United States/Iran – Two Iranians were indicted on the 17 Jul 17 in the United States with hacking a defence contractor and stealing sensitive software used to design bullets and warheads, according to the Justice Department. According to the newly unsealed indictment businessman Mohammed Saeed Ajily, 35, recruited Mohammed Reza Rezakhah, 39, to break into companies' computers to steal their software for resale to Iranian universities, the military and the government. The two men, and a third who was arrested in 2013 and handed back to Iran in a prisoner swap last year, allegedly broke into the computers of Vermont-based Arrow Tech Associates. The indictment said they stole in 2012 the company's Prodas ballistics software, which is used to design and test bullets, warheads and other military ordnance projectiles. The material stolen from Arrow Tech was protected by US controls on the export of sensitive technologies, and its distribution to Iran was banned by US sanctions on the country. The two men were charged in the Rutland, Vermont federal district court, which issued arrest warrants for the two, who are believed to be in Iran. In 2013 the US secured the arrest in Turkey of a third Iranian in the case, Nima Golestaneh, 30, who was extradited to the United States. In Dec 15 he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and computer hacking. One month later he was freed as part of a prisoner exchange with Tehran, which returned four Americans in exchange for seven Iranians who had been arrested in separate schemes to obtain and smuggle to Iran sensitive US technologies.
United States/Iran – Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri threatened to target American bases and forces in the region if the United States classifies the Revolutionary Guards on the terrorist list. At the Revolutionary Guards’ ground troop’s festival in the city of Mashhad that took place on the 17 Jul 17 Bagheri said that “putting the Revolutionary Guard in the terrorist lists with terrorist groups can be very costly to the United States and its military bases and forces in the region.” According to the Tasnim news agency, General Bagheri pointed out in his speech that “Iran’s missile capabilities are defensive ones and are non-negotiable under any condition.” Bagheri attacked US statements about the “regime change” in Tehran and undermined the importance of the new sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards. He also warned congressional lawmakers of the consequences of new sanctions on Iran’s controversial missile program. The Iranian government announced in late June that it had allocated a huge budget of $620 million to increase spending on its controversial missile program and the Quds Force, the external wing of the Revolutionary Guard, which has been on the international terrorism list since 2007. The Iranian parliament said that the budget came to counter US sanctions and congressional measures aimed at classifying the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. 361 COMMENT: When countries such as Iran feel as though they have been threatened by a much larger organisation with far more military capabilities than they have, that country will reply with rhetoric it knows that it cannot carry out. This is the case here with Iran. It knows that if they attacked an American military installation it will get hurt. The Americans know what the capabilities are of Iran and although they could launch an attack the repercussions of doing so would be far worse. Its easier to stand on a platform and give a speech to those around you who follow the same ideology where heads will nod in approval and the speaker will get an applause building his own ego. The same with ‘if’ the Americans do put the Revolutionary Guards on the terrorist list, there is nothing they can do about it. The sanctions will hurt the Iranians as well even though they flaunt the various current sanctions by taking everything to the exact word and pushing things to the limit before someone retaliates and the Iranians call “foul”. COMMENT ENDS
United States/Hezbollah – US Ambassador Nikki Haley on the 19 Jul 17 accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah of amassing weapons and said the world must turn its attention to the actions of the powerful paramilitary organization. Haley met with UN envoy for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag ahead of a Security Council meeting on the 20 Jul 17 focussing on the UN peacekeeping force deployed in southern Lebanon. “Ambassador Haley expressed alarm over the build-up of weapons by Hezbollah, a situation that demands the international community’s attention to prevent the further escalation of regional tensions,” said a statement by the US mission. She stressed that the international community must “apply more pressure on Hezbollah to disarm and cease its destabilizing behaviour, especially toward Israel.” Haley has been a strong supporter of Israel, which fought a month-long war against Hezbollah in 2006. The fighting killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. There has been speculation about the possibility of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese paramilitary organization, more than a decade after their last direct confrontation. There have been periodic skirmishes along the UN-monitored demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon, longtime adversaries which are technically still at war with each other. Haley said the UNIFIL mission must be “fully engaged in addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah.” 361 COMMENT: It would be naive to believe that Hezbollah would not have taken advantage of the conflict in Syria to amass weapons taken from the area and kept for a later conflict possibly against Israel. Iran will have been supplying Assad and their pro-militias with weapons, ammunition and explosives similar to the Americans supplying anti-Assad forces and other organisations fighting on the opposite side. The prospects and concern will be that Hezbollah will be battle hardened from the Syria conflict and will have amassed huge piles of logistics and stored them for the future and have a better experience in Command and Control on the battle field. The security in that particular area of the region has the ability to flare up again and it would be more difficult for Israel to contain it. COMMENT ENDS
United States/Iran/2016 Terrorist Incidents – The US State Department said on the 19 Jul 17 that global terror incidents and deaths fell last year, while it maintained its designation of Iran as the top "state sponsor of terrorism." In its annual country-by-country assessment of terrorism worldwide, the department pinpointed Islamic jihadist groups Islamic State Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as the leading culprits for terror attacks. But it said overall attacks had fallen nine percent last year from 2015, and deaths were down 13 percent. More than half of the attacks took place in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, said the department's acting coordinator for counterterrorism, Justin Siberell. Attacks and deaths were up notably in Iraq, Somalia and Turkey. The report said a common thread for many of the terror attacks last year "was adherence to violent extremist ideology put forth by a fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam that perceives itself to be under attack by the West and in conflict with other branches of Islam." At the same time, predominantly Shiite Iran was again officially dubbed the leading state sponsor of terrorism. The report cited its longstanding support for the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, a US-designated terror organization.
The report cited Hezbollah's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with troops and supplies as well as its attacks on Israeli soldiers along the Lebanon-Israel border. In addition, the report said Iran "remained unwilling" to put on trial senior Qaeda members whom it has detained. "Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed Al-Qaeda facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling Al-Qaeda to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria," it said. Siberell gave no reason for the decline in attacks, but noted the rising pressure last year from coalition forces on the Islamic State group in its Syria and Iraq strongholds. But as Islamic State loses territory, he said, its fighters and sympathizers are dispersing, and the threat of attacks elsewhere -- in new IS locations, and in the IS fighters' home countries, is on the rise. "Another feature of the terrorism landscape in 2016, and this is a continuation of what we saw in 2014 and 2015, is the exploitation by terrorist groups of ungoverned territory and conflict zones to establish safe havens from which to expand their reach," said Siberell. After its expansion to the Libyan coastal city of Sirte last year, Somalia, Yemen, north-eastern Nigeria, portions of the Sinai Peninsula, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions and portions of the Philippines have become "safe-haven environments" for IS fighters, the report said.
United States/Iran/Nuclear Deal – Iran has accused the United States of not living up to its side of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal after Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran over its ballistic missile programme. Abbas Aragchi, Iranian deputy foreign minister, said on the 21 Jul 17 that the sanctions "violate" the terms of the agreement Washington and five other world powers signed with Tehran. The nuclear deal does not cover Iran's ballistic missile programme. The US had imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian individuals and entities on the 18 Jul 17 after accusing Iran of testing ballistic missiles and contributing to regional tensions. "We talked in detail about the sanctions and the instances that the Americans had delayed in fulfilling their commitments, the instances where they violated the deal," Araqchi told reporters in Vienna after a review of the pact by the seven nations that signed it. "We showed one by one the instances where the American side in the last year and a half acted without good will and even acted with ill intention." Araqchi said the US was "trying to sabotage the situation, to threaten or scare off foreign companies to invest in Iran". The regular quarterly meeting to review the deal heard that Iran is sticking to its side of the pact with US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to massively scale back production of nuclear-making material in return for sanctions relief. But the pact has not eased tensions between Tehran and Washington, which continue to clash over conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Iran can use the so-called Joint Commission meetings to trigger a formal dispute resolution mechanism set out for cases where one party feels there is a breach of the deal. Araqchi declined to answer whether he had used the meeting to trigger the mechanism. But he said: "We were not satisfied with America's ... broken promises and ... announced that we're not convinced that America has properly carried out its duties." Araqchi added that he had expressed his concerns in bilateral talks with the US after the 21 Jul 17 main meeting. US President Donald Trump has criticised the nuclear accord, which was signed under his predecessor, Barack Obama as "the worst deal ever". Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said on the 19 Jul 17 that new US economic sanctions contravened the nuclear accord and pledged that Tehran would "resist" them while respecting the deal itself. 361 COMMENT: None of the other countries that signed up to the deal have been accused of sabotaging the nuclear deal, just the United States. Iran believed that once the original sanctions were lifted after President Obama signed the deal that Iran could do as it wishes. With the new President in the U.S. Iran has found out that this is no longer the case and is attempting to hit out where it can. It maybe that the United States is attempting to sabotage the deal by placing further sanctions on Iran in the hope that they just walk away. The Iranians are aware of this and also realise that if it did walk away from the deal then the new American administration would ensure that Iran did not have access to material to make a nuclear device and then cause further disturbance around the Region. Iran also knows that at some point they would have to again return to the table and the deal they negotiated a second time around would not be as good. So, Iran uses every method and platform it can to denounce the Trump administration and accuse them of not playing by the rules. On the contrary, Iran now thinks it is a world power now that it has the ability to have nuclear power. The Americans are playing by the rules, but by placing sanctions on the country and certain individuals which has nothing to do with the nuclear deal it is stopping Iran from doing as it wishes, that is supporting the Houthis in Yemen, causing disruption in the Middle East and being one of the main supporters or terrorism in the world. Iran may walk away but it is they who will regret it in the end. Now all it is doing is attempting to place fake news and reports about its hated enemy so if it does walk away it can say, “we told you the Americans were not behaving correctly in accordance with the nuclear treaty.” By doing this they would attempt to remove the blame on themselves. COMMENT ENDS
United States/Ukraine/Russia – The new US special representative for Ukraine says Washington is actively reviewing whether to send weapons to help those fighting against Russian-backed rebels. Kurt Volker said that arming Ukrainian government forces could change Moscow's approach. He said he did not think the move would be provocative. Russia warned that anything that heightened tension could jeopardise a solution to the conflict. Mr Volker, a former US permanent representative to NATO was given the role in Kiev earlier this month. "Defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, and to take out tanks for example, would actually help" stop Russia threatening Ukraine, he said in an interview. "I'm not again predicting where we go on this. That's a matter for further discussion and decision. But I think that argument that it would be provocative to Russia or emboldening of Ukraine is just getting it backwards," he added. He said success in establishing peace in eastern Ukraine would require what he called a new strategic dialogue with Russia. On a visit to the front line on the 23 Jul 17 Mr Volker had described the situation as a "hot war" that had to be addressed as quickly as possible. Responding to Mr Volker's latest remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We have said more than once that any actions that provoke tension on the line of separation, that provoke a situation which is already complex, will only take us further away from the moment when this internal Ukrainian issue is resolved." The UN says more than 10,000 people have died since the eastern Ukraine conflict erupted in Apr 14, soon after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. The fighting has displaced more than 1.6 million people. A ceasefire was agreed in Minsk in Feb 15, but its terms are far from being fulfilled. The leaders of France and Germany discussed the conflict over the phone with the presidents of Ukraine and Russia late on the 24 Jul 17. There has been a sharp rise in violence in which eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed over 24 hours. The US Department of State called it "the deadliest one-day period in 2017" in the eastern Ukraine conflict. In a video statement, the department blamed the "Russian-led" rebels for the flare-up.
United States/Iran – Iran's top nuclear negotiator said on the 26 Jul 17 that new sanctions approved by the US House of Representatives were "a hostile measure" that breached Washington's commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal. "The ongoing action in the US Congress... is very clearly a hostile measure against the Islamic republic of Iran," deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said, according to the ISNA news agency. Araghchi led the negotiating team that agreed the deal with world powers in 2015 known as the JCPOA, by which Iran agreed to strict limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions. The new sanctions bill passed by the House on the 25 Jul 17 was merely "a compilation of previous US sanctions in the non-nuclear fields," Araghchi said. "Still, it can influence the successful implementation of the JCPOA and reduce Iran's benefits under the JCPOA. That's why it is incompatible with various sections of the JCPOA which the US has committed to implement with good intention and in a constructive atmosphere," he added. "These are America's commitments. What the Congress is doing is against these commitments and for sure will be met with a reaction from Iran." The Iranian parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee said it would hold an extraordinary session on the 29 Jul 17 to discuss its response. The parliament voted earlier this month to fast-track a bill introduced in Jun 17 that would increase funds for Iran's missile programme and Revolutionary Guards. The UN and other signatories to the nuclear deal have agreed that Iran has stuck to its commitments, which has been reluctantly accepted by the administration of President Donald Trump. "The new US administration has been forced to confirm Iran's loyalty to the deal twice within the past six months and it has had no other option as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in various reports has clearly expressed Iran's compliance with its commitments," Araghchi said.