Category Archives: Iran

Flynn’s Resignation Won’t Stop Trump Admin From Targeting Iran

Jaisal Noor speaks to Ben Norton, reporter for Alternet’s Grayzone Project, who discusses the fallout from the resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. (The Real News)

Iran Hawks Take the White House

Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

The United States is adding new sanctions on Iran over that country’s alleged misdeeds, and nearly all of those allegations are either out-and-out lies or half-truths. It has a familiar ring to it, as demonizing Tehran has been rather more the norm than not since 1979, a phenomenon that has included fabricated claims that the Iranians killed American soldiers after the U.S.’s armed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. This time around, the administration focused on the perfectly legal Iranian test of a non-nuclear-capable, medium-range ballistic missile and the reported attack on what was initially claimed to be a U.S. warship by allegedly Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi fighters. The ship was later revealed to be a Saudi frigate.

Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, “officially” put Iran “on notice” while declaring that “The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

Ignoring the fact that Iran cannot actually threaten the United States or any genuine vital national interests, the warning and follow-up action from the White House also contradict Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to avoid yet another war in the Middle East, which appears to have escaped Flynn’s notice. The increase in tension and the lack of any diplomatic dialogue mean that an actual shooting war might now be a “false flag,” false intelligence report, or accidental naval encounter away.

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Iran Just Officially Ditched the Dollar in Major Blow to US

Alice Salles reports for Anti-Media:

Image result for Iran To Ditch The DollarFollowing President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the Iranian government announced it would stop using the U.S. dollar “as its currency of choice in its financial and foreign exchange reports,” the local Financial Tribune reported.

Iran governor Valiollah Seif’s central bank announced the decision in a television interview on January 29. The change will take effect on March 21, and it will impact all official financial and foreign exchange reports.

Iran’s difficulties [in dealing] with the dollar,” Seif said, “were in place from the time of the primary sanctions and this trend is continuing,” but when it comes to other currencies, he added, “we face no limitations.”

In a piece published by Forbes, Dominic Dudley contends that this move is significant “in the light of the recent ‘Muslim ban” announced by Trump. Iran nationals were added to the order issued by the current U.S. administration, which prompted the Iranian government to vow to stop issuing visas to U.S. citizens.

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Trump Administration ‘Officially Putting Iran on Notice’, says Michael Flynn

Julian Borger, David Smith, Spencer Ackerman and Saeed Kamali Dehghan report for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump Administration 'Officially Putting Iran on Notice'The Trump administration has said it was “officially putting Iran on notice” in reaction to an Iranian missile test and an attack on a Saudi warship by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen but gave no details about how Washington intended to respond.

The threat was made on Wednesday by the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in his first public statement since taking office.

Speaking in the White House briefing room, Flynn said a missile launch on Sunday and a Houthi attack on a Saudi frigate on Monday underlined Iran’s “destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.”.

Flynn did not specify how the new administration would respond. Asked for clarification, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the president wanted to make sure the Iranians “understood we are not going to sit by and not act on their actions”.

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Trump Hypes Missile Defense Systems Targeting Iran and North Korea

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Missile DefenseWithin mere minutes of his inauguration, President Trump’s White House website laid out a series of new policy positions, including a promise to develop a “state-of-the-art” missile defense system to protect against both Iran and North Korea.

The statement was prominently positioned, underscoring it as a point of emphasis for the new administration, but provided no details on what the announcement actually means, and indeed whether or not it marks any change from the existing missile defense systems the US has been throwing money at over the years.

The US started bankrolling anti-Iran missile defense systems way back in the Bush Administration’s waning years, a sore subject in US-Russia relations because Bush was positioning them all right along the Russian frontier, and far outside the range of Iran’s best missiles. In more recent years, the US has been scrambling to get a system in place in South Korea targeting their neighbor to the north as well.

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James Mattis Calls for U.S. Military to Be More Lethal at Defense Secretary Confirmation Hearing

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. Mattis’s 41-year career in the Marine Corps included field commands in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. He led U.S. troops during the 2004 battle of Fallujah, earning himself the nickname “Mad Dog” Mattis. In May 2004, Mattis ordered an attack on a small Iraqi village that ended up killing about 42 people attending a wedding ceremony. He went on to lead United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013, but the Obama administration cut short his tour over concerns he was too hawkish on Iran. (Democracy Now!)

Trump Won’t Rip Up Iran Deal, Adviser Confirms

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Key Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares today offered clarification on the president-elect’s plans for the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, confirming that he intends to “review” the deal, but has no intention of trying to unilaterally rip it up.

Trump’s election has sparked a flurry of speculation about things he might do, and one of the major ones has been non-stop speculation that the P5+1 deal is effectively dead, even though a lot of international officials were quick to point out that the multi-lateral agreement isn’t something a US president could just destroy on a whim.

Sens. John McCain (R – AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R – SC) bought into this idea too, announcing yesterday that they believe Trump agrees with them on Iran, by which they mean he would be ripping up the deal with an eye toward eventually starting a war.

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At Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress hosted a sort of preview of Hillary Clinton’s Middle East policy on Tuesday, with a Clinton adviser and a Gulf state diplomat agreeing that the next president should double down on support for the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, while ramping up action against Iran.

It is a signal that a future Clinton administration would overwhelmingly favor the Gulf states in their ongoing, Middle East-wide power struggle with Iran, implicitly rebuking President Obama, who has come under fire from Gulf states for mild criticism of their foreign policy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The founder of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, is the campaign chair for Clinton’s presidential bid; many of the candidate’s closest advisors are alumni of CAP and it is widely viewed as a launching pad for policy staff for Democratic presidents. The center is currently helmed by Clinton transition co-chair Neera Tanden.

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HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis

Documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis released on 16th October 2016 exclusively on BBC iPlayer. (BBC)

Iran Still Sticking to Nuclear Deal, IAEA Confirms

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter BaderThe latest in an ongoing series of regular reports by the IAEA on the implementation of the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran has shown, once again, that Iran is fully in compliance with all of its obligations under the deal, and that there was not a single violation in the period covered by this most recent report.

The report, though not made public, appears in all ways identical to other reports on the implementation, and Iran has been in compliance throughout the year since the deal took effect. The new report also confirms that Iran provided additional documentation, as requested.

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Saudi Arabia’s PR Machine Uses the 28 Pages to Blame Iran for 9/11 Attacks

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Last Friday the U.S. government finally released 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report that detail possible ties between the Saudi Arabian government and the 9/11 hijackers.

The document lists various forms of assistance provided by Saudi agents to the hijackers, including help finding a flight school and various forms of financial support when the hijackers arrived in the United States. Many of the findings in the report have not been fully vetted as several of the Saudi agents named in the 28 pages have refused to cooperate.

But that has not stopped Saudi-funded lobbyists and media outlets from claiming that the disclosure of the 28 pages ends all speculation about the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 terror attacks. Several outlets controlled by Saudi Arabia’s vast public relations machine are trumpeting the document as a vindication that closes the door on any suggestion that the Saudi government had any ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

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U.S. Had Extensive Contact With Ayatollah Khomeini Before Iranian Revolution

Saeed Kamali Dehghan and David Smith report for The Guardian:

Iranian leaders have reacted with fury to reports that newly declassified US diplomatic cables revealed extensive contacts between Ayatollah Khomeini and the Carter administration just weeks ahead of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

It was previously known that Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic leader of the Iranian revolution, had exchanged some messages with the US through an intermediary while living in exile in Paris. But new documents seen by the BBC’s Persian service show he went to a great lengths to ensure the Americans would not jeopardise his plans to return to Iran – and even personally wrote to US officials.

The BBC’s reporting suggests that the Carter administration took heed of Khomeini’s pledges, and in effect paved the way for his return by holding the Iranian army back from launching a military coup.

The BBC Persian service obtained a draft message Washington had prepared as a response to Khomeini, which welcomed the ayatollah’s direct communications, but was never sent.

The corporation also published a previously released but unnoticed declassified 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, which shows Khomeini’s initial attempts to reach out to the US dated back to 1963, 16 years before the revolution.

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NRA Threatens Iran With Video About Men Who Wrestle Alligators

Ishaan Tharoor reports for The Washington Post:

As part of a new campaign promoting its agenda, the National Rifle Association published a bunch of videos featuring people who like guns making statements against the liberal elites, Hollywood celebrities and feckless political class that would supposedly pry their weapons away from them.

The video above, though, is directed at a different target: Iran.

It’s a particularly spectacular entry featuring a gray-bearded man in a wide-brimmed hat telling the “ayatollahs of Iran” to “listen up.” Here’s the opening conceit: “You might have met our fresh-faced flower child president and his weak-kneed, Ivy League friends. But you haven’t met America.”

The narrator, your weak-kneed Ivy League blogger discovered through Google, is Charlie Daniels, a popular country musician who sure is good at spinning some folksy yarns. He goes on to tell Iran what “America” really is:

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Iran Seeks Compensation From U.S. for 1953 Coup

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Iran’s parliament today voted on a bill requiring the government to request compensation from the United States for damages caused by the CIA’s 1953 imposition of a coup d’etat against Iran’s democratically elected government.

In August 1953, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh sought to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) and change the terms of the existing oil monopoly of the British company in Iran. The British government “invited” the CIA to force Mosaddegh from office, and they did so, restoring the monarchy which ruled Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Though at the time it was a “covert” action, albeit a poorly kept secret, US officials have publicly conceded that the coup was carried out, and the CIA has released some of the documents related to it, though they insist most were destroyed.

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The War Against the World: Washington Finds Enemies Everywhere

Philip Giraldi writes for Unz:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on the Defense Department's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian CadizSecretary of War Ash Carter is concerned about America’s posture. No, it’s not about sitting with your back straight up and your knees placed primly together. It all has to do with how many enemies there are out there threatening the United States and what we have to do, globally speaking, to make them cry uncle. Ash outlined his views at a “posture hearing” before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th, part of a process intended to give still more money to the Pentagon, $582.7 billion to be exact for fiscal year 2017.

I respect Ash at least a bit because he once studied Medieval History at Yale, though he apparently has forgotten about the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses. Both devastated winners and losers alike, a salutary lesson for those who are concerned about what the United States has been up to for the past fifteen years. Yet Ash, who is characteristically no veteran and for whom war is an abstraction that must be supported by counting and piling up sufficient beans, thinks that more is always better when it comes to having fancy new toys to play with. Since his proposed budget will be giving the Navy a few tens of billions worth of Ohio class subs the Air Force will have to get its own strategic bombers so no one will feel cheated. Just wait until the bill from the Army comes in.

Ash justified all the needless spending by telling the Senators that there are five “security challenges” confronting the United States – terrorism, North Korea, China, Russia and Iran – before lapsing into Pentagon-speak about why more money is always better than less money. He attacked any attempt at sequestration, which would require budget cuts across the board, because it risks the “funding of critical investments.”

If you thought that investments were something financial services guys do you would be wrong. The War Department also knows all about it and also can generate “new posture in some regions” with all that extra cash. Why? To “protect the homeland,” of course, and to “have the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret doing so.”

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The Contrived Iran Threat

Philip Giraldi writes for The Unz Review:

Rev GuardsThe Israeli Minister of Defense is now telling anyone who is willing to listen that the Iranian government is building an “international terror network that includes sleeper cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives to be ready to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S.” Moshe Yaalon elaborated that Iran intends to destabilize the entire Middle East as well as other parts of the world and is “training, funding and arming ‘emissaries’ to spread a revolution,” all emanating from a “dangerous axis” that includes Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.

These preposterous claims come on top of spurious assertions that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, repeated assiduously by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in his various administrations over the course of twenty years. As it turns out, Iran was not building a nuke and much of the information used to bolster the argument being made turned out to be fabricated by the Israelis themselves, which says something for their credibility.

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Iran Is Scared of America’s Hardliners

Reece Erlich writes for Foreign Policy:

Iran Is Scared of America’s Hardliners In the aftermath of the nuclear agreement, the debates in the United States and Iran have become a mirror image of each other. As some officials in Washington worry that the Iranian government will use the deal to secretly develop nuclear weapons, in Tehran, Americans are the nefarious party – intent on slapping sanctions back on Iran at the first opportunity.

“Iran has done its part,” said Foad Izadi, an associate professor of international and world studies at the University of Tehran. Since the agreement was signed last July, Congress has introduced dozens of bills “trying to torpedo [it]. Senator Ted Cruz says he will stop it. Obama won’t be president in one year.”

Although Iranians generally remain wary of the deal, outright opposition remains a minority view. The Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal lost decisively in parliamentary elections last Friday. Reformists, centrists, and independent conservatives won all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran, and several hardline opponents of the deal also lost their seats in the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with selecting the next supreme leader if 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies or resigns.

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Elections A Blow to Hardliners As New Fault Lines in Iranian Politics Emerge: Interview with Trita Parsi

Sharmini Peries talks to National Iranian American Council president Trita Parsi who says it’s s no longer reformists versus conservatives as much as it is moderates with President Rouhani, and his opponents. (The Real News)

Iranian President Rouhani Praises ‘People Power’ After Election Gains

Al Jazeera reports:

Millions crowded polling stations on Friday to vote for parliament and the Assembly of Experts [Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has earned an emphatic vote of confidence and reformist partners secured surprise gains in parliament in early results from elections that could accelerate the Islamic Republic’s emergence from years of isolation.

As of 0900 GMT on Sunday, latest results showed reformist candidates have taken all of the 30 seats in the capital Tehran, while Rouhani and his ally former president Hashemi Rafsanjani lead the winners in the assembly of experts, which is responsible for selecting the country’s next supreme leader.

It remains unclear if the results in Iran will be replicated in other parts of the country. But a Reuters tally, based on official but partial results, also showed independents winning 44 seats, reformists 79, and hardliners 106 in the 290-seat parliament.

A number of seats could be decided in run-offs in late April if no candidate wins the required 25 percent of votes cast. Eight of the initial winners were women.

A loosening of control by the anti-Western hardliners who currently dominate the parliament could strengthen Rouhani’s hand to open Iran further to foreign trade and investment following last year’s breakthrough nuclear deal.

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IAEA Report: Iran Complying With Nuclear Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The latest report from the IAEA has once again affirmed that Iran is complying with the terms of the P5+1 nuclear deal, a month after their previous report affirmed that the entire deal had come into force.

This affirmation comes irrespective of handwringing among US Congressional hawks about how Iran would never comply with the deal, and shows that the deal is firmly in place as Iran goes to the polls.

The only “violation” was an extremely technical one, in which Iran briefly exceeded its limit of stored heavy water by less than 1%, with officials saying they verified that for a few days Iran had 130.9 tonnes, in excess of the 130.0 tonnes they are allowed. Iran exported 20 tonnes within days of that, however, bringing them well under the limit again.

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Nitro Zeus: Massive U.S. Planned Cyberattack Against Iran Went Well Beyond Stuxnet

Dan Goodin reports for Ars Technica:

The Stuxnet computer worm that destroyed centrifuges inside Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site was only one element of a much larger US-prepared cyberattack plan that targeted Iran’s air defenses, communications systems, and key parts of its power grid, according to articles published Tuesday.

The contingency plan, known internally as Nitro Zeus, was intended to be carried out in the event that diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear development program failed and the US was pulled into a war between Iran and Israel, according to an article published by The New York Times. At its height, planning for the program involved thousands of US military and intelligence personnel, tens of millions of dollars in expenditures, and the placing of electronic implants in Iranian computer networks to ensure the operation targeting critical infrastructure would work at a moment’s notice.

Another piece of the plan involved using a computer worm to destroy computer systems at the Fordo nuclear enrichment site, which was built deep inside a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom. It had long been considered one of the hardest Iranian targets to disable and was intended to be a follow-up to “Olympic Games,” the code name of the plan Stuxnet fell under.

 

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Iran: Morality Police App Blocked Hours after Launch

Shima Shahrabi reports for IranWire:

Ershad graphicJust 24 hours after the Android app Gershad was launched, users reported that the Iranian authorities had blocked access to it. The app, designed to help Iranians track — and therefore avoid — Iran’s “Morality Police,” generated huge interest across Iran, particularly in big cities. But a few hours after going live, it was inaccessible.

The name “Gershad” is a play on words, referring to the Persian term for Iran’s special morality unit, which is tasked with identifying and arresting anyone deemed to be “inappropriately” dressed or in violation of Islamic cultural values.

One user, Mohammad Reza, had only been using the app for a few hours on February 8 when his screen began displaying gibberish instead of providing the useful location information it was supposed to. “It didn’t take them even 24 hours,” he told IranWire, adding that he discovered the fault at around 2am .“You have to give it to them: Sometimes they do move fast. Now we need a filter-breaker for Gershad the same way that we need them for Facebook and other apps.”

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US sanctions against Iran lifted after compliance with nuclear deal

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian:

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has ordered that nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran be lifted after a final report by the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Tehran had fulfilled its obligations under last year’s nuclear agreement.

In a statement, Kerry said the sanctions termination provisions of Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement were now in effect. President Barack Obama delegated authority to Kerry to make the determination. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Vienna: “Today we have achieved Implementation Day of the joint comprehensive plan of action,” referring to the deal sealed last July.

The move came after the IAEA’s decision late on Saturday that Tehran had successfully complied with the terms of the deal. That announcement in turn followed the release of four dual nationals and a teenage student in a prisoner swap with the US. They included the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was held on charges of spying for over a year. The Iranian-Americans were released in exchange for seven Iranian nationals held in US prisons, apparently for violating sanctions. The timing of the prisoner swap implies that the issue had been discussed on the sidelines of the nuclear talks despite denial from both sides.

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U.S. Radically Changes Its Story of the Boats in Iranian Waters: to an Even More Suspicious Version

Glenn Greenwald reports for The Intercept:

When news first broke of the detention of two U.S. ships in Iranian territorial waters, the U.S. media — aside from depicting it as an act of Iranian aggression — uncritically cited the U.S. government’s explanation for what happened. One of the boats, we were told, experienced “mechanical failure” and thus “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. On CBS News, Joe Biden told Charlie Rose, “One of the boats had engine failure, drifted into Iranian waters.”

Provided their government script, U.S. media outlets repeatedly cited these phrases — “mechanical failure” and “inadvertently drifted” and “boat in distress” — like some sort of hypnotic mantra.

[…] The U.S. government itself now says this story was false. There was no engine failure, and the boats were never “in distress.” Once the sailors were released, AP reported, “In Washington, a defense official said the Navy has ruled out engine or propulsion failure as the reason the boats entered Iranian waters.”

Instead, said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at a press conference this morning, the sailors “made a navigational error that mistakenly took them into Iranian territorial waters.” He added that they “obviously had misnavigated” when, in the words of the New York Times, “they came within a few miles of Farsi Island, where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has a naval base.”

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A Bad Week for Warmongers as U.S. and Iran Quickly Resolve Sailors’ Breach Just Before Nuke Deal Kicks In: Interview Trita Parsi

Amy Goodman and Narmeen Sheikh recently spoke to Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, and author of the forthcoming book: Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Legacy of Diplomacy. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” in Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — in Iranian Waters

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

News broke last night, hours before President Obama’s State of the Union address, that two U.S. Navy ships “in the Persian Gulf” were “seized” by Iran, and the 10 sailors on board were “arrested.” The Iranian government quickly said, and even the U.S. government itself seemed to acknowledge, that these ships had entered Iranian waters without permission, and were thus inside Iranian territory when detained. CNN’s Barbara Starr, as she always does, immediately went on the air with Wolf Blitzer to read what U.S. officials told her to say: “We are told that right now, what the U.S. thinks may have happened, is that one of these small boats experienced a mechanical problem … perhaps beginning to drift. … It was at that point, the theory goes right now, that they drifted into Iranian territorial waters.”

It goes without saying that every country has the right to patrol and defend its territorial waters and to intercept other nations’ military boats that enter without permission. Indeed, the White House itself last night was clear that, in its view, this was “not a hostile act by Iran” and that Iran had given assurances that the sailors would be promptly released. And this morning they were released, exactly as Iran promised they would be, after Iran said it determined the trespassing was accidental and the U.S. apologized and promised no future transgressions.

Despite all of this, most U.S. news accounts last night quickly skimmed over — or outright ignored — the rather critical fact that the U.S. ships had “drifted into” Iranian waters. Instead, all sorts of TV news personalities and U.S. establishment figures puffed out their chest and instantly donned their Tough Warrior pose to proclaim that this was an act of aggression — virtually an act of war: not by the U.S., but by Iran. They had taken our sailors “hostage,” showing yet again how menacing and untrustworthy they are.

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Could Iran Nuke Deal Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis? Interview with Joe Cirincione and Christine Ahn

Amy Goodman speaks to Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. (Democracy Now!)

Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia’s biggest mistake

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Protesters burn an effigy of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz outside the Saudi embassy in IndiaSaudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi rulers are able to strengthen their leadership of a broad Sunni coalition against an Iranian-led Shia axis at home and abroad.

The motive for the mass execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others, many Sunni jihadists, was primarily domestic. The threat to the al-Saud family within Saudi Arabia comes from Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda and Isis and not from the Shia, who are only a majority in two provinces in the eastern region of the country. Furious denunciations by Shia communities and countries will do nothing but good to the reputation of the ruling family among the majority of Saudis.

Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi variant of Sunni Islam has been blamed by many outside the kingdom as the ideological forbearer of Isis, but the real danger for the monarchy is that it should be seen at home as insufficiently zealous as defender of the faith.

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Saudi executions were worthy of ISIS – so what now for the West?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] The killings represent far more than just Saudi hatred for a cleric who rejoiced at the death of the former Saudi interior minister – Mohamed bin Nayef’s father, Crown Prince Nayef Abdul-Aziz al-Saud – with the hope that he would be “eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of hell in his grave”. Nimr’s execution will reinvigorate the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which the Saudis invaded and bombed this year in an attempt to destroy Shia power there. It has enraged the Shia majority in Sunni-rules Bahrain. And Iran’s own clerics have already claimed that the beheading will cause the overthrow of the Saudi royal family.

It will also present the West with that most embarrassing of Middle Eastern problems: the continuing need to cringe and grovel to the rich and autocratic monarchs of the Gulf while gently expressing their unease at the grotesque butchery which the Saudi courts have just dished out to the Kingdom’s enemies. Had Isis chopped off the heads of Sunnis and Shias in Raqqa – especially that of a troublesome Shia priest like Sheikh Nimr – we can be sure that Dave Cameron would have been tweeting his disgust at so loathsome an act. But the man who lowered the British flag on the death of the last king of this preposterous Wahabi state will be using weasel words to address this bit of head-chopping.

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Saudi Arabia executions threaten to plunge Middle East into greater turmoil

Bill Law, James Cusick and Sam Masters report for The Independent:

The beheading of dozens of Sunni and Shia prisoners by the West’s main Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, threatens to renew sectarian violence in the oil-rich kingdom and plunge the Middle East into greater turmoil.

The mass executions – in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and in the eastern and northern regions – have been seen as a bloody statement of intent delivered by an increasingly powerless Saudi Interior Minister.

Among those killed was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading Shia cleric with the rank of ayatollah, a political prisoner and vocal supporter of protests against the Saudi royal family. His death, which has sparked outrage in Iran, the dominant Shia power in the region, is likely to lead to an escalation of hostilities in Yemen, where a proxy war between the two nations is being fought.

Iran’s leaders reacted furiously. Seminary students marched through the holy city of Qom in protest. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior cleric, told the Mehr news agency: “I have no doubt that this pure blood will stain the collar of the House of Saud and wipe them from the pages of history.”

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