US: Pentagon Outlines Options for Military Strike in Iran

A report commissioned by Trump's National Security Advisors last year outlines military options to strike Iran.

For the first time a request made by the White House on “military options to strike Iran” was reported on Sunday by the Wall Street Journal.

RELATED: Pompeo's Middle East Visit Contradicts Trump Admin Policy

The request was initiated by President Trump’s National Security Council which asked the Pentagon to produce the report, a move which seemed unusual, “It definitely rattled people,” stated a former senior U.S. administration official describing the hawkish intentions behind the report, “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran,” the official added.

The move also received criticism from Iranian-American diplomatic relations lobbyists in Washington D.C, who believe the Trump administration is bent on torpedoing the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.

John Bolton and fellow Iran hawks believe they have two years left to collapse the Iran nuclear deal and trigger a disastrous war that the American people want no part of,” said the President of the National Iranian American Council Jamal Abdi.

The petition was allegedly made in response to attacks carried out last year by militants firing mortars into Baghdad’s diplomatic quarter in which the U.S. Embassy is located.

However, this alleged justification based on the Iraq attack it appears to be an excuse to carry out an agenda consisting in removing the Iranian government held by longstanding officials with hawkish intentions: “We know that Bolton and other administration officials preferred an Iran war to negotiations prior to serving Trump. Now there is confirmation that they are still seeking out opportunities to fulfill their war agenda,” added Abdi.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s report, there are some blind corners on the specifics of the White House request. Two things stand out. First, if President Trump was aware of the request at the time of submission, and second if these plans were seriously concocted.

Nonetheless, there are clear causes of concern related to the people in charge of handling Iran policy who are quick to call for military intervention. Key officials in the current White House Administration, such as National Security Adviser John Bolton have been outspoken about their position on removing the government of Iran, “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran,” said Bolton in 2015.

The attack perpetrated on Iraq’s diplomatic quarter in September 2018 did not lead to any casualties. The United States government claimed that Iran did not stop its allies from carrying out the attack, according to a White House press statement. The accusation was categorically rejected by Iran’s foreign ministry and described it as “astonishing, provocative, and irresponsible,” according to Iran’s media reports.

 
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Iranian warships in US’ backyard? Tehran to deploy navy to western Atlantic – commander

Iran will send warships to the western Atlantic Ocean starting in March, a move likely designed to counter US aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf.

US Navy handout photo of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier in the Straits of Hormuz

The ambitious deployment was announced by a top Iranian naval commander on Friday, and comes several weeks after the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. The decision to send naval forces so far west may be motivated by the Islamic Republic’s desire to counter what it sees as an aggressive US naval presence in its own backyard. The operation will begin in March and is expected to last for several months.

“The Atlantic Ocean is far and the operation of the Iranian naval flotilla might take five months,” Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani told state media.

He added that Sahand, a newly-built destroyer, would be one of the Iranian warships to take part in the flotilla. The new warship has a flight deck for helicopters and is reportedly equipped with anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. Tehran claims that the destroyer also boasts electronic warfare capabilities.

Tehran previously insisted that the presence of the US carrier group was “insignificant” and vowed to prevent the US warships from entering Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf. Notably, Iran’s deputy army chief for coordination affairs, Habibollah Sayyari, said in December that the US navy was allowed to sail in international waters near the Islamic Republic – just as the Iranian navy could sail in the Atlantic Ocean near the US.

“They do not have the courage or ability to take any measures against us. We have enough capabilities to stand against their actions and we have fully rehearsed for that,” Sayyari stressed.

Also on rt.com Iran says navy prepared to protect oil tankers from ‘any threats’ as US sanctions kick in....

In November, the United States unilaterally re-imposed sanctions on Tehran’s oil, shipping and banking industries. The sanctions had been previously lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Washington unilaterally withdrew from in May 2018. Although it’s unclear whether other nations will abide by Washington’s diktats, US officials have predicted that Iranian ships will no longer be welcome in international waters.

Iran’s military has stressed that it is “prepared today as in the past” to protect against “any threats,” and to ensure the safe passage of Iranian oil tankers. Tehran has also repeatedly threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz and halt Persian Gulf oil exports if its own oil exports are blocked. In recent months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has held naval exercises in the Persian Gulf designed to increase preparedness for “confronting possible threats.”

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Russia, Iran & Turkey agree to launch Syrian constitution committee by January

Top diplomats from Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed to ensure that a 150-strong committee to draft a new Syrian constitution will convene for the first time early next year as they wrapped up a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday.

“We have agreed to take efforts aimed at convening the first session of the Syrian constitution committee early next year. These steps will lead to the launch of a viable and lasting Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political process,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a statement following the meeting hosted by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Also on rt.com Sochi or Vienna: Which peace plan offers best solution for Syria?

The agreement, which could pave the way for political reconciliation in the war-ravaged country, was struck between Lavrov, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The creation of the 150-member body was first envisaged during a UN-backed summit in Sochi last January, which reinvigorated the stale Geneva peace process. However, efforts had been without a major breakthrough due the parties’ inability to agree on the composition of the committee.

READ MORE: Putin & Erdogan agree Idlib buffer zone to avert new Syria crisis

The body will consist of 50 representatives from the Syrian government, 50 representatives from the opposition, and the remaining 50 are intended to be “independent” delegates of civil society chosen by the UN.

The latter has become a bone of contention, with Damascus reportedly opposing some of the candidates.

The list has not been finalized as of yet, but the trio of Russia, Turkey and Iran is nearing a mutually acceptable solution, Cavusoglu said after the meeting.

READ MORE: West cries foul over humanitarian crisis in Idlib, which isn’t even happening – top Russian diplomat

“As guarantor states, we are working together with the UN on this issue. We are gradually moving towards the finish line,” he said.

Cavusoglu stated earlier that Turkey will work with Syrian President Bashar Assad if he remains in power after “very credible, transparent, democratic and fair” elections are carried out, which is the ultimate goal of the constitutional committee.

It was hoped that the committee would convene before Mistura, who is stepping down in December, leaves his post. Speaking after the meeting, the outgoing special envoy wasn’t overly optimistic, however, saying that “there is an extra mile to go” before having a balanced and credible body tasked with drafting a constitution.

 
FILE PHOTO: Bodrum Airport, Turkey, August 5, 2008

Meanwhile, the US – which has so far been wary of the possibility of intra-Syrian reconciliation – seems to be taking a less hawkish approach, with its special representative in Syria, James Jeffrey, recently saying that it doesn’t want to topple Assad anymore.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change – we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council meeting on Monday.

This doesn’t mean that the US has actually abandoned its plans to dislodge the Syrian president, however, according to Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Instead, it would merely prefer to do so without spilling blood.

“The Americans are counting on this committee’s constitution change and [the] election overseen by the UN, which will change the regime peacefully and bring about a peaceful settlement in America’s favor,” he argued.

Landis predicted that since this is “unlikely to happen,” the US will maintain a presence in Syria until it occurs.

“That could mean that America is an open-ended force in Syria,” he said.

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Laughter at Trump’s UN Speech Sign of Growing US Isolation – Tehran

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Laughter at US President Donald Trump’s claims of US achievements during his speech at the UN General Assembly is a sign of his country’s deepening isolation, the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Mohammad Ali Jafari called laughter heard during Trump’s address to the assembly "a major political scandal" that spelled "further isolation of the US."

The commander also slammed the US leader for his "cheap comments" on Iran’s alleged villainy, saying the United States and its Gulf allies were the ones destabilizing the Middle East.

READ MORE: UN Sec. Council Will Isolate Trump, Not Iran, Against US Wishes — Iran Deputy FM

In his speech at the general assembly on Tuesday, the US president praised the "extraordinary" work of the current White House administration, while some delegates laughed and muttered. He then accused Iran of sowing "chaos, death and destruction" in the Middle East.

According to the media reports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the hall of the UN General Assembly while Trump was talking, however, later correspondent of the Turkish government newspaper Sabah Ragip Soilu stressed that Erdogan left in order to prepare his own speech, not to protest against the US statements.

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Cuba Rejects Military Doctrines Base on Nuclear Deterrence

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the United Nations high level meeting to celebrate and promote the International Day for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. New York, September 26, 2018.

Mr. President;

Mr. Secretary General;

Distinguished Heads of Delegations;

Delegates all;

It is said that when the eminent physicist Albert Einstein was asked with what weapons a hypothetical Third War would be fought, he answered that he only knew that the Fourth would be fought with sticks and stones.

Sadly, he did not live enough to see that his emphatic calls to put an end to the arms race using the nuclear technology would be unheeded and that the manufacturing of those weapons would grow dramatically, to the point of eliminating any possibility of survival if hardly a small part of them were to be used.

That is why we think it is our unavoidable duty to join the commemoration of the International Day for the Complete Elimination of Nuclear Weapons every September 26, for it contributes to achieve the purpose pursued by the UN of preserving international peace and security.

We are proud that such an achievement is based on an initiative first promoted by the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, which was later on embraced by the international community.

To Cuba, this appeal that is launched every year is also a much deserved tribute to the memory of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, who struggled tirelessly in favor of nuclear disarmament, an issue to which he devoted numerous Reflections and all of his energy.

Cuba supports the statement made by the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Seventy three years after the criminal atomic bombings over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity continues to be threatened by the existence of approximately 14 400 nuclear weapons; 3 750 of them have been deployed and almost 2 000 are in a state of operational alert.

Cuba rejects the security policies and military doctrines based on nuclear deterrence. We embrace the words expressed by Fidel in 1979 when he stated, and I quote: “The clashing of weapons, the threatening language and the overbearing behavior in the international arena must cease. Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons! Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick and the ignorant; but they cannot kill hunger, disease and ignorance”, end of quote.

Mr. President:

Latin America and the Caribbean takes pride in having been the first densely populated region in the world proclaiming itself as a Nuclear Free Zone under the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which was enacted in 1967. Our peoples’ willingness was ratified in the “Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace”, a document that was signed by the Heads of State and Government of the region on the occasion of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Havana in January of 2014.

Cuba is strongly committed to strengthening and consolidating multilateralism and complying with international treaties on disarmament, particularly to the goal of a nuclear free world. On January 31, 2018, as an expression of that willingness, Cuba became the fifth State to ratify the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

We will persist in our aspiration that this Treaty, which proscribes the use, existence and development of nuclear weapons and reiterates that these are inhuman, immoral and ethically indefensible, could be some day implemented and complemented with efficient measures conducive to the complete elimination of those arsenals in an effective, transparent and irreversible way.

The use of nuclear energy and technology has contributed to the social and economic development of our nations. Consequently, we reaffirm the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy without any discrimination.

We reject the decision of the US Government to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Nuclear Agreement. The non observation of these international commitments goes against the rules of coexistence among States and will have serious consequences for stability and security in the Middle East.

Mr. President:

Before concluding, I would like to share with you some excerpts of the speech delivered by Army General Raúl Castro, the First Secretary of our Party, at the Rio + 20 Summit: “Let’s put justifications and selfishness aside and work for solutions. This time everyone, absolutely everyone, will suffer the consequences (…) May plundering end; May the war end; let’s move towards disarmament and destroy the nuclear arsenals.”

Thank you, very much.

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Major Powers, Iran Meet To Salvage Nuclear Deal Without US

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending U.S. sanctions on Tehran, the European Union's foreign policy chief said.

Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU's Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.

"An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place," Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.

"Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do," she added.

The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran's oil sales, diplomats said.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.

The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran's ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran's major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.

Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran's currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the U.S. dollar this month.

There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.

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Iran warns U.S., Israel of revenge after parade attack

LONDON (Reuters) - The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned U.S. and Israeli leaders on Monday to expect a “devastating” response from Tehran, accusing them of involvement in an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz.

Thousands of people packed the streets of the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz to mourn the victims of Saturday’s assault that killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The assault, one of the worst against the most powerful military force of the Islamic Republic, struck a blow at its security establishment at a time when the United States and its Gulf allies are working to isolate Tehran.

“You have seen our revenge before ... You will see that our response will be crushing and devastating and you will regret what you have done,” Hossein Salami said in a speech before the funeral of the victims in Ahvaz, broadcast live on the state television.

Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, said a large network of suspects had already been arrested in connection with the attack, the judiciary’s news agency Mizan reported.

Iran has declared Monday a national day of mourning. Public offices, banks, schools and universities will be closed in Khuzestan province.

Four assailants fired on a viewing stand in Ahvaz where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Islamic State’s Amaq agency posted a video of three men in a vehicle who it said were on their way to carry out the attack.

A man wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with what appears to be a Revolutionary Guard logo discussed the impending attack in Farsi in the video.

“We are Muslims, they are kafirs (non-believers),” the man says. He adds: “We will destroy them with a strong and guerrilla-style attack, inshallah (God willing).”

Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, also claimed responsibility.

Senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have said the Ahvaz attack was carried out by militants trained by Gulf states and Israel, and backed by America.

But it is unlikely the IRGC will strike any of these foes directly.

The Guards could put on a show of strength by firing missiles at opposition groups operating in Iraq or Syria that may be linked to the militants who staged the attack.

They are also likely to enforce a tight security policy in Khuzestan province, arresting any perceived domestic opponents including civil rights activists.

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'Hope they come to their senses': Tehran summit ends with call for Idlib terrorists to lay down arms

Turkey seems to have prevailed during tripartite talks with Russia and Iran, convincing the other parties that a major offensive in Syria's Idlib governorate would not be the wisest move at the moment.

The situation in Syria was discussed in Tehran on Friday by Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani as part of the so-called "Astana process." The leaders of Iran and Turkey disagreed on what action should be taken in Syria's Idlib, the last major stronghold of armed groups in the country, which is dominated by hardcore jihadists.

 
FILE PHOTO: The US flag on a military vehicle in Manbej countryside, Syria © Aboud Hamam

All three nations agree that the threat of radical Islamists in Syria must be eliminated, but differ as to how this should be achieved. Rouhani advocated a strong-arm approach, claiming it would secure an end to major hostilities in the seven-year-old conflict.

"We have to realize that only the destruction of the terrorists, a military victory against them, can ensure stability and peace in the future in Syria and not only in that country," he said.

Erdogan reiterated his government's concern over the potential death toll of an offensive in highly populated Idlib, where an estimated 3.5 million people are currently living. Turkey, which borders the Syrian governorate, is also objecting to a major operation there because it would likely cause a major exodus of refugees across the border, with extremists potentially sneaking in with refugees.

"[The refugees] would have no other way to go but Turkey. But we have already accepted 3.5 million refugees. Turkey cannot take in more," said President Erdogan.

"Our goal is to resolve the situation in Idlib according to the spirit of the agreements we made in Astana," Erdogan added, warning that "mistakes in Idlib may derail the political process in Syria."

The Iranian president eventually agreed that civilians living in Idlib should not become victims of an anti-terrorist effort.

Call to end violence

At Erdogan's suggestion, the final communique of the summit was amended to include a call for all armed groups in Idlib to lay down arms and seek a political transition in the country. Putin and Rouhani agreed, which may indicate that a major offensive in Idlib is not likely to be launched in the immediate future, unless some major development happens on the ground. The Russian president remarked that the call is addressed to all armed groups in the Syrian province, including UN-designated terrorist groups.

"Let us hope that the members of the terrorist organizations would have enough sense to stop resistance and lay down weapons," he said.

"Our agreements on Syria were always based on a premise that we are seeking to ensure peace between all belligerents, but kept the terrorist organizations bracketed out," he remarked.

@Khaaasteh While final statement of was about to be passed, Erdogan suddenly questioned the text and called for inclusion of "ceasefire" in the statement. The presidents are now negotiating and bargaining live on TV !

As he was arguing against an offensive in Idlib, Erdogan acknowledged that armed groups controlling the governorate pose a credible threat, including to Russian military personnel stationed at Khmeimim Airbase. He suggested that regular drone attacks on the Russian military site should be stopped by pushing those launching them out of range.

During the summit, Rouhani and Erdogan were united in their criticism of the presence of US troops in Syria. The Iranian president repeatedly stressed that foreign influence was a major factor in escalating the war in Syria, and called on the US to withdraw the troops that it has illegally deployed in Syria. Erdogan reiterated Ankara's objection to the support that the US gives Kurdish militias in northern Syria, which are perceived as a major security threat by the Turkish government.

Return of refugees key to resolving violence

Putin's remarks on the situation in Syria tilted towards humanitarian aspects and the necessity to reconstruct the country. He said that many people who had fled violence in Syria to other nations may now return to their homes.

 
© Umit Bektas

"Conditions have been made in Syria to take in up to a million of refugees. The government has provided security guarantees to all returnees, assuring that they would not be subjected to discrimination, including in terms of property rights," he said.

The Russian president argued that, if as many Syrians as possible get a chance to return to peaceful lives, it would give an impetus to a political resolution of the conflict between the Syrian government and the so-called "moderate opposition." Erdogan disagreed with Putin, saying that the return of refugees to Syria would only be possible after a new constitution is agreed and adopted, and an election held to form a new government.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are seeking to end violence in Syria and facilitate negotiations between its government and opposition groups, which agree to cease hostilities and seek a political transition for their country. The desired outcome is a peaceful Syria under a government that properly represents all its minorities and is in control of all its territory. The final resolution of the conflict, which was greatly complicated by foreign interference and the rise of jihadist groups, is expected to be negotiated in Geneva under the aegis of the UN.

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