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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Iranian officials calling for Israel's destruction to enjoy sanctions relief

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Sanctions imposed on Quds Force and its commander Soleimani to be lifted 8 years into agreement implementation; hundreds of individuals, organizations, companies also removed from black list.

Yitzhak Benhorin

The lion's share of the historic nuclear deal signed with Iran on Tuesday focuses on the removal of sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. Tehran will be able to export oil without restrictions, its officials could fly without limitations, the country's assets will be unfrozen, and more.

Out of the 159 pages of the agreement and its annexes, most of them are dedicated to a list of individuals, organizations and companies who will be rewarded with some sanctions relief.

One of the names on the list led to surprise and speculation - General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force since 1998, a unit responsible for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' operations outside of the country.

The shadowy spymaster helped Shiite Iraqi militants kill American soldiers, came to the aid of Syrian President Bashar Assad and was accused by the Americans of orchestrating an attempt on the life of Saudi's ambassador to Washington four years ago on US soil.

Qassem Solemani the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force

US Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the Quds Force commander was on the list, while Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif claimed this was a different Soleimani.

While there is indeed a different Soleimani on the list - Ghasem Soleimani, the Director of Uranium Mining Operations at the Saghand Uranium Mine (Saghand Mine) - he will be delisted at Phase 1 of the agreement, while the IRGC commander will be delisted at Phase 2 - eight years into the deal.

"Qassem Soleimani's UN delisting at Phase 2 will be a result of the termination of the UN sanctions at that point in time. It is important to note that Phase 2 is the last time at which UN sanctions can be lifted, after 8 years into the deal, so sanctions are not being lifted early on Qassem Soleimani," a senior US official said Wednesday.

The official went on to say that while UN sanctions will be removed from the Iranian general, he will remain under US sanctions.

"Since secondary sanctions remain in place on the US side, this means that sanctions on Qassam Soleimani will still have an international effect. Keep in mind, that secondary sanctions targets third-country actors doing business with Iranian persons on the US SDN list," the official said.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards (Photo: EPA)

Another American official told ABC that the inclusion of Soleimani on the list, along with additional sanctions relief, was what brought the Iranians to the negotiating table.

But the "Terror King" Soleimani is not alone on the "whitelist." In total, hundreds of individuals, organizations, companies, vessels and aircraft were removed from the black list under the new agreement.

In addition to Soleimani himself, sanctions imposed on his Quds Force, the "Iranian Mossad," will also be lifted. The Quds Force is believed to be behind many terror attacks, some of which targeted Israelis. Sanctions will also be removed off the IRGC Air Force and senior officials in Tehran's nuclear program.

The list includes Ali Akbar Salehi, the former Iranian foreign minister who currently serves as the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Another name on the list is one of Salehi's predecessors, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the head of the Department of Physics at the University of Tehran, who survived an assassination attempt in 2010. Foreign media attributed that assassination attempt to Israel - also credited for the assassinations of several other Iranian scientists.

Ali Akbar Salehi (Photo: AFP)

Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij paramilitary force, is also on the list. He views "removing Israel from the map" as an Iranian goal, even if the Islamic Republic cannot build a nuclear bomb.

Also on the list is former minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, formerly a senior officer in the IRGC, who has been quoted as expressing support of an attack against Israel, and Ali-Mohammad Naderi, the head of Iran's Aviation Industries Organization (that will also get sanctions relief).

Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani (Photo: AFP)

According to the agreement, the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, will release a report by December 15, determining whether Iran was meeting the terms of the agreement. If world powers are satisfied that Tehran is indeed honoring the agreement, a gradual removal of international sanctions will begin, including those imposed on senior Iranians and companies. The arms embargo on Iran will also be removed in the future. Five years after the agreement goes into effect, the ban on selling conventional weapons to Iran will be removed and in eight years, an embargo on ballistic missile technology will also be removed.

After sanctions are lifted, Iran will be able to import and export crude oil, petroleum products, gas and petrochemical products, and operate a sea port through which it could trade a variety of goods. It could export gold, precious metals and diamonds, graphite, raw or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, and coal.

The agreement detailed all the aspects of the sanctions that will be lifted by the United Nations: The transfer of funds between institutions and individuals from the United Nations and Iranian officials and institutions, including financial institutions; banking operations; financial support for trade with Iran; commitment to grants to the Iranian government; transactions in government bonds; import and export of oil and gas from Iran; export of equipment and technology for the gas and petrochemical sector, as well as investments in this sector; and access to cargo flights to United Nations airports.

In addition, the United States will remove sanctions in these areas: Banking and financial transactions with Iranian banks and financial institutions, including the Central Bank of Iran, personalities and entities identified with the Iranian government; trade in the Iranian rial; trade restrictions on Iranian revenues from abroad; efforts to reduce Iranian sales of crude oil; export and sale of petroleum products to Iran; transactions with Iran's energy sector; transactions with Iranian maritime sector and port workers; trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds. The United States will also allow the sale of aircraft for commercial flights and related parts and services to Iran.

Credit to Ynet

Jade Helm Begins: The Complete "Texas Takeover" Guide

Although you might have missed it, the federal government re-annexed Texas on Wednesday. 
Jade Helm 15, a controversial set of military training exercises being conducted by the US Spec Ops Command in Texas, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico kicked off this week and will last until September 15. The lead up to the drills has been a veritable media circus, thanks largely to an official US Army slide deck which contained the following rather unfortunate map in which Texas, Utah, and San Diego (which everyone knows is a traditional hotbed for Islamic insurgencies) were designated as "hostile" territories. 
While it seemed clear to many observers that the use of the term “hostile” probably did not imply that the US military had abruptly decided to lump Texas in the same category as North Korea, Russia, Iran, and Syria, that message was lost in translation to many Texans and before long, rumors began to circulate in the Lone Star state that Washington was planning to institute martial law. 
Efforts to diffuse the tension hit a snag when Texas governor Greg Abbott took the unusual (and, according to one Republican lawmaker, "idiotic") step of calling uponthe Texas state guard to monitor the exercises. Peak absurdity came just days later when "Texas Ranger" Chuck Norris effectively pledged to defend the state against a federal invasion and sent a thinly-veiled threat to the Spec Ops command, saying the drills came "too near to [his] ranch’s backdoor."
Finally (because the whole fiasco definitely needed to be sensationalized further), The Washington Post declared that the media would be given limited access (at best) to Jade Helm 15, which doesn’t seem all that surprising on its face, but which the Post noted marked a change of policy compared to another, ostensibly similar training exercise conducted on the "battlefields" of North Carolina in 2013. 
So here we are, one day into the Texas invasion and the Twitter response has been nothing short of epic. Here are some highlights: 
First reports begin filtering in from the front lines in Texas.

There was even a Hieronymus Bosch reference for all the art history lovers out there:

Here's a map which shows the specific areas now under "federal control":
And here's an annotated version of the map shown above:
Of course not everyone is laughing. Here's The New York Times with some on-the-ground intelligence from vigilant (and concerned) Texans: 
“I’ve been looking,” said Dr. Jack Campbell, 61, who was picking up his mail at the post office.

Scott Degenaer, outside his home in Christoval, Tex. Mr. Degenaer said he understood the paranoia over Jade Helm 15 that led some residents to bury their firearms. 

Dr. Campbell said that he had concerns about the exercise, and that he purchased extra ammunition for the weapons he kept in his home. "Just in case," added Dr. Campbell, an emergency physician in San Angelo, Tex., 20 miles away. "People are just vigilant. Not vigilantes, but vigilant. They don’t want to be caught off guard."

Another resident said a friend of his, a Vietnam veteran, started burying some of his firearms to hide them. Members of the Christoval Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the community center, signed an agreement with military officials stating — oddly to some, suspiciously to others — that the Army would pay for any damage to the building after it used it.

Sindy Miller, who runs a hair salon on Main Street, said fear of a military takeover had been the talk of Christoval.

“They’re worried that they’re going to come in and take their firearms away," Ms. Miller said. "Martial law, basically. I try not to listen to all these conspiracy-theory-type people. All they’re worried about is their beer and their guns."

Residents and local officials — even those who are supportive of Jade Helm — said Army organizers exacerbated the paranoia by releasing few details about the operation and by putting realistic war game activities in civilian areas, no matter how remote. Army coordinators said in statements that they had kept the state and local authorities updated and informed. Governor Abbott will receive regular updates from the Texas State Guard as the exercise proceeds, but a spokesman for him said he had no concerns about it. “The Special Operations Command has assured Texas that this exercise poses no risk to anyone, and the governor sees no reason to worry or doubt them,” said the spokesman, John Wittman.

Mr. Degenaer, a Navy veteran, said that he saw a Black Hawk helicopter flying over Christoval on Sunday and that he understood why some people would bury firearms.

"With Obama being in there,” he said, “with the way he’s already stomped all over the Constitution, pushing his presidential authority to the max, it would only be just the stroke of a pen for him to do away with that. This man is just total anti-U. S."

Throughout the interview, Mr. Degenaer was skeptical whether the reporter and photographer who spoke with him were members of the news media and wondered if they were part of Jade Helm 15. "Spec Ops grows beards," he said, referring to the photographer’s facial hair. "Y’all got a military ID?"
More from Texas:
And here are some more photos of that truck outside Camp Swift, maybe related:

And finally, a video recap courtesy of RT:
With that, you are now fully apprised of the situation in Texas. We'll certainly monitor the ongoing drills closely, but for now, we'll close with our comments from last week. 
Whatever you choose to believe about the Jade Helm, it’s clear that the military is intent on keeping prying eyes away from the exercises. So although a "Texas takeover" and/or martial law are probably not in the cards here, the government's response to concerned (if misinformed) citizens leaves much to be desired and we’ll leave it to readers to decide what that says about government accountability and transparency. 
And to the US Spec Ops Command we say this: just because you’ve kept the media out, doesn’t mean no one is watching…

Credit to Zero Hedge

Military conflict between Russia and NATO may start in near future

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The United States has been rearranging its nuclear forces lately. Pravda.Ru discussed the current state of affairs in the US-Russia relations with chairman of the Union of Geopolitics, Konstantin Sivkov.

"Russia and the United States have been exchanging harsh statements lately. Is it nothing but political rhetoric, or is there anything changing in the nuclear strategies of the two countries?"

"Russia has been replacing outdated nuclear missiles with new ones. the Russian Armed Forces will receive 40 new missiles, and there is nothing surprising about it. Old missiles will be disposed of.
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"The START-3 treaty imposes restrictions of not more than 700 sea and ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Russian Federation strictly adheres to these rules. The Russian Federation is updating its nuclear potential to ensure strategic nuclear deterrence."

"What missiles are considered outdated and what are the new ones?"

"The Russian Armed Forces will receive "Yars" type missiles. The old ones are MR-UR-100. These are the missiles from the 1970s. R-36M2, "Voevoda" or Satan SS-18, will be removed from services partially as well. They will be replaced with the new Sarmat missile, the performance of which will be equal to that of Satan."

"Why was the West so concerned about it?"

"Military professionals are not worried a bit. This is a part of the media campaign of the West that creates Russia's image of the enemy. Western countries also replace outdated missiles with new ones. They replace Trident missiles after 20-30 years. As for the change of the Western strategy, the ideology of this nuclear strategy comes from the United States of America, because the States owns the largest nuclear arsenal.

"I can see the following in the changing nuclear strategy of the West. They intend to pull out from the treaty on short and medium-range missiles. The United States will thus be able to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and ground-based missiles in Europe. All this is being done for the so-called decapitating and preemptive nuclear strike on Russia.

"Additionally, the United States will be able to divert a part of Russia's nuclear potential from the United States to Europe, thus turning Europe into a potential theater of a nuclear war.

"The second trend is the change of the nuclear destruction criterion of the enemy - Russia, that is. Today, according open press, the criterion for nuclear destruction stipulates unacceptable economic damage, which implies the destruction of about 200-250 key economic facilities in Russia.

"Another criterion is the "McNamara criterion" - the destruction of the living potential of the nation. It goes about the destruction of administrative, political and other centers to destroy at least 60-70 percent of the population of the Russian Federation in the first nuclear strike and subsequently up to 80 percent during the second attack."

"So the Americans may withdraw from the treaty on intermediate and short-range missiles, but they accuse Russia of the same claiming that Russian missiles are capable of striking targets at distances larger than 500 kilometers."

"That's right. It goes about tactical missiles, designed to destroy very well protected missile defense system elements. The Americans are concerned about RS-26 "Frontier" missile. The range of the missile is 6,000 km from the minimum firing range of 2,000 km, but no one measures firing range on minimal distances. The minimum firing range of both American and Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles - both sea and ground-based ones - lies in the range of 2,000-3,000 km. That is, an intercontinental ballistic missile can destroy objects on the territory of Europe.

Image result for RS-26 "Frontier" missile.

"Yet, an intercontinental ballistic missile is more vulnerable to territorial missile defense systems than ballistic medium-range missiles that fly in a flat trajectory. Intercontinental missiles fall under all treaties on the subject of nuclear weapons. Their quantity is strictly regulated. Russia's RS-26 missile is nothing but a "Yars" missile with a heavier warhead - it is purely an intercontinental missile.

"A medium-range missile is a missile that has a range of from 2,000 to 5,000 km, and the RS-26 has a range of 6,000 km, so it is an intercontinental missile. This missile will replace the Soviet-built Topol complexes. The West uses this as a pretext to justify their right to withdraw from the treaty of medium and short-range missiles. They need to do this to disarm Russia."

"Are nuclear weapons still the only deterrent for Russia? Does Russia develop high-precision weapons?"

"Yes, the Russian nuclear weapons are our only deterrent. According to my own estimates, the Russian Federation has a 800,000-strong army. Today, the Russian armed forces can effectively solve problems of small wars, without the use of weapons of mass destruction. A local war we is something that we can not succeed in, even if we deploy our armed forces fully. NATO is ten times stronger than Russia at this point. But if the United States pulls out from from the treaty on medium and short-range missiles to deploy such missiles in Europe, Russia will take action, of course."

"Many analysts say such rhetoric can lead to a nuclear conflict."

"This is nonsense. Rhetoric does not lead to nuclear conflicts - certain actions and certain events do. I believe that a military conflict between Russia and NATO is possible, and it may start in the near future already. Casus belli, a reason for such a war, is Transnistria. Today, the territory remains in complete isolation from the outside world. It is surrounded by two hostile states.

"In these circumstances, Russia may face a dilemma: either to accept the physical destruction of 200,000 of its citizens living in Transdniestria, or solve the problem by making a corridor through the territory of Ukraine. This reaction may trigger a military conflict between Russia and NATO. The risk for a nuclear conflict is too high. The Americans understand it and deploy nuclear forces in Europe."

Interview conducted by Lyuba Lulko

Credit to Pravda.ru

 See more at: http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/15-07-2015/131347-russia_nato-0/#sthash.c0Lx84Hi.dpuf