Iran seizes British oil tanker


Iranian media is reporting that Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. While the situation is still developing, this seizure may be in retaliation for an Iranian tanker seized by the UK as it headed for Syria.

Iran warns Britain


Iranian President Rouhani warned there would be consequences for the U.K. following the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar. The ship was believed to have been taking oil to Syria, violating sanctions.

Jennifer Rubin: It’s time to stop taking the Trump admin’s word for it on Iran


“The fundamental problem remains: Without allies and without a credible use of force, ‘maximum pressure’ is a dead end. The regime in Tehran is not going to collapse and beg for negotiations, especially since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid down 12 preconditions for talks that amount to regime change. Some foreign policy watchers, while critical of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — better known as the Iran nuclear deal — opposed pulling out precisely because the alternatives were unattractive and created problems of their own (such as a rift with allies). Not surprisingly, Trump has been shown to be a paper tiger, our allies view his conduct as provocative and Iran actually is learning the wrong lesson, namely that it can escape real consequences for its actions.”

Hans Binnendijk: Trump’s war?


“Trump’s negotiating style has dug a deep hole for him that he will have trouble climbing out of. Trump tears up agreements he does not like and seeks new ones. He threatens and bullies to strengthen his negotiating position. He then tries to reconcile and diffuse the crisis he has created by engaging in high-wire negotiations. Finally, he hypes whatever modest deal emerges as his own stellar victory. This may work on occasion in real estate deals, and it might even have succeeded with Mexico. It is not working well with China or North Korea. And it certainly is not working so far with Iran.”

Trump imposes tough new Iran sanctions


President Trump has signed off on new sanctions on Iran, stepping up a policy of pressuring the nation’s leaders and further squeezing the Iranian economy in retaliation for recent aggressive acts by Tehran. The new sanctions are in addition to those imposed this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports. The new sanctions are aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries.

Iran says US cyber attacks fail, hints at possible talks


Iran said on Monday U.S. cyber attacks on its military had been a failure, while also hinting that it could be willing to discuss new concessions with Washington if the United States were to lift sanctions and offer new incentives. “They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack,” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, said on Twitter.

Pompeo meets Saudi royals for talks about anti-Iran alliance


Mike Pompeo has met Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince for talks as the US secretary of state seeks to promote an anti-Iran alliance at a time of mounting tensions in the region. Before his departure from the US, Pompeo said Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “great allies in the challenge that Iran presents.” He added: “We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can build out a global coalition.”

NY Times: We need cooler heads than Trump and the warhawk caucus


“It’s now President Trump who faces a crisis in credibility — over the wisdom of abandoning nuclear diplomacy in favor of confrontation; over the legality of using the 2001 terrorist attacks as a legal justification for another conflict in the Middle East; over the morality of enabling a conflict in Yemen, which the United Nations calls the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. Most concerning, despite his stated aversion to entering another war, he shows little sign of having learned a central lesson of the past two decades of American military action: that it is easy to start conflicts and impossible to predict how they might end.”

Iran: We could’ve shot down US plane carrying 35 people


Iran has claimed that it had the chance to shoot down a U.S. plane which was carrying 35 people—but that it ultimately decided against doing so. Iran claims the plane was accompanying the drone which was shot down Thursday. The downing of the U.S. drone reportedly led Donald Trump to order a military strike against Iran but he abruptly cancelled the plans before the missiles were launched.

A D Miller & R Sokolsky: War with Iran? Bad idea


“At best, should the U.S. go to war against Iran, it will be able to muster the diplomatic and perhaps military support of four countries: the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Otherwise, the rest of the world has been completely put off by the Trump administration’s unilateralism, belligerent nationalism, its decision to leave the nuclear agreement without a compelling cause, and actions that are clearly aimed at provoking a military confrontation with Iran. A war with Iran without significant international support, and perceived to be America’s fault, would leave the U.S. isolated and bearing full responsibility. More than likely, this kind of unilateralism would hand Russia and China—and Iran—an enormous propaganda advantage and weaken U.S. leverage in the days after.”

Trump approves Iran strike, then pulls back


As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations. President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

Nicholas Kristof: Trump and Iran may be on a collision course, and it could get scarier


“In 2002, six months before the Iraq war, I reported from Baghdad that President George W. Bush and his aides were deluding themselves to think that Iraqis would welcome an invasion; Iraqis hated Saddam but hated even more the idea of Yankee imperialists attacking their nation. Iran is similar but more formidable. Negotiations are frustrating, imperfect and uncertain, and they may seem less satisfying than dropping bombs.”

Iran shoots down US drone


A U.S. official has confirmed Iranian state news reports that Iran shot down a U.S. military drone Thursday in a fresh escalation in the standoff. Earlier, Iran said it downed a Global Hawk drone when it entered Iranian airspace.

How to influence US Iran policy…without actually existing


Heshmat Alavi, an Iranian commentator, has been portrayed as a courageous dissident with a broad constituency and rare insight into the inner workings of the Iranian theocracy. His columns have been printed in Forbes, The Diplomat, The Federalist, Voice of America, The Daily Caller, and The Hill. And his analysis, such as his assertion that former President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran pumped money into the mullahs’ military budget, has been cited by the White House to justify leaving the agreement. But what if…he doesn’t actually exist?

Thomas Friedman: Trump’s only FP goal? One-up Obama


“This is what you get, folks, when you have a president who acts from the gut, not with well-thought-out plans, who is enamored with strongmen dictators more than our democratic allies, who is backed by a party and a TV network that simply parrot everything he says and never call him out, who thinks the enemy has no vote, and who doesn’t understand the first rule of Middle East politics.”

Tucker Carlson is reportedly privately advising Trump on Iran


“In the upper echelons of the Trump administration, hawkish voices on Iran predominate—most notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. But as tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated over the last few weeks, there’s been another, far different voice in the president’s ear: that of Fox News host Tucker Carlson. A source familiar with the conversations told The Daily Beast that, in recent weeks, the Fox News host has privately advised Trump against taking military action against Iran.”

US sending 1,000 additional troops to Mideast


The U.S. will send 1,000 additional U.S. forces and more military resources to the Middle East amid tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Monday. Shortly before the announcement the Pentagon released a detailed set of photos that it said showed Iranian boats removing a mine from one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 13. The U.S. attributes the attack to Iran. Tehran has vigorously denied the charge.

James Downie: The danger of Tom Cotton


“Trump faces plenty of pressure to remain as antagonistic as possible toward Iran from Republicans both inside and outside the White House — not to mention countries such as Saudi Arabia that would gain from a U.S. conflict with Iran. In a better timeline, younger Republican politicians, having internalized the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention many other U.S. interventions overseas, would be encouraging the president’s caution. Instead, we are stuck with Cotton and other young Republican senators such as Ben Sasse who are all too happy with bellicosity toward Iran. So much for a country learning from its mistakes.”

Iran threatens to violate nuclear deal’s limits on uranium enrichment


Iran has threatened to increase its uranium stockpile above the limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal in the next 10 days, amid escalating tensions with the United States and so far unsuccessful European efforts to salvage the deal. Iran said it had already sped up its production of the low-enriched uranium used in nuclear power plants.

Trump: Iran is a ‘nation of terror’


Calling Iran “a nation of terror,” President Donald Trump on Friday publicly accused the nation of responsibility for recent attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. While Iran has denied being involved in the attacks, U.S. Central Command released footage it said shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous.

Japanese oil tanker owner says US is wrong about gulf attack


Yukaka Katada, the owner of one of the stricken oil tankers crippled in explosions in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, says the U.S. is wrong about the way the attack was carried out. Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, he contradicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. Navy, which released a video that purports to show an Iranian patrol boat removing a limpet mine from the port side of the Kokuka Courageous.

Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks


In a press conference, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo spoke out against Iran strongly, blaming them for the attacks on two oil tankers passing near Iran today. Pompeo, however, did not say that U.S. forces would respond directly to Iran, and instead took a more diplomatic approach.

Tankers on fire in Gulf of Oman after suspected attack


Two oil tankers were on fire after a suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman, the same waterway where four other commercial ships sustained serious damage last month after the U.S. said they were hit by Iranian mines. The last reported position for both vessels puts them in the narrow choke point separating the Gulf of Oman from the Persian Gulf that Iran has repeatedly threatened to close off in response to U.S. sanctions.

‘[US] cannot expect to stay safe’


Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif issued a stern warning to the U.S. after describing American action against Iran as “economic war.” Zarif said the U.S. “cannot expect to stay safe.”

Top US commander warns of imminent Iranian threat


Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander over the Middle East, believes that the threat from Iran is “imminent”. Just last month, the Trump administration ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and several B-52 bombers to be deployed to the region to combat any threat from Iran.

Sheikh-down at Trump’s DC hotel?


Last July, wealthy Iraqi sheikh Nahro al-Kasnazan wrote to National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging them to forge closer ties with those seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Four months later, he spent 26 nights in a suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The lengthy stay was unusual, but the venue was not. The hotel has become a popular gathering place for Republican politicians and influential foreigners who have an agenda to pursue with the Trump administration.

Pompeo: US willing to talk with Iran


While in Switzerland speaking on Iran, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif responded saying that such talks are “not very likely.”

Why all the distrust over Iran?


There are a number of reasons Americans don’t quite know what to believe about Iran—some purely political, others historical. But in any case, it doesn’t help matters that the American public rarely hears from the Pentagon anymore. Spokespeople haven’t given on-camera briefings in a year, and concerns are growing that the U.S. could end up in a military confrontation without the Trump administration ever having to publicly defend it.

Joint Chiefs weigh in on Iran


National Security Adviser John Bolton has said “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” were to blame for the attack on Saudi Arabian oil tankers off the eastern coast of the UAE on May 12 that has caused heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Iran has fiercely denied the attack, countering that Bolton has always had anti-Iran leanings. Now the Joint Chiefs of Staff have jumped in to bolster Bolton’s claims.

Pentagon accuses Iran of preparing ‘campaign’ of attacks


The decision to deploy an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Middle East was decided on by U.S. military leaders after intelligence was relayed of Iran preparing a campaign of attacks. Defense Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, both agree in the assessment of the intelligence and on the decision to send more military resources to the region.

Bolton claims Iran used naval mines to sabotage Saudi ships


U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday that naval mines “almost certainly from Iran” were used to attack oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this month and warned Tehran against new operations. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know,” Bolton said.

76 retired US generals and diplomats warn Trump against war with Iran


President Donald Trump often says he listens to military generals more than anyone else, and, as the White House prepares to send 1,500 soldiers to the Middle East, that claim is being tested by a Friday letter from the American College of National Security Leaders. The letter asks the administration not to pursue war with Iran. “A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East,” reads the letter, “and drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost.”