An official of the independent oil tracking firm TankerTrackers.com on Tuesday said three Iranian tankers that are delivering gasoline to Venezuela are not likely to be seized by the United States but have turned off their location tracking devices to prevent being pinpointed.
Samir Madani, a co-founder of TankerTrackers.com told Associated Press that it is possible the three ships - -- the Forest, Fortune and Faxon all of which sail under the Iranian flag -- could make the entire journey with their transponders off to make tracking difficult. According to Madani, the US Navy will not do anything against these tankers as “Iranian flag means it’s going to reach destination”.
The seizure of an Iranian-falgged tanker by the United States would elevate tensions in the Persian Gulf and might lead to retaliatory actions by Tehran.
An official of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization on August 23 said that complaints against the seizure of tankers carrying Iranian fuel to Venezuela and violating international regulations for security of shipping have been lodged with the International Maritime Organization.
The three ships owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) are carrying an unspecified cargo which is likely to be gasoline. Iran has sent two other consignments of fuel to its fuel-starved Latin American ally this year.
The United States has warned all owners of international commercial flotilla and insurers that they could be sanctioned if they assisted with the shipment of Iranian fuel.
On August 15 the US Justice Department announced that the US had seized more than one million barrels of Iranian gasoline destined for Venezuela without involvement of military force. The cargo was being delivered in four Greek-owned tankers sailing under the Liberian flag. The fuel seized is being taken to Texas by two tankers due to arrive at their destination soon.
Iran Vice-President: No Negotiations With US Without Lifting Sanctions
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri declared that the negotiations with the United States will be in accordance with the policies set by the leader of the Islamic Republic, but for the negotiations to begin, first, the sanctions must be lifted.
“The United States will surely compromise on this issue”, Jahangiri said confidently.
He also said Islamic Republic officials must not undermine the stance of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, by their “irresponsible and non-expert opinions.”
Recently, the secretary of Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei told the Financial Times that the United States must lift the sanctions in less than one year and in those conditions the negotiations can begin, but he later backtracked.
They can announce and reassure us that all sanctions imposed after the JCPOA [the 2015 nuclear accord] would be lifted in less than one year and tell us to go and negotiate this process,” Rezaei, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), said.
In response to Rezaei, Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif said on Friday that opinions of officials who are not directly in charge of the foreign policy apparatus and nuclear negotiations should not be "confused with state policy."
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said political analysts believe Rezaei’s comments send this message to Americans that reaching any agreement would be easier with the hardliners and the negotiations must be postponed until after the presidential election in Iran.
Nazanin Zaghari's Husband Uncertain Of Her Release After Her Sentence Ends
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of jailed Iranian-British citizen in Iran Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe announced he still does not know that after her prison sentence ends on Sunday, whether she would actually be released or not.
Ratcliffe told Sky News that he is still trying to ensure his wife will be able to return to London and join her infant daughter who is counting days to the release of her mom.
Zaghari’s husband, a British citizen, who is not allowed to travel to Iran and visit his wife, said they are eagerly waiting in Britain for her release, and she is eagerly waiting in Iran.
“Tomorrow is the last day and she must be released. But the mechanism [of her return] has not been decided yet,” he added.
He went on to explain that his attorney in Iran has visited the court to find out what is to happen.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since April 2016 on the charge of espionage. Britain says that Nazanin has been taken hostage by the regime for political purposes and Iran has a history of arresting foreign and dual citizens to forward its political agenda.
Richard Ratcliffe had previously reported that the security forces of Iran had offered to release Nazanin if she would spy for them.
Second Huge Blaze Erupts In Fuel Tanks On Afghan Border With Iran
A large blaze has erupted at a border post between Iran and Afghanistan on Saturday in fuel tanks on the Afghan side of the border. This is the second big blaze in a month at the border involving fuel transported from Iran by tankers.
Iran’s customs officials said the blaze started before noon local time in three fuel tanks at the Abu Nasr Farahi border post. Iranian officials diverted trucks and tankers waiting on the Iranian side of the border away from the area and checkpoints were opened to allow trucks on the Afghan side to quickly cross into Iran to avoid being caught in the blaze.
In the February13 blaze dozens of fuel tankers exploded and burned at a different border crossing, causing huge damage to merchandise, and wounding at least 60 people.
Ruhollah Latifi, an Iranian customs official told local media that each of the tanks holds 120,000 liters of fuel and there are other tanks at this location.
There are still no reports of casualties and damage and no indication whether the incident was the result of foul play, an attack or an accident.
Irish Foreign Minister Will Visit Iran To Meet Rouhani, Zarif On Nuclear Deal
Irland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is to meet Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday in his role as a UN Security Council facilitator of the nuclear deal agreed in 2015 between Iran and major world powers.
Iran has so far refused to take part in a meeting brokered by the European Union between the signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA to revive the agreement.
But European sources this week said that Tehran had given positive signs about opening informal talks after European powers scrapped plans to criticize Tehran at the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also due to meet Coveney during the trip, on Friday said Iran would soon present a "constructive" plan of action.
"Ireland is a strong supporter of the JCPOA. In our role as facilitator, Ireland is keen to maintain a close dialogue with all actors, and encourage all parties to return to full compliance with the agreement," Coveney said in a statement.
European Union member Ireland in January took up its seat as one of 15 members of the United Nations Security Council and the country has been appointed a facilitator of the 2015 deal for the Security Council.
President Joe Biden’s administration is keen to have talks with Iran to restore the JCPOA, abandoned by Donald Trump, but demands that Iran should first return to full compliance with the deal.
Britain, France and Germany decided to pause the submission of a resolution critical of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday to not harm the prospects for diplomacy.
Iran's nuclear policy is decided by the country's top authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the president or the government.
Biden Extends US National Emergency With Respect To Iran For One Year
In a letter to the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives Friday, President Joe Biden extended the United States’ national emergency with respect to Iran which began in 1995 for one more year.
Biden warned that the actions and policies of the Government of Iran — including its proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities, its network and campaign of regional aggression, its support for terrorist groups, and the malign activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its surrogates — continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.
The declaration continues: For these reasons, the national emergency declared on March 15, 1995, must continue in effect beyond March 15, 2021. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Iran declared in Executive Order 12957.
The executive order must be extended in a period of 90 days before its expiration (March 15 of each year) or it will be revoked automatically.
The order comes as the Biden administration is attempting diplomatic efforts to return to the nuclear deal with Iran.
The Spokesperson for the US State Department Ned Price told the reporters on Thursday that Washington believes the return of both sides to the nuclear deal must be done through direct diplomacy with Iran and deliberation with other members of the nuclear accord.
Iran-Backed Militia Claims It Has Active Cells In Washington DC
The Telegram channel affiliated with Iran-backed militia group Kawtheryoon in Iraq posted in English that the Iraqi “resistance” factions have the capacity to target US forces even in Washington DC.
The group additionally claimed that terror factions associated with Iran are growing stronger and attracting more support than ever before. The group demanded the United States withdraw all of its troops from Iraq and the Middle East. The post included a picture of caskets containing US soldiers.
Additionally, the post said that the resistance factions have "thousands of men" who can rise to replace Imad Mughniyeh, the slain Lebanese Hezbollah commander. It said: "And you, the Zionist enemy (Israel) we have thousands of men like Imad Mughniyeh."
The post concluded by addressing both the US and Israel, saying that the resistance factions will deal painful blows upon each, and that the killing of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis will not help them escape the "torment" that awaits them.
The threat comes at a time when the Biden administration seeks to directly engage Iran in pursuit of returning to the negotiations over the nuclear deal. Despite these diplomatic gestures, Iran-backed terrorists in Iraq have continued to target Baghdad’s Green Zone and the American embassy and other military bases of the coalition forces.
Saudi-Led Coalition Destroyed Two Explosives-Laden Drones
CAIRO (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted and destroyed two explosives-laden drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis towards Saudi Arabia’s southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jazan, state TV reported early on Saturday.
A Houthi military spokesman said in a Twitter post on Saturday that two drones attacked King Khalid Air Base, in the Khamis Mushait area.
The Iran-aligned Houthis have stepped up cross-border drone and missile attacks on Saudi cities recently, mostly targeting the southern part of the country. The coalition says it intercepts most attacks.
Houthi rebels said yesterday that they fired a missile at an oil facility owned by Saudi Aramco in the Red Sea city of Jeddah – the latest in a series of cross-border missile and drone strikes the Yemeni group has claimed against the kingdom.
Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree on Twitter claimed the rebels hit an Aramco facility in Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile at dawn on Thursday in retaliation for a six-year military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
He posted a satellite image online that matched Aramco’s North Jeddah Bulk Plant, where oil products are stored in tanks. The rebels claimed they hit the same facility last November, an attack the Saudi-led coalition later admitted had sparked a fire at the plant.
The coalition has been fighting the Iran-aligned group in Yemen since 2015.
Iran: Assassination Of IRGC Nuclear Official Will Not Go Unanswered.
Three months after the assassination of senior Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) official and a key figure in Iran’s nuclear program Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative in Vienna Kazem Gharibabadi said the Islamic Republic will not leave the assassination of Fakhrizadeh unanswered.
“While the Islamic Republic is strongly committed to pursuing a peaceful nuclear program, another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated,” Gharibabadi said on Friday. “Evidence indicates that Israel is behind the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and must be accountable for it.”
He continued: “Considering the terrible provocative consequences of such a horrible action and its impact on international peace and security, we call on the International Atomic Energy Agency and its members to condemn this action in the strongest way.”
Iran’s ambassador to Vienna also emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not leave the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh unanswered.
Fakhrizadeh, a senior IRGC official who is characterized by Iranian media as a nuclear scientist was killed on November 27 near Tehran in what looked like an ambush on his motorcade. Unconfirmed reports saud he was assassinated by a Mossad team consisting of Iranian and Israeli agents using a one-ton automated weapon that had been smuggled into Iran in pieces, according to the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, citing anonymous intelligence sources.
India Likely To Start Full Operations At Iran's Chabahar Port By April
Indian Minister of State for Ports and Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya told Reuters that he expects full-scale operations at the two terminals developed by India in the Chabahar cargo port in southeastern Iran by the end of May.
India was developing some areas in Chabahar port as a way to transport goods to Iran circumventing the territory of its competitor Pakistan. But the US sanctions on the Islamic slowed down the development of the port and now with the new US administration’s attitude toward Iran, Indian officials are hopeful to move forward with nearly a $500 million of investment.
“I am expecting to visit Iran in April or May for the inauguration of full operations,” Mansukh Mandaviya told Reuters.
India is developing two terminals at the port including the Shahid Beheshti complex and under an agreement signed with Iran, it would run the terminal for 10 years.
Mandaviya said the port had already commenced operations in a limited way and the growth potential was evident.
Chabahar port handled 123 vessels and 1.8 million tonnes of bulk and general cargoes from February 2019 to January 2021, he said.
“This is much higher than our expectations. Imagine the scale of operations and freight saving once it is fully operational,” he said.
Last year amid the pandemic, India used the Chabahar port to send 75,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and 25 tonnes of the pesticide malathion to Iran to deal with a locust invasion.