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  • New Battle Lines, Arch Enemies and a Softer Putin: Weekend Reads

    New Battle Lines, Arch Enemies and a Softer Putin: Weekend Reads(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.It was “The Squad” versus Donald Trump this week after the U.S. president told four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from. The war of words between the U.S., U.K. and Iran continued, and in Brussels, the European Union got its first female leader — Ursula von der Leyen.Dig into these and other key stories from the past seven days in this edition of Weekend Reads.In Donald Trump vs. Jay Powell, New Battle Lines Are Being DrawnStoicism, the classical philosophy of emotional resilience, logic, and virtue, has long been a handy guide for anyone dealing with a crazy boss. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also seems to be a fan, Christopher Condon reports.Hard Man Putin May Be Showing Softer Side to Russia’s NeighborsThe stage was set last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin to hammer tiny Georgia with new economic sanctions after parliament called on him to punish anti-Kremlin protests, Marc Champion, Helena Bedwell and Henry Meyer report. Instead, Putin refused.Puerto Rico Erupts at Governor, but Real Power Resides Far AwayInfuriated by years of recession, corruption and living under a bankrupt government, Puerto Ricans are demanding the ouster of Governor Ricardo Rossello after leaked text messages showed him and his aides to be vindictive, sexist and profane, Michelle Kaske writes.Trump Picked His Perfect Education Secretary in Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVos is rolling back Obama-era student protections in a way that could change the U.S. education landscape for decades. As Devin Leonard and Shahien Nasiripour report, she’s encountered opposition not just from Democrats and their teachers’ union allies, but also Republicans in rural states where traditional public schools are often the sole option. Devils on Horseback Leader Holds Fate of Sudan in His HandsA one-time camel trader turned leader of a Sudanese militia known as the “devils on horseback” now holds the fate of Africa’s third-largest nation in his hands, write Mohammed Alamin and Okech Francis. Known popularly as Hemeti, Mohamed Hamdan dominates the military council that overthrew President Omar al-Bashir in April.New Cabinet Pledges ‘Quiet Revolution’ Against Graft in MoldovaNatalia Gavrilita used to run a charity. Now she’s finance minister of a country that has become a byword for corruption and says her modest goal is just to make it normal. As Jasmina Kuzmanovic writes, that will be a lot harder than it sounds.Women in Japan Fight for Their Identity — Starting With Their NameJapan’s women are going through an identity crisis. They’re fighting to overturn a centuries-old law that bars married couples from having different last names, which creates complications for women who have established careers and reputations.  As Marika Katanuma reports, the issue played a part in the campaign for the upper house, which goes to the vote tomorrow.Australia Leader Channels Mike Pence With Religious Freedom LawAustralia’s first Pentecostal prime minister has taken a leaf out of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s campaign for “religious freedom” laws. But Scott Morrison’s message has sparked concerns among gay-rights groups it will lend weight to a push by religious organizations to enshrine in law their right to discriminate, as Jason Scott reports.The Next Neil Armstrong May Be Chinese as Moon Race IntensifiesFifty years after Neil Armstrong took one small step, there’s a renewed race to put human beings back on the moon? — and the next one to land there may send greetings back to Earth in Chinese. Bruce Einhorn, Justin Bachman, Hannah Dormido and Adrian Leung explain.And finally … When Nancy Whiteman founded her marijuana edibles company almost a decade ago the legal industry was relatively diverse and dominated by local startups. These days it’s increasingly controlled by men and the influx of venture money and Wall Street dollars has made things harder for female-led businesses, write Ellen Milligan, Kristine Owram and Jordyn Holman. \--With assistance from Karl Maier.To contact the author of this story: Ruth Pollard in New Delhi at rpollard2@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • Iran claims British tanker seized after collision as Hunt warns of 'dangerous path'

    Iran claims British tanker seized after collision as Hunt warns of 'dangerous path'Alan Mendoza: The only surprise about Iran's seizure is that it didn't happen sooner Analysis: Boris Johnson could face early test as Iran 'exploits' political uncertainty US developing 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions Former head of Navy questiones why British ships weren't protected amid threats Iran opened an investigation on Saturday into a British-flagged tanker, alleging it collided with a fishing vessel in the Persian Gulf, as tensions mount in the strategic waterway. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized the Stena Impero on Friday for breaking "international maritime rules" in the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for around a third of the world's sea-borne oil. The Swedish-owned Stena Impero was in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored, according to Allahmorad Afifipour, the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province. The 30,000-tonne ship had been en route to Saudi Arabia, but abruptly changed course and began sailing towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, data relayed by maritime tracking services showed. It then “went dark”, meaning its transponder was turned off, at 4.29pm UK time and nothing has been heard from her or her 23 crew since. British oil tanker seized in the Gulf The tanker's operator, Stena Bulk, said on Friday the ship had been "in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations", but was no longer under the crew's control and could not be contacted. Guards say it was taken to Bander Abbas port, where its Russian, Ukrainian, Indian, Latvian and Filipino crew are being questioned. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Minister, said this morning that he was worried that Iran had taken a "dangerous path". "Yesterday's action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s LEGAL detention of oil bound for Syria," Mr Hunt said on Twitter. "Our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but WILL ensure the safety of our shipping." Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran A Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “It looks as though the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have boarded and taken a UK-flagged ship. It appears to be linked to events around the Grace 1 tanker.” British authorities seized the Iranian Grace 1 supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, on suspicion it was carrying crude to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. The fate of the tanker has been at the centre of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and was seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. Why was the ship not protected in face of Iran threat? The former head of the Royal Navy on Saturday questioned why British shipping has been allowed to go through the Straits of Hormuz without military protection. Lord West, the former 1st Sea Lord, said it was “foolhardy” and “unacceptable”, for UK shipping to transit the area without a Royal Navy escort in the face of threats by the Iranians to seize ships. However, he also acknowledged that any ban on British shipping travelling through the Straits of Hormuz without an escort would be difficult to enforce, because the Navy would have “too few” ships to escort them all. An escort-only policy would effectively mean fewer British merchant vessels sailing through the Straits, with a knock-on effect on trade in an area through which a third of the world's sea-borne oil is transported. Reacting to the seizure of the British-flagged vessel the Stena Impero by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Friday, Lord West said: “What I find extraordinary is that we knew that the Iranians would try something like this a few days ago. This is hardly a surprise. The Iranians said very clearly they intended to do this and they have done it.” He told Sky News: “I’m absolutely amazed that we haven’t implemented some sort of control of red ensign shipping within the region whereby no tanker would go in to what is clearly a dangerous zone without an escort, and I find it bizarre that we seem to have ships doing exactly that.” But Lord West admitted the British navy had “too few ships” and would find it “extremely difficult” to provide such escorts to merchant vessels. Between 15 and 30 British-flagged tankers pass through the strait every day, with only seven Royal Navy vessels, accompanied by Royal Marines, for force protection in the Gulf.  The UK had sent an extra navy ship to protect British-flagged oil tankers travelling through the Gulf last weekend after “specific” threats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.  HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, was already in the area. HMS Duncan - Britain’s most advanced warship - was also sent.  HMS Montrose was dispatched on Friday to go help the Stena, but arrived minutes too late when it was already in Iranian waters. British ministers are now expected to face difficult questions about the decision to seize the Iranian Grace 1 supertanker off Gibraltar on July 4, without ensuring that it could protect British-owned shipping in the Straits of Hormuz. British soldiers are seen during an operation involving the oil supertanker Grace 1 Credit: UK Ministry of Defence Critics have already questioned whether the UK confronted Iran knowing that the Gulf waterways were not adequately policed. Chris Parry, a former Royal Navy warfare officer and aviator, who now runs a strategic forecasting company, said: “Why are ship owners dumb enough to sail their ships independently through a threat area?  Convoys are needed as in the 1980s to counter a weak Iranian regime that has lost control of the organised crime bosses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. “UK government should declare an exclusion zone around all British flagged ships.  If you are gangsters from Iranian Revolutionary Guard, enter at your peril.” Shortly before the Stena Impero was seized the MoD had released a statement the state of the Royal Navy presence in the area. It stated last Tuesday: “Since 1980, units of both the Royal Navy (RN) and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) have maintained a presence in the Gulf 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. “We have approximately 1,200 UK personnel deployed and are committed to de-escalation in the Gulf and maintaining free navigation through the region.” It added: “The UK regularly reviews the number of RN and RFA vessels in the region.”




  • European powers urge Iran to release British-flagged tanker

    European powers urge Iran to release British-flagged tankerEuropean powers urged Iran on Saturday to release a British-flagged tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz in what Britain called a "dangerous" move, warning its ships to avoid the strategic waterway. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized the Stena Impero Friday for breaking "international maritime rules" in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world's sea-borne oil. The tanker was impounded off Bandar Abbas port for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after colliding with a fishing vessel, authorities said.




  • Russia opposition to rally against 'fraudsters' ahead of locals polls

    Russia opposition to rally against 'fraudsters' ahead of locals pollsAngry Russian opposition politicians and their supporters were set Saturday to protest at the refusal of the electoral authorities to allow popular candidates to register for local polls. More than 8,000 people said they planned to attend or were interested in a central Moscow rally to support allies of President Vladimir Putin's top foe Alexei Navalny and other Kremlin critics in their bid to run for the capital's parliament in September. Organisers urged Muscovites to take to the streets at 1100 GMT to support a new crop of popular politicians including Ilya Yashin, Lyubov Sobol and Dmitry Gudkov after the election authorities refused to register them.




  • Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seizes British-flagged, Liberian-flagged tankers in Strait of Hormuz

    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seizes British-flagged, Liberian-flagged tankers in Strait of HormuzIran's paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have seized a British-flagged and a Liberian-flagged oil tanker traveling through the Straight of Hormuz on Thursday, Britain's foreign secretary said, in what appeared to be a significant new escalation between Tehran and Western countries. Late Friday, a management company for the Liberian tanker, Mesdar announced in a statement that "the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage.




  • China's war chest of rare earth patents give an insight into total domination of the industry

    China's war chest of rare earth patents give an insight into total domination of the industryChina is strengthening its grip on the rare earths supply chain and could use its dominant position as a bargaining chip in its trade war with the US.China has been investing heavily on facilities to do the bulk of the dirty and environmentally damaging mining and ore processing work for the world, systematically turning its know-how and methodologies into patents that could give it a competitive edge against its rivals.The country, which already supplies more than 80 per cent of the world's rare earth metals, is rapidly amassing patents related to the elements, says James Kennedy, president of St Louis, Missouri, based ThREE Consulting, who last year initiated a global patent search to back up his lobbying effort to the US government.As of October, China had filed for 25,911 patents on all the rare earth elements, far ahead of 9,810 by the US, 13,920 by Japan and 7,280 by the European Union since 1950 when the first US filing was made, based on data from Kennedy's research supplier PatentManiac.Samples of rare earth minerals from left: cerium oxide, bastnaesite, neodymium oxide and lanthanum carbonate. Photo: Reuters alt=Samples of rare earth minerals from left: cerium oxide, bastnaesite, neodymium oxide and lanthanum carbonate. Photo: ReutersThe number of Chinese patents filed on rare earths has jumped since 2011, accounting for more than half its accumulated total and more than double that of the rest of the world combined.Five general patent data sources including Google Patent and World Intellectual Property Organisation as well as 47 country databases were used in the search."The reason I commissioned the work was to alert the US government [about] China's relative investment and commitment to [the] material science, technology and mining industry of China," Kennedy said. "Sadly there was literally no interest or response from anyone [in the US]."I have repeatedly warned members of Congress, the Pentagon and the administration that China will use its war chest of patents and intellectual properties against the US in the future."Kennedy has long advocated that the US government build a full domestic supply chain for rare earth materials, through the creation of a federally sanctioned cooperative and a centralised rare earth refinery.He is not alone in lobbying the US government to reduce reliance on a Chinese supply of 17 elements that are widely used in consumer electronic products such as televisions and DVD players, electric cars, wind turbines, medical and military equipment and oil refineries.The Washington-based lobby group Strategic Materials Advisory Council has been urging the US government to nurture a domestic rare earth supply chain after China banned exports to Japan following a territorial dispute in 2010.Chinese President Xi Jinping gets a tour of JL MAG Rare-Earth's processing facilities in Ganzhou, in east China's Jiangxi province, on May 20, 2019. Photo: Xinhua alt=Chinese President Xi Jinping gets a tour of JL MAG Rare-Earth's processing facilities in Ganzhou, in east China's Jiangxi province, on May 20, 2019. Photo: XinhuaA rare earth price index compiled by the China Rare Earth Industry Association spiked by as much as 38 per cent following Washington's move to raise tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in May. The index has since fallen 5.5 per cent since it peaked in late June.While details on China's advantages in patent filings were short, anecdotal evidence from companies and analysts' observations suggest it has gained a competitive edge upstream and downstream in the supply chain.SCMP Graphics alt=SCMP Graphics"There is no doubt that China is far ahead than anybody else in the world in terms of intellectual property and knowledge with respect to rare earths, both on the materials processing side and downstream applications," said Ryan Castilloux, managing director of rare earth and electric battery metals consultancy Adamas Intelligence."This is partly because China has become the largest producer and such research is needed to support the development of new usages to help the industry grow," said Castilloux, citing new uses for oversupplied elements such as cerium and lanthanum as examples.Chinese scientists have also done a lot of research on the expensive and highly sought-after magnetic rare earth elements like praseodymium and neodymium that are used in electric motors."It enables China to focus on the part of the value chain that generates more value and is also environmentally friendlier," he said."It also helps China to be more self-sufficient with a complete supply chain from metals to magnets to motors to batteries and electric vehicles."China Minmetals Rare Earth, one of the nation's largest miners and producers of the elements, said in its latest annual report that it had won four new patents last year, including one for a piece of software.A rare earth metals mine in Nancheng county, Jiangxi province. Photo: Reuters alt=A rare earth metals mine in Nancheng county, Jiangxi province. Photo: Reuters"[Our] key core technologies include rare earth elements separation systems, ultra-high purity rare earth production technology and materials recycling know-how," it said.The Ganzhou, Jiangxi province-based subsidiary of state-backed metals mining and trading giant China Minmetals Group did not provide details on the patents and did not respond to queries.Also based in Ganzhou in southern China, known as the nation's "capital of medium and heavy rare earth," is Shenzhen-listed JL Mag Rare-Earth, a major maker of rare earth permanent magnets used heavily in wind turbines, speakers and computer hard drives.The company said it has built up a database of different rare earth formulations, which led to its success in lowering rare earth elements content while maintaining its products' magnetic power.Soil containing rare earth elements are ready for exports at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. Photo: Reuters alt=Soil containing rare earth elements are ready for exports at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. Photo: ReutersTogether with advances in newly developed heat-resistance and anti-corrosion coating know-how and a new production process letting it cut heavy rare earth consumption in the production process, it has won three patents in China and one in the US.Between April 2010 and the end of last year, JL had obtained 22 patents in China, one in Europe and one in the US. Of the total, 13 were added last year.Also in downstream operations is Hong Kong-listed rare earth-magnesium alloys producer REMT Group, a subsidiary of Century Sunshine Group Holdings controlled by mainland businessman Chi Wenfu.REMT owns 22 patents " two in the US and the rest in China " relating to the production process and application of magnesium alloys.Half the patents pertain to the use of rare earth elements in the production process of the alloys, a company spokesman said.In 2017 REMT acquired 12 patents related to the production process from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, which has been working with its parent on developing alloy technology. Roughly half its revenue last year was from alloys containing rare elements.The patents give it market exclusivity protection for 10 to 20 years, and were valued at HK$40 million (US$5.1 million) at the end of last year, according to REMT's annual report.Some of its alloys have been successfully applied to aerospace vehicles, said the company, whose production facilities are located in the northwesters Xinjiang autonomous region and northeastern Jilin province.The Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California. Photo: Reuters alt=The Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California. Photo: ReutersBeing light, strong, vibration and noise-abating and resistant to electromagnetic radiation, the alloys find use in cars, railway equipment and electronic and communication gadgets like mobile phones and computers.Besides being easy to recycle, magnesium alloys are up to a third lighter than those of aluminium.As a superior alternative to aluminium alloys, some 70 per cent of the world's magnesium alloys are used in the transport sector, 20 per cent are found in electronic products and the rest in other sectors such as military and biomedical, according to a spokesman for REMT."By adding rare earth elements such as lanthanum, praseodymium, cerium and yttrium to magnesium alloys based on customer requirements, we can enhance their tenacity, strength, corrosion resistance and ease of casting," he said.According to Dierk Raabe, a director at Germany's Max-Planck Institute for Iron Research " which focuses on microstructure physics and alloy design " adding rare earth elements to magnesium alloys "drastically" improves their ductility and strength in high temperatures.A ball mill turns during processing at the Mountain Pass mine in California. America's only rare earths producer exports all its output to China. Photo: Bloomberg alt=A ball mill turns during processing at the Mountain Pass mine in California. America's only rare earths producer exports all its output to China. Photo: BloombergCastilloux noted that if the US-China trade war worsens and Beijing decides to restrict rare earth and downstream product exports as a tool to fight US sanctions, trade and investments barriers, it could have major supply implications for US firms that need the products.And even if US companies could buy some motors or magnets from Japan or Europe, those products are likely to be made from Chinese rare earths and suppliers may be worried about getting caught in the crossfire.Meanwhile, US government reports have noted that it would take years for the US to build enough domestic processing capacity to match China's.Castilloux said given that the Mountain Pass rare earth mining project in California has restarted and is aiming to have its downstream processing plant operational by the end of next year, it may only take the US three to five more years to build up a supply chain for permanent magnets.Two other processing projects have been planned but are not expected to be operational until 2022 the earliest, according to a Reuters report.Lynas, an Australian mining company focused on rare earths, has joined forces with Blue Line, a Texas chemical company, to develop a rare earths separation facility in the US."Once the processing facilities are operational, there is nothing stopping a magnet maker from starting production in the US for the domestic market," Castilloux said.Until then, US companies will have to keep their fingers crossed, hoping there is no further escalation in the trade war that could possibly disrupt rare earth supplies.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.




  • UPDATE 1-UK's Hunt says Iran may be on "dangerous path" after seizing tanker

    UPDATE 1-UK's Hunt says Iran may be on "dangerous path" after seizing tankerBritish foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that he was worried that Iran had taken a "dangerous path" after it seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's Fars news agency reported that the Stena Impero had been taken to the port of Bander Abbas, which faces the strait, after it said the tanker had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing vessel.




  • Germany marks 75th anniversary of plot to kill Hitler

    Germany marks 75th anniversary of plot to kill HitlerGermany is marking the 75th anniversary of the most famous plot to kill Adolf Hitler, paying tribute to the conspirators who were executed for trying to assassinate the Nazi dictator. Chancellor Angela Merkel is on Saturday attending the annual swearing-in ceremony for some 400 troops before addressing a memorial event being held in the courtyard of the building where plot leader Col. Claus von Stauffenberg was executed. Von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, but a table blocked the full force of the blast and Hitler survived.




  • Europe Considering Brexit Extension for Next PM, Guardian Says

    Europe Considering Brexit Extension for Next PM, Guardian Says(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is preparing to offer the next British Prime Minister a Brexit extension beyond Oct. 31 to provide yet another attempt to reach an agreement, The Guardian reported, citing unidentified EU officials.The extra period of membership, while allowing for an agreement to be reached, could be billed to members of the Conservative Party as an opportunity to prepare for leaving without a deal, helping to hold together the party which is split over on what terms to leave the bloc.Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming European Commission president, has indicated she’s open to a further delay. “I stand ready for further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason,” she told the European Parliament July 16.The British Parliament has voted against a no-deal Brexit, limiting the scope of maneuver for its next prime minister, likely to be be Boris Johnson. Johnson has generally been in favor of leaving without an accord, though he’s been vague about how such an abrupt departure would be handled.Johnson is ahead in polls of grassroots Conservatives who will choose the next leader. The party’s members are overwhelmingly in favor of Brexit and regard Johnson as more likely to deliver on the referendum result of three years ago than his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The winner of the leadership contest will be announced on July 23.U.S. President Donald Trump Friday said Johnson will do a “great job” on Brexit, and would clean up the “disaster” left by his predecessor, Theresa May.To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Andrew Davis, Sam UnstedFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • Iran crisis: British oil tanker seized in Strait of Hormuz as UK shipping warned to avoid area in Gulf

    Iran crisis: British oil tanker seized in Strait of Hormuz as UK shipping warned to avoid area in GulfStena Impero seized in Strait of Hormu?z on Friday night A second tanker, Mesdar, was stopped before being released Jeremy Hunt says seizures "unacceptable", holding a COBR meeting Government warns UK shipping to avoid area Analysis: Boris Johnson could face early test as Iran 'exploits' political uncertainty US developing 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions Two British oil tankers were seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday night, in a major escalation of tensions in the Gulf. The British-flagged Stena Impero had been en route to Saudi Arabia, but abruptly changed course and began sailing towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, data relayed by maritime tracking services showed. The 30,000-tonne ship “went dark”, meaning its transponder was turned off, at 4.29pm UK time and nothing has been heard from her or her 23 crew since. A second oil tanker, the British-operated, Liberian-flagged Mesdar, was intercepted by the Guards about 40 minutes after the course shift by Stena Impero, and was held for some time before being allowed to resume navigation.  HMS Montrose, the Type-23 frigate, was understood to have been dispatched to help the Stena, but was minutes too late.  Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz”.  British oil tanker seized in the Gulf Mr Hunt said he was attending a Cobra meeting to determine the UK’s response and what could be done to secure their release, adding that the seizures were “unacceptable”. He said it was understood there were no British citizens among the two crews. "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation," a Government spokesman said after the meeting. UK vessels have been advised to "stay out of the area" of the Strait of Hormuz for an "interim period", the spokesman said, adding: "As the Foreign Secretary has said, our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved." US President Donald Trump said Iran was showing its true colours and warned that it was in “big trouble".   Northern Marine, a Clyde-based subsidiary of the Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena AB, said a “hostile action” had preceded the vessel’s change of course on Friday afternoon. The company issued a statement saying it had been “approached by unidentified small craft and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters”.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that they stopped the Stena Impero at the request of the maritime authority in the Iranian province of Hormozgan on suspicion that it had “violated international maritime law”, but did not elaborate.  Iran tensions | Read more The head of Iran’s port authority was quoted by Guards-affiliated Tasnim news agency as saying: “We received reports of the British oil tanker, Stena Impero, causing problems, and therefore asked the military to guide the tanker towards Bandar Abbas harbour.” They said the Mesdar, whose transponder was also turned off, was briefly held and cautioned about “environmental regulations” before it was let go. On Saturday,  Iran's Fars news agency claimed the Stena Impero was in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored its distress call. All 23 crew on the tanker were now at Bandar Abbas port and would remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, Fars quoted an official as saying. "It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it," the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, told Fars. "The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over." Stena Bulk said the ship was "in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations." "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality," said Erik Hanell, president and chief executive of Stena Bulk. He said there had been no reported injuries. Tracking data showed the Stena Impero was in the same area that a United Arab Emirates-based vessel was detained on Sunday and where a British vessel, the British Heritage, was blocked by Iranian forces earlier this month. The move appeared to be in retaliation for Britain's seizure of the Iranian Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar earlier this month. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran British authorities seized the Iranian Grace 1 supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, on suspicion it was carrying crude to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. The fate of the tanker has been at the centre of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and was seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. Mr Hunt had hinted that the UK would release the ship if Iran promised its cargo would not go to the Syrian regime. The Foreign Secretary said talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had been productive.  However, a court in Gibraltar on Friday extended for 30 days the detention of the vessel, which was carrying two million barrels of oil. Tensions have been building for weeks in the Persian Gulf. On July 10, HMS Montrose intervened to drive three Iranian military vessels that were attempting to divert the British Heritage.  Iran seized a Panama-flagged ship on Sunday, it alleges, for “smuggling oil to foreign countries”. Mystery surrounds the capture as no country has come forward to claim the ship or its cargo. The US claimed on Thursday to have downed an Iranian drone that had been flying too close to one of its navy ships. Iran denied the claims. Oil prices rose on Friday night after the tankers were seized.   The Trump administration is trying to block Iran’s exports to put pressure on it to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal it abandoned last year. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot export its oil.  6:41AM Boris Johnson could face early diplomatic test Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker couldn’t have come at a worse time for the UK - and Tehran knows it.  While Theresa May has days left as Prime Minister, her foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been in the midst of a leadership election campaign to replace her. His rival, Boris Johnson, is the favourite to win the Tory battle, but the former foreign secretary will be carrying diplomatic baggage if he enters Number 10.    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the start of their meeting in Tehran in 2017 Credit: AP “The timing from a transition viewpoint is awful,” said Dr Euan Graham, an expert in maritime security and Executive Director of La Trobe Asia.  “It could be an instant early test of Johnson’s crisis management skills, or lack thereof, if the issue is unresolved and he becomes PM next week.” Read the full analysis.  6:37AM Oil tanker was involved in 'accident', Iran claims Iranian media claims the Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday. All 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official.  "It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it," said the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour. "The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over." 5:11AM US official plays down seizure An American military official has played down the latest escalation in the region, calling it a foreseeable response to Britain's seizure of the Iranian tanker near Gibraltar.  In a discussion with journalists at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Lt. Gen Robert P. Ashley Jr., the top military intelligence officer, said: “They look for things that are proportional in nature. They aren’t looking to go to war but at the same time they are looking to project strength.” “They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for,” Ashley said. “But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.” My story coming soon...— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) July 19, 2019   3:54AM 'This is precisely how Iran negotiates' Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, has told AFP that the recent events involving Tehran are "the exact opposite of odd." "This is precisely how Iran negotiates: the unctuous charm of (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif paired with a punch in the face from the (Revolutionary Guards). They are two sides of the same coin, complementary and coordinated." Nicholas Burns, US ambassador to NATO during President George W. Bush’s administration, suggested resurrecting a 1980s policy of having tankers accompanied by military escorts in the Gulf. “We should form an international coalition of democratic countries to escort every single commercial vessel through the gulf,” Burns told Bloomberg in an interview in Colorado. “The Iranians are an outlaw, they’re acting like an outlaw country, they’re trying to shut down one of the major waterways in the world and then hold us up on it and blackmail us.” 2:56AM Saudi Arabia to host US forces The US Defence Department has confirmed that Saudi Arabia will host US forces in the region, saying it would deploy troops and resources to the country to "provide an additional deterrent" in the face of "emergent, credible threats." The gesture comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf,  as well as the seizure of the British oil tanker in the region. The decision on hosting US forces aims "to increase joint cooperation in defence of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace", the state news agency (SPA) reported, quoting a Ministry of Defence official, without giving further details. US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. (C-L), Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), shakes hands with Saudi military officers during his visit to a military base in al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia on Thursday Credit: AFP   A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the deployment would include about 500 US military personnel in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a boost in the number of US troops in the Middle East that the Pentagon announced last month. In June, the Pentagon said it would deploy 1,000 troops to the Middle East but did not say where they were going. Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the war with Iraq.  2:13AM What has led to this seizure? The seizure of the Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz is the latest episode to contribute to rising tensions between the UK, US and Iran in the region. Here is a timeline of recent incidents involving the three nations: Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran   1:28AM Government warns UK shipping to avoid Strait of Hormuz After a COBR meeting this evening, the government is urging UK shipping the avoid the Strait of Hormuz region. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation.  We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.  “As the Foreign Secretary has said, our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved. “We remain in close contact with our international partners and there will be further meetings over the weekend." 12:57AM Oil tanker was 'in full compliance of regulations' The British operator of the Stena Impero was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations, a spokesman has said. Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a military source as saying the vessel had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards and was sailing in the wrong direction in a shipping lane. "There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality," said Erik Hanell, President and Chief Executive of the operator, Stena Bulk. "There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus." The ship "is no longer under the control of the crew and remains uncontactable", he added. British oil tanker seized in the Gulf   12:45AM Corbyn says Trump fuelled risk of conflict Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, responding to the seizure of two British tankers by Iranian forces, said: "The seizure of these vessels is unacceptable, and the tanker that remains under Iranian control must be released. Escalation risks a slide into an even deeper conflict. "President Trump's decision to tear up the Iran nuclear deal fuelled the risk of full-scale conflict. "A negotiated reinstatement of the nuclear deal through the UN is essential to wind down tensions and defuse the threat of war in the Gulf." 12:12AM US sought 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions Hours before the hijacking of the British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, America's special representative for Iran was explaining its position to diplomats in Washington, Josie Ensor reports.  Some 100 envoys took part in the briefing by Brian Hook, who outlined the Trump administration's initiative for maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran released footage on Friday from what it said was the "downed drone" Credit: AFP Mr Hook said tensions had risen sharply and necessitated the need for a "coalition" of navies to protect their ships through the strait. Read the full story. 11:52PM US intensifying air patrols in region US Central Command says the US has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the Iranian seizure of a British tanker. A Central Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Earl Brown, says a small number of additional patrol aircraft are flying in international airspace to monitor the situation. He also says Central Command's naval arm has been in contact with U.S. ships operating in the area to ensure their safety. 11:22PM Stena Impero 'surrounded by four vessels and helicopter' Mr Hunt said the Stena Impero was surrounded by four vessels and a helicopter, and is heading into Iranian waters. The second ship - the Mesdar - was surrounded by 10 speedboats, Mr Hunt told Sky, though said it was "not clear yet" whether it had changed course. He said he had spoken to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo this evening about the situation and had tried to speak to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif but he is on a plane. "I will speak to him as soon as I can", Mr Hunt said. 11:21PM Hunt warns of  'serious consequences' Mr Hunt warned there would be "serious consequences" if the situation is not resolved quickly. He told Sky News: "We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences." Asked if he could rule out military intervention, Mr Hunt said: "We're not looking at military options - we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation - but we are very clear that it must be resolved. "Freedom of navigation in the Gulf is absolutely essential. If that freedom of navigation is restricted, Iran is the biggest loser and so it is in their interest to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and we will do everything we can to do that." 10:31PM Tanker released? Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency said Iran's Revolutionary Guards had not captured the Mesdar. "Despite reports, the ship has not been seized...and was allowed to continue its course after being warned about safety issues by Iranian forces," the report said. A spokesman for Norbulk Shipping UK confirmed the crew of the Mesdar are "safe and well" and the vessel has been "allowed" to continue its voyage. 9:16PM Is it rash to sail through the Strait? Sir Richard Dalton, former British ambassador to Iran, suggested the owners of the Stena Impero had been "rash" in sailing the tanker through the Strait of Hormuz. Speaking to Sky News, he said Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had promised retaliation following the detention of Iran's Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waving to the crowd during a ceremony attended by Iranian clerics in the Iranian capital Tehran, on July 16 Sir Richard said: "With hindsight, it's easy to say that this was a somewhat reckless act by the owners, given that there was no British naval vessel in the vicinity." He said the Iranians had "lost their cool" despite recent "constructive discussions" over the Grace 1. Sir Richard added: "I don't think the Iranians will continue to try to seize British vessels given they have got what they want, which is something to hold in a negotiation with Britain about their cargo held, they consider illegally, in Gibraltar." 9:07PM UK Chamber of Shipping calls for increased protection for vessels Bob Sanguinetti, the CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, says:  “We condemn unreservedly the capture of Stena Impero as she transited  the Strait of Hormuz earlier today.  The action by those involved is in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters. “Our priority is for the safety and welfare of the crew.  We call on the UK Government to do whatever is necessary to ensure their safe and swift return. An Iranian navy boat trying to control fire from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker, said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman in June “This incident represents an escalation.  Whilst we call for measured response, it is also clear that further protection for merchant vessels must be forthcoming to ensure enhanced security to guarantee free flow of trade in the region.” 9:03PM Donald Trump being kept informed President Donald Trump said he would "talk to the UK" about the incident. “We heard about it,” he said. "We don’t have many tankers going in.”  Donald Trump said he is being kept abreast of developments "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble," he said. Trump said "Iran is showing their colors" and "in big trouble right now" because its economy has been crippled by U.S. economic sanctions. The U.S. has asked Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in past weeks to contribute financially and militarily to a Trump administration proposal called the Sentinel Program - a coalition of nations working with the U.S. to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran. 8:54PM Foreign Secretary responds Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz. “I will shortly attend a COBR meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel. “Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary “Our Ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners. “These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.” 8:50PM Crew from multiple countries Our Political Editor, Gordon Rayner, writes: A Government source said the crews on board the two ships are “a range of nationalities” but no Britons are among the crews of either ship.  A Conta meeting due to start at 10.30 tonight will be chaired by either Jeremy Hunt or David Lidington.




  • Oliver Stone Asks Vladimir Putin to Be His Daughter’s Godfather

    Oliver Stone Asks Vladimir Putin to Be His Daughter’s GodfatherAlexey Nikolsky/AFP/GettyFilmmaker and conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone has made no secret of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but now he has taken it to a whole new level by trying to make him his 22-year-old daughter’s godfather. “Does she want to become an Orthodox Christian?” Putin asked when Stone floated the idea during a sit-down in the Kremlin. “We’ll make her that [Orthodox],” Stone replied, according to a transcript of the interview put out by the Kremlin Friday. Putin appeared to wriggle his way out of the proposal (“You have to ask her,” he said) before Stone went on to complain about “American culture,” taking particular issue with what he described as a focus on gender identity and people labeling themselves as “transgender” and “cisgender.” Stone quickly steered the conversation toward a controversial 2013 Russian law banning “homosexual propaganda” among minors, a law which experts say has prompted a surge of homophobic violence in the country. “It seems like maybe that’s a sensible law,” Stone said. The interview, transcripts of which were released Friday, took place in mid-June, shortly before Stone announced the upcoming premiere of his new documentary Revealing Ukraine, which purports to “investigate” the “ongoing Ukrainian crisis” but seems instead to serve as a promotional spot for pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk. The “documentary” has been hyped up by Russian state media, where it premiered on Friday.  It was also due to air on Ukraine’s 112 TV channel, which Medvedchuk reportedly took control of late last year, but the station said it was forced to cancel the broadcast after protests. Stone has claimed his dabblings in Ukraine offer viewers a new perspective on the 2014 Maidan revolution and war in Donbass that he says “Western media has largely ignored,” but that “perspective” has relied solely on claims fed to him by pro-Russia politicians, Putin allies, and Putin himself. In his sit-down with the Russian president, Stone vacillated between spouting off common Kremlin propaganda on Ukraine and fawning over Putin as a “peacemaker.” After echoing the Kremlin conspiracy theory that the pro-Russian leaders in Kyiv accused of gunning down innocent protesters in the 2014 revolution were actually framed in some vast conspiracy that may or may not have involved former U.S. President Barack Obama, and that Ukraine, not Russia was to blame for interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Stone expressed concerns about Putin’s emotional well-being. “You sound very depressed, much more depressed than last time,” he said, later adding, “I am very worried about you.” The two ended the interview by taking a parting picture together. Oliver Stone’s Latest Piece of Pro-Putin Propaganda May Be His Most Shameless Move YetRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




  • Bloody Ridge: The Horrific Korean War Battle You Never Heard About

    Bloody Ridge: The Horrific Korean War Battle You Never Heard AboutThe Korean War had been raging for more than a year. The U.S. Forces had almost been routed off the peninsula at Pusan, driven the North Koreans to the brink of defeat, then been beaten back by a flood of Chinese “volunteers.” Seoul had suffered through five battles, changing hands four times. Both sides recognized the war could not be won on the battlefield and began seeking an armistice. The bloodiest of the fighting, however, was yet to come.By the summer of 1951, it was becoming clear that the war was not going to be won by either side on the battlefield. North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung and South Korean leader Syngman Rhee both wanted to outright defeat the other and unify the peninsula by force. The United States, however, was not willing to support Rhee because they had concluded the cost to defeat North Korea was prohibitively expensive. Moscow and Beijing likewise told Kim they would not support a new, major offensive to win the war. Both sides then began discussing ways to end the war.After the last Chinese attempt to retake Seoul in April 1951, the communist forces had been driven back about 35 miles to the north, and the battle lines between the two armies stretched across the peninsula, roughly along the 38th parallel. Both sides chose a similar strategy in trying to get the best terms possible during negotiations for the armistice: fight to possess the most defensible terrain along the 38th parallel and put as much pressure on the other side so as to extract concessions at the negotiating table. A series of three hills between the two armies north of Seoul provided such commanding terrain.And both sides were willing to pay a high price to win the hills.




  • US forming 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensions

    US forming 'coalition' of navies to protect ships amid Iran tensionsHours before the hijacking of the British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, America's special representative for Iran was explaining its position to diplomats in Washington. Some 100 envoys took part in the briefing by Brian Hook, who outlined the Trump administration's initiative for maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz. Mr Hook said tensions had risen sharply and necessitated the need for a "coalition" of navies to protect their ships through the strait. His words were underlined by the seizure of the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Gulf.  Elaborating on the plans, US Central Command described it on Friday night as "a multinational maritime effort", called Operation Sentinel. "The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman.  "This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance." The US had the day before been forced to down an Iranian drone that had flown too close to one of its navy ships. It could no longer sit idly by, he said. British oil tanker seized in the Gulf It was the first US military engagement with Iran after a series of increasingly serious incidents in the Gulf, and Donald Trump threatened more yesterday if Iranian planes flew too closely to its ships. Before the hijacking on Friday, a bizarre war of words broke out between the US and Iran after Tehran denied the president's claim that one of its drones had been destroyed. "We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake," Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, responded in a tweet. Iran tensions | Read more Brig Gen Abolfazl Shekarchi added: "Despite Trump's baseless and delusional claims, all of [Iran's] drones ... have safely returned to their bases." The Revolutionary Guard released footage from what it said was the "downed drone". State TV claimed the timing notations showed it was still filming after Washington said it had been put out of action. The US said it had its own "clear evidence", but did not provide any. Mr Trump announced that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, "took defensive action" against the Iranian drone. "The US reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce," he said. A journalist aboard USS Boxer suggested that Iran had been harassing the navy ship before the drone was shot down. Iran released footage from what it said was the "downed drone" Credit: AFP The reporter said an Iranian navy helicopter flew alongside them, yards from the deck, before it was chased away by a US helicopter. The convoy of six US warships passed several Iranian speedboats without incident, but was then tailed by a larger Iranian warship which came within 500 yards of Boxer. An Iranian Y-12 surveillance plane was then pursued by US helicopters before a surveillance drone came even closer and was then brought down by electronic warfare jamming. On Friday night, after reports that two British tankers had been intercepted, Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK's Chamber of Shipping, said the escalation in tensions in one of the world's most important chokepoints made it clear more protection for merchant vessels was urgently needed. He said the action was "in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business".




  • StanChart Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Missed Billions in Trade

    StanChart Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Missed Billions in Trade(Bloomberg) -- Standard Chartered Plc’s transactions with Iran were worth tens of billions of dollars more than previously known, a whistle-blower said in a lawsuit claiming the British bank actively pursued Iranian business in violation of U.S. sanctions.The whistle-blower, a bank executive who isn’t named in court papers, was the bank’s global head of transaction banking and foreign exchange sales. He and another plaintiff -- described only as an American currency trader -- say StanChart handled more than $56 billion in transactions from 2009 to 2014, compared with $240 million cited by the Justice Department between 2007 and 2011 in an April settlement with the bank.StanChart’s illicit trade with Iran has cost it more than $1.7 billion in penalties from prosecutions in 2012 and 2019 by the Justice Department and regulators. The whistle-blower claims the bank’s wrongdoing was more extensive than the U.S. alleged and seeks an order forcing it to pay an unspecified additional sum to the government.The illicit transactions enabled Iran to aid U.S. adversaries, the plaintiffs claim. “Beneath the green eye-shade complexity and deception of the international financial transactions involved in this case, the unavoidable fact is that [StanChart] used its resources to help terrorists kill and wound American, British, and other Coalition military personnel and thousands of innocent civilians,” they say in a complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court.The bank dismissed the lawsuit as “baseless,” noting that the U.S. chose not to join the whistle-blower lawsuit. “The U.S. authorities have been aware of these claims for several years and have not seen fit to join this suit or include the claims as part of our resolution of historical sanctions compliance issues,” it said in a statement.The lawsuit opens a window on a seven-year saga in which the StanChart executive secretly aided U.S. prosecutors and regulators.Read More: Standard Chartered May Face Fresh Fine for Sanctions BreachJust a week after the first settlements between the bank and U.S. authorities in 2012, the executives filed a sealed whistle-blower case and met with authorities to further develop their investigation, according to the complaint. That settlement covered $250 billion in transactions for the years from 2001 to 2007, but the whistle-blower says the true number was closer to $280 billion.A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.The FBI and Justice Department asked one of the plaintiffs to get more internal bank information from a source in Dubai, a key locus of the bank’s Iran operations. Two data sticks containing 79 files detailing thousands more illegal transactions were turned over to the FBI, according to the complaint. The whistle-blower’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 and refiled last year, and was unsealed this month.The plaintiffs brought the case through a holding company called Brutus Trading.The prior U.S. enforcement cases focused on Standard Chartered’s method of “stripping” identifying Iranian information from payment messages. The suit claims the bank used other methods to process –- and hide -– Iranian business. Iranian clients were allowed to conduct transactions through a currency trading platform that was designed not to maintain records of illegal transactions, Iranian transactions were parked in so-called sundry accounts where they would remain undetected, and Iranian accounts were placed under another business unit to conceal their existence, according to the complaint.Read More: Standard Chartered Gets Seven More Months Under U.S. ProbeThe plaintiffs also claim StanChart’s pursuit of Iran business was “no haphazard affair.” Instead, it involved senior bank executives who actively sought to recruit clients blocked from the U.S. financial system, an effort dubbed “Project Green.” Among them were the National Iranian Oil Company and National Iranian Tanker Company, as well as several banks and a unit of Mahan Air, an Iranian airline the U.S. suspects of aiding the country’s ballistic missile system.“Project Green was designed to assist, conspire, aid and abet non-United States customers that have been made the subject of United States economic sanctions to evade those sanctions and engage in international financial transactions,” according to the complaint.The case is Brutus Trading v. Standard Chartered Bank, 18-cv-11117, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).(Updates Justice Department declining to comment)To contact the reporter on this story: Christian Berthelsen in New York at cberthelsen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter JeffreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • 'Horrific for all': Pentagon intelligence chief says Iran does not want war

    'Horrific for all': Pentagon intelligence chief says Iran does not want warA U.S. Marines helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the USS Boxer during its transit through Strait of Hormuz. ASPEN, Colo. — As tensions in the Persian Gulf continued to ramp up on Friday afternoon amid news that Iran had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, concluded that Iran does not want to start a war with the U.S. or its allies. Answering a question posed by CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto in Aspen, Colo., about the latest incident, Ashley declined to give a specific response to the news, but later said that none of the United States’ major adversaries or competitors, including Iran, China and Russia, wants to start a war.




  • Officials: US putting troops back in Saudi Arabia

    Officials: US putting troops back in Saudi ArabiaOfficials say the U.S. is sending several hundred troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Saudi Arabia to counter Iran. Some U.S. troops already have arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base, south of Riyadh. Officials say the forces are in a defensive role.




  • An Open Secret: Russia Will Never Become a Stealth Fighter 'Superpower'

    An Open Secret: Russia Will Never Become a Stealth Fighter 'Superpower'Speaking on May 15, 2019, Putin said the Kremlin would buy scores of Su-57s over the next eight years. If Putin is serious and the Russian defense ministry follows through on the pledge, Russia soon could possess a meaningful number of stealth fighters. But there are good reasons to be skeptical.But buying into the Su-57 program won’t magically solve the program’s problems. The Su-57 is an immature design whose production line is small and inefficient. That won’t quickly or cheaply change.Russian president Vladimir Putin made a big show on May 14, 2019 of visiting the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in Russia's Astrakhan region.(This first appeared in May 2019.)Six Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighters -- fully half of the Su-57s that Sukhoi has built since the type first flew in 2010 -- escorted Putin’s Il-96 VIP plane on the trip from Moscow to Astrakhan.Speaking on May 15, 2019, Putin said the Kremlin would buy scores of Su-57s over the next eight years. If Putin is serious and the Russian defense ministry follows through on the pledge, Russia soon could possess a meaningful number of stealth fighters.But there are good reasons to be skeptical. The Su-57 still isn’t a mature design. It lacks key combat systems. Sukhoi hasn’t set up a big, efficient production line for the type. And Moscow almost certainly doesn’t have the money to buy a large number of stealth fighters.




  • Pompeo rejects North Korean charges on military drills

    Pompeo rejects North Korean charges on military drillsU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rejected charges from North Korea's Foreign Ministry that U.S. plans for military exercises with South Korea are in breach of agreements between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday Trump had reaffirmed in a meeting with Kim last month that joint exercises would be halted and the U.S. decision to forge ahead with them was "clearly a breach" of the two leaders' agreements at a summit in Singapore last year.




  • 'Bigger problems' for Trump than plastic straws

    'Bigger problems' for Trump than plastic strawsSwapping paper for plastic turned out to be the last straw for Donald Trump, who said Friday there are "bigger problems" than plastic drinking straws -- the day after his reelection campaign manager promoted branded ones on Twitter. The president made his position clear to reporters at the White House when, between questions about Iran and China, one asked him about growing efforts to ban plastic straws. "I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws," Trump replied.




  • Women in Japan Fight for Their Identity — Starting With Their Name

    Women in Japan Fight for Their Identity — Starting With Their Name(Bloomberg) -- Women in Japan are going through an identity crisis.They’re fighting to overturn a law that bars married couples from having different last names, which creates complications for women who have established careers and reputations.About 600,000 Japanese couples wed every year. The law says that after marriage a couple must have the same surname. Technically, men may take their wives’ family name. Yet in practice, only about 4% do. Some women say they feel like they’re wiping away their identity after getting married.“Being forced to change your name is nothing more than a violation of human rights,” said Miki Haga, 29, who is planning to study in the U.K. this year. She legally became Miki Ishizawa two years ago when her husband didn’t want to change his name.The issue roared into the public debate over the past few weeks during the campaign for the upper house, where opposition parties have made gender equality a key part of their platform against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Polling shows the LDP block on Sunday will grab the majority of open seats. If the opposition makes any major gains, it may try to use gender issues to weaken the LDP’s grip on power.In a striking moment, Abe was the only person on a debate stage earlier this month who didn’t raise his hand when asked about support for changing the law. His conservative party argues that the current law is equal to both men and women, and it’s a matter of tradition.“If you believe traditions are important, then there’s no need to change the law,” said Shigeharu Aoyama, an upper house LDP member. But others point out that it’s not exactly an ancient tradition. Before the current law was passed in 1898, Japanese people didn’t typically use surnames. In 1948, it became legal for couples to choose either spouse’s surname, but they still had to stick with one.The surname issue is only one of a number of ways Japan lags behind on gender. Japan has the third-highest gender-pay gap among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Women are poorly represented in business and politics. They hold only 4% of managerial positions, 2% of seats on boards of directors and about 10% of the seats in the lower house. The MeToo movement has had difficulty gaining traction. Although Abe has ginned up support for “Womenomics” — the idea that more women working will help the overall economy — progress has been slow.A government survey released last year showed 42.5% of adults supported changing the law — about 7 percentage points higher than five years earlier — while 29.3% opposed the move.The United Nations has pressured Japan to lift the restriction on surnames. It’s led to some unusual marital arrangements — even divorces on paper, while couples stay together.Others choose to live in the equivalent of a domestic partnership. Yuri Koizumi and Hiroshi Tanaka have been living together for 26 years, raising a son without getting married. Koizumi said she couldn’t accept changing the name she was born with. “It’s not who I am,” she said. Meanwhile, Tanaka, a forest science researcher, worried about what would happen to his academic reputation if he no longer used the same name as the one on his published works.They can’t take advantage of the same tax deductions as married couples. Legally, only one of them is allowed to have custody of their son. And they get tired of explaining to new friends and coworkers that they really are husband and wife, and their kids really are theirs, even though they have different last names. The situation is that uncommon in Japanese society.Courts in Japan recently have upheld the law several times. In 2015, Japan’s Supreme Court said the law didn’t violate the constitution. A Tokyo court earlier this year ruled against a similar challenge, and the plaintiffs plan on appealing.One of those plaintiffs is Yoshihisa Aono, the chief executive officer of software company Cybozu. He legally took his wife’s last name when they married in 2001 but continued to use his birth name professionally. His shares are registered under his legal last name — Nishibata — leading to confusion among investors about why the CEO doesn’t appear to own a stake in the company. And rules on which name should be on contracts vary by country.The law has prompted some people to go by their birth names in public, while using their spouse’s last name on official documents. That can be tricky. Women worry about whether their academic degrees will be recognized abroad. Companies sometimes mistakenly book flights or hotel rooms for employees under the name they use in everyday life, rather than the legal name they need to use when checking in.The continued support for the law is based in part on an antiquated Japanese ideal that “individuals are second to the masses,” said Toshihiko Noguchi, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs.Abe’s solution has been to encourage employers to allow workers to informally use the last names they were born with. This November, people will be allowed to list both last names on certain government ID cards, allowing them to open bank accounts or take out loans with their surname of choice.It’s not seamless. Haga gets questioned at airports by border officials who don’t understand why both names are listed on the passport. She tweeted her frustration, and a government official responded and pledged to publish an explanation online. She says every time she filled out another form to legally make the switch — on her bank accounts, passport, credit cards and more — a bit of herself faded. Her husband says he’s sympathetic about all the paperwork she had to go through and believes the law should be changed, but he still says he wouldn’t have reversed roles.“My husband didn’t have to do anything,” Haga said. “It didn’t feel fair.” \--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds and Jon Herskovitz.To contact the author of this story: Marika Katanuma in Tokyo at mkatanuma@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Fleisher at lfleisher2@bloomberg.net, Jodi SchneiderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • Mnuchin, Kudlow Invite U.S. Tech Giants to Discuss Huawei Ban

    Mnuchin, Kudlow Invite U.S. Tech Giants to Discuss Huawei Ban(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s senior advisers have invited U.S. technology companies to the White House on Monday to discuss a resumption of sales to blacklisted Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co., according to people familiar with the matter.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arranged the meeting with semiconductor and software companies because they wanted to talk about how to move forward. A person familiar with the meeting said the White House asked the companies “to discuss economic matters.”Among those invited are Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., according to the people. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a tentative pause in their trade war and to resume negotiations after meeting at the Group-of-20 leaders’ summit in Japan on June 29. The U.S. president at the time said he would loosen restrictions on Huawei and that China had agreed to make agricultural purchases.The White House meeting is an effort to show China that Trump is serious about allowing U.S. companies to resume business with Huawei and encourage Beijing to move forward with buying more from U.S. farmers, one of the people said.Farm GoodsChina has told the Trump administration that it would only follow through on the farm purchases once the president issues export licenses for American companies to continue shipments to Huawei. The Commerce Department is leading the process, and has said it will only grant exceptions in cases where there’s no threat to national security.U.S. companies had halted shipments after the U.S. added Huawei to a trade blacklist in May, though some have resumed certain sales after reviewing the terms of the ban.Some in the U.S. administration are arguing for America to cut off Huawei from American suppliers entirely for national security reasons, and their view is supported by China hawks on Capitol Hill.White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said earlier this month that Trump is allowing the sale to Huawei of “low grade” chips that aren’t a security risk. The administration will ensure the Chinese telecom company won’t end up dominating 5G infrastructure in the U.S., Navarro told CNN.Chipmaker FortunesHuawei is one of the world’s biggest purchasers of semiconductors. Continuing access to Chinese customers is crucial to the fortunes of chipmakers such as Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom Inc.Some U.S.-based makers of the vital electronic components have already reported earnings and given forecasts that show the negative effects of the trade dispute. They’ve argued that their financial health is crucial to U.S. leadership of a strategically important industry.Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke by phone with their Chinese counterparts about trade on Thursday. Mnuchin has said if the talks progress over the phone, he and Lighthizer may travel to Beijing for in-person meetings.Trump said on Friday that the call with Chinese officials a day earlier was “very good” but that they’ll “see what happens.”The Washington Post reported earlier that U.S. technology companies planned to meet Kudlow at the White House on Monday.\--With assistance from Mark Bergen.To contact the reporters on this story: Jenny Leonard in Washington at jleonard67@bloomberg.net;Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net;Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Margaret Collins at mcollins45@bloomberg.net, Sarah McGregor, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • Iran seizes 2 vessels as Strait of Hormuz conflict escalates

    Iran seizes 2 vessels as Strait of Hormuz conflict escalatesA U.K. oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Friday, the military branch said, claiming the vessel was operating against “international maritime laws and regulations.”




  • Trump: Sen. Rand Paul to help with Iran negotiations

    Trump: Sen. Rand Paul to help with Iran negotiationsThe Kentucky Republican has long been an opponent of U.S. intervention in Iran.




  • UPDATE 1-Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptable

    UPDATE 1-Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptableBritain said Iran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf. "I'm extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. "I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel," he said.




  • Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptable

    Britain says seizure of two vessels by Iran is unacceptableBritain said Iran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf. "I'm extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.




  • Seized British-flagged tanker in Gulf had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings - IRNA

    Seized British-flagged tanker in Gulf had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings - IRNAThe British-flagged tanker seized by Iran's elite forces on Friday had turned off its tracker and ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a military source as saying. "The tanker had turned off its tracker and ignored several warnings by the Guards before being captured," an unnamed military source told IRNA.




  • Iran Seizes British Oil Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz

    Iran Seizes British Oil Tanker In Strait Of HormuzThe incident, involving two foreign ships, comes a day after Iran seized another tanker and the U.S. claimed to have downed an Iranian drone.




  • Mueller probe witness now faces child sex trafficking charge

    Mueller probe witness now faces child sex trafficking chargeA businessman who served as a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation now faces a charge of child sex trafficking in addition to transporting child pornography. An indictment made public Friday in federal court in Alexandria charges Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, 60, with transporting a 14-year-old boy from Europe to Washington, D.C., in February 2000 and engaging in sex acts with him. It details his efforts to serve as liaison between a Russian banker close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of President Donald Trump's transition team.




  • Iran Seizes British Oil Tanker, Escalating Tensions With Western Powers

    Iran Seizes British Oil Tanker, Escalating Tensions With Western PowersGIUSEPPE CACACEIran’s military seized a British tanker in the Persian Gulf on Friday, further ratcheting up the tensions between Tehran and Western powers in the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced via state-run news outlets that it had seized the British tanker Stena Impero “for failing to respect international maritime rules.”The seizure comes as an apparent response to Britain’s detention of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in early July and comes on the heels of a series of alleged Iranian attacks on Japanese, European, and Middle Eastern tankers in the Gulf of Oman. British officials told reporters that they are “urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation.” A British official told The Daily Beast that the incident is currently being discussed at the highest levels of the British government. Separately, Defense Department officials confirmed to CNN that Iran had captured a second tanker on Friday, the MV Mesdar, a Liberian-flagged vessel. As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With IsraelBefore Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced the seizure on Friday, vessel tracking data showed the Stena Impero diverting off course and towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, home to a number of IRGC-N facilities. A statement posted to the website of Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management, the ship’s owner, said the Stena Impero “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.” The company said there are 23 crew members aboard the ship at present.Earlier this week, Iran announced that it had seized another tanker, the MT Riah, after it disappeared and was last seen heading towards Qeshm. The Riah had been owned by a United Arab Emirates company but Emirati officials denied that the Riah was owned or operated by Emirati entities. Iranian officials claimed to have seized the vessel after it allegedly engaged in oil smuggling. The British tanker incident follows a series of Iranian threats to retaliate against the U.K. for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in early July. Royal Marines boarded the Grace 1 tanker on the grounds that it was allegedly delivering oil to the Assad regime in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denied that the tanker was headed for Syria and demanded its release. A Gibraltar court ruled on Friday that the ship must stay detained for at least another month. In the wake of the seizure, senior Iranian military and political officials vowed retaliation against the U.K. for taking the Grace 1. Iran’s top military officer, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said the British seizure “will not go unanswered” and that Iran would respond “at an appropriate time and place.” President Hassan Rouhani also threatened that the U.K. “will realize the consequences later” for its actions. On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed the threats and said Iran “will not leave such evil deeds unanswered.”Iran appeared to try and make good on those threats in early July when IRGC Navy (IRGC-N) vessels harassed a BP tanker, British Heritage, as it sailed by the Iranian island of Abu Musa. IRGC-N boats tried to stop the tanker before a British Navy frigate, HMS Montrose, trained its guns on the boats and ordered them to move away. Before the incident, the British Heritage had anchored off the coast of Saudi Arabia, wary of sailing the Gulf in light of Iranian threats to British shipping. Those anxieties are shared among British shippers who have watched the escalating tensions between the U.K. and Iran with concern. Britain’s department of transport raised its threat level for vessels in the Gulf to “critical” while maritime organizations have urged shippers not to escalate the threat by hiring armed private security contractors to guard their ships. The U.K. announced earlier this week that it would send an additional warship to the Gulf, the HMS Duncan, a guided missile destroyer, to provide security for its vessels.In May, following the announcement of an expedited deployment of U.S. warships and bombers to the Gulf, six tankers were attacked by apparent limpet mines in two separate incidents off the coast of the United Arab Emirates Fujairah port and in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blamed Iran naval commandos for both attacks and released footage of Iranian troops removing a device from the hull of a ship that had recently been attacked. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




  • Iran Guards say they confiscated British tanker in Strait of Hormuz

    Iran Guards say they confiscated British tanker in Strait of HormuzIran's Revolutionary Guards announced Friday they had confiscated a British tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules". The Stena Impero tanker "was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules," the Guards' official website Sepahnews announced.




  • Second tanker in Gulf turns sharply towards Iran, Refinitiv data shows

    Second tanker in Gulf turns sharply towards Iran, Refinitiv data showsA second oil tanker, the British-operated, Liberian-flagged Mesdar, turned sharply north towards Iran's coast on Friday afternoon after passing westward through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf, according to Refinitiv tracking data. The turn took place at about 1600 GMT, the data showed, about 40 minutes after a similar course shift by the Stena Impero tanker that Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had captured. There was no immediate word from the Guards about the second tanker or from the operator of the second tanker on what had prompted the change in direction along the vital international oil shipping route.




  • Russia's Military Is Transforming (And Getting Stronger) Right Before Our Eyes

    Russia's Military Is Transforming (And Getting Stronger) Right Before Our EyesAt a meeting of the military-industrial commission in Moscow in September 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin had instructed the Ministry of Defense to organize work on the creation of the Military Innovative Technopolis ERA (MIT ERA).In an age of cyber security and artificial intelligence, it is only fair to assume that the technological sophistication of warfare has been upgraded as well. Russia has made headlines for orchestrating an international campaign of information warfare, courtesy of allegations of election interference in the 2016 U.S presidential elections.For the last few years, Russia has been focusing a great deal on developing its military technology. In an age of technological supremacy, the decisionmaking risk calculus has escalated, and Russia’s maritime strategy is now focused on a new doctrine of sophisticated military capabilities.As Russia expands its geopolitical sphere of influence, there is no doubt that the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House are keeping a close eye on Russia’s military innovations.So, what does Russia’s military innovation policy look like?For one, some Russian analysts like it to a startup analogy, where Russia is a venture capitalist and is ready to pour in money into the newest technology on the block. The military infrastructure in Moscow is clearly championing breakthroughs in military technology through start-up style disruption.The Russian military with firm Russian characteristics, that is fear of Western domination, epitomizes institutional flexibility. Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of General Staff of the Russian armed forces has made military innovation his priority.




  • Lebanon lawmakers ratify austerity budget to address a slump

    Lebanon lawmakers ratify austerity budget to address a slumpLebanese lawmakers ratified Friday a controversial austerity budget that aims to save an indebted economy following a raucous voting day that saw protesters attempting to breach the parliament security zone. The austerity budget, which increased income and import taxes and suspended early retirement schemes for three years, fell short of expectations. Instead, protesters and opponents said it focused on cutting expenditures and raising taxes that transfers the cost to the average citizen.




  • UPDATE 1-Trump tells France's Macron U.S. concerned with proposed digital services tax

    UPDATE 1-Trump tells France's Macron U.S. concerned with proposed digital services taxU.S. President Donald Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday and expressed concerns about the country's proposed digital services tax, the White House said. The two leaders also discussed ongoing efforts to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. Trump ordered an investigation on Wednesday into France's planned tax on technology companies, a move that could lead the United States to impose new tariffs or other trade restrictions.




  • Trump tells France's Macron U.S. concerned with proposed digital services tax

    Trump tells France's Macron U.S. concerned with proposed digital services taxU.S. President Donald Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday and expressed concerns about the country's proposed digital services tax, the White House said. The two leaders also discussed ongoing efforts to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. Trump ordered an investigation on Wednesday into France's planned tax on technology companies, a move that could lead the United States to impose new tariffs or other trade restrictions.




  • British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in escalation of Gulf tensions as second ship also veers off course

    British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in escalation of Gulf tensions as second ship also veers off courseA British-flagged oil tanker was seized by Iran on Friday night, in a major escalation of tensions along one of the world's most vital oil shipping routes. The Stena Impero had been en route to Saudi Arabia but made an abrupt change of course and began moving towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, according to data relayed by maritime tracking services. The ship “went dark”, meaning its identification system was turned off, at 16:29 UK time and nothing has been heard from her or her 23 crew since. Northern Marine, a Clyde-based subsidiary of the ship's Swedish owner Stena AB, confirmed that a “hostile action” had preceded the vessel's change of course on Friday afternoon. They issued a statement saying it had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.” The ship turned suddenly into Iranian waters Credit: marinetraffic.com/PA Iran's Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that they stopped the tanker at the request of the maritime authority in the Iranian province of Hormozgan on suspicion it has "violated international maritime law", but did not elaborate.  There were also concerns about a second oil tanker, the British-operated, Liberian-flagged Mesdar, which turned sharply north towards Iran's coast, about 40 minutes after the Stena Impero's course shift. There was no immediate word from the Guards about the second tanker or from the operator of the second tanker on what had prompted the change in direction along the vital international oil shipping route. Tracking data showed the Stena Impero was in the same area where a United Arab Emirates-based vessel was detained on Sunday and where a British vessel, the British Heritage, was blocked by Iranian forces earlier this month. A Cobra meeting was held between officials from the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and other Government departments on Friday night to determine the UK's response. A Whitehall source told the Telegraph of the Stena Impero: "It does look like it has been hijacked. Ships don't follow that pattern. It turned right and straight into Iranian waters. It is really concerning that this has happened. "It looks on the face of it as though the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have boarded and taken a UK-flagged ship. It appears to be linked to events around the Grace 1 tanker." British authorities seized the Iranian Grace 1 supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, on suspicion it was carrying crude to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. The fate of the tanker has been at the centre of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, had hinted last Saturday that the UK would release the ship if Iran promised its cargo would not go to the Syrian regime. He said talks between him and counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif had been productive. However, a court in Gibraltar on Friday extended for 30 days the detention of the vessel, which was carrying two million barrels of oil. Revolutionary Guards have been threatening retaliation for its impounding and the move would likely have aggravated an already-tense situation. Tensions have been building for weeks in the Persian Gulf.  On 10 July, a British warship, the HMS Montrose, intervened to drive three Iranian military vessels that were attempting to divert the British Heritage.  Iran seized a Panama-flagged ship on Sunday, it alleges, for “smuggling oil to foreign countries". However, mystery has surrounded the capture as no country has come forward to claim the ship or its cargo. The vessel, however, was only carrying a very small amount and it had been thought Iran had seized it as merely a show of strength. The US then on Thursday claimed to have downed an Iranian drone that had been flying too close to one of its navy ships.  The USS Boxer, an amphibious assault craft, destroyed the drone after it came within 1,000 yards in the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Gulf However, Iran denied the claims and released footage on state TV to proof it was still in possession of the drone. The latest incidents will only increase fears for security along the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost one-fifth of the world's oil passes. Oil prices rose on Friday night in reaction to the news. After one of the worst performing weeks since May, oil started the day firmer but slipped as the US and Iran continued to trade brickbats. The later rise initially still left it well down on the previous week. Oil was down more than 8pc this week overall when markets in London closed.   Iran has threatened to close the Strait if it cannot export its oil. The Trump administration is trying to block Iran's exports as a way to pressure it to renegotiate the landmark 2015 nuclear deal it abandoned last year. The UK, which is understood to have seized the Grace 1 after a request from the US, is trying - alongside the EU - to keep the accord alive, believing it is the best chance to stop Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.




  • EU plans to offer Boris Johnson a no-deal Brexit extension- The Guardian

    EU plans to offer Boris Johnson a no-deal Brexit extension- The GuardianThe European Union is preparing to offer Boris Johnson, the favourite to be Britain's next prime minister, a no-deal Brexit extension beyond October 31, the Guardian newspaper reported on Friday. "It will be described as a technical delay to save Boris from political embarrassment but then we will have time to find an agreement," a senior EU diplomat told the newspaper http://bit.ly/2xWScq9. Johnson could maintain the stance of being on course to leave EU without an agreement while keeping open the option of coming to a deal with the bloc, according to the proposal cited by the Guardian.




  • Drone targets base for Iran-backed militia in northern Iraq

    Drone targets base for Iran-backed militia in northern IraqAn unmanned drone dropped explosives on a base belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces in northern Iraq early Friday, wounding two people, Iraqi security officials and a military statement said, amid regional tensions between the United States and Iran. The statement said the drone dropped two grenades half an hour apart on the base in Amirli, in Iraq's northern Salaheddin province. A senior official with the militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces told The Associated Press that the attack resulted in the wounding of two Iranians and that the base hit housed advisers from Iran and Lebanon.




  • Trump Bemoans Request to ‘Get Involved’ in Seoul-Tokyo Dispute

    Trump Bemoans Request to ‘Get Involved’ in Seoul-Tokyo Dispute(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump said South Korean President Moon Jae-in had asked for his help mediating a dispute with Japan’s government, and bemoaned the fresh demand on his time.“I said, ‘How many things do I have to get involved in?”’ Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. “I’m involved with North Korea, I’m involved with so many different things. We just did a trade deal, a great trade deal with South Korea, but he tells me that they have a lot of friction going on now with respect to trade.”Tensions are rising between Seoul and Tokyo over recent South Korean court rulings holding Japanese companies liable for compensation for forced labor at colonial-era mines and factories. The two countries have a long history of bitterness over Japan’s treatment of South Koreans during its occupation of the country leading up to World War Two.“It’s like a full-time job, getting involved between Japan and South Korea,” Trump said. “But I like both leaders, I like President Moon, and you know how I feel about Prime Minister Abe, a very special guy also.”Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Kono, threatened “necessary measures” against South Korea earlier on Friday if the dispute isn’t resolved, without elaborating. The remarks came the day after a deadline set by Tokyo for Seoul to name an arbitrator. Japan earlier this month placed export restrictions on specialized materials vital for South Korea’s tech industry.“If they need me, I’m there,” Trump said. “Hopefully, they can work it out, but they do have tension, there’s no question about it, trade tension.”To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin BlumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • WRAPUP 9-Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down drone

    WRAPUP 9-Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down droneDUBAI/WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday but denied Washington's assertion that the U.S. Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby this week, as tensions in the Gulf region rose again. Britain said it was urgently seeking information about the Stena Impero tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf.




  • Kosovo’s Premier Unexpectedly Resigns to Appear at War Crimes Court

    Kosovo’s Premier Unexpectedly Resigns to Appear at War Crimes Court(Bloomberg) -- Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said he was stepping down from his post after he was summoned again as a suspect to the international war-crimes tribunal in The Hague.His unexpected resignation Friday will trigger early elections in Kosovo, which is still struggling to win worldwide international recognition that’s needed to unlock its future.“Governments and powers are interchangeable -- we live in a democracy,” Haradinaj said on Facebook, adding he was stepping down because “I have been called on to appear for questioning as a suspect” by the court next week. He said it was now up to President Hashim Thaci and political parties to set the date for a snap ballot.This is the second time he’s resigned from the position of premier. He did so first in 2005, when the tribunal indicted him of war crimes. He was acquitted twice on lack of evidence. Thaci, who like Haradinaj was once leader in the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought for independence against Serbia, said on Facebook that his advisor Bismil Zyrapi and “several other former KLA officers” were also called to The Hague.Prime minister since 2017, Haradinaj has been one of Kosovo’s most popular politicians. His support has soared since last year after he imposed 100% import tariffs on all Serb goods in response to its neighbors success in blocking it from joining Interpol.Despite pressure from international leaders who say the levies are hurting chances to mend ties, Haradinaj has vowed to keep them in place until Serbia recognized Kosovo’s independence. His resignation may unblock the stalled talks between Kosovo and Serbia, as other leaders, including Thaci, appear more favorable toward dropping them.KLA OfficersSerbia, backed by Russia and China, refuses to recognize Kosovo and has blocked its efforts to join the United Nations and other international institutions. The two sides must improve relations to progress toward membership in the European Union.Serb President Aleksandar Vucic, who served as Information Minister to the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and Thaci have floated the idea of redrawing the borders between the two countries. That plan has run into fierce opposition from politicians in the EU for its potentially explosive impact in a region still recovering from Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.Tension with Serbia and Kosovo’s majority Albanians has simmered for all of the 20th century, culminating in a 1998-99 war. Fighting was halted by a NATO bombing campaign that drove Serb forces out of Kosovo at the end of June 1999. About 3,600 international soldiers have remained to keep the peace. Both Serbs and Kosovars have been accused of war crimes.More than a half of Kosovo’s citizens, frustrated with slow progress toward EU entry and years of delays of visa liberalization, unemployment and corruption, believe their country is on the wrong track, according to a survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute in March. A majority of Kosovo’s youth would leave the country if they had the chance, the survey showed, a trend also seen in other Balkan countries, including Serbia.(Updates with Thaci’s comment from fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at gfilipovic@bloomberg.net;Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net;Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Michael WinfreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • U.S. Wants to Hear From Top Iran Leaders After Downing of Drone

    U.S. Wants to Hear From Top Iran Leaders After Downing of Drone(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration wants to hear directly from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, about whether the Islamic Republic is interested in negotiations, a U.S. official said.The official spoke to reporters in Washington Friday amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. “immediately destroyed” an Iranian drone that approached the USS Boxer near the Strait of Hormuz, but officials in Tehran denied losing one.Iran and the U.S. have been at loggerheads since last year, when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement he called the “worst deal ever.” In May, the administration refused to extend waivers to eight governments for Iranian oil purchases, ratcheting up the pressure on the country’s already battered economy.Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Thursday told reporters at the Iranian mission to the United Nations that he’s willing to meet with U.S. senators to discuss possible ways out of the nuclear dispute with the Trump administration, according to the New York Times. But he also said Iran’s escalation of its nuclear enrichment program could be reversed if the U.S. drops sanctions that Trump imposed after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement.‘Tremendous Problems’The Trump administration doesn’t believe Zarif has significant decision-making authority, the official said. That’s why the administration wants to hear from Rouhani or the supreme leader.“We are starting to see the Iranians signal that they are willing to come to the negotiating table,” Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Friday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “Whether those are the right signals is an open question.”Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he’s in no hurry for a deal, as Iran is having “tremendous problems” because of U.S. sanctions. “We can do something quickly or we can take our time,” he said. “I’m in no rush.”While U.S. officials say they’re open to talks without preconditions, Iran’s government wants some easing of the sanctions that have crippled oil sales and undermined its economy. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has laid out a list of 12 conditions he says Iran will have to meet before sanctions are lifted.Iran’s economy has been crippled by the ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions that have restricted the OPEC member’s oil sales, fueled inflation and undermined domestic support for Rouhani’s government.Sanctions against Iran are working “without a doubt,” as the country doesn’t have revenue to develop its ballistic missile program or to support Syria, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Mandelker said.War ConcernsFears of a new Middle East war climbed after a recent spate of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, the downing of an American drone and the British seizure of a tanker carrying Iranian oil.“We hope for their sake they don’t do anything foolish,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.The U.S. announcement on the Iranian drone was the latest sign of tension.Countering Tehran’s denial that an Iranian drone was downed, the U.S. official said the Trump administration has clear evidence for its assessment and added that it may release video of the incident later.“There’s no question that this was an Iranian drone,” U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters at the White House on Friday.?Iran’s state-run Press TV aired what it said was aerial video captured by the Iranian drone. The video shows close-ups and birds-eye view images of the USS Boxer, according to Press TV.The time code on the video shows that drone was still operating and surveilling the vessel after the time Trump claimed it was shot down and destroyed, Press TV said, citing the IRGC.The drone was a threat to the U.S. amphibious assault ship and its crew, Trump said at the White House on Thursday. The president said he was calling “on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait.”Also Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department said it’s imposing sanctions on Salman Raouf Salman, a senior member of Hezbollah, which the U.S. says is backed by Iran.The U.S. said Salman coordinated an attack in Buenos Aires 25 years ago against the largest Jewish center in South American, killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more. The U.S. also offered a $7 million reward for providing his whereabouts.(Updates with Trump, Bolton comments starting in 12th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Golnar Motevalli and Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net;Alyza Sebenius in Aspen, Colorado at asebenius@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Bill FariesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • Ivanka Trump and senior Republicans distance themselves from rally chants of 'send her back'

    Ivanka Trump and senior Republicans distance themselves from rally chants of 'send her back'Ivanka Trump and senior Republicans on Friday appeared to be trying to distance themselves from the chants of “send her back” at Donald Trump's North Carolina rally, as the Republican party struggled to draw a line under a controversial week. Mr Trump on Friday afternoon defended the crowd in North Carolina, who launched into the chants. “Those are incredible people, incredible patriots,” he said. Asked whether he was unhappy with the tweets and the row, he replied: “You know what I’m unhappy with? I’m unhappy that a Congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things. I’m unhappy that another Congresswoman can hate our country.” The chants against Somali-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar, which sprung up at the Wednesday night event, sparked outrage around the world. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, joined Theresa May and Justin Trudeau, Canada’s leader, in condemning the rhetoric. “Without question, I reject [Trump’s comments] and stand in solidarity with the congresswomen he targeted,” said Mrs Merkel. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, also made a thinly veiled reference to the chant while giving a speech on extremism. “I know what it’s like to be told to go back to where I came from, and I don’t think they mean Rochdale,” he said. Ilhan Omar and her colleagues in "The Squad" Mr Trump noted on Twitter on Friday that the US media was “crazed” with the issue, and yet, he claimed, was “totally calm & accepting of the most vile and disgusting statements made by the three Radical Left Congresswomen”. After a week of silence from Ms Trump, The New York Times reported on Friday that she had been uncomfortable with the chants, and that she had urged her father on Thursday morning to reject them. Senior Republicans were also reported to have told Mike Pence, the vice president, that they wanted the US president to publicly condemn the 13 seconds of yelling. On Thursday afternoon he did eventually say he did not approve of the chanting. Republicans have been notably quiet about the row, which was sparked when Mr Trump tweeted a week ago that Ms Omar and three progressive Democratic colleagues, known as The Squad, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”. Several, including Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republicans in the House, have condemned the chants. But few have actually spoken out against the tweets that caused the week of controversy. Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to the president, raised eyebrows when, asked about the tweets and chants, she retorted to the reporter: “What’s your ethnicity?” And America has spent the past week debating whether Mr Trump’s comments were racist. In Virginia, a sign appeared outside the Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox on Friday, saying: “America: love it or leave it.” Pastor E. W. Lucas, in charge of the church, said he put the sign up "to make some remarks regarding the situation in Washington.” He continued: “Preachers, by and large, today, are afraid they’re gonna hurt somebody’s feelings. When I get in the pulpit, I’m afraid I won't hurt somebody’s feelings.”




  • The Amazon Is Brazil’s, Not Yours, Bolsonaro Tells Europeans

    The Amazon Is Brazil’s, Not Yours, Bolsonaro Tells Europeans(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attacked the “environmental psychosis” of European leaders concerned over his administration’s plans to develop the Amazon rainforest, and insisted that the numbers showing sharply increased rates of deforestation were “lies.”“The Amazon is Brazil’s -- not yours,” he said Friday at a meeting with foreign journalists at the presidential palace in Brasilia. Questioned over numbers from Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research, INPE, showing an 88% rise in deforestation between June 2018 and June 2019, he said the data was false and that he would summon the head of the institute for an explanation.Bolsonaro defended his government’s plans to develop the region and invited other countries to work with Brazil to exploit its biodiversity. He reiterated his invitation to France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fly over the Amazon in order to show them how much remained untouched. European leaders have repeatedly expressed concern over Bolsonaro’s environmental policies. Irish and French lawmakers have threatened to scuttle the European Union’s recent trade deal with Mercosur unless there are significant changes to Brazil’s current practices.Also on Friday, local news magazine Veja published an interview with a member of a self-described eco-extremism group that announced plans to kill the president over his environmental policies. Bolsonaro played down its significance. “There’s always going to be the risk of an attack on me or any other global leader,” he said.Stimulus MeasuresWith the Brazilian economy teetering on the brink of another recession and unemployment still in double-digits, Bolsonaro said that pension reform was just a first step toward improving its prospects, but that the government does not have the power to create jobs. He also spoke in favor of plans to simplify the tax system to make Brazil an easier place to do business.On the question of inequality, Bolsonaro criticized the “populist claim” that some Brazilians are going hungry. “It’s a great lie,” he said. “You don’t see skeletal people in the street like you do in other countries. Brazil has become the country of benefits,” he said, in reference to social assistance programs like Bolsa Familia.To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Iglesias in Brasília at spiglesias@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, ;Walter Brandimarte at wbrandimarte@bloomberg.net, Bruce DouglasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.




  • What One Famous Yale Professor Would Have Said About a War with Iran

    What One Famous Yale Professor Would Have Said About a War with IranYet Iran falls woefully short of hegemonic status. Iranians certainly long for the glory days when the Persian Empire bestrode the Middle East and South Asia and, for a time, even threatened to bring Europe under the Great Kings’ suzerainty. Contemporary Iran is no Persia. When pondering some strategic quandary you can get oriented by postulating what the greats in the field would say about it. What they said or wrote about roughly similar circumstances furnishes clues to what they might say about today’s strategic conundrums. This is the beginning of wisdom. The classics seldom furnish ready-made solutions. They almost always furnish a platform for launching into original thought.Yes, you have to be humble when extrapolating from someone else’s words. Time, technology, and human society march on, and it’s hard to say for sure what some figure from the past would make of material and social trends since then. And yes, avoid treating their writings as gospel. To be great is not to be infallible. Sometimes sages get things wrong—even in their own time.Still, situations rhyme between ages while principles endure. Ideas from the strategic canon retain their power to help posterity make sense of today’s controversies. Case in point: Iran is much in the headlines of late. What would the legendary geopolitics scholar, Yale professor Nicholas Spykman, say about the sputtering confrontation between the United States and Iran?(This first appeared in June 2019.)




  • Kiev offers to swap jailed Russia journalist for filmmaker Sentsov

    Kiev offers to swap jailed Russia journalist for filmmaker SentsovUkraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday offered to hand Moscow a detained Russian state media journalist in exchange for Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov who is behind bars in a Russian Arctic penal colony. Russia and Ukraine are in the midst of sensitive talks on a prisoner exchange following the first-ever phone call between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. Filmmaker Sentsov, Ukraine's most famous political prisoner, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian penal colony for planning "terrorist attacks" in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.




  • Egypt: At least 20 killed in airstrikes in northern Sinai

    Egypt: At least 20 killed in airstrikes in northern SinaiEL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Egyptian security officials say airstrikes targeting Islamic militants are underway in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 20 insurgents. Officials said that Egypt's air force on Friday hit more than 100 mountainous hideouts of militant groups in the city of El-Arish and the small town of Bir al-Abd. The airstrikes come on the heels of a suicide bombing attack that left two killed, including a soldier and a civilian Thursday in the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.




  • UPDATE 1-U.S. will shoot down any Iranian drones that fly 'too close' to its ships, official says

    UPDATE 1-U.S. will shoot down any Iranian drones that fly 'too close' to its ships, official saysThe United States will destroy any Iranian drones that fly "too close" to its ships in the Strait of Hormuz and has evidence that it shot down a drone on Thursday, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday. Iran dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump's assertion that the U.S. Navy destroyed one of its drones. Iran said all of its unmanned planes were accounted for, amid growing international concern that both sides could blunder into a war in the Gulf.




  • US targets senior Hezbollah operative with sanctions

    US targets senior Hezbollah operative with sanctionsThe United States is targeting a senior operative of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group with sanctions as part of its pressure campaign against Tehran. The government is also issuing a $7 million reward for information leading to the capture of the operative, Salman Rauf Salman. The action by the Treasury Department falls on the 25th anniversary of an attack Salman is said to have coordinated on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.




  • Iran claims US shot down its own drone by mistake

    Iran claims US shot down its own drone by mistakeIran and the US were locked in a bizarre war of words on Friday, after Tehran denied President Donald Trump's claim that a US Navy ship had "destroyed" an Iranian drone. Mr Trump said on Thursday that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer and had ignored "multiple calls to stand down" in the latest episode to stir tensions in the Gulf. It was the first US military engagement with Iran following a series of increasingly serious incidents and the Trump administrator threatened more yesterday if Iranian planes flew too closely to its ships. Abbas Araqchi, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, responded in a tweet this morning: We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!— Seyed Abbas Araghchi (@araghchi) July 19, 2019 Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, an Iranian armed forces spokesman, added: “Despite Trump's baseless and delusional claims, all of (Iran's) drones... have safely returned to their bases." Revolutionary Guards released footage from what it said was the downed drone. State TV, which broadcast it, claimed the timing notations showed it was still filming after Washington said it had been put out of action. The US said it had its own “clear evidence”, but it was not forthcoming. Mr Trump announced that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, "took defensive action" against the Iranian drone as it was "threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew." "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce," he said. A first-hand account from a journalist aboard the Boxer suggested that Iran had been harassing the navy ship before the drone was shot down. US President Donald Trump meets with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Washington on July 18 Credit: REX A Wall Street Journal reporter said that an unarmed Iranian navy Bell 212 helicopter flew alongside them, yards away from the deck, before it was chased away by a US helicopter. The convoy of six US warships passed numerous Iranian speedboats without incident, but was then tailed by a larger Iranian warship which closed to within 500 yards of the Boxer. An Iranian Y-12 surveillance plane was then pursued by US helicopters before a surveillance drone came even closer and was then brought down by electronic warfare jamming. A series of attacks on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf has ratcheted up tensions between the US and Iran Credit: AP It came as a court in Gibraltar extended for 30 days the detention of an Iranian supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions.  The fate of the Grace 1 has been at the centre of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and seen as a pawn in the standoff between the Islamic Republic and the West. Gibraltar denies that it was ordered to detain the vessel, which was carrying up to 2.1 million barrels of oil, but several diplomatic sources said the US asked the UK to seize it. Tehran has threatened retaliation if its vessel was not released.  The decision suggested talks between Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, and Mohammad Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart, were not progressing. Iran could decide to further disturb western shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, where a fifth of the world's crude is shipped through, if it feels Britain has not played “fair”. Meanwhile, the Iraqi army said an unmanned aircraft dropped explosives on a base belonging to Iran-linked Shia paramilitary groups in northern Iraq on Friday morning, killing at least one person. It was reported that ballistic missiles were being stored at the base, located in Salahuddin province. No one claimed the hit, but the target suggested either Islamic State or Israel could be responsible. While Israel has carried out such strikes against Iranian arms depots in Syria, it would be the first time in Iraq.





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