US will respond with military force if its interests are attacked by Iran: Brian Hook

US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook said Washington has made clear it will respond with military force if US interests are attacked by Iran. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 May 2019

US will respond with military force if its interests are attacked by Iran: Brian Hook

  • Hook says US waiting for results of investigation into tanker attacks off UAE coast before discussing proper response
  • The Iran envoy said the US repositioning of military assets has had desired deterrent effect on Iranian regime

DUBAI: The United States will respond with military force if its interests are attacked by Iran, the US Iran envoy said on Thursday as Arab leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia to discuss what they see as the threat from Tehran amid rising tensions.
But US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said US actions taken so far in the Gulf region, which include repositioning military assets, have had the “desired deterrent effect on the (Iranian) regime’s risk calculations.”
The US military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that US officials said was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
Hook was speaking to reporters by phone ahead of emergency summits of Arab leaders in the Saudi city of Makkah due on Thursday to discuss drone strikes on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and attacks on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE coast earlier this month.
Hook said the US was waiting for results of the investigation into the tanker attacks off the UAE coast before discussing a proper response
Tehran has denied involvement in either attack.
The US is pursuing what it calls a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran to reduce its revenue streams from oil and other economic activities, in an attempt to curb what it sees as Tehran’s disruptive policies in the region.
Responding to a question about China and India importing Iranian oil and whether it was possible for them to keep importing small amounts, Hook said there would be no more exceptions granted to sanctions against Iran oil imports.
“There will be no more oil waivers granted,” he said, adding that any oil imported by any country beyond waiver limits that ran from November last year to May, would be subject to sanctions.
Trump also said that Iran’s economy is suffering from US sanctions and that the country is becoming a “weakened nation.”
As tensions between Washington and Tehran escalate, Trump claims Iran wants to make a deal.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, however, that negotiating with the US would bring nothing but harm.
He said Wednesday that his country will not negotiate on issues related to its military capabilities. He insists that Iran isn’t looking to acquire nuclear weapons — not because of sanctions or the United States, but because they are forbidden under Islamic Sharia law.
At the White House on Thursday, Trump told reporters: “If they want to talk, I’m available.”
Meanwhile, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that the threat from Iran is not over but quick action from the United States has helped deter it.
“I don’t think this threat is over, but I do think you can make at least a conditional claim that the quick response and the deployment and other steps that we took did serve as a deterrent,” Bolton told reporters during a visit to London.
Asked whether he was at odds with President Donald Trump, who said earlier this week that the US was not looking for regime change in Iran, he said: “The policy we’re pursuing is not a policy of regime change. That’s the fact and everybody should understand it that way.”
Bolton said there was some prospect that evidence Iran was behind attacks this month on oil tankers in the Gulf would be presented to the United Nations Security Council next week.
“I don’t think anybody who is familiar with the situation in the region, whether they have examined the evidence or not, has come to any conclusion other than that these attacks were carried out by Iran or their surrogates,” he said.


High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

Updated 5 min 44 sec ago

High-end rebrand makes life sweet for Japan’s ‘ice farmers’

  • Reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the ice-farming trade
  • The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores
NIKKO, Japan: In a mountainous area north of Tokyo, a priest blows a conch shell as Yuichiro Yamamoto bows and thanks the nature gods for this year’s “good harvest”: natural ice.
Yamamoto is one of Japan’s few remaining “ice farmers,” eschewing the ease of refrigeration for open-air pools to create a product that is sold to high-end shaved ice shops in trendy Tokyo districts.
His trade had all but disappeared in recent decades, and the shaved ice or kakigori that is popular throughout Japan in summer had been produced with cheap machine-made ice.
But reinventing natural-made ice as a high-end artisanal product has helped revive the sector and save his firm.
“When I started making natural ice, I wondered how I should market it. I thought I needed to transform kakigori,” Yamamoto says at his ice-making field in the town of Nikko, north of Tokyo.
Yamamoto took over a traditional ice-making business 13 years ago in Nikko, where he also runs a leisure park.
At the time, shaved ice cost just ¥200 ($2) in the local area and Yamamoto, who was fascinated by traditional ice-making, knew he couldn’t make ends meet.
“My predecessor used to sell ice at the same price as the fridge-made one, which can be manufactured easily anytime throughout the year,” the 68-year-old says.
The situation made it “impossible” to compete he explains, as producing natural ice is labor intensive.
Instead he decided to transform cheap kakigori into a luxury dessert, made with his natural ice and high-grade fruit puree rather than artificially flavored syrup.
After months of research, he began producing his own small batches of artisanal kakigori.
“I put the price tag at ¥800 for a bowl of kakigori. I also priced the ice at ¥9,000 per case, which is six times more than my predecessor,” he says.
At first, there were days he threw away tons of ice because he could not find clients.
But one day buyers from the prestigious Mitsukoshi department store discovered his product, and began stocking it, turning around his fortunes.
Kakigori dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185) when aristocratic court culture flourished in the then-capital of Kyoto.
It was a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, with the ice naturally made and stored in mountainside holes covered with silver sheets.
It was only after 1883, when the first ice-making factory was built in Tokyo, that ordinary people could taste the dessert.
With the development of ice-making machines, the number of traditional ice makers dropped to fewer than 10 nationwide.
The story is one familiar to many traditional Japanese crafts and foodstuffs — with expensive and labor-intensive products losing ground as cheaper, machine-driven versions become available.
And making ice naturally is a grueling task.
The season begins in the autumn when workers prepare a swimming-pool-like pit by cultivating the soil and pouring in spring water.
Thin frozen initial layers are scraped away along with dirt and fallen leaves.
The ice-making begins in earnest in the winter, when water is poured in to freeze solid, but it must be carefully protected. Producers regularly scrape off snow that can slow the freezing process.
“I once spent 16 hours non-stop removing snow,” Yamamoto recalls.
And rain too can ruin the product, causing cracks that mean the whole batch has to be discarded.
“I check the weather forecast 10 times a day,” Yamamoto laughs.
Once the ice is 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) thick, which takes at least two weeks, workers begin cutting out rectangular blocks.
Each block, which weighs about 40 kilograms (88 pounds), is glided into an ice room filled with sawdust on a long bamboo slide.
The blocks are sold to some of Tokyo’s high-end shaved ice shops as well as department stores.
In the Yanaka district, more than 1,000 people queue up every day for a taste of kakigori made with natural ice produced by another ice-maker from Nikko.
Owner Koji Morinishi says the naturally made ice has a texture that is different from machine-made products.
“It feels very different when you shave it. It’s harder because it’s frozen over a long period of time,” explains Morinishi.
“It’s easier to shave really thin if the ice is hard. If not hard, it dissolves too quickly.”
Morinishi himself struggled when he first opened the kakigori shop, but has gradually built a cult following for his desserts topped with purees of mango, watermelon, peach or other fruit.
And Yamamoto’s firm has seen demand soar — he now harvests 160 tons a year and knows two new producers who have entered the market.
He says: “This business has become attractive and the ice makers are all busy.”