Iran Sends Warships to US Maritime Borders

TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior Iranian Navy commanders announced on Saturday that the country has sent several fleets of warships to the US maritime borders.  ”The Iranian Army’s naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa,” Commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced on Saturday.  The admiral, who is also the commander of the Iranian Army’s 4th Naval Zone said, “Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message.”  In September 2012, Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari reiterated Iran’s plans for sailing off the US coasts to counter the US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.  Sayyari had earlier informed of Tehran’s plans to send its naval forces to the Atlantic to deploy along the US marine borders, and in September 2012 he said that this would happen “in the next few years”.  The plan is part of Iran’s response to Washington’s beefed up naval presence in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is based in Bahrain – across the Persian Gulf from Iran – and the US has conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years.  In September 2011, Sayyari had announced that the country planned to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup “near maritime borders of the United States”.  ”Like the arrogant powers that are present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders,” Sayyari said.  Speaking at a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.  Sayyari had first announced in July, 2011 that Iran was going to send “a flotilla into the Atlantic”.  The Iranian navy has been developing its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.

The Return of the Twelfth Imam

ayatollahIn a fascinating article for FrontPage Magazine titled “Now the Twelfth Imam Can Come,” scholar of Islam Robert Spencer provides a crash course on the nature of Twelver Shi’ite theology, with particular reference to a nuclearizing Iran. Shi’ites believe in the return of the so-called Twelfth Imam who is descended from Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abni Talib, the fourth caliph assassinated in 661 in a succession war, after which the split between Sunnis and Shi’ites eventually became permanent. As Spencer explains, the Shi’ites continued a line of imams, “members of Muhammad’s household and his prophetic heirs. Each one in turn, over two centuries, was poisoned.…According to the traditions of Twelver Shi’ism, the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the twelfth of these Imams, a boy of five years old, disappeared under mysterious and disputed circumstances in the year 874 – but remained alive.” Though communicating with the world through various agents, he entered the state of “occultation” in 941, promising to return when the time would be propitious.  The reigning authority on Twelver Shi’ism is the historian Emmanuel Sivan, who in his magisterial volume on the subject, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics, warned that an integral part of Shi’a Islam’s belief and thought involves the initiating of a planetary conflagration. This belief system posits that Allah’s kingdom will be established on earth by the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, also known as the Mahdi, whose advent can be hastened by creating the right set of circumstances: friction and misunderstanding among the nations and violent upheavals in a welter of blood and fire.

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Officals: Israelis in secret trip to inspect Saudi bases. Could be used as staging ground for strikes against Iran

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TEL AVIV — Israeli personnel in recent days were in Saudi Arabia to inspect bases that could be used as a staging ground to launch attacks against Iran, according to informed Egyptian intelligence officials.  The officials said Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Arab and Persian Gulf countries have been discussing the next steps toward possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.  The officials said the U.S. passed strong messages to Israel and the Saudis that the Americans control radar capabilities over the skies near Iran and that no strike should be launched without permission from the Obama administration.  It was unclear whether the purported visit to Saudi Arabia by Israeli military and intelligence officials signals any real preparation for a strike or if the trip was meant to keep pressure on the West amid Israeli fears about the current deal with Tehran.

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Obama, Countering Critics, Defends Iran Nuclear Deal

SAN FRANCISCO — President Obama said on Monday that “cleareyed, principled diplomacy” had produced the agreement with Iran to stall its nuclear development, pushing back against rising criticism in Congress and from allies like Israel that the pact reached in Geneva was a capitulation. Speaking at a rally in San Francisco, Mr. Obama emphasized what he described as a major achievement in the long-estranged relations with Iran. He spoke as American officials confirmed that Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped finalize the deal on Sunday, had engaged in secret communications with Iran months ago in an effort to improve relations and encourage talks.

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We pay, Iran promises

I wonder how long we’re going to delude ourselves about our ability to coax the genie of nuclear know-how back into a bottle — in other words, continue having illusions about non-proliferation. Once nations have the know-how, the rest is a matter of political and economic circumstances occurring in certain combinations, which over time they’re almost certain to do. This being so, what’s surprising isn’t how many states acquired nuclear weapons since the original five (U.S., U.S.S.R., U.K., France, China) signed the 1968 Non-proliferation Treaty, but how few.  After 45 years, we know only of three confirmed additions to the nuclear club today: India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006). An unconfirmed addition is said be Israel, whose capacity to field nukes may go back to the 1960s. None are signatories to the NPT of 1968, so they aren’t in breach of treaty obligations. For non-nuclear powers, obligations consist essentially of not becoming one, while the five nuclear powers are obliged to share the benefits of peaceful atomic technology with the rest of the members.

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America threatened with ‘heaviest damage in history’

In a pointed message to Washington, the second in just days, an Iranian general has warned of great destruction being delivered to the United States.  “The Americans’ catch-phrase ‘the military option is on the table’ (over the nuclear issue) is a bluff,” said Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces.  “They are aware of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s capabilities. The slightest military mistake against Iran will make the Americans witness the heaviest damage in their history in their own eyes,” the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Monday.

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Iranian influence in Afghanistan alarms analysts

KABUL – Afghan parliamentarians and analysts are concerned about the Iranian regime’s machinations in Afghanistan.  “Iran is quite busy inventing crisis in Afghanistan,” Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, a writer and director of the Regional Study Centre in Kabul, said.  “Iran has two goals,” he told Central Asia Online. “First, it wants to create barriers to Western countries, and second, it wants to build up its own influence by establishing pro-Iran universities, religious seminaries and media outlets.”  Afghan Senator Haji Mohammad Nazir Ahmadzai on Towde Khabare (Hot Talk), a TOLO TV programme, October 26 accused Tehran of supporting insurgents in order to destabilise Afghanistan before its April elections.  Farah Province Deputy Governor Muhammad Younus Rasouli appeared on the same programme and supported Ahmadzai’s views, pointing to evidence of insurgents getting weapons from Iran and border arrests.  The Iranian regime is also using soft “weapons” to build up its influence, Liwal said.  “Iran has invested in Afghan media and supports those outlets if they deliver exaggerated support for its goals,” he said.

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Ayatollah’s illness raises fear of power struggle

CONCERNS are growing in Iran about the health of Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, amid fears of a power vacuum at a critical moment for the Islamic Republic.  Ayatollah Khamenei, 74, Iran’s most powerful man, has not been seen in public for three weeks.  Reports suggest he has had a relapse of a chronic illness.  He has no appointed heir. His death could prompt a power struggle as negotiations with the West over Iran’s nuclear program reach a crucial stage.  Iranian sources claim he collapsed recently during a private meeting and has been convalescing or receiving treatment. His last public appearance was in Tehran on October 5. Loyalists grew concerned when he did not send his customary goodwill message to Iranians departing for the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, a fortnight ago.

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Iranian warships dock at Saudi port

TEHRAN – Iranian naval ships docked on Saturday in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on a mission to project the Islamic republic’s “power on the open seas,” the Fars news agency reported.  The supply ship Kharg and Shaid Qandi, a destroyer, docked in the Red Sea port in line with orders from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it quoted navy commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari as saying. “This mission aims to show the power of the Islamic republic of Iran on the open seas and to confront Iranophobia,” he said, adding that the mission started several days ago and would last 70 to 80 days.  The commander did not give other destinations.  Iran’s navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since last year, deploying vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.  Tehran also sent two ships into the Mediterranean for the first time in February 2011 through the Suez Canal.

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China and Iran: Destined to Clash?

Even as the U.S. considers Iran’s nuclear program as its most immediate threat, a consensus has emerged in the U.S. foreign policy establishment that China’s rise poses the biggest long-term strategic challenge to the country. There is little indication that a similar consensus has taken hold among Iranian elites. It will.  Indeed, as Iran has been preoccupied with the U.S. and its allies over the past decade, China has quietly established a growing presence along all of Iran’s borders. In none of these places are Iran and China’s interests perfectly aligned. In some cases, particularly the Middle East, they are starkly at odds. Consequentially, should Iran avoid a conflict with the U.S. in the next few years, it’s likely to find China to be its most menacing threat in the future.

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Iran Hopes to Join Brics Group to Beat US-led Sanctions

Iran is looking to join the Brics nations in order to subvert US-imposed sanctions which have been crippling the country’s oil-based economy.  Iran, which continues to enjoy a relatively cosy relationship with the Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – despite a severe economic clampdown, has been scouting for opportunities across the world in order to boost its oil resources, the nerve-centre of the country’s economy.  “Iran supports the Brics group and is prepared for membership and presence in Brics’s fund,” said Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister Behrouz Alishiri.  Alishiri was speaking shortly after a bilateral meeting with his Brazilian counterpart. Senior figures from both countries were holding talks on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington.

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Reprisal threats on U.S. interests grow louder

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WASHINGTON – As the Obama administration considers bombing Syria’s capability to launch chemical-weapons attacks, various Middle East groups beyond Syria are speaking out, threatening reprisals against U.S. interests should Washington order an attack.

Such reprisals, in fact, could occur anywhere there are U.S. assets, including Iraq.  Sheikh Watiq al-Battat, leader of Iraq’s Jaysh al-Mukhtar, or Al-Mukhtar army, has vowed to target U.S. interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region using what he describes as “thousands of martyrdom-seeking operations.”  Al-Battat said that he has some 23,000 “fully trained and equipped martyrdom-seeking forces” whom he said “can blow (up) U.S. interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf at any time if the U.S. commits such a stupid act.”  The U.S., he added, will not be “immune from martyrdom-seeking operations” of his fighters.

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Iran threatens brutal attacks on Americans, Obama family if US hits Syria

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As Congress debates whether to support President Obama’s call for a limited strike against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons, Iran is vowing to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime to the hilt and threatening to unleash terrorism should the U.S. strike.  Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Forces, Wednesday told the Assembly of Experts — the body that chooses the supreme leader — that “[w]e will support Syria to the end.”  And in an unprecedented statement, a former Iranian official has warned of mass abductions and brutal killings of American citizens around the world and the rape and killing of one of Obama’s daughters should the United States attack Syria.

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New Iran leader offers glimmer of hope to moderates and the West

TEHRAN, Iran – President Hassan Rouhani’s inaugural speech and proposed cabinet picks offered hope to those within Iran and around the world looking for a change from his hard-line predecessor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.  “I want to restore hope to the Iranian people and fix the economy and get rid of these cruel sanctions,” the moderate cleric said in a speech.  Iran is both under U.N. sanctions and unilateral Western oil and banking sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to build nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is aimed at generating electricity and producing treatments for cancer patients.

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Iran Is Deeply Unpopular, Except Among Asia’s Muslims

As Iranians head to the polls to select a new president, global perceptions of Iran are at an all-time low.  That’s at least according to a new poll by Pew’s Global Attitudes Project, which surveyed views of Iran from 39 countries around the world and found only 20 percent of respondents viewed Iran favorably compared to 59 percent who viewed the country unfavorably. Interestingly, Iran enjoys some of its highest favorability ratings in Muslim-majority countries in the Asia-Pacific.  For the countries in which Iran was viewed unfavorably, two issues stand out: its nuclear program and human rights record. On the former issue, over the past year Chinese have further soured on Iran becoming a nuclear armed power, with Beijing joining the United States, Israel, and the European Union countries in staunch opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Indeed, 62 percent of respondents in China now oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, up from 54 percent in 2012; in Russia, no less than three in every four respondents agree with the majority view of their Chinese counterparts.

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Iran elections: Candidates and rivalries in the frame

The Iranian presidential elections, on 14 June, are now expected to pit three wings of the establishment against each other.  Political parties opposed to the Islamic Republic are boycotting the process for not being free and fair.  However, the regime’s internal factions, which have been locked in bitter power struggles for years, have all put forward candidates.  In Iran, factions are not fully functional political parties but loose networks of influential elements representing institutional and financial interests.  Within the next few weeks the country’s constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, will impose its authoritarian whip by eliminating candidates who are seen to be outside the accepted political discourse.

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