Khamenei says war unlikely but urges boosting Iran’s defenses

Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war. (File/AFP/HO/Khameni.ir)
Updated 02 September 2018

Khamenei says war unlikely but urges boosting Iran’s defenses

  • Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war
  • Iran’s supreme leader called on the country’s armed forces to boost their defense capacities

DUBAI: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday war was unlikely but called on Iran’s armed forces to boost their defense capacities, according to his official website, as the country faces increased tension with the United States.
On Saturday, Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines to boost its defenses following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.
“Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant ... and raise their personnel and equipment capacities,” the website quoted Khamenei as telling commanders of Iran’s air defense forces.
“The Supreme Leader said ...the air defense units were a very sensitive part of the armed forces and on the front line of confronting the enemy, and emphasized the need to increase their readiness and capabilities,” the website said in its report on the gathering, which was held to mark Iran’s Air Defense Day.
Saturday’s news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.
Separately, a senior Iranian diplomat met visiting UK Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt and urged swift European action on a planned package of economic measures to offset the US pullout from the accord and the reimpositions of sanctions by Washington, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“The imposition of (US) sanctions and pressures and the lack of rapid action by Europe to fulfill their commitments will have serious consequences,” Kamal Kharrazi, a former foreign minister who heads a top foreign policy council, told Burt, IRNA reported.
Iranian officials have said they would decide whether to quit the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after studying the European package of economic measures that could help offset US sanctions.
“European countries have not been able yet to take necessary measures to secure Iran’s interests under the nuclear agreement,” Kharrazi said.
“(Burt) said Britain’s position is different from that of the United States and we are looking for a European mechanism to make the nuclear accord successful,” IRNA reported.
In a meeting with senior parliamentarian Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, Burt referred to the case of a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran, IRNA reported.
“I thank Iran for its humanitarian act to grant Nazanin Zaghari furlough and her meeting with her family, and we hope that this approach will continue until the release and the pardon of such people,” Burt said, according to IRNA.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. She was arrested in April 2016 at Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit. She was released for three days last month.
Burt, on the first visit by a British minister since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, earlier met Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday the talks with Burt had involved “access to banking resources and the sale of oil.”
Iran has been seeking commitment from European signatories of the nuclear deal that it will be able to access the Western banking system and continue to sell oil despite US sanctions.
In a statement before his visit, Burt said: “As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region.”


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 26 min 15 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.