Obama launches diplomacy with Tehran after quietly accepting Iran’s current nuclear capabilities

Whatever direction gives Israel the short end of the stick is the one both Iran and the current White House administration will likely choose.

Iranian President Rouhani conspicuously avoided shaking the hand President Barack Obama extended to his government at the UN Tuesday, Sept. 24, by absenting himself from the UN reception for world readers. He made this gesture under strong international spotlight to underscore the value Iran places on being respected as an equal in the negotiations ahead with the United States, Iranian sources stress.

Obama knew the “handshake rebuff” was coming, yet he went through with his announcement of direct engagement with Iran earlier Tuesday. To give his rhetoric weight, he demonstratively instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to take charge of the pursuit of “face to face negotiations” with Tehran.

The link Obama made in his speech between the Iranian and Palestinians negotiating processes as the two focal issues of his Middle East policy was further embodied by his appointment of the same official, John Kerry, to take charge of both tracks. This has placed Israel at a disadvantage on both fronts. Continue reading

Obama softens on nuclear Iran: Keep components, just promise not to weaponise them

The moderate mien of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani has had its intended effect – even before nuclear dialogue began. President Barack Obama had only one demand of Tehran:  “Iran would have to demonstrate its own seriousness by agreement not to weaponise nuclear power,” he said Wednesday, Sept. 18. He thus took at his word Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who declared the day before: “We are against nuclear weapons. And when we say no one should have nuclear weapons, we definitely do not pursue it ourselves either.”

The symmetry between the words from Washington and Tehran was perfect in content and timing – and not by chance. Continue reading

Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago sign offshore natural gas deal

Caracas: Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago have signed a deal to develop three gas fields that span their maritime border and contain reserves totaling nearly 12 trillion cubic feet.

“We’ve signed the accords for (the Loran-Manatee bloc, the largest of the three), and today we signed (the accord governing) how we’re going to operate those fields,” Venezuela’s Rafael Ramirez, who heads state-owned oil giant PDVSA, said Wednesday. Continue reading

The Submarine Race in the Malaccan Strait

Along with the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf near Iran and Oman, the Strait of Malacca is the world’s most important shipping chokepoint.

Linking the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, the Malacca Strait is by far the shortest maritime route connecting Persian Gulf energy producers to their largest consumers in countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. Continue reading

U.S. has no ‘plan B’ for Bahrain naval base: officer

WASHINGTON: The US military has failed to prepare a realistic “plan B” if political turmoil forces the closure of a vital naval base in Bahrain, a naval officer argues in a report released Monday.

The Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain is the most US important maritime base in the Middle East but senior officers have become complacent about its future, Commander Richard McDaniel asserts.

“Surprisingly, military leaders have no ‘Plan B’ if strategic access in Bahrain is jeopardized,” McDaniel wrote, in a paper published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. Continue reading

Persian Gulf states ‘unable to protect themselves’

Despite massive spending on Western weapons, the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf are “unable to secure themselves from any external threat” — meaning Iran — and are running up huge public and foreign debt, a Gulf think tank says.

Omar al-Shehabi, director of the Gulf Center for Development Policies in Kuwait, said that even though the defense expenditure of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states is the highest in the world, exceeding the combined military spending of Israel and Britain, they still have to “rely on Western countries to provide military protection and security.” Continue reading

Report: UK plans largest military presence in Gulf states since 1971

LONDON — Britain intends to establish a permanent military presence in the Gulf, the report said.

The Royal United Services Institute asserted that Britain seeks to restore military bases in Gulf Cooperation Council states. The London-based think tank said Britain was working to reach agreements for army, air force and naval installations. Continue reading

Iran Navy to extend its presence to the Atlantic ocean in 2013

NICOSIA — The Iranian Navy plans to deploy warships in the Atlantic Ocean, having entered the Pacific Ocean for the first time since 1979 in late February.

The Iranian Navy said deployment in the Atlantic would begin in 2013. Officials said this would mark the first Iranian missions in the Atlantic. Continue reading

Seized Chinese Weapons Raise Concerns on Iran

An Iranian dhow seized off the Yemeni coast was carrying sophisticated Chinese antiaircraft missiles, a development that could signal an escalation of Iran’s support to its Middle Eastern proxies, alarming other countries in the region and renewing a diplomatic challenge to the United States.

Among the items aboard the dhow, according to a review of factory markings on weapons and their packing crates, were 10 Chinese heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, most of them manufactured in 2005.

The missiles were labeled QW-1M and bore stencils suggesting that they had been assembled at a factory represented by the state-owned China National Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation, sanctioned by the United States for transfers of missile technology to Pakistan and Iran. 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

Americans talk about an Israeli strike on Iran, but prepare own offensive

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has been outspoken about a possible Israeli offensive against Iran taking place as of April and one American TV channel theorized simplistically Friday, Feb. 3, about Israel’s tactics. At the same time, no US source is leveling on the far more extensive American, Saudi, British, French and Gulf states’ preparations going forward for an offensive against the Islamic Republic.

Tehran too is gearing up for conflict: The Iranian Guards Ground Forces chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour Saturday, Feb. 4 announced the start of a three-week exercise in southern Iran and the Strait of Hormuz under conditions of war. debkafile: The “exercise” is in fact an Iranian military buildup ahead of a possible American or Israel attack.

debkafile’s military sources report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman’s Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 526 of Jan. 27 was the first world publication to reveal the massive concentration of American might on the two islands.)

Full article: Americans talk about an Israeli strike on Iran, but prepare own offensive (DEBKAfile)