Iran cancels plan to have warships approach US borders in Atlantic

After a tense week of diplomacy between American and Iranian representatives, Iran has called off a deployment of warships to the Atlantic Ocean, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Sunday, shelving plans for its vessels to approach US maritime borders in response to the US navy’s presence in the Gulf.

The announcement comes shortly after Iran overturned the death sentence of a former US marine imprisoned in Iran on charges of working for the CIA. The American, Amir Hekmati, has had his sentence reduced to 10 years in prison by a supreme court decision. The commuted sentence is a positive signal for US-Iranian relations, but an ongoing debate over Iran’s nominated diplomat to the UN threatens to derail nuclear negotiations. The diplomat, Hamid Aboutalebi, is barred entry to the US due to alleged links to the 1979 hostage crisis, but Tehran has refused to consider a new candidate.

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Russia will Return to Naval Base in Vietnam

Moscow, Nov 14 (Prensa Latina) The Navy of Russia will place a maintenance base in the Vietnamese port of Camran, in accordance with the stipulated agreements during President Vladimir Putin”s recent visit to that Asian country, reported the local press today. In addition to the approved contracts on military collaboration with Vietnamese leaders, the head of the Kremlin reached a tentative agreement to install those facilities in Camran in 2014, informed Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper. Continue reading

Marine units positioned near Syria

Marines in the Middle East, Africa and Europe are poised to reach Syria within hours should President Obama order a strike on the country as officials work to determine whether the government there was involved in a chemical weapons attack against its own people.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC television Tuesday that the Defense Department has “moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take.” Continue reading

5 New Countries That Might Exist By 2025

With violence in Xinjiang continuing and tensions in Chechnya and Dagestan back in the public consciousness, it seems almost cliché to say the end of the sprawling, imperial nation-state is here, or at least not far off. Hell, a couple thousand signatures for an independent Texas got the foreign press questioning if even the U.S. wasn’t immune from secessionist conflict.

Now, have the massive, multi-ethnic superpowers of the modern world really reached their breaking point? The answer’s a big, emphatic no. While there’s certainly no shortage of secessionist claims in Russia, China, and the surrounding geopolitical region they dabble in, it’s unlikely we’ll see any new (internationally recognized) countries emerge from the Caucuses or Central Asia. A major precedent — any one secessionist success story — could set off new fervor in any number of independence-minded areas that could radically undermine the neighborhood superpowers’ international standing. For the leaders of Russia and China, maintaining their borders against secessionist challenges is an essential part of maintaining their political legitimacy. Sorry, Tibet. Continue reading

From Sea to Shining Sea

Eighteen miles. That’s the width of the Bab el-Mandab passageway, the narrow stretch of ocean separating Djibouti from Yemen that connects the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. In strategic terms, this passage is crucial. Control the Bab el-Mandab passage and you control the eastern half of one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.

That is exactly what Iran is looking to do. Few recognize it—but it’s happening under our noses. All you have to do is look at Yemen. Continue reading

Iran Navy to Deploy to Mediterranean

From the state-run (FSB/KGB) Soviet press:

MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) – Iran will deploy a fleet of warships to the Mediterranean Sea, Navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Wednesday.

“The Navy’s 24th fleet of warships will patrol the north of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea for three months and will even sail as far as southeastern Asian countries,” Sayyari was quoted by Press TV as saying. Continue reading

Russian warships sail for Syria, large anti-submarine ship for waters near Iran

Russian warships set out Tuesday, Dec. 18, for two Middle East flashpoint destinations: Naval sources in Moscow reported that two assault ships, a tanker and an escort vessel were detached from the Baltic Fleet and are sailing for the Syrian port of Tartus – possibly to evacuate Russian citizens. A second naval group led by Russia’s largest anti-submarine vessel, the Severomorsk, is on its way to the Gulfs of Aden and Oman close to the Persian Gulf and Iran. Continue reading

‘Khartoum allowing Iran to establish Red Sea base’

Sudanese opposition groups accused Khartoum this week of reaching a secret agreement with Tehran to establish an Iranian military base on the Red Sea.

Anti-government newspaper Hurriyat Sudan cited an unnamed opposition source on Monday as saying that the Sudanese government had struck a deal with Iran for building a base on the Sudanese coast.

Meanwhile, Sudanese rebel group The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Sunday that Sudan’s President Omar Bashir has reached a “very advanced” arrangement with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to establish a naval base either in Port Sudan or elsewhere on the Red Sea, according to the Sudanese anti-government news outlet Al Rakoba. Continue reading

Joint naval exercise with Russia

INDRA, joint military exercise with Russia, is being held in Mumbai from November 28 to December 3.

Destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, replenishment oiler Irkut and rescue tug Alatau of the Russian Federation’s Navy Pacific Fleet (PF) Task Unit and India’s INS Mysore and INS Tabar are participating in the exercise. Continue reading

Why You Should Pay Attention to Yemen

Nation by nation, Iran is extending its reach in a bid to rein over the Middle East. If allowed to continue taking control of the world’s strategic chokepoints, Iran can affect the world as it sees fit.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Fars News Agency, citing a spokesman for Yemen’s Revolutionary Forces, reported that “the Yemeni people are deeply interested to establish stronger and very intimate relations with Iran.” According to Fars, the spokesman “reiterated that once the Yemeni people take back power from the Saudi-U.S. pivot, Tehran and Sanaa would certainly develop their ties” (emphasis added).

So, what does Iran expect to gain by establishing a strong presence in Yemen?

Take a look at the accompanying map. Basically, Iran wants Yemen for the same reason it wants Ethiopia, Eritrea and Egypt: to control the Red Sea!

(See full story for map)

Yemen is adjacent to both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It sits on the north side of the Bab el-Mandab passageway. Every ship that passes through this passage—and there are thousands every year—would travel within easy range of Islamist missiles stationed in Yemen. Consider the global ramifications: Nearly 30 percent of global oil supplies, more than 2 million barrels per day, pass through the Suez and the Red Sea. Roughly 20,000 ships, an average of 55 per day, pass through the Suez Canal and Red Sea each year. About 15 percent of global maritime trade travels through the Red Sea.

Talk about power and leverage!

Few see it, but ultimately, this is Iran’s grand strategy for endorsing and promoting the Islamification of Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and to a lesser extent, Yemen and Djibouti!

Think about the leverage Iran is gaining. It already effectively controls the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Now, in the 18 months since the Arab Spring touched off the rise of Islamist forces throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Tehran has made enormous strides in gaining influence over the Gulf of Aden, the Bab el-Mandab passageway, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. If Egypt takes control of the Sinai, which appears imminent, Iran will also gain a foothold in the Gulf of Aqaba. It’s startling, when you really think about it, the way Iran is quietly, steadily—without hardly anyone noticing—locking down the Red Sea!

Full article: Why You Should Pay Attention to Yemen (The Trumpet)

Report: Chinese military able to operate far afield

China’s military is developing capabilities to conduct “new historic missions” far beyond the communist country’s borders, according to an annual Pentagon report to Congress.

Described as “military operations other than war,” the missions include counter-piracy and counterterrorism operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, U.N. peacekeeping, protecting sea lanes and protecting space-based assets, the report states.

For example, the People’s Liberation Army in December deployed its 10th task force to the Gulf of Aden to support international counter-piracy efforts.

The report estimates China’s defense budget as $106 billion in 2011, an 11.2 percent increase from the year before. The report notes that the budget could be as high as $180 billion.

Mr. Helvey said there could be associated defense spending not included in China’s reported budget, such as research and development, nuclear force modernization, foreign acquisitions of weapons systems, and local contributions to local military forces.

Full article: Report: Chinese military able to operate far afield (New York Times)

Commentary: Geopolitical maelstrom

Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz, not just for a few hours, as the Israelis say, but long enough to drive oil prices into the stratosphere. An admiral with years of experience in the region at different times of his career said privately Iran can sow thousands of mines in an area that handles one-fifth of the world’s daily oil requirements. They are below the surface and can be detonated by remote control as a warship sails over them. Iran’s shore line, which covers the entire eastern side of the Persian Gulf, is pock-marked with concealed missile sites.

The Iranians would also use hundreds of small boats in a swarming configuration that U.S. warships are prepared to cope with — but one or two are bound to get through a curtain of fire and punch a hole in the hull of a U.S. or NATO minesweeper.

Such a small boat in Aden harbor in October 2000 punctured the hull of the USS Cole, a $1 billion Arleigh Burke class destroyer, killing 17 sailors, and putting the warship out of service for 18 months with a $220 million repair bill. Cost of the operation to al-Qaida: $10,000 plus three volunteer suicide bombers.

The response of Israeli naysayers is that such tactics would hurt Iran far more than any of its intended targets. U.S. generals and admirals respond that the Iranian leadership wouldn’t be averse to cutting off its nose to spite its face.

The Iranians can also absorb temporary belt-tightening far more readily than Western Europeans. And with gas at the pump suddenly selling at $10 to $15 a gallon, U.S. President Barack Obama’s updated resume wouldn’t look too appealing at the ballot box in November.

The arguments about whether Iran really wants a nuclear capability seem disconnected from reality. Pakistan’s nuclear black marketer A.Q. Khan sold the ayatollahs nuclear secrets two decades ago. By all accounts, Tehran is very close to achieving deliverable nuclear payloads.

U.S. Navy 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain is vulnerable; two-thirds of its population is Shiite Muslim and rooting for Tehran in the current conflict.

Full article: Commentary: Geopolitical maelstrom (Space War)