Iran world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism: US

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis speaks while Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada (not pictured) listens during a joint press conference at the defence ministry in Tokyo on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2017
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Iran world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism: US

DUBAI: US Defense Secretary James Mattis has called Iran the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism,” amid rising tensions between the two nations.
His comments come a day after the US imposed new sanctions against Iran in response to a ballistic missile test.
But Mattis said he did not see any need to boost US troop numbers in the Middle East to deal with Iran, reported BBC.
A Revolutionary Guards commander said Iran would use its missiles if its security is under threat, as the elite force defied new US sanctions on its missile program by holding a military exercise on Saturday.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since a recent Iranian ballistic missile test which prompted US President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on individuals and entities linked to the Revolutionary Guards.
Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn said the Washington was putting Iran on notice over its “destabilizing activity,” and Trump tweeted Tehran was “playing with fire”
“We are working day and night to protect Iran’s security,” head of Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace unit, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
“If we see smallest misstep from the enemies, our roaring missiles will fall on their heads,” he added.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is holding the military exercise in Semnan province on Saturday to test missile and radar systems and to “showcase the power of Iran’s revolution and to dismiss the sanctions,” according to the force’s website.
Dismissing Trump’s comments that “nothing is off the table” in dealing with Tehran, the commander of Iran’s ground forces said on Saturday that the Islamic Republic has been hearing such threats since its 1979 revolution. “The defense capability and the offensive prowess of Iran’s armed forces would make America or any other enemy regretful of any incursion,” Ahmad Reza Pourdastan was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Iranian state news agencies reported that homemade missile systems, radars, command and control centers, and cyber warfare systems would be tested in Saturday’s drill.
Iran has one of the Middle East’s largest missile programs and held a similar exercise in December to showcase its defense systems, including radars, anti-missile defense units, and short and medium-range missiles.
Tehran confirmed on Wednesday that it had test-fired a new ballistic missile, but said the test did not breach its nuclear agreement with world powers or a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.
Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal in 2015, but the latest test was the first since Trump entered the White House. Trump said during his election campaign that he would stop Iran’s missile program.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday and recommended the missile testing be studied at the committee level. The new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, called the test “unacceptable.”
The Security Council resolution was adopted to buttress the deal under which Iran curbed its nuclear activities to allay concerns they could be used to develop atomic bombs, in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
The resolution urged Tehran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Critics say the resolution’s language does not make this obligatory.
Tehran says it has not carried out any work on missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear payloads.


Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

Updated 37 min 16 sec ago
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Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears

  • Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive
  • The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope

ABU DHABI: In the waters of the Arabian Sea, a vast “dead zone” the size of Scotland is expanding and scientists say climate change may be to blame.
In his lab in Abu Dhabi, Zouhair Lachkar is laboring over a colorful computer model of the Gulf of Oman, showing changing temperatures, sea levels and oxygen concentrations.
His models and new research unveiled earlier this year show a worrying trend.
Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive and the one in the Arabian Sea is “is the most intense in the world,” says Lachkar, a senior scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“It starts at about 100 meters and goes down to 1,500 meters, so almost the whole water column is completely depleted of oxygen,” he told AFP.
Dead zones are naturally occurring phenomena around the world, but this one appears to have mushroomed since it was last surveyed in the 1990s.
Lachkar and other researchers are worried that global warming is causing the zone to expand, raising concerns for local ecosystems and industries including fishing and tourism.
The discovery was made possible by the use of robotic divers, or “sea gliders,” deployed in areas researchers could not access — an undertaking by Britain’s University of East Anglia in collaboration with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.
The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope.
And unlike in the 1996 measurements, when the lowest levels were limited to the heart of the dead zone — midway between Yemen and India — now the dead zone extends across the sea.
“Now everywhere is the minimum, and it can’t go much lower,” the lead researcher Bastien Queste told AFP.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, Lachkar explains the Arabian Sea dead zone appears to be stuck in a cycle where warming seas are depleting the oxygen supply which in turn is reinforcing the warming.
This, he says, “can be very scary for climate.”
Ports from Mumbai to Muscat look out onto the Arabian Sea, making it a critical body of water.
These coastal hubs and the populations beyond them will be affected by further expansion of the dead zone.
Fish, a key source of sustenance in the region, may find their habitats compressed from deep underwater to just beneath the surface, putting them at risk of overfishing and extreme competition.
“When oxygen concentration drops below certain levels, fish cannot survive and you have massive death,” says Lachkar.
To carry out his data-heavy modelling, Lachkar relies on a sprawling supercomputer center which cost several million dollars to set up — a testament to local priorities to research climate change.
The UAE in 2016 renamed its Ministry of Environment and Water as the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, further evidence of the regional desire to meet this global challenge head-on.
“I think it is an important topic for different reasons, not only scientific reasons, but also economic,” says Lachkar from his Center for Prototype and Climate Modelling.
“Fishing is an important source of revenue and it’s directly impacted by the oxygen,” he said.
Even coral reefs and, by extension, tourism could be affected.
Down the hall from his research facility is the complementary Center for Global Sea Level Change, where researchers like Diana Francis study the worldwide impact of the problem.
The issue was at the top of the global agenda in 2015, when the world hammered out a deal in Paris to cut carbon emissions.
But the landmark agreement received a blow last year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the accord.
“It is very disappointing, because a major country is not putting effort in the same direction as the others,” says Francis of the decision.
“But our role is to stick to science, be pragmatic and try to advance our understanding of the climate,” she says.
“Politics change over time,” Francis tells AFP. “But science does not.”