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Iran's Zarif calls for 'prudence and foresight' as tensions mount

Iran's Zarif calls for 'prudence and foresight' as tensions mountIran’s top diplomat said on Sunday that only “prudence and foresight” could alleviate tensions between his country and Britain after Tehran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker. “Having failed to lure @realDonaldTrump into War of the Century, and fearing collapse of his #B_Team, @AmbJohnBolton is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.



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UPDATE 1-Saudi minister says Iran's actions are unacceptable

UPDATE 1-Saudi minister says Iran's actions are unacceptableSaudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs on Sunday condemned Iran’s seizure of a British flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and urged the international community to take action to deter such “unacceptable” behaviour. “Any attack on the freedom of navigation is a violation of international law,” Adel Aljubeir said in a Twitter post. “Iran must realise its acts of intercepting ships, including most recently the British ship, are completely unacceptable.



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Giuliani: If US strikes, we could do serious damage to Iran's nuclear facilities

Giuliani: If US strikes, we could do serious damage to Iran's nuclear facilitiesRudy Giuliani, attorney for President Trump, weighs in on tensions with Iran on 'Hannity.'



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Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards

Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards“Allahu akbar”, or God is great, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard marine was heard shouting off camera as the group took control of the British-flagged Stena Impero. Scaling down ropes onto its bow, the balaclava-wearing hijackers made a daring – and seemingly well-rehearsed – raid of the oil tanker, as seen in alleged footage released by Fars news agency last night.  The wind was choppy, the skies overcast. With no navy escort, the Stena stood little chance. Minutes later, at 4.19pm on Friday afternoon, the Stena Impero would “go dark” – not something normally done by commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The first clue as it what happened was its abrupt change of course, which was picked up by marine tracking services. Its destination was a port in Saudi Arabia, but it had taken a sharp turn and was heading into Iranian waters. Minutes earlier it had been boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who had hijacked the vessel using speedboats and a helicopter and turned off its communication systems. Approximately 40 minutes later, a British-owned, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar also went dark. The trackers picked it up following the same route as the Stena Impero. The crew onboard was questioned for an hour before the vessel was released, unlike the Stena which was escorted on to the coast of Bander Abbas in southern Iran. British authorities were alerted back home and quickly called a meeting of Cobra to figure out their response. This image grab taken from a video provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard official website via SEPAH News The capture of one of their ships was something they had been dreading,though not something that had come entirely as a surprise. Tensions have been heating up in recent weeks in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint. At the start of the month, Gibraltar authorities – aided by a detachment of Royal Marines – detained a tanker which was suspected to be carrying Iranian oil destined for a refinery in Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. "If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker," an Iranian official tweeted on July 5, the following next day, in response to the news. Revolutionary Guards issued similarly direct threats. Fearing they would make good on them, the Navy sent Type-23 frigate HMS Montrose to shadow its tankers through the strait and dispatched another, HMS Duncan, for support. The Montrose sped to help Stena from Omani waters on Friday, but was an hour too late. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, had tried to defuse the situation last weekend by suggesting the UK was willing to release the supertanker, but a court in Gibraltar on Friday ruled to hold it for another 30 days. The decision would have further angered Tehran, which has denied the oil was bound for Syria and accused the UK of acting in bad faith. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran The legality of Britain’s impounding of the Grace 1 has been questioned, however sanctions lawyers say that as it had been travelling through British overseas territory it was subject to EU laws. Revolutionary Guards yesterday tried to justify their seizure of the Stena with alternating claims, including that it had “violated maritime law”, had been driving on the wrong side of the water, risking an accident, and had in fact collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. No such distress call was picked up by any other ship in the area. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, which rarely comments on state matters, said they did not need an excuse to take the Stena and spelled out that it had been a tit-for-tat response. "The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law and Iran's moves to confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights," he said. There is now something of a Mexican stand-off in the Gulf, with both countries seemingly unwilling to hand over the other’s ship. “Iran has responded in a way that presents the UK with a problem,” Michael Stephens, Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London, told the Sunday Telegraph. “The ball is now in our court. “The UK could choose to detain more Iranian ships, or look to gather a group of states around the table, such as France, Germany and the US, to see how, and in what ways, more pressure can be placed on Iran both economically and strategically,” he said. However, he believed no major decision would be agreed on until Prime Minister Theresa May’s handover to Boris Johnson later this week. The Foreign Office has stressed it is keeping separate the issues of Iranian threats in Gulf waters, EU sanctions policy on Syria, and the nuclear deal. But inevitably they have all become intertwined. The latest Iranian aggressions can be tracked back to last year, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions. The Islamic Republic has legitimate frustrations over the American withdrawal to the deal – which it had been adhering to – that was supposed to swap limiting its nuclear programme for an end to sanctions crippling its economy. At the same time as ratcheting up tensions, however, Mr Trump has made it clear he wants to avoid all-out war with Iran, as has the UK. Iran tensions | Read more Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on Thursday offered an olive branch to Mr Trump – a deal which would see Tehran accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme in return for the permanent lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump has sent Senator Rand Paul, rather than John Bolton, his hawkish anti-Iran national security adviser, for meetings with Mr Zarif, who is in New York on United Nations business. Neither has publicly responded to Mr Zarif's proposal. However, hardliners and the Revolutionary Guard back home want out of the deal, saying the US’s pullout only proved what they always knew – that it cannot be trusted.   "I suspect Stena is a bargaining chip,” Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Iran, told the Telegraph. “It came only days after Zarif showed some willingness to open negotiations, which may have led some hardliners to want to disrupt things a little.  “I still don’t think any side is looking for a conflict,” said Mr Hollis, who is now managing director of risk management company Falanx Assynt. “The fact that there are some people on both sides were seeking a deescalation means there may be a deal to be found.” He warned however, that Friday’s incident showed the margins for manoeuvre are “shrinking” and “the risks of unintended consequences growing.”



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Iran's poking at West heightens risks of military missteps

Iran's poking at West heightens risks of military misstepsRather than tangle with a stronger U.S. military, Iran is poking and prodding its Western antagonists in ways apparently designed to avoid triggering war but that nonetheless seem to heighten the risk of missteps and miscalculation that could lead to an armed conflict with global consequences. The tensions picked up Friday with Iran reporting it had seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf , one day after the U.S. said it destroyed an Iranian drone that had flown within threatening range of an American warship in the Strait of Hormuz. In June the Iranians shot down a U.S. Navy drone in the same area, prompting President Donald Trump to authorize a military strike on Iran, only to call it off at the last moment .



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Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif: We Can't "Discount" Possibility of War

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif: We Can't "Discount" Possibility of WarOn Thursday, National Interest Editor Jacob Heilbrunn interviewed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in New York at the Ambassador’s residence on the current state of U.S.-Iran relations. The transcript has been lightly edited for readability.Jacob Heilbrunn: With the American shooting down of an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz today, are we on a path of escalation?Mohammed Javad Zarif: I checked with Tehran, and we do not have any information about having lost a drone today. So, we don’t know, as of now what has happened. We have the president saying that they shot a drone. We don’t know whose drone it is, but we don’t have that information. But we are certainly moving in the wrong direction. The fact that the United States has an increased presence in the Persian Gulf doesn’t help security or stability in the area—it’s a tiny body of water and you cannot have such congested traffic there without something happening.Heilbrunn: A lot of the tension is also focused on the tanker that went missing. Is Iran responsible for that?Zarif: All the information we have is that we confiscated a small tanker that was only carrying a million liters of smuggled oil products—not oil—and that happens quite often in the Persian Gulf because of heavily subsidized prices in Iran of oil products. There is a lot of smuggling from both sea and land borders and we interdict them on a regular basis. So if that is the tanker they’re talking about, that is a smuggling tanker, not a shipping tanker.Heilbrunn: Another move that the Trump administration has announced is sending about five hundred more soldiers to Saudi Arabia. What is your response to that?



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Iran's top diplomat walks back from remark on missile talks

Iran's top diplomat walks back from remark on missile talksIran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country has no choice but to manufacture missiles for defense purposes — comments that reflect more backtracking after a remark by the top diplomat suggesting the missiles could be up for negotiations. Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard that answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The foreign minister’s remarks suggested a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington.



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Iran's top diplomat warns US is 'playing with fire'

Iran's top diplomat warns US is 'playing with fire'Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Monday that the United States is "playing with fire," echoing remarks by President Donald Trump as the two sides are locked in a standoff over Tehran's nuclear program. The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions.



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U.S. grants visa to Iran's Zarif for U.N. meeting this week: sources

U.S. grants visa to Iran's Zarif for U.N. meeting this week: sourcesThe United States has granted a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend a U.N. meeting in New York this week, two sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday, saying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had approved the decision. Had Pompeo not approved giving a visa to Zarif, Iran’s top diplomat and nuclear negotiator, it could have been a signal that the United States was trying to further isolate the Islamic Republic and perhaps closing the door to diplomacy. U.S.-Iranian tensions have worsened since U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.



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Iran's Military Vows Retaliation for U.K. Seizing Oil Tanker

Iran's Military Vows Retaliation for U.K. Seizing Oil Tanker(Bloomberg) — Iran’s military vowed to retaliate against the seizure by British Royal Marines of an oil tanker loaded with the Islamic Republic’s crude off the coast of Gibraltar last week.“It will be reciprocated, at a suitable time and in a suitable place,” Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.The warning highlights mounting risks to shipping in a region that exports about a third of all seaborne petroleum. BP Plc is keeping an oil carrier empty inside the Persian Gulf, close to Saudi Arabia, rather than risk its seizure by Iran, a person familiar with the matter said Monday. Six tankers have been attacked since early May, with the U.S. blaming Iran for the incidents, a charge Tehran denies.The tanker seized by Gibraltar with the help of Royal Marines — the Grace 1 — was arrested on the grounds it was taking crude to a sanctioned Syrian company, according to the British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip. Iran said the tanker was in international waters, not headed to Syria, and described the U.K.’s actions as piracy.Insurance costs soared in the aftermath of the tanker attacks and some owners initially became wary of sailing to the region.Tensions escalated since the U.S. exited an international nuclear accord with Iran then resumed — and escalated — sanctions against nation. The Persian Gulf country has responded by suspending some of its commitments as part of the accord not to develop nuclear activities that it says are for are civilian purposes.(Updates with context about BP oil tanker in third paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Alaric Nightingale, Brian WingfieldFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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