Iran

US to send 1,800 troops, dozens of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia amid Iran tensions

Roughly 1,800 U.S. service members, as well as several dozen fighter jets and other air defense implements, will be sent to Saudi Arabia to help protect the Kingdom amid heightened tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Friday. Officials said the U.S. is set to ship two F-15 squadrons, two Patriot missile batteries, one anti-missile defense system known as THADD and other planes. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he informed Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman earlier Friday about the additional troops “to ensure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia.” “Saudi Arabia is a longstanding security partner in the Middle East and has asked for additional support to supplement their own defense and defend the international rules-based order,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s announcement came just hours after Iranian officials said two missiles from an undetermined source hit one of its oil tankers that was traveling through the Red Sea about 60 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The explosions from the missiles damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker – identified as the Sibiti – and caused a brief oil leak into the Red Sea. The leak was later plugged, Iranian state television reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” carried out by those committing “dangerous adventurism.” He said the incident was under investigation. There has been no word from Saudi Arabia regarding the reported missile strikes. That incident comes amid fraught tensions and charges by the U.S. that Iran has attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf — something denied by Tehran. Right now, there are roughly 250 U.S. troops deployed to Saudi Arabia and more than 60,000 U.S. troops deployed throughout the Middle East, both within various countries and aboard warships. This recent deployment is part of the response to the suspected Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.

US struck Iranian military computers this week

U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday. Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. The cyberattacks — a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions — disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said. Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps computer system, were provided as options after Iranian forces blew up two oil tankers earlier this month. The IRGC, which was designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration earlier this year, is a branch of the Iranian military. The action by U.S. Cyber Command was a demonstration of the U.S.’s increasingly mature cyber military capabilities and its more aggressive cyber strategy under the Trump administration. Over the last year U.S. officials have focused on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations. There was no immediate reaction Sunday morning in Iran to the U.S. claims. Iran has hardened and disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the late 2000s. Tensions have escalated between the two countries ever since the U.S. withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone — an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening. The cyberattacks are the latest chapter in the U.S. and Iran’s ongoing cyber operations targeting the other. Yahoo News first reported the cyber strike. In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted U.S. government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including finance, oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which regularly track such activity. This new campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month. It was not known if any of the hackers managed to gain access to the targeted networks with the emails, which typically mimic legitimate emails but contain malicious software.

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Trump OKs 1,500 more U.S. troops to Middle East amid Iranian tensions

President Trump has ordered the deployment of another 1,500 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. “We want to have protection,” Mr. Trump confirmed Friday to reporters at the White House. “We’ll be sending a relatively small number of troops. It’ll be about 1,500 people.” Mr. Trump has given his approval to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to deploy the additional troops to the Persian Gulf region to deter Iranian threats, after meeting with his military chiefs Thursday evening. But the number approved was smaller than the up to 10,000 troops previously reported, and — with some of the new troops already in the region — the net increase amounted to just 900. “Today, I informed Congress that I approved [U.S. Central Command’s] request for the deployment of additional resources and capabilities to the Middle East to improve our force protection and safeguard U.S. forces,” in the wake of Iranian threats, Mr. Shanahansaid in a statement Friday. The deployment represents “a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities,” with Tehran and its regional allies, he added. The new tranche of American forces heading into the Middle East will include a military engineering unit, as well as Air Force fighter squadron, drone units and additional aerial intelligence aircraft, Joint Staff Director Vice Adm. Mike Gilday told reporters at the Pentagon. In addition, Pentagon leaders have extended the deployment of a 600-strong Army Patriot missile defense battalion, which had been sent into the Middle East earlier this month.

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Opinion/Analysis: America should hit Iran where it hurts after 40 years of undeclared war

Most Americans don’t realize it, but we’ve been at war for the last 40 years with the Islamic state of Iran. This is not a war we declared. And often, it’s been a war that our political and intelligence elites have denied exists. That’s because, just like the war we’ve been fighting since the 9/11 attacks, it’s a war that others declared on us rather than a war of our choosing. It began on November 4, 1979, when “radicals” loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held our diplomats hostage for 444 days. Once the hostages were released, on the very minute President Reagan was sworn into office, most Americans – including our politicians – thought the war was over. We did nothing. On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. (I reported from the scene of that bombing for USA Today at the time). The U.S. government never determined who was behind the attack, although we now know it was Iran. We did nothing. On Oct. 23, 1983, twin truck bombs killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French peacekeepers in Beirut. Once again, Iran ordered and carried out the attacks. We did nothing. Over the years, the Iranian regime, through its top terror-master, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, kidnapped Americans, hijacked U.S. aircraft, and blew up more U.S. embassies while we did nothing. In 1998 Mugniyeh and his Iranian paymasters teamed up with Usama bin Laden, attacking U.S. embassies in Africa, driving a boat laden with explosives into the U.S.S. Cole, and yes, attacking America on Sept. 11, 2001. Victims of the 9/11 attacks have won more than $18 billion in damages against the Islamic state of Iran in U.S. courts, based on evidence that Iran “materially and directly supported al Qaeda” in preparing and executing those attacks. Iran has also targeted U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, killing more than 1,000 U.S. troops with specialized improvised explosive devices in Iraq, placing a bounty on U.S. service personnel in Afghanistan, and most recently targeting U.S. forces in Syria. The carnage just goes on and on. President Trump has said repeatedly that Americans are tired of endless wars. I agree. So here’s a strategy for winning this war and ending it once and for all. First, we need to increase military pressure on Iran by cutting off its “land bridge” through Syria to Israel’s northern border. This can be done by continuing to support the U.S. base at al Tanf in southeastern Syria, whether it is operated by Kurdish or Arab allies or members of the U.S. military. Next, we need to loosen Iran’s stranglehold over Iraq, by convincing the Iraqi government to disband the Iranian-backed Shiite militias that funnel arms and material through Iraqi territory into Syria, and by weeding out Iranian agents in the Iraqi government. Third, we need to provide material, political and diplomatic support to the pro-freedom movement inside Iran, striking the regime at the core of its weakness – its democracy deficiency. And fourth, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo needs to encourage U.S. friends and allies at the international meeting on the Middle East in Poland to enact new multilateral economic sanctions against Iran. These should include measures to freeze Iranian government assets so that the victims of Iranian terrorism with U.S. judgments can file claim to them overseas. Justice for victims of terrorism must be part of the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic dictatorship in Iran. After all, keeping safe those fat overseas bank accounts is something the corrupt mullahs in Iran treasure. Let’s hit them where it hurts.

We agree!!  Thanks to Kenneth R. Timmerman for that outstanding op/ed.  That was spot on!  Having personally spent some time in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Military Intelligence “field grade” officer, I know that we have been fighting a proxy war with Iran for many years.   Kenneth R. Timmerman, best-selling author, lectured on Iran at the Joint Counter-Intelligence Training Academy from 2010-2016. He was jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace prize with Ambassador John Bolton in 2006 for his work on Iran. His latest book is “ISIS Begins: a Novel of the Iraq War.”

Foiled Iranian plots in Europe raise concern in US, spotlight Israeli intelligence sharing

On the heels of explosive revelations that Iranian operatives – allegedly under direct orders from Tehran – plotted to carry out deadly attacks on dissidents across Europe, U.S. intelligence is on heightened alert of similar Iran-orchestrated operations, according to several analysts and insiders. “Given recent geopolitical developments, there is a growing concern of Iran orchestrating assignations and potential attacks,” said Michael Rozin, president of Minneapolis-based threat detection firm Rozin Security, and a former Israeli security agent, told Fox News. “Iranian intelligence services typically leverage local residents or citizens for pre-operational activities and use their own trained operatives … They leverage local sympathizers or those with families in Iran.” In August, the Department of Justice arrested two Iranians suspected of spying and “acting on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, and collecting identifying information about American citizens and U.S. nationals.” In particular, the Iranians targeted those involved with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) – also referred to as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The MEK has long been deemed a terrorist organization by Tehran. It was also designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997, but was removed from the list in 2012. Eight years earlier, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld designated the group as civilian “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention. One man identified as Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar was a dual national with U.S. and Iranian citizenship, accused of conducting illicit snooping on a Jewish organization in Chicago. The other, Majid Ghorbani, is an Iranian citizen and California permanent resident, who was arrested after allegedly taking photos at an Iranian opposition rally held in New York, in September 2017 and passing them on to Iranian intelligence. The indictment against Ghorbani says he was involved in an operation to kidnap and kill Ali Safavi, a leading Iranian opposition figure. “I remember him. He came to the rally and upon seeing me, asked why I don’t go to California to visit anymore,” Safavi, a senior official with the NCRI, said..

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U.S. cancels 1950s treaty with Iran after international court rules against sanctions

The U.S. is pulling out of a 63-year-old friendship treaty with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday, just hours after an international tribunal ruled the Trump administration must roll back some of the sanctions it has imposed on Tehran over its nuclear and missile programs. Mr. Pompeo appeared in the State Department briefing room to personally deliver the news, calling the termination of the 1955 agreement “overdue” and accusing Iran of abusing the International Court of Justice* in The Hague to undercut U.S. policy. Iran cited the 1955 agreement as the basis for arguing at the ICJ that curbs on humanitarian trade announced by the Trump administration after President Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal this spring were illegal under international law. In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation. Mr. Pompeo noted that the court refused to grant Iran much more sweeping relief from U.S. sanctions that Tehran had demanded. He also said the U.S. sanctions policy already took into account exceptions for humanitarian transactions with Iran, and accused the regime in Tehran of spending money on military adventures abroad rather than on the needs of its own citizens. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised the court ruling on Twitter, calling it “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. and a “victory for rule of law,” The Associated Press reported. Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, accused the Trump administration of acting “impetuously” in abrogating the treaty. “That treaty has proven immensely valuable to the United States historically, including in the judgment against Iran over the 1979 hostage crisis,” Mr. Abdi said in a statement. Mr. Pompeo said it remained to be seen what the practical effect of abrogating the 1955 “Amity Treaty” would be. He said Iran has been “ignoring” the agreement for a long time, and the ICJ ruling provided just one more reason for ending the accord.

New York Times: Trump’s Iran Sanctions ‘Working’; Foreign Policy ‘Success’

The New York Times gave President Donald Trump credit for oil sanctions on Iran, which it said had been successful in pressuring the regime without raising oil prices. In an article by Cliffor Krauss titled, “Trump Hit Iran With Oil Sanctions. So Far, They’re Working,” the Times reported that Trump had defied foreign policy experts and achieved what few of them would have thought possible. The Times noted: “When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster. If Mr. Trump’s approach worked too well, oil prices would spike and hurt the American economy. If it failed, international companies would continue trading with Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic unscathed, defiant and free to restart its nuclear program. But the policy has been effective without either of those nasty consequences, at least so far.” “The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm. Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration’s aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge. The article also noted that while European governments have criticized Trump for pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran, European companies have been supporting Trump’s policy by pulling out of Iran.

Even “the failing New York Times” had to admit that Trump’s pressure on Iran IS working.  I bet that was a painful admission.      🙂