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Trump says ‘absolutely broken’ Iran will face major new sanctions

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Donald Trump has pledged that Iran’s “absolutely broken” economy will face “major” new sanctions on Monday, as Iran countered it would take further steps to increase its nuclear programme unless Europe does more to shield it from US pressure over the coming fortnight.

The US president claimed that Iran wanted to negotiate because of the relentless economic pressure from sanctions. Tehran has so far rejected any talks while sanctions remain, and there was no sign of relief on Sunday. Despite calling off airstrikes that had been planned in reprisal to the downing of a US drone on Thursday, tensions in the Persian Gulf remain high.

On Sunday, eight people were reported wounded in a suspected drone attack on a Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia. The Houthi movement in Yemen, which is backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for the second drone attack on the Abha airport in 10 days, and also claimed to have struck the airport in Jizan, on the south-west Saudi coast.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, warned Iran not to mistake US prudence for weakness. It was reported that the US carried out a cyber-attack on an organisation linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards suspected of being involved in tracking and attacking tanker traffic and naval deployments in the Gulf. A US official told CNN the US cyber command targeted software that was used to track tankers targeted in attacks in the Gulf of Oman on 13 June.

Iranian cyber spies are also said to have extensively used social media, approaching sailors online while pretending to be young women, to mine intelligence on their ships’ movements.

Bolton was judged to have lost an inter-agency dispute last week when Trump pulled back from missile strikes on three Iranian military sites. Trump said the US air force was “cocked and loaded” when he decided the estimated civilian death toll of a military action would be a disproportionate response to Iran’s downing of the unmanned drone.

But Bolton, speaking in Jerusalem before a three-way conference between the US, Russia and Israel on the future role of Iran in Syria, insisted the US had not lost its nerve.

He said no one had granted Iran “a hunting licence in the Middle East”. He echoed Trump’s warnings that the US military was “rebuilt, new and ready to go”, and said “biting” new sanctions would be imposed on Monday.

“Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, its threats to exceed the limits set in the failed Iran nuclear deal in the coming days … are not signs of a nation seeking peace,” Bolton said.

However, back in Washington Trump issued one of his frequent reminders that Bolton does not have the final say in US national security matters, but is just one voice among several competing views.

“John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, OK? But that doesn’t matter because I want both sides,” Trump told NBC News’s Meet the Press on Sunday. He pointed to the disastrous US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a war Bolton aggressively advocated – as a reason for caution in the Middle East.

However, the president warned that any more hostile acts by Iran could draw a more forceful military response than the one planned and aborted on Thursday.

“So what happened is I said, ‘I’m not going to do it. I’ll save it. If they do something else, it’ll be double’,” Trump told NBC, adding that he would continue to ramp up sanctions.

“We are putting major additional sanctions on Iran on Monday,” Trump tweeted.

In his NBC interview he added: “I think that they want to negotiate. I don’t think they like the position they’re in. Their economy is, is absolutely broken.”

As he has done on almost every occasion he has discussed Iran, Trump offered direct talks with “no preconditions” focused on Iran’s nuclear programme.

He said he told Shinzō Abe, before the Japanese prime minister visited Tehran on 12 June: “Send the following message: you can’t have nuclear weapons. And other than that, we can sit down and make a deal. But you cannot have nuclear weapons.”

On further questioning he added the demand that Tehran should not have a ballistic missile programme, and suggested he wanted a tougher inspection regime.

Iran has said it does not want to acquire nuclear weapons and has agreed not to do so under the non-proliferation treaty. Until now, it has stuck to the limits on its nuclear programme agreed in a 2015 multilateral deal, which Trump withdrew the US from last May and has since tried to destroy.

Faced with a US-imposed oil embargo and a web of other sanctions, Iran has warned in recent months that it will cease to abide by some elements of the 2015 agreement.

It is allowing stocks of low-enriched uranium to build up, and President Hassan Rouhani has warned that if Europe does not do more to shield Iran from US sanctions by a 8 July deadline, it will take the much more significant step of increasing its uranium enrichment levels, bringing it closer to weapons grade.

On Sunday, the head of Tehran’s strategic council on foreign relations suggested Iran could further raise the stakes.

“If Europeans don’t take measures within the 60-day deadline [announced by Iran in May], we will take new steps,” the semi-official news agency ISNA quoted Kamal Kharazi as saying.

Speaking after meeting the British Middle East minister, Andrew Murrison, in Tehran, Kharazi said Europeans should provide capital for the special trading vehicle designed to enable European trade with Iran and circumvent US sanctions. Accusing Europe of failing to deliver on its promises, he said: “One should see whether Europe is making empty promises or taking practical steps in the two weeks that remain until the deadline.”

On his visit Murrison also raised the plight of the Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is on hunger strike in a Tehran jail. She is serving a five-year sentence for espionage, a charge she denies.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is on a sympathy hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London. A stream of well-wishers have been to visit him, including Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson.

 

 

Guardian UK

 

 

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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