The Trump administration halted scheduled Iranian fuel deliveries to Venezuela Wednesday by threatening sanctions on the ships carrying the cargo, according to U.S. officials. Iran and Venezuela attempted to outmaneuver American sanctions by establishing a new oil partnership. Two Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned ships that “were en route to Venezuela carrying Iranian fuel, scrapped their deliveries after the U.S. threatened sanctions,” a senior U.S. official told Fox News. First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the ships were expected to arrive in Venezuela as the final delivery in a previously planned five-oil-tanker shipment, an effort that the Venezuelan regime has said is a partnership to thwart the American sanctions. “The Iranian oil tankers arriving in Venezuela are nothing but a distraction from the real problems facing Maduro,” a spokesperson from the State Department told Fox News. “These shipments will do nothing to help Venezuelans, they will only help prop up the former Maduro regime for a little while longer.” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said in a televised address: “We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism.” But the Greek-owned ships would have been unable to access international banking and maritime insurance had they carried out the shipment. U.S. officials have been in direct communication with the ships, which are no longer heading to Venezuala but heading south off the coast of Senegal near Liberia, according to The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s Iran Action Group reportedly contacted the Liberian government, to which the two ships are registered, to warn them against sanctions. The Liberian government immediately revoked the ships’ accreditation. The two Greek firms that own the ships were also threatened with U.S. sanctions and legal action, at which point the two ships abandoned the course, according to The Journal. The U.S. has been increasing its efforts in pressuring both nations with sanctions. “We will continue to use the full weight of United States’ economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” the State Department spokesperson told Fox News. President Trump has also increased sanctions on Venezuela, drastically affecting its oil production. According to experts, the oil shipments were only expected to satisfy Venezuelan demand for a couple of weeks. “Iranian gas cannot prevent the inevitable: a democratic transition that restores prosperity to Venezuela,” the State Department spokesperson said.
Iran and Venezuela are working together to circumvent United States sanctions, according to reports. Five Iranian tankers are sailing to Venezuela, carrying at least $45.5 million worth of gasoline and similar products. The capacity of the ships is believed to be around 175,000 metric tons. “This is like a new one for everyone,” said Capt. Ranjith Raja, an analyst who tracks oil shipments by sea at the data firm Refinitiv, of the gasoline shipments. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.” Raja notes the ships all appear to have been loaded from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran, which makes gasoline. One of the vessels, the Clavel, listed its AIS destination as Caracas beginning May 12, according to log data from ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. The vessel later changed its destination as “TO ORDER” two days later, though the ship remains on route to what appears to be Venezuela as it leaves the Mediterranean Sea. Given the crushing U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, Venezuela appears to be the country willing to accept the shipments. Raja said Refinitiv had no data on any Iranian gasoline shipment ever going to South America before. Quoted by a website affiliated to Iranian state television, cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei on Saturday said he did not have any information on the ships. “We have to sell our oil and we have access to its paths,” Rabiei said. “Iran and Venezuela are two independent nations that have had trade with each other and they will” in the future. Iran has warned America that it will retaliate against any actions should America act “like pirates” and attack any of the vessels. “If the United States, like pirates, intends to create insecurity on international highways, it will take a dangerous risk that will certainly not go unnoticed,” warned Nour, an Iranian news agency believed to have ties to the country’s Supreme National Security Council. Venezuela suffers a deepening economic crisis, which has driven up crime rates and deepened political divides within the country. Crumbling public services such as running water, electricity and medical care have driven nearly 5 million people to leave. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has previously turned to Iran for help, but Iran has finally responded after the coronavirus pandemic, an oil crisis and U.S. sanctions have hit the Iranian economy. Earlier this month, Iran authorized the replacement of the rial with the toman, which is worth 10,000 rials, in an effort to curb the rampant inflation that has ravaged the country. Iran’s currency as lost more than 60 percent of its value while consumer prices rose 37 percent just this year. It remains unclear how the U.S. will respond to the tankers. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury, State Department and Coast Guard issued an advisory warning the maritime industry of illegal shipping and sanctions-dodging tactics by countries, including Iran.
U.S. officials are denying reports of a coronavirus-initiated prisoner swap with Iran that could mean the return of a Navy veteran to the United States and a 60-year-old university professor to Tehran. A spokesman for Iran’s rulers told the website Khabaroline.ir that their government is prepared to discuss a mutual prisoner release without conditions. “But, the U.S. has refused to answer so far,” cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said, according to the Associated Press. A senior U.S. government official told the AP there is no prisoner trade offer on the table or even an offer to begin discussions between Washington and Tehran. The two men being held in custody in Iran and the U.S. are California resident Michael White and Sirous Asgari. Mr. White was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a girlfriend in Iran. He was later convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and releasing sensitive information online. Iran has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 100,000 confirmed cases. Mr. White was released from prison in March on a medical furlough that required him to remain in Iran. Mr. Asgari was arrested by the FBI in 2013 but was later acquitted for stealing trade secrets. He has been held in indefinite custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy Homeland Secretary secretary, told the AP the two cases have never been linked. He said Iran had been “slow to accept Asgari’s return,” according to them. Mr. Rabiei said it seems as if the U.S. is more willing to “bring the situation to an end” than it has been in the past, according to the AP. “We hope that as the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease threatens the lives of Iranian citizens in the U.S. prisons, the U.S. government actually will prefer lives to politics,” Mr. Rabiei said, according to the AP. It wouldn’t be the prisoner swap between the two countries. Iran released a Princeton University researcher in December who had been held for three years on espionage charges in exchange for the release of a detained Iranian scientist. Ensuring the release of American detainees and hostages is a high priority for the Trump administration, White House officials told the AP.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Iran’s satellite launch this week as “dangerous” and “provocative” and urged the international community to intervene. “For years, Iran has claimed its space program is purely peaceful and civilian,” Pompeo said in a statement Saturday. “The Trump Administration has never believed this fiction. This week’s launch of a military satellite by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, makes clear what we have said all along: Iran’s space program is neither peaceful nor entirely civilian.” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched its first satellite into space Wednesday, dramatically revealing what experts described as a secret military space program that could advance its ballistic missile development amid wider tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. Using a mobile launcher at a new launch site, the Guard said it put the “Noor,” or “Light,” satellite into a low orbit circling the Earth. Iranian state TV late Wednesday showed footage of what it said was the satellite and said it had orbited the earth within 90 minutes. It said the satellite’s signals were being received. Pompeo said the launch proved that Iran was spreading falsehoods when it repeatedly claimed that its space program was peaceful. “The most recent military launch, which was developed and conducted in secret, proves that these statements were lies,” Pompeo said. The launch comes as Iran has abandoned all the limitations of its tattered nuclear deal with world powers that President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from in 2018. Trump’s decision set off a monthslong series of escalating attacks that culminated in a U.S. drone strike in January that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq, followed by Tehran launching ballistic missiles at American soldiers in Iraq. As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and historically low oil prices, the missile launch may signal a new willingness to take risks by Iran. Trump himself later tweeted he told the U.S. Navy “ to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” both raising energy prices and renewing the risk of conflict. Pompeo said the space launch signals Iran’s nuclear weapon aspirations. “This satellite launch vehicle and others launched before it incorporate technologies identical to, and interchangeable with, ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs],” Pompeo said in calling on the international community to reject Iran’s development of ballistic-missile capable technologies. “No country has ever pursued an ICBM capability except for the purpose of delivering nuclear weapons,” he said. The Revolutionary Guard caught world powers by surprise this week by launching the military satellite as part of a secret space program as Trump threatened to sink any Iranian vessel harassing U.S. forces. Iran has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19. Experts both inside and outside of Iran believe Tehran also is underreporting the scale of the coronavirus crisis. “Iran, of course, has seized the opportunity presented by COVID-19, which is what’s preoccupying Americans at the moment,” said Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow who studies Iran at the Washington-based German Marshall Fund. “In part, it’s trying to distract from its own botched response to the pandemic and partly, it sees the United States at its weakest in a while and so it’s using this to raise the cost of the maximum pressure campaign to force the U.S. to end it.” Pompeo called for support in extending the United Nations conventional arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire this October. He also urged the European Union to sanction individuals and entities working on Iran’s missile programs. “When the Iranian people are suffering and dying from the coronavirus pandemic, it is regrettable to see the regime waste its resources and efforts on provocative military pursuits that do nothing to help the Iranian people,” Pompeo said.
This is a very disturbing development. Sec. Mike Pompeo (R) is a very smart diplomat with an extensive resume including having graduated #1 in his class from West Point, a stint on active duty in the Army as an officer, a law degree from Harvard, six terms in Congress, and was the former Director of the CIA. And, that’s just for starters. His assessment of Iran’s space intentions are spot on. With that in mind, we need to take clear and decisive action to make it clear to the wacky mullahs in Tehran that we are NOT weakened by ANY means…and let them know we will not tolerate their pursuit of nuclear weapons…ever.
Separately, and just as important.. This is yet another example of why it is absolutely critical we invest now in both our civilian space (i.e. NASA), and military space programs. Indeed, President Trump’s vision for a true “Space Force” is needed now more than ever. We posted an article about just that written by a retired Air Force 3-star general. To read that, type “Space Force” into the Search field to the right and it’ll bring that article up.
The Pentagon’s top brass on Wednesday gave a strong endorsement to President Trump’s tweet ordering the Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian boats harassing U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing Wednesday he appreciated Mr. Trump’s message and said the president’s intention was to emphasize that any warship has the inherent right of self-defense. “I like that the president warned an adversary. That’s what he’s doing: He’s providing a warning,” Gen. Hyten said. “If you want to go down that path, we will come and we will come large. So don’t go down that path,” Gen. Hyten added. “We understand that direction and every commander deployed has the ability to execute.” Gen. Hyten and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist repeatedly declined to answer whether Mr. Trump’s tweet, which came days after video showing nearly a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboats weaving dangerously around a U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, was being formalized as an actual order changing the rules of engagement with the IRGC. Mr. Norquist also described the president’s tweet a warning, and suggested it gave greater force to the authority U.S. commanders already have in the escalating confrontation with Iran. “The president issued a warning to the Iranians,” Norquist said. “What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense.” In the most recent incident last week, an IRGC vessel appeared to come within 10 yards of an American ship. A trained U.S. commander can tell the difference between hostile and non-hostile actions from another vessel, Gen. Hyten said Wednesday. “If you come across and you’re at a safe distance and you’re waving — that’s one thing. If you have a gun and you point it at me, that’s another thing,” he said. “We know what that line is [and] we will respond. I think the president’s message was crystal clear.”
Indeed.. And it was a message that the front-line sailors and troops appreciated.
President Trump said Wednesday that he’s instructed the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships, in the wake of a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump tweeted. The encounter happened last week. Six U.S. Navy warships were conducting drills with US Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters off Iran last Wednesday when they were repeatedly harassed by 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet reported. The Iranian ships repeatedly crossed in front and behind the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of one ship, the Puller, with a 50-yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards of another ship, the Maui’s, bow, a 5th Fleet statement said. The Navy also reported that the USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco and USCGC Wrangell, as well as the Puller and Maui, were involved in the exercises. The U.S. crews responded by issuing multiple warnings via radio—including five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-grange acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement. After approximately an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the radio queries, before maneuvering away from the U.S. ships and increasing the distance between them, according to the Navy. The Navy said that the Iranian’s dangerous and provocative actions “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and were in violation of international maritime “rules of the road.” The Navy also said they were not in accordance with international law to act safely with other vessels in the area. The incident last week came one day after Iranian gunmen stormed a Hong Kong-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before quickly leaving when they learned the vessel was from China. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the Gulf since March. The president’s directive also comes several months after hostilities between the U.S. and Iran which included an attack at the U.S. Embassy compound in Iraq that U.S. officials blamed on Iran. In response, the U.S. carried out a strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Also, earlier this month, the president sent a stark warning to Iran, after claiming that Iran was planning a “sneak attack” on U.S. troops in Iraq. “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Trump tweeted.
This is so great! FINALLY, a President is saying enough is enough. For FAR too long, presidents of BOTH parties have allowed this crap to continue unchecked. President Trump is showing leadership and, believe me, the troops in the field (and at sea) appreciate this. They know their Commander in Chief has their back. Excellent!! 🙂
The U.S. military launched multiple strikes using warplanes targeting multiple bases used by Iranian-backed Shia militias believed to be behind the rocket attack on Camp Taji, Iraq, the day before that killed two Americans and one British soldier, according to a senior U.S. military source. The launch began after 1 a.m. Baghdad time. The U.S. military strike was “proportional,” according to the U.S. military source, and hit multiple bases used by the Kata’eb Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that fired 30 Katyusha rockets yesterday at the Taji Base, which housed American and British troops. Of the 12 troops wounded yesterday, five are in serious condition. “The U.S. does not want to escalate the conflict with Iran,” the U.S. military source said. but wanted to send a deterrent message, according to a message telegraphed by the Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during a briefing to Pentagon press earlier Thursday. President Trump authorized the strike earlier in the day. The Pentagon released a statement following the strikes, confirming that they were conducted in response to the rocket attacks on Wednesday. “Earlier this evening, the United States conducted defensive precision strikes against Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) facilities across Iraq,” the Defense Department said. “These strikes targeted five weapon storage facilities to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks against Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces. These weapons storage facilities include facilities that housed weapons used to target U.S. and coalition troops.” “These strikes were defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR coalition forces,” the Pentagon added. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: “The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies. As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.” U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace released a statement later Thursday expressing the country’s support of the U.S. and the strikes. “The coalition stands should to shoulder in Iraq,” he said. “Our forces work together to help the country resist the malign activity of terrorists. When we and others are attacked, we reserve the right to defend ourselves.” “We support the right of the United States to defend themselves, as they have done tonight,” he added. “We reiterate that those who seek to harm our armed forces can expect to receive a strong response.” The U.S. has two aircraft carriers in the region: USS Harry S Truman in the Arabian Sea and USS Dwight D Eisenhower in the Red Sea. But these strikes did not involve Tomahawk cruise missiles, Fox News is told, just multiple aircraft, but it is not clear what jets were used and from which bases they launched. The U.S. Air Force keeps dozens of fighter jets in Qatar and the UAE and B1 bombers in Saudi Arabia.
We still don’t know the names of the two U.S. service members who were killed. But, the Brit was a young female enlisted soldier. Hopefully we got those responsible in this air strike.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., confirmed on Tuesday that he met with Iran’s foreign minister, arguing that “it’s dangerous not to talk to adversaries.” The two met at the Munich Security conference amid tough rhetoric between President Trump and Iran’s leadership. Murphy claimed he told Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that Congress is also responsible for setting U.S. foreign policy. “Many of us have met w Zarif over the years, under Obama and Trump,” Murphy tweeted. “So though no one in Congress can negotiate with Zarif or carry official U.S. government messages, there is value in having a dialogue.” According to his tweets, Murphy also urged Zarif to control any proxies that might attack U.S. forces, as well as release American citizens unlawfully detained in the nation. Murphy’s tweets confirmed an earlier report that Murphy and other Democratic senators held a secret meeting with Zarif. It’s unclear which other senators were involved. In a Medium post, Murphy expanded on his meeting and clarified that he wasn’t trying to sidestep the administration’s foreign policy. “I don’t know whether my visit with Zarif will make a difference. I’m not the President or the Secretary of State — I’m just a rank and file U.S. Senator. I cannot conduct diplomacy on behalf of the whole of the U.S. government, and I don’t pretend to be in a position to do so,” Murphy wrote. “But if Trump isn’t going to talk to Iran, then someone should. And Congress is a co-equal branch of government, responsible along with the Executive for setting foreign policy. A lack of dialogue leaves nations guessing about their enemy’s intentions, and guessing wrong can lead to catastrophic mistakes.” Murphy’s chamber recently voted on a war powers resolution aimed at reining in Trump’s actions against Iran. The resolution received a majority vote but ultimately failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed to overcome Trump’s veto. The meeting came as the Trump administration seeks to increasingly isolate Iran through the re-imposition of sanctions under its “maximum pressure campaign” on the Islamic republic. Murphy has been a harsh critic of the administration’s policy toward Iran and said in a Medium post that he had raised the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq and told Zarif that despite differences, Congress and the administration are united in sending a message that any Iran-backed attack on American troops in Iraq would be “an unacceptable escalation.” The senator also said he had raised Iran’s support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and Americans held prisoner in Iran.
What Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has done here is mind-boggling, and sinister at best. The President and the Executive Branch of government are responsible for setting and maintaining our nation’s foreign policy. It is NOT something shared with the legislative branch. Sen. Murphy knows this, despite his disingenuous comments to the contrary. To be clear… He is consciously, proactively undermining the Trump Administration’s foreign policy efforts with Iran because he disagrees with them, and he’s a Dem that doesn’t like Trump. It’s that simple. At best, Sen. Murphy is in violation of the Logan Act, and should be censured by the Senate. At worst, he is undermining our national security, and might be engaging in treasonous activities and should be criminally charged accordingly. Sen. Murphy has NO business doing what he’s doing, and has no authority to be doing it whatsoever. Yes, there ARE three co-equal branches of government, Senator. But, they each have their separate roles and responsibilities and those roles and responsibilities are clearly laid out in our Constitution, Sir. Perhaps you should read it. The conduct of foreign policy resides solely in the purview of the executive branch. Period. Sen. Murphy is a legislator, and someone needs to tell him to stay in his lane. What a self-serving, sanctimonious, sleazy tool…
An Iranian student who was denied entry to the United States on arrival and deported this week, amid objections from top Democrats and left-wing activists, has family ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah, a Department of Homeland Security official said. Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein was denied entry to the U.S. and detained on Sunday when he arrived on a student visa at Boston Logan International Airport. His detention sparked outrage from activists, who flooded the airport demanding his release. It also drew objections from Northeastern University, where Dehghani was due to be enrolled, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “Shahab Dehghani is an Iranian student with a valid F1 visa, returning to finish his education. CBP already held him overnight,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. tweeted. “His deportation must be halted, and we must fight the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies.” A Massachusetts district court judge granted Dehghani a stay from deportation, but Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deported him minutes later — a DHS official told Fox News Wednesday that he had already been put on the plane when the stay was issued. In a statement Tuesday, CBP said that “the issuance of a visa … does not guarantee entry to the United States” and said that Dehghani had been “deemed inadmissible and processed for expedited removal and return to his place of departure. “During today’s hearing, the court ruled that the matter is now moot as the subject was never admitted into the United States, the subject is no longer in custody, and the court does not have jurisdiction to order his return,” the statement said. A CBP spokesperson said that the agency was not at liberty to discuss an individual’s case due to the Privacy Act, but noted that “CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they also enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law. “
You know its an election year when someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) whines and grandstands about something like this. This kid has ties to Hamas and the IRGC. CBP was well within its right to deport this guy. So, kudos to them for doing their job protecting us. Shame on Lizzy for her self-righteous bs. She couldn’t care less about our safety. She just trying to play to her very small base by taking a silly pot shot at Trump over this. Typical.. For more, click on the text above.
Sorry, media. It looks like Iran hates its own government more than it hates us. Instead of burning American flags, what did you see at Sunday’s protests in Iran, over its government shooting down that airliner? A bunch of Iranians refusing to act the way our media wished they would. Demonstrators refused to walk on American and Israeli flags. Instead, they attacked images of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Yes, as much as they were expected to despise those two countries, it seems they loathe the Revolutionary Guard more. Video also showed government forces firing live ammo at the protestors. Media outrage here is at low ebb — they’re still too busy complaining about Trump tweeting mean things about them. In Iran, people who speak out endure bullets. In America, the outrage is over memes. Meanwhile, yet another media narrative implodes. We’ve learned that Trump authorized the killing of Soleimani seven months ago. Wow, talk about impulsive! Erratic! Unstable! Trump only waited seven months to take the guy out. Clearly, he’s a maniac crazy with bloodlust. Where’s the 25th Amendment when you need it? Once again, the media lie to you about everything. They painted Soleimani as a folk hero. It wasn’t true. And, they repeated the lie that Trump was acting irrationally, part of the madman persona they helped fabricate. That wasn’t true, either. Only in America can our media get everything so wrong and still see themselves as the good guys. I guess that’s the only way they can look in the mirror without throwing up.
No kidding.. Thanks Greg. That was adapted from Greg Gutfeld’s monologue on “The Five” on Jan. 13, 2020.