‘Very robust range of military options’ exist to deter Iran: US commander

‘Very robust range of military options’ exist to deter Iran: US commander
Gen. Frank McKenzie is the US' top military commander for the Middle East. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2021

‘Very robust range of military options’ exist to deter Iran: US commander

‘Very robust range of military options’ exist to deter Iran: US commander
  • Slow pace of talks to curb Tehran’s nuclear program frustrating West
  • Iran has enriched uranium at levels increasingly close to that required for nuclear bomb

LONDON: The top US military commander for the Middle East has said his forces have a “very robust range of military options” available to deter Iran, which is expanding its nuclear program and ballistic missile arsenal.

Tensions between Iran and the US have been growing in recent weeks as talks in Vienna to curb Tehran’s nuclear program have stalled.

“I think … Iran gravely underestimates us if they believe they’re going to be able to continue attacking and cause casualties in Iraq and Syria, and still be able to conduct nuclear negotiations with us without any effect,” Gen. Frank McKenzie told the Financial Times.

World powers and Iran were locked in talks on reviving their nuclear deal on Friday, with a European source saying they were working from texts discussed five months ago and Iranian officials saying they were sticking to a tough stance from last week.

The talks resumed on Thursday with the US and Israel — which is not a party to the 2015 deal — piling rhetorical pressure on Tehran about the possible economic or military consequences if diplomacy fails.

Iran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said Tehran was standing firm on the position it laid out last week, when the talks broke off with European and US officials accusing Iran of making new demands and of reneging on compromises worked out earlier this year.

A European source, speaking on condition of anonymity, appeared to suggest that Iran had agreed to continue talks from where they left off in June. This would be put to the test in the next couple of days, the source said, but made no mention of Iran’s new proposals.

Reuters reported that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan received a briefing by Pentagon leaders in October on a set of military options available to ensure that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Western nations have become increasingly frustrated with Tehran at the slow pace of diplomacy and its apparent intransigence on the issue.

Talks were halted for months when Iran elected its new President Ebrahim Raisi, and Tehran continues to refuse direct talks with the US, instead choosing to use intermediaries.

Iran has ramped up its nuclear activity in recent years, including by enriching uranium at levels increasingly close to that required for a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists that all sanctions be lifted before it reverses its nuclear gains.

McKenzie said diplomatic engagement remains the “first and best track” to address Iran’s growing nuclear and military capabilities, including missile and drone production.

“Let me be very clear: It’s our design and intent that diplomacy lead right now,” he said. “That is the best path forward for everyone and Iran just needs to realize that.”

Last week, the UK, France and Germany accused Tehran of reneging on compromises agreed at six earlier rounds of talks this year after Iranian negotiators submitted new proposals that did not appear “realistic.”

An anonymous official from the Biden administration told the FT that given Iran’s advancing nuclear program and the slow pace of talks, the US is “laying the groundwork for another path entirely.”

The official said: “If diplomacy cannot get on track soon and if Iran’s nuclear program continues to accelerate, then we will have no choice to take additional measures to further restrict Iran’s revenue-producing sectors. We will not get into further specifics at this time.”


Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port
Updated 8 sec ago

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port

Iranian-flagged tanker in Greece tugged to Piraeus port
  • For over two months Iranian-flagged Lana has been anchored off the Greek island of Evia

ATHENS: An Iranian-flagged tanker seized by Greece in April, part of whose cargo was confiscated by the United States, was being towed to the port of Piraeus on Saturday, Greek coast guard officials said, after Greek authorities approved its release.
For over two months the Iranian-flagged Lana, formerly Pegas, has been anchored off the Greek island of Evia in a diplomatic impasse which has strained Athens’ relations with Tehran amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States.
“It left Karystos at 0630 am (0330 GMT) and is expected to reach Piraeus around 1000 pm,” one official said.
Greek authorities in April impounded Lana and its oil cargo with 19 Russian crew members on board near the coast of Evia, due to sanctions following a legal action by the United States.
The ship was later released due to complications regarding its ownership, but part of the Iranian oil cargo had already been transferred to another ship, Ice Energy, which was hired by the United States and is moored off Piraeus port.
The removal of oil from the Lana prompted Iranian forces last month to seize two Greek tankers in the Arabian Gulf and sail them back to Iran after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens.
Following an appeal by an Iranian company on June 7, a Greek judicial panel overturned the initial court order that allowed the confiscation of the cargo on behalf of the United States.
That decision has cleared the way for Lana to retrieve the cargo that was transferred to Ice Energy.
Until last week however Lana, which still has engine problems, was being detained by another company due to debts owed for towing services. It was officially released after the amount owed was paid off, legal sources told Reuters.


Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry
Updated 02 July 2022

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry

Israeli strike on Syria wounds two civilians: ministry
  • Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since the 2011 civil war
  • Last month Israeli strikes on Damascus International Airport rendered its runways unusable for weeks

An Israeli strike on Syria’s western coast wounded two civilians on Saturday, the Syrian defense ministry said.
“The Israeli enemy carried out an air strike” at about 6:30 am near the town of Al-Hamidiyah, the ministry said in a statement, identifying the locations hit as poultry farms, without elaborating.
The strike was conducted from the Mediterranean Sea, west of Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, and “led to the injury of two civilians, including a woman,” the statement said.
Since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor.
The raids have targeted Syrian government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Last month Israeli strikes on Damascus International Airport rendered its runways unusable for weeks.
Besides the extensive damage caused to civilian and military runways, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the strikes had targeted nearby warehouses used as weapons depots by Iran and Hezbollah.
The Syrian war has claimed the lives of nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.


UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran
Updated 02 July 2022

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran

UAE residents feel tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Iran
  • Iran suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years as major geological fault lines crisscross the country

DUBAI: UAE residents reported feeling tremors caused by 6.3 magnitude earthquake that jolted South Iran on Saturday at 3:24 am, according to the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) on Saturday.

NCM added that the quake, which claimed the lives of five people in Iran, did not have any impact on the UAE.

State news agency IRNA said a magnitude 6.3 and 6.1 earthquakes followed the 6.1 quake that flattened the village of Sayeh Khosh near Iran’s Gulf coast, with more than a dozen aftershocks reported.

Iran has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years as major geological fault lines crisscross the country.


Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz
Updated 02 July 2022

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz

Houthi militia targets army positions in Taiz
  • The militia is also accused of targeting the army’s sites and residential neighborhoods using snipers

DUBAI: The Houthi militia has bombed army bases in Al-Dhabab area, west of Taiz, according to reports by state news agency Saba on Friday.

This comes as part of the militia’s daily violations of the UN truce, wrote Saba.

Yemen’s army has recorded a total of 2,778 violations by the Houthis since the beginning of the truce until Thursday.

The Taiz Military Axis said the violations ranged from artillery shelling, establishing fortifications and new sites, bringing in reinforcements, building roads, laying mines, conducting reconnaissance, and using drones.

The militia is also accused of targeting the army’s sites and residential neighborhoods using snipers.


At least five killed in magnitude 6.1 quake on Iran Gulf coast

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2022

At least five killed in magnitude 6.1 quake on Iran Gulf coast

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
  • The quake struck just a minute after a 5.7 tremor

TEHRAN: At least five people were killed by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake in southern Iran early on Saturday, state media reported, with the area also hit by two later strong quakes of up to 6.3 magnitude.
“Five people have died in the earthquake ... and so far 12 are hospitalized,” Mehrdad Hassanzadeh, head of emergency management in Hormozgan Province on Iran’s Gulf coast, told state TV. “Rescue work has been carried out and we are now providing tents as emergency housing.”

A handout shakemap made available by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location of a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hitting around 54km north east of Bandar-e Lengeh, Iran, 02 July 2022. (EPA)

The state news agency IRNA said a magnitude 6.3 earthquake and a magnitude 6.1 quake followed the 6.1 quake that flattened the village of Sayeh Khosh near Iran’s Gulf coast. There were more than a dozen aftershocks.
“All of the victims died in the first earthquake and no-one was harmed in the next two severe quakes as people were already outside their homes,” said Foad Moradzadeh, governor of Bandar Lengeh country, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
Major geological fault lines crisscross Iran, which has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 quake in Kerman province killed 31,000 people and flattened the ancient city of Bam.