On Sunday morning, at 04:00 am local time, a strong explosion was heard at the United Arab Emirates harbour of al-Fujairah, seriously damaging five cargo vessels – al Marzoqah, al Miraj, al Majd, al Amijal and Khamsa Ashra – but leaving no injuries or spills of chemicals or fuel. Among the four ships were two Saudi Arabia oil tankers. It was a clean, low cost, quick and very efficient operation with an immense result: it put an end to the prospects not only of a war between the US and Iran this summer but also to those of a war between Hezbollah and Israel. The sabotage gave a taste of what could happen to the Middle Eastern countries’ economies and to world imports of oil in case Iran is cornered and attacked. The US and its Middle Eastern allies may not want to imagine what Iran is capable of – even if no tangible proof of sabotage leads to Iran – in case of war. Trump will have to think carefully about his re-election in 2020 if he undertakes a war without any clear horizon or results.
2019-05-13FROM KARBALA TO AL-FUJAIRAH: AN ACT OF SABOTAGE MAY END PROSPECTS OF A SUMMER WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The IRGC naval forces commander has warned that if Iran’s benefits in the Strait of Hormuz, which according to international rules is an international waterway, are denied, it will close the strategic strait. Speaking to Tehran-based Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said that replacing the IRGC commander-in-chief by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution last night had nothing to do with the US’s recent decision against the IRGC.
Having said that, not all tough places are the same. They each present a different set of challenges. I – it reminds me, you would know this as – it’s a bit of an aside. But in terms of how you think about problem sets, I – when I was a cadet, what’s the first – what’s the cadet motto at West Point? You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. (Laughter.) It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses. (Applause.) It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.
The Trump administration added another layer to its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran when it declared the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”—an escalation that exposes to U.S. criminal prosecution anyone supporting the most powerful security services of the Iranian government. “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said, announcing the decision in a statement Monday morning. “This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a FTO.”
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in a hotel in Jerusalem earlier this month, he made a remark that was perhaps the most revelatory of any in his nearly one year in office. An evangelical Christian, Mr. Pompeo had just returned from tours of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the ground where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried, and of tunnels beneath the Western Wall, by the holiest site in Judaism. The interviewer posed a question around a biblical tale about a queen who saved Jews from slaughter by a Persian official: Did Mr. Pompeo think President Trump had been “raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It was remarkable — so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago, if I have the history just right — to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place, and the work that our administration’s done, to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.” White evangelical Christians are a powerful force in the Republican Party. Vice President Mike Pence is a staunch believer and former President George W. Bush is an adherent, too.
The White House has pushed forward a secret program to sabotage Iranian missiles and rockets as part of a campaign to undercut Iran's military, according to administration officials in a report by the New York Times.
As Iranian people struggle for democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law, as well as preserving the national security and territorial integrity of their country, two main groups have emerged among the opposition to Iran’s hardliners, both within Iran and in the diaspora. One group, the true opposition that includes the reformists, religious-nationalists, secular leftists, various labor groups, human rights activists, and others, believes that it is up to the Iranian people living in Iran how to change the political system in their country. This group is opposed to foreign intervention, particularly by the United States and its allies, the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, and the constant threats of military confrontation espoused by John Bolton, President Trump’s national security advisor, and other Iran hawks.
Relations between the two countries, long bound by common interests in oil and security, have strained over what some analysts see as a more assertive Saudi foreign policy.
Upon securing most of its war goals in Syria, Iran appeared to shift its objectives toward establishing a military presence in that country while upgrading Hezbollah's fire precision and effectiveness in Lebanon. But once its Syrian facilities came under increased Israeli fire, Tehran began moving some of these activities into Lebanon, knowing that Israeli strikes would be more complicated there due to the escalation potential. Yet the prospect of Hezbollah acquiring or producing advanced "precision" weapons is Israel's main redline, and could put the parties on a collision course that leads to conflict in Lebanon. This new Policy Note by TWI experts Katherine Bauer, Hanin Ghaddar, and Assaf Orion examines Tehran's objectives, Russia's regional goals, and the way these translate to long-term threats and short-term risks for Israel. If Hezbollah continues working on precision missiles inside Lebanon, Israel may feel compelled to respond one way or another. To avoid a disastrous escalation, the international community will need to plan ahead and take concerted action on several fronts: UNIFIL's shortcomings, increased sanctions on Iran's commercial airlines, U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, ministries headed by Hezbollah officials, and State Department transparency regarding its intelligence on Iran's activities in Lebanon.
An Iranian Kurdish rebel group is the latest faction to jump on Washington’s anti-Tehran bandwagon. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an armed group with communist origins exiled in northern Iraq, registered with the Justice Department late last month as a lobby aiming to “establish solid and durable relations” with the Donald Trump administration. The registration hints at a more public role for a group that has left a digital track record of foreign advocacy on Capitol Hill dating back several years.