An Iranian oil tanker cruising 60 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia was rocked by a pair of missiles Friday, causing an oil leak and more broadly threatening to further inflame fraught regional tensions between the two heavyweight Muslim nations.
Tehran claims Iraqi tanker was smuggling fuel; Lucas Tomlinson reports from the Pentagon. #FoxNews
Iran seized a vessel it accused of smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, the third time the Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained a ship in the waterway in recent weeks as the stalemate between the Islamic Republic and the US continues.
The Iranian forces intercepted the ship Wednesday near Farsi Island, which is used by the Revolutionary Guards as a navy base, state media reported on Sunday.
“The IRGC’s naval forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf that was smuggling fuel for some Arab countries,” the paramilitary’s forces commander Ramezan Zirahi said, according to state-run media.
The U.S. Navy warship that the Pentagon says brought down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz last week may also have brought down a second drone, according to CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
“We’re confident we brought down one drone; we may have brought down a second,” McKenzie said in an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, referring to the USS Boxer’s encounter with an unmanned aircraft.
Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman confirmed to Fox News in a statement: “At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz. A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The British warship was said to have been less than 5 miles behind the tanker but soon intercepted the Iranian boats and threatened to open fire. A manned U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was above as well, the official said, adding that Iranian forces left without opening fire.
President Trump met with top members of the House and Senate at the White House Thursday, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone flying over what the U.S. says was international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran claims the drone was in its airspace.The meeting, which included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and national security adviser John Bolton, came after Mr. Trump told reporters Iran’smay have been a mistake.
A source in the meeting tells CBS News “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan the meeting was a positive one, without arguments. Mr. Trump, the source said, went around the room and gathered input, although he did not run through options. No one objected to the premise of a U.S. response, but that had many possible permutations, according to the source.
>North Korea’s government said Tuesday that it had no interest in pursuing a nuclear agreement of its own with the U.S. as long as Washington pursued what Pyongyang described as provocative U.S. policies.
The statement from the isolated, totalitarian country’s Foreign Ministry was its first official response to the agreement concluded earlier this month between Iran and six global powers, including the U.S.
The unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North’s nuclear deterrent was “not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table” in the statement, which was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. There was no immediate comment form the U.S.
North Korea’s nuclear program is a major regional concern, with the country having conducted atomic weapons tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled since early 2009, and outside analysts believe the North has built a small but growing nuclear bomb arsenal.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said North Korea is different from Iran because it already has nuclear weapons. He said the North faces constant military and nuclear threats from the U.S., citing its regular military exercises with South Korea.
On Thursday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman had said that Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement, followed by the lifting of sanctions, “might give North Korea second thoughts.”
But Tuesday’s statement said that North Korea “is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally first,” adding that the North “remains unchanged in the mission of its nuclear force as long as the U.S. continues pursuing its hostile policy toward” the country.
In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan were coordinating attempts to engage North Korea in preliminary talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear program. However, officials in Washington and Seoul told the Wall Street Journal that North Korea had not responded to overtures made by the U.S. and South Korea in recent months.
The so-called six-party talks began in 2003 to negotiate for North Korea’s denuclearization in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees. Talks have been stalled since late 2008. Earlier this year, the Journal reported that Chinese experts had warned U.S. officials that North Korea could double the size of its nuclear arsenal by the beginning of next year.
The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Under the Iranian nuclear deal reached by Tehran, Washington and others, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
After 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiation, diplomats on Tuesday declared that world powers and Iran had struck a landmark deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions Time
Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, oil futures both fell about 2% as the deal was announced on Tuesday. Oil prices also fell in the prior session.
Brent crude is an international oil benchmark that reflects global prices, and any related turmoil, whereas WTI is focused on the North American market.
WTI cut some of its early losses and was trading down 1.2% at $51.58 a barrel.
Iran has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves with about 157,530 million barrels, or 10% of the world’s proven oil stores, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, of which it is a member.
But Tehran’s ability to export those reserves was severely curtailed by crippling international sanctions that bludgeoned its economy and targeted its industries.
Iran’s oil exports have fallen in half since 2012 to about 1 million barrels a day. Its oil will now reach world markets at a time when crude prices have been under pressure for months due to a global supply glut.
Sara Vakhshouri, Washington-based energy analyst at SVB Energy International, said that with Iran’s sanctions lifted it would be able to boost its oil production from 2.9 million barrels a day to 4.2 million barrels a day by 2020.
Iran’s oil production is worth about $60 billion a year on the world market.
Oil prices can also be expected to drop, Vakhshouri said, because Iran has as much as 37 million barrels of crude in storage on tankers floating in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the topic of detained U.S. citizens in Iran was raised at every meeting he held with the Iranian negotiating team during the final weeks of nuclear negotiations. “We remain very, very hopeful that Iran will make the decision to do the right thing and to return those citizens to the United States,” Kerry said in a July 17 interview with MSNBC.Kerry also said he raised the issue during his last meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal on July 14.The three Americans held in Iran are Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati.Based on reporting by Reuters and AP
By Jonathan Saul
(Reuters) – An Iranian supertanker with two million barrels of oil is heading to Asia after sitting in Iranian waters for months, the first vessel storing crude offshore to sail after a nuclear deal this week, data showed on Thursday.Iran and six major world powers reached a landmark nuclear deal on Tuesday, clearing the way for an easing of international sanctions on Tehran and higher oil exports.While oil analysts do not expect Iran to make a major return to the market until next year, it has been parking millions of barrels of oil on tankers for months.The fully laden Starla, operated by Iran’s top tanker group NITC, had been used for floating storage since Dec. 12, 2014, a tanker tracking source said.”This is the first tanker to come off floating storage,” the source said. “One of the scenarios is it could do an STS operation, although nothing is known at the moment,” the source said, referring to ship-to-ship transfers of oil between two vessels, usually at sea.Reuters Eikon data showed the vessel was sailing from the Middle East Gulf with a Singapore destination.Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said last month the country was aiming to add 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to production within two months of Western sanctions being eased, and as much as 1 million bpd in six to seven months.The sanctions have halved Iran’s shipments to as little as 1 million bpd. Years of under investment mean Iran may struggle to get its oil industry anywhere near full potential, analysts say. It will also take time to raise output while nuclear inspectors verify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, and sanctions are slowly removed.Last month, tanker tracking sources said Iran was storing as much as 40 million barrels of oil, mostly crude, on board tankers at its anchorages, which could flood the oil market.Windward, a Tel Aviv operated maritime data and analytics company, estimated this week that Iran was storing 51.4 million barrels of crude and condensate on 28 vessels at sea.Condensate is a type of very light oil and can be used as a diluent for extra heavy crude and as a feedstock for petrochemical plants and refineries. (editing by David Clarke)
The United States and other major powers are not in a rush to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, suggesting an accord was unlikely hours ahead of a deadline set by the U.S. Congress for a quick review.
Adding to signs that a deal was not close at hand, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader was quoted by Iranian news agency Tasnim as saying Tehran’s “redlines” should be respected in talks aimed at a deal under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“A deal can be reached only if our redlines are respected,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, the adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also accused Kerry of making comments that were “part of America’s psychological warfare against Iran.”
Velayati’s reported remarks came after a senior Iranian official in Vienna accused the United States and others nations of shifting their positions and backtracking on an April 2 interim agreement that was meant to lay the ground for a final deal.
“We’re here because we believe we are making real progress,” Kerry told reporters in the Austrian capital. “We will not rush and we will not be rushed.”
However, Kerry said Washington’s patience was not unlimited. We can’t wait forever,” he said. “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this.”
He did not say how much longer the talks could continue. Shortly after Kerry spoke, the White House said the talks would not likely drag on for “many more weeks.”
Briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, the senior Iranian official sought to put the onus on the West for any failure to reach an agreement.
“There have been changes of position … particularly since last night,” said the official, “Suddenly everyone has their own red lines. Britain has its red line, the U.S. has its red line, France, Germany …”
Negotiators have given themselves until the end of the day on Friday. But if a deal is not reached by 6:00 a.m. in Vienna (0400 GMT), the skeptical Republican-led U.S. Congress will have 60 days rather than 30 days to review it, extra time U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration worries could derail it.
’96 PERCENT COMPLETE’?
The central bargain of an interim deal struck on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland as well as of the final deal that the two sides are now trying to work out is to limit Iran’s nuclear work in return for easing economic sanctions crippling its economy.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has said the main text of a final agreement, as well as five technical annexes, were “around 96 percent complete.”
While the lifting of sanctions was largely agreed, Araqchi said Tehran’s demand for an end to a U.N. Security Council arms embargo was among the most contentious unresolved points.
Other sticking points in the negotiations have included Iran’s research and development on advanced centrifuges and access to Iranian military sites and nuclear sites.
Tehran says a U.N. embargo on conventional arms has nothing to do with the nuclear issues and must be lifted in any deal. Western countries do not want allow Iran to begin importing arms because of its role supporting sides in Middle East conflicts.
Iran has powerful support on this issue from Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa – that the U.N. arms embargo should be among the first sanctions lifted.
Over the past two weeks, Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have twice extended deadlines for completing the long-term nuclear agreement.
In a sign that the Friday morning U.S. congressional deadline was likely to be missed, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a key member of the U.S. negotiating team, was due to fly to Portugal on Friday to accept an honor and make a speech, returning on Friday evening.
Western countries accuse Iran of seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its program is peaceful. A deal would depend on Iran accepting curbs on its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, United States and European Union.
A successful deal could be the biggest milestone in decades towards easing hostility between Iran and the United States, enemies since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
It would also be a political success for both Obama and Iran’s pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, who both face resistance from powerful hardliners at home.
(Additional reporting by John Irish and Arshad Mohammed and Shadia Nasralla in Vienna and Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk in Russia, writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Anna Willard, Peter Graff, Giles Elgood and Bernard Orr)