Tag Archives: Iran

GCC to hold Riyadh summit on Yemen crisis

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

The six-state Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states will meet in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday to discuss regional developments, most significantly the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

Alongside the Gulf heads of state, will be French President Francois Hollande who will be the first foreign leader to attend a GCC Summit since its inception in 1981. Hollande will be on an important tour of Qatar and Saudi Arabia as he continues to foster strong ties between France and the GCC.

The GCC Summit will be also be an opportunity for the Gulf leaders to discuss bilateral relations and ways to strengthen their close ties in the face of regional challenges including the situations in Syria, Iraq, as well as Yemen.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries is trying to stop Iranian-backed Houthi militias and forces loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

Peace talks had collapsed after Houthi militias went on the offensive in recent months, seizing the capital Sanaa and advancing on Aden, forcing President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign on Houthi targets in Yemen on March 26 to prevent the militia from taking the entire territory and to restore Hadi’s legitimate authority.

‘Limited’ coalition ground force in Aden, Yemen, more coming – reports

A “limited” Saudi-led force is on the ground in Yemen‘s strategic port of Aden and more troops are on their way, a government official has confirmed to AFP. About 20 troops have landed in the city for a “reconnaissance” mission, AP reports.”A limited coalition force entered Aden and another force is on its way” to Aden, the official and commander told the agency on terms of anonymity.

The Saudi-led forces “will start helping us in fighting” the Houthi rebels, a leading member of the popular committees, a locally recruited militia loyal to expelled President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, also told the agency.

Similar reports appeared in the local Al-Ghad daily, which claimed the ground forces have entered the airport. The newspaper is linked to southern separatists, who demand the restoration of the southern state that merged with North Yemen 15 years ago.

Between 40-50 Arab special forces soldiers have arrived in the city, Ali al-Ahmed, spokesman for the Southern Popular Resistance, anti-Houthi group said.

“Joint land forces from the Arab coalition landed in Aden on Sunday and are now participating with the southern resistance to fight around Aden airport,” he said, “It’s a limited force – 40-50 from special forces.”

However, AP reported 20 troops deployed by Saudi-led coalition in Aden.

A spokesman from the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, denied the information, saying the Arab states haven’t stared any major ground operation in Aden. He then added there are no foreign troops in the port city, but the coalition continues to battle Houthi rebels.

“There are no foreign forces in Aden but the coalition continues to help fight against the Houthi militia,” Asseri said in a statement.

Fighting continued in the strategic port city of Aden on Sunday, local sources told Reuters, adding that the city has seen fierce battles for three days. The attacks were reported in the city’s central districts of Mualla and Khor Maksar, near the main commercial port, as well as around a military camp and the airport.

Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014, in a move that forced Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. They are fighting to control of Aden, which is home to about 800,000 people.

On April 21, Saudi Arabia said the first phase of the campaign, codenamed operation “Decisive Storm”, had achieved all its goals and was concluded. The new phase, operation “Restoring Hope”, was announced with a focus on diplomacy, but didn’t rule out new airstrikes.

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U.S. Navy ships to accompany U.S.-flagged ships in Gulf

Helicopters fly from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a resupply mission with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf of Oman

Helicopters fly from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a resupply mission with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf of Oman

U.S. Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S. commercial ships during their transit through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to ensure they encounter no interference from Iran, U.S. defense officials said Thursday.

The new policy, which has not yet been announced officially, was adopted in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior. Earlier this week Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and have detained it and its crew.

Iran says it intervened with the Maersk Tigris because the Maersk shipping line owes it money awarded in a lawsuit.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the strait last Friday before departing without further incident. The Pentagon later said it considered the incident a provocation.

The strait is narrow and partially within Iranian territorial waters. Under an internationally recognized protocol called “innocent passage,” maritime traffic is permitted to pass through the strait without interference, even if ships at times are in Iranian territorial waters, so long as they are not violating strictures against such things as carrying weapons or collecting intelligence.

U.S. defense officials said the decision to begin accompanying U.S. commercial vessels as they transit the strait was based on a recommendation by U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter was briefed on the decision, one official said, adding that the Obama administration does not want the move to be seen as provocative, given the delicate state of the Iran nuclear agreement. The pact has yet to be finalized and is the subject of intense scrutiny and considerable criticism in Congress.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and spoke anonymously.

At an unrelated Pentagon news conference, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove was asked about the decision and said he was aware of it. Breedlove, the top U.S. commander of NATO in Europe, said the Navy is well-practiced at protecting freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

“It is a mission they have done in the past,” he said.

The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them, although the difference appears to be small. The officials said U.S. Navy ships will be present in and near the Strait of Hormuz while U.S. commercial vessels are in transit, but they will not escort them continuously.

The 5th Fleet, which is the naval arm of Central Command, currently has a destroyer, the USS Farragut, in the Gulf, as well as three smaller coastal patrol ships. No additional ships are being dispatched to the region, one official said.

U.S. Navy ships will be in continuous radio contact with the commercial ships and possibly will stay in visual contact during their transit of the strait, the officials said. The U.S. commercial shipping companies will be notified in advance of these new procedures.

One official said the new approach will be reviewed daily, taking into account Iranian behavior.

The circumstances of Iran’s seizure earlier this week of the MV Maersk Tigris remain unclear. A spokesman for the Danish shipper, Michael Storgaard, said the company learned Thursday that an Iranian appeals court had ruled the company must pay $3.6 million for a 10-container cargo delivered a decade ago on behalf of an Iranian company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, the cargo never was collected, according to Storgaard, adding it eventually was disposed of by local authorities.

Storgaard said Copenhagen-based Maersk Line will “do everything we can to resolve this matter” with Iranian authorities.

He added the ship and crew aren’t theirs. MV Maersk Tigris, operated by Rickmers Ship Management in Singapore, was boarded on Tuesday.

El Rey recibe al presidente egipcio en la Zarzuela

Abdelfatah al Sisi, junto al rey Felipe VI. / Andrea Comas

  • Felipe VI ha abordado con Abdelfatah al Sisi, que visita por primera vez España, las perspectivas de cooperación bilateral, fundamentalmente en materia económica

  • El mandatario se reunirá también con Rajoy y está previsto que ambos firmen varios acuerdos de cooperación en las áreas de seguridad y lucha contra el crimen, turismo e infraestructuras y transportes

El Rey ha recibido en el Palacio de la Zarzuela al presidente de Egipto, Abdelfatah al Sisi, que visita por primera vez España y con quien ha tenido ocasión de tratar las perspectivas de la cooperación bilateral, fundamentalmente económica, y cuestiones de actualidad en la región mediterránea.

Don Felipe ha dado la bienvenida a Al Sisi ante la entrada del palacio y, tras posar junto a él para los medios gráficos en los jardines, le ha invitado a pasar a su despacho para mantener allí la entrevista, a la que han asistido los ministros de Asuntos Exteriores de España, José Manuel García-Margallo, y Egipto, Sameh Shoukry, así como los respectivos embajadores.

En la primera visita oficial a España de un presidente egipcio desde la que realizó Hosni Mubarak en 2004, Al Sisi busca profundizar la ya positiva cooperación política y ampliar unas relaciones económicas que aún disponen de un amplio margen de mejora, actualmente muy inferiores a las que España mantiene con países como Marruecos, Argelia o Arabia Saudí.

Acuerdos de cooperación

Tras su entrevista con el Rey, el jefe de Estado egipcio se reunirá con el presidente del Gobierno, Mariano Rajoy, en el Palacio de la Moncloa, donde está previsto que se firmen varios acuerdos de cooperación en las áreas de seguridad y lucha contra el crimen, turismo e infraestructuras y transportes.

La cooperación bilateral contra el terrorismo yihadista y ante los flujos migratorios en el Mediterráneo son dos de los asuntos centrales de la agenda de Al Sisi en Madrid, junto al interés de Egipto por atraer inversiones españolas, especialmente en construcción, infraestructuras y energía, objetivo que ha marcado una reunión con empresas de ambos países, celebrada esta mañana.

El líder egipcio volverá a encontrarse hoy con don Felipe, acompañado por doña Letizia, en el almuerzo que los Reyes ofrecerán en su honor en el Palacio Real, tras el que visitará el Congreso de los Diputados, donde será recibido por el presidente de la Cámara, Jesús Posada.

Felipe VI coincidió con Al Sisi el pasado 30 de enero -el día que el Monarca cumplió 47 años- en Adis Abeba, donde ambos participaron en la cumbre de la UA y mantuvieron una reunión bilateral en la que el Rey expresó la voluntad de España de aumentar la presencia económica en Egipto y de proseguir su apoyo al proceso de paz en Oriente Próximo.

Asimismo, don Felipe coincidió con Al Sisi en la necesidad de proseguir la lucha internacional contra el terrorismo y garantizó la implicación de España en este objetivo con un papel importante desde su puesto de miembro no permanente del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU.

Iran seizes U.S. ship, 34 sailors


The Iranian Navy has seized a US ship with 34 crew members aboard, for trespassing on Iran‘s waters in the Persian Gulf. An Iranian warship is taking the vessel to the city of Bandar Abbas, Fars and Al Arabiya report.

The Iranian Navy has reportedly seized a US ship with 34 crew members on board, for violating Iran’s waters in the Persian Gulf. An Iranian warship is taking the vessel to the city of Bandar Abbas, Fars and Al Arabiya report.


US Fails to Verify Number of ‘Russian Troops’ in Ukraine


US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that the United States lacks precise figures and is unable to confirm the number of Russian military units reportedly stationed in eastern Ukraine. WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States lacks precise figures and is unable to confirm the number of Russian military units reportedly stationed in eastern Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf stated at a press briefing. “It is really hard to get precise information about Russian troop numbers specifically, but we know there is a substantial Russian presence,” Harf said on Thursday. It is difficult for the United States to verify figures, Harf claimed, because Russia deliberately camouflages its involvement in the region. On Wednesday, the US State Department accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreement by sending weapons and forces and conducting joint training exercises with pro-Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine. Last week, the US Army announced that some 300 US paratroopers arrived in the western Ukraine city of Yavoriv to train Ukrainian troops, which the Russian Foreign Ministry has said is a violation of the Minsk agreement. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry expressed concern over the training of the Ukrainian National Guard by US military instructors along the separation line between Kiev-led forces and armed militia in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday re-iterating that the arrival of US paratroopers could signal a first step toward supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons, and the support of Ukrainian war hawks could lead to new bloodshed. Kiev is planning to hold three joint exercises with US troops. Besides Fearless Guardian 2015, which is underway in Yavoriv and planned to last for six more months, Ukrainian and US army will have joint drills dubbed Sea Breeze 2015 and Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident 2015 later this year. The armed conflict in Ukraine began in April 2014 when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in the country’s southeast. Relations between the West and Russia soured amid the Ukrainian crisis as Western countries accused Russia of meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

‘Mobile bomb’: Iranian army tests suicide drone in massive drills

A picture made available on December 25, 2014 by Iranian Jamejam newspaper's website (Jamejam online) shows Iranian Army ground forces launching an Iranian made drone during the "Mohammad Rasoul Allah" military drill in the Oman Sea port city of Bandar Jask in southern Iran

A picture made available on December 25, 2014 by Iranian Jamejam newspaper’s website (Jamejam online) shows Iranian Army ground forces launching an Iranian made drone during the “Mohammad Rasoul Allah” military drill in the Oman Sea port city of Bandar Jask in southern Iran

For the first time Iran’s army has tested a suicide drone able to hit aerial and ground targets, as well as ships, said the army’s chief commander of ground forces amid the third day of massive drills at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

The unmanned aircraft is “a mobile bomb” that can be used for “hitting aerial and ground targets and can carry out an attack when it identifies a suspicious target,” commander Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan told journalists on Saturday.

Local media reports indicated that the drone is called Yasir. It’s a domestically produced combat drone that was unveiled in September.

Yasir is equipped with state-of-art, light cameras for reconnaissance. It can fly for eight hours with a range of 200 kilometers and reach an altitude of 4,500 meters.

The drone was tested as part of a six-day exercise code-named Mohammad Rasoulallah (Mohammad, the Messenger of God) that started on Thursday, involving all branches of Iran’s military.

The second stage of the maneuvers launched in southeast Iran on Friday was led by ground forces and involved the military’s land, air and naval forces.

A picture made available on December 25, 2014 by Iranian Jamejam newspaper’s website (Jamejam online) shows Iranian Army ground forces moving an Iranian made drone during the “Mohammad Rasoul Allah” military drill in the Oman Sea port city of Bandar Jask in southern Iran.

Reports indicated that tanks, F-4 Phantom and Mirage fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and artillery units were deployed in the war games.

The massive drills are part of boosting military capabilities and combat readiness, said Air Force spokesman Brigadier General Hossein Chitforoush.

“In these drills, Iran is putting to the test and drawing on the experience it gained during the eight-year [Iraqi imposed] war,” the top commander told Iranian news television Press TV on Saturday.

The drills mark the first time Iran has organized military maneuvers so far from its coastline, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper. The exercises reportedly cover 2.2 million square kilometers – stretching from the eastern part of the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, and also include the southeastern provinces of Hormozgan and Sistan-Baluchistan.



Iran plans large-scale military drill near Strait of Hormuz


Iran is set to hold a wide scale military drill near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, Iranian state television said on Thursday.

The drill will last a week, starting December 25, and span 850,000 square miles across the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Iranian naval and air forces, ground units, and the Revolutionary Guard will all participate. A fifth of the entire world’s supply of oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Victims of Sydney siege hailed as heroes after they die protecting hostages

Tori Johnson, 34, the manager of Lindt Chocolat Cafe (left) and barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, who were both tragically killed in an armed siege at a coffe shop in Sydney

A mother of three and a man who died trying to save other hostages from an Islamist gunman have been named as the two victims of the Sydney siege.Katrina Dawson, 38, a barrister and mother of young children, and Tori Johnson, the 34-year-old manager of the Lindt cafe on Martin Place, were killed as police made a daring attempt to free those still held.Police confirmed that two hostages and the hostage-taker, Iraninan-born refugee Man Haron Monis, died and four others were injured during the operation that brought the 17-hour siege to an end.The two have been hailed as heroes for trying to save the others trapped in the cafe. Mr Johnson had tried to wrestle the shotgun from the 50-year-old self-styled preacher after he had fallen asleep at around 2am.Six people managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from inside after a struggle between Mr Johnson and Monis ended in the manager being shot.

Police then moved in, with heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades echoing from the building.

Mrs Dawson, a respected barrister from Eighth Floor Selborne chambers, whose offices are opposite the cafe, was said to have been killed in the ensuing firefight while protecting pregnant friend and colleague Julie Taylor, whom she had been meeting for a coffee.

Mrs Dawson is the daughter of a prominent businessman, attended Ascham, one of Sydney’s most exclusive private girl’s schools, and topped the state in her leaving certificate before graduating from Sydney University.

She died of a heart attack on the way to hospital, while Mr Johnson, who had worked at the Lindt store for two years, died at the scene of a gunshot wound.

At a prayer service in St. Mary’s Cathedral just yards from the cafe on Tuesday, Archbishop Anthony Fisher said the two were heroes “willing to lay down their lives so others might live.”

The Archbishop said: “Reports have emerged this morning of the heroism of the male victim of this siege.

“Apparently seeing an opportunity Tori Johnson grabbed the gun, tragically it went off killing him. But it triggered the response of the police and eventual freedom for most of the hostages. The heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocents”.

Hundreds lay flowers and gathered outside the church at Martin Place near the site of the siege.

Jane Needham, the president of the NSW Bar Association, confirmed Mrs Dawson’s death, saying: “Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends at the NSW Bar.

“She was a devoted mother of three children, and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community. Our thoughts are with her family at this time, including her brother, Sandy Dawson of Banco Chambers.”

Deborah Thomas, a family friend of Mr Johnson’s, wrote on social media: “Tori Johnson loved partner of Thomas, son of Ken, siblings Jamie & Rhada. RIP you beautiful boy. We seek comfort in your heroic actions.”

His parents Ken and Rowena released a statement on Tuesday morning, saying: “We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for.”

Mr Johnson was remembered by former colleagues for putting others first.

“He was an amazing man,” former workmate Peter Manettas said. “He was a selfless person who always put staff above everyone.”

At least four were wounded, including a policeman hit in the face with shotgun pellets. Among the wounded was a 75-year-old woman who was shot in the shoulder, police said.

Two pregnant women, including Oxford University-educated Mrs Taylor, were among hostages currently being treated in hospital, and another injured woman has been identified as Marcia Mikhael, who was forced to send out a video plea detailing the gunman’s request.

Marcia Mikhael

Marcia Mikhael

In the messages, which were briefly uploaded to YouTube before the service took them down, hostages can be seen standing in front of a black Islamist flag and the Lindt cafe logo.

The four videos show female hostages reading from a script, saying the siege was an Islamic State attack on Australia.

The last video shows a hostage saying: “Our ISIS brother has been very kind to us.”

Ms Mikhael, 42, a bank executive, was buying a morning coffee at the Lindt Cafe when Monis slipped inside, locked the doors, and told those present they were being held hostage.

“Please help,” she wrote on Facebook from inside the café. “The man who is keeping us hostage has asked for small and simple requests and none have been met.

“He is now threatening to start killing us. We need help right now. The man wants the world to know that Australia is under attack by the Islamic State.”

She kept up her commentary on Facebook, stating that Monis was angered because his claim to be an Isil militant was not being broadcast.

She also said that Monis demanded an Islamic State flag, and to speak with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott via live broadcast. She said he had asked that “brothers” do not detonate two bombs located in the city. Police now believe that that was a hoax, and he was working alone.

But after over 16 hours, Monis was killed and Ms Mikhael – evidently shocked and crying with pain, having been injured when police stormed the café – was carried out on the shoulders of police.

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Report : Attack near border with Iraq kills 3 Iranian border guards

TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian semi-official news agency says an attack near the country’s western border with Iraq has killed three Iranian border guards.

The Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted security official Shahriar Heidari as saying the troops were killed on Tuesday night while patrolling along the border in western Kermanshah province. A border outpost commander was among those killed.

Heidari says an unspecified “terrorist group” was behind the attack. No other details were immediately available.

Iran has boosted border security amid the blitz offensive in neighboring Iraq by Sunni militants from the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The militants have snatched much of northern and western Iraq from Baghdad‘s control.

In the past, sporadic clashes have taken place between Iranian troops and opposition groups in western Iran.