporters in Tokyo.


Last-minute reversal on Iran strike showcases Trump's confusion

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - Sebastian Smith and Jerome Cartillier Donald Trump wants to be warlike and he wants to avoid war -- and late Thursday, with U.S. bombers poised to unleash explosive fury on Iran, those contradictory impulses came to a head. The surprise revelation that Trump ordered the bombing of Iran in retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, only to pull back at the last minute, encapsulates the paradox at the heart of the White House foreign policy over the past two years. One is caution, believing that endless, repeated wars have been too costly for the United States," said Rob Malley, a former advisor to President Barack Obama who heads the International Crisis Group. "The other instinct is to look like someone strong, who can't be pushed around." Many days, Trump resembles a geopolitical John Wayne, a swaggering global sheriff out to duel with rivals like China and old allies alike. And even if the 45th president famously managed to avoid serving in his generation's big war, Vietnam, he revels in his role as commander-in-chief. He rarely seems happier than when boasting about the billions of dollars spent on "rebuilding" the military or talking lovingly about the latest, deadliest weapon system. But Thursday evening in Washington, with U.S. forces on the verge of striking three sites in Iran, that hawkish version of Trump suddenly transformed into Trump the dove. "We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die.