While Trump’s just announced decision to decertify the Iranian nuclear deal, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to unwind Obama’s landmark deal, was widely leaked previously even though few can point to what terms of the agreement Iran has violated, one aspect of Trump’s Iran statement was unclear: whether he would designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, or IRGC, the elite wing of Iran’s army, a terrorist organization – a move which Iran vowed would prompt “decisive , crushing” retaliation. Trump did just that, and the new, sweeping sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State militant group. This is what the Treasury’s OFAC unit posted on its sanctions website moments ago: Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority WASHINGTON – Today, the U. S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E. O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. OFAC designated the IRGC today for its activities in support of the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), which was designated pursuant to E. O. 13224 on October 25, 2007, for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban. The IRGC has provided material support to the IRGC-QF, including by providing training, personnel, and military equipment.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
It didn’t take long for Europe’s biggest nations – the other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran Nuclear Deal – as well as Russia, to slam Trump’s unilateral decision to decertify the Iran agreement and, in the process, put the entire deal in jeopardy. Moments ago, in a joint statement, Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron all reiterated their commitment to the JCPOA, expressed their concern by the possible implications of Trump’s decision not to recertify the deal, and urged the US to think hard before taking further steps that might undermine it further. Here is the statement they released together moments ago: We, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision not to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to Congress and are concerned by the possible implications. We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is in our shared national security interest. The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. The JCPoA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPoA through its long-term verification and monitoring programme. Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPoA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
It had been several weeks since we had the familiar verbal jawboning back and forth between North Korea and Donald Trump, and so to break the monotony, North Korea’s foreign minister decided to lob several provocations at Donald Trump, whom Pyongyang is clearly trolling at this point, claiming that it was Trump’s speech at the UN last month that “lit the wick of war”, and that North Korea will make the US pay “with a hail of fire.” The diplomatic also said that North Korea has “almost achieved a balance of power” with the US. N. KOREA FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TRUMP ‘LIT THE WICK OF WAR’ WITH SPEECH AT UN – TASS NORTH KOREA FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NORTH KOREA WILL MAKE U. S. PAY WITH HAIL OF FIRE NORTH KOREA FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS N. K. HAS ALMOST ACHIEVED BALANCE OF POWER WITH USA: TASS He also told TASS that to “strengthen sanctions is an act of war & attack” against North Korea
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 11, 2017.
North Korea is preparing to fire multiple short-range rockets around the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress on Oct. 18, the Seoul-based Asia Business Daily reports, citing an unidentified person. According to the newspaper, the U. S. and South Korean militaries have recently spotted about 30 Scud rockets being moved from Hwangju, south of the capital Pyongyang, to a missile maintenance facility in the western coastal city of Nampo. *** More from the report, google translated: According to the authorities, the ROK-US military intelligence agency captured the process of transferring 30 Scud missiles deployed in the Hwangju area of ??North Hwanghae province to a missile repair facility in Jamsun, West Sea, Nampo, through information assets. It is unusual for North Korea to massively move Scud missiles. The Jangjin missile factory, which North Korea refers to as the Taesung Machinery Factory, is the most important missile production plant in North Korea, producing a variety of missiles such as scud and labor. Kim Jong-un inspects the Jamsil plant in March last year, when the North Korean Workers’ Party chairman passed a resolution imposing sanctions on the UN Security Council, emphasizing that “the working class should shine forth the immortal achievements of the followers with high productivity.” to be.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 11, 2017.
Fresh off its humiliating six-year-long debacle in Syria, and with very few viable wars within its grasp, the Pentagon, along with the Israeli Lobby-led US Congress and Senate – are now trying to tighten to noose on Iran. For the last 3 weeks, hawkish Republican Senators have been pressuring President Donald Trump to ‘decertify’ the Iran nuclear deal in October, and to reimpose harsh sanctions – despite the fact that Iran is in full compliance with the international P5+1 brokered nuclear containment agreement. According to the terms of the deal as recognized by Congress, the President must re-certify the deal every 90 days.
On Sunday, in its most explicit warning to Donald Trump not to revise the terms of the Nuclear Deal – something the US president is expected to do over the coming days – Iran warned the United States that U. S. regional military bases “would be at risk” if further sanctions were passed. “The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Iran Revolutionary Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, quoted by Reuters. He then threatened US presence in the region, warning that ‘if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles.” Then, one day later, Iran vowed on Monday to give a “firm and crushing” response should Washington decide to also include the elite wing of its army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on its list of terrorist organizations, according to the country’s foreign ministry. “We are hopeful that the United States does not make this strategic mistake,’ Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi stated during a news conference according to Reuters. ‘If they do, Iran’s reaction would be firm, decisive and crushing and the United States should bear all its consequences.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 9, 2017.
For over two decades, the American response to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been to seek a diplomatic solution that would give the North Koreans an incentive to abandon their quest. The North Koreans agreed to suspend production of nuclear material, took the money and other incentives, and then proceeded to develop nuclear weapons anyway. This policy of diplomacy, concessions, and betrayal lasted through the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and has now been handed to the Donald Trump administration. The story with Iran is somewhat similar. Iran, the US, the EU, China, and Russia negotiated a deal in which the Iranians agreed not to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. It is unclear whether the Iranians have truly discontinued their nuclear program, but they assuredly have continued to develop missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons to targets. The US claims that the development of these missiles constitutes a problem worthy of new sanctions; Iran counters that the missiles are not intended to carry nuclear weapons. Either way, Trump is on the verge of declaring that the Iranians are not complying with the agreement and imposing new sanctions and other measures. A Contract’s Real Value This is hardly unique to international relations. How often has each of us negotiated an agreement only to find that the other side interprets its meaning differently than we do? Sometimes there is genuine confusion; sometimes there is a deliberate attempt to gain an advantage. In international relations, sometimes the market conditions have changed, or sometimes the relative strength of the signatories has changed. Whatever the reason, there are those who regard a signed contract as the beginning of the negotiating process and not the end. The outcome frequently rests less on the facts and more on how important the issue is to each side and how deep their pockets are. In business and in diplomacy, a contract’s value rests in the ability to enforce it.
In the coming days, president Trump is expected to announce that he will decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, a step that potentially could cause the historic Obama-era accord to unravel. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions. Realizing the dire threat that such a move presents for its economy – not to mention Iranian oil exports – Iran has escalated the rhetoric, and overnight it warned the United States that U. S. regional military bases “would be at risk” if further sanctions were passed or if the US designated its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist group. On Friday the Financial Times reported that Donald Trump is expected to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group, as part of a new hardline strategy against the Islamic republic. Mr Trump is expected to announce new measures against Iran, including the prospect of additional targeted sanctions, the designation of the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation and the adoption of a tougher stance on Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, according to a person briefed on the matter. ‘It’s an integrated Iran strategy focused on neutralising and rolling back Iran’s malign activities regionally and globally,’ the person said. Iran was not happy: “The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, quoted by Reuters. He then explicitly threatened US presence in the region, warning that ‘if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 8, 2017.
Update: Confirming our note from earlier this morning, the Washington Post has just confirmed that President Trump will deliver a speech next Thursday to officially announce plans to “decertify” the international nuclear deal with Iran. According to WaPo, Trump is expected to lay out a broader strategy with respect to Iran but will stop short of reimposing sanctions that would nullify the agreement. President Trump plans to announce next week that he will ‘decertify’ the international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant Congress, people briefed on an emerging White House strategy for Iran said Thursday. The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U. S. sanctions against Iran, which would blow up a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities that the country reached in 2015 with the U. S. and five other nations. Trump is expected to deliver a speech, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, laying out a larger strategy for confronting the nation it blames for terrorism and instability throughout the Middle East.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2017.
Experts outside the United States government are using North Korea’s propaganda videos to dissect and decode the rogue regime’s nuclear program. Decoders say that there are clues about the weapons advancement program hidden in their propaganda, and they are sounding the alarm. A group of analysts at the Middlebury Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California are closely studying the propaganda photos and videos put out by the North Korean regime. They then apply new tools such as satellite imagery and 3-D mapping to the videos and photos so they can learn more about how the North continues to advance their weapons in the face of sanctions and growing opposition.
This post was published at shtfplan on October 5th, 2017.
Over the past two months, China, North Korea’s economic benefactor and formally the source of 90% of its foreign trade, has been withdrawing financial support, ostensibly under the auspices of US sanctions, as Communist Party leaders try to rein in the North’s nuclear program to appease the US and prevent a potentially destabilizing conflict on its border – a development that would be particularly unwelcome during the Communist Party’s upcoming national congress. As we reported earlier this week, North Korea’s thriving black-market economy (the county earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year from illegal weapons sales, along with other illicit activities rumored to include counterfeiting of US dollars and the manufacture of methamphetamine) has helped blunt the economic impact of UN sanctions meant to reduce the country’s legitimate exports by 90%. Last month, China ordered North Korean businesses operating in the country to close, and asked its banks to stop doing business with North Korean businesses and individuals in accordance with the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions. But as China withdraws, Reuters reports that Russia, which shares a small border with North Korea along the country’s eastern flank, is quietly stepping in to offer economic support for its restive neighbor, even after declining to use its veto power to kill UN sanctions against the rogue state. Russia’s reasoning is simple: If the North Korean regime falls, more US troops could deploy near Russia’s eastern border – an eventuality that Moscow would like to avoid, given the NATO buildup in Europe.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2017.
A North Korean mysterious bulk freighter named Jie Shun was flying Cambodian flags and carrying cargo that was heavily shrouded in tarps. Once seized, under those tarps, a cache of weapons was found and the surprising destination of those weapons was uncovered. In August, a secret message was passed from Washington to Cairo warning about a mysterious vessel steaming toward the Suez Canal. According to The Washington Post, that’s all it took for authorities in the United States to act and monitor the Jie Shun. The Jie Shun is listed as a cargo ship on vessel tracker and even though it was flying Cambodian colors, it did originate from North Korea. Customs agents were waiting for the mystery cargo when the ship entered Egyptian waters. They swarmed the vessel and discovered, concealed under bins of iron ore, a cache of more than 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades. It was, as a United Nations report later concluded, the ‘largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.’ This cache was worth about $23 million. But who were all of these weapons for? The Jie Shun’s final secret would take months to resolve and would yield perhaps the biggest surprise of all. The buyers were the Egyptians themselves; longtime US allies.
This post was published at shtfplan on October 3rd, 2017.
Gazprom dethroned ExxonMobil as the top energy company in the world, according to the 2017 S&P Global Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings. The rankings measure the financial performance of energy firms on four key metrics: asset worth, revenues, profits, and return on invested capital. The list only includes companies that have assets greater than $5.5 billion. *** For 12 years, ExxonMobil was second to none. But that changed this year – Exxon was ejected from the top spot, and fell all the way to ninth place. Gazprom’s surge reflects its state ownership, its captured market in Europe for its natural gas, as well as the fall of some of its peers. But the Russian gas giant’s ability to weather sanctions, regulatory threats from the EU, low oil and gas prices, and the rise of competition from new supplies of LNG is impressive.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 2, 2017.
In a fascinating report that provides a glimpse into the shadowy North Korean black-market economy, the Washington Post has published a story about a 2016 incident in which Egyptian authorities intercepted a North Korean ship bearing a Cambodian flag after being alerted by US authorities. After searching the ship, Egyptian law enforcement discovered something unexpected: a trove of nearly 24,000 rocket launchers, and components for 6,000 more weapons, hidden below a large pile of loose iron ore. But perhaps the biggest surprise for the Egyptian authorities emerged when they tried to determine for whom the weapons were intended, and discovered that they had been secretly purchased by the Egyptian military in violation of international sanctions against NK arms sales. Further compounding the irony, Egypt had recently joined the UN Security Council – the international body sponsoring said sanctions – before deciding to circumvent them and buy the weapons. As has been widely reported in the US media, North Korea reaps profits from several illegal rackets, believed to include counterfeiting of US dollars to the sale and distribution of methamphetamine. Now, we can add to that list the clandestine sale of Soviet-area conventional weapons, of which the North retains a massive stockpile, though it also manufactures its own copies.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 2, 2017.
The socialist nation of Venezuela has called on its military and asked them to prepare to go to war with the United States. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is bracing for war just days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation. ‘We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,’ said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. ‘We need to have rifles, missiles, and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be. The future of humanity cannot be the world of illegal sanctions, of economic persecution,’ Maduro said.
This post was published at shtfplan on September 27th, 2017.
An interesting post about the Russian economy, quite neatly summarising both the top-line challenges faced and the resilience exhibited to-date via Pimco: Worth a read. My view: couple of points are over- and under-played somewhat. Sanctions: these are a thorny issue in Moscow and are putting pressure on Russian banks operations and strategic plans worldwide. While they do take secondary seat after other considerations in public eye, Moscow insiders are quite discomforted by the effective shutting down of the large swathes of European markets (energy and finance), and North American markets (finance, technology and personal safe havens). On the latter, it is worth noting that a number of high profile Russian figures, including in pro-Kremlin media, have in recent years been forced to shut down shell companies previously operating in the U. S. and divest out of real estate assets. Sanctions are also geopolitical thorns in terms of limiting Moscow’s ability to navigate the European policy space.
This post was published at True Economics on Friday, September 29, 2017.
In the latest sign that China is moving to dramatically limit its exposure to its restive neighbor and long-time economic dependent, Chinese authorities on Thursday ordered all North Korean firms to stop doing business in the world’s second-largest economy, fulfilling Beijing’s obligations according to the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions, which were passed two weeks ago. The order comes just days after President Donald Trump revealed that the People’s Bank of China had asked the country’s banks to sever their business ties with North Korea. Specifically, they were ordered to stop providing financial services to North Korean customers and to wind down existing loans, severing one of North Korea’s most reliable connections to the global financial system. It was reported that the banks were warned that continuing to transact with North Korean business could result in embarrassment and economic losses, according to Russia Today.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 28, 2017.
After barely managing to scrape together the nearly $200 million needed to make a bond payment earlier this month (the country made the payment a week late), Embattled Venezeulan President Nicolas Maduro is refocusing his attention on the US, warning military leaders Tuesday to begin preparing for war with the US. Maduro’s call to arms comes after the US has repeatedly tightened sanctions against Maduro’s regime and the country’s state-run oil company; earlier this week, the Trump administration blocked Venezeulan officials from entering the US as part of the White House’s new ‘targeted’ travel ban. Trump has also repeatedly threatened a military intervention if Maduro doesn’t leave voluntarily. Maduro is probably still brooding over Trump’s call for the world community to help restore ‘democracy and political freedoms’ to Venezeula by ousting Maduro (to which Maduro reportedly responded in typical leftist fashion by comparing Trump to Hitler). Trump made those remarks last week during his first address to the UN General Assembly. Earlier this year, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a military option for dealing with Venezuela, adding that the US has an obligation to take of the country because it’s “our neighbor.” Maduro said Trump’s threats were the reason for him ordering the military to be on alert. “We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. “We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be,” he added. Over the summer, the US announced sanctions to prevent PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owed oil company, from issuing new debt (sanctions that conveniently avoided existing bonds held by Goldman Sachs), while also preventing Citgo, the US subsidiary of PDVSA, from repatriating dividends. The US has also passed sanctions against many top Venezuelan officials. Tensions between Maduro and Trump started escalating shortly after Trump’s inauguration, when the US blacklisted Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for drug trafficking.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 27, 2017.
Just look around the world and throughout recent history, and you will find a number of compelling cases where western-backed NGOs have been frequently acted as enablers for the military interventions, sanctions and economic blockades that followed. Look at Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iran and Sudan – all were given the ‘human rights’ treatment prior to aggressive western actions. In most cases, claims of human rights violations and exaggerated atrocity reports preceded western action.
All twelve women who work at the ‘Show Malilo Night Club’ brothel in Arauca, Colombia are from Venezuela. As Venezuela’s socialist economic crisis continues, many Venezuelan women have turned to the sex trade in neighboring Colombia to eat and provide for their families. ‘We’ve got lots of teachers, some doctors, many professional women and one petroleum engineer,’ brothel owner Gabriel Snchez said of the women who sell their bodies for $25 an hour. ‘All of them showed up with their degrees in hand.’ Sanchez who is 60 years-old, started the brothel in Arauca, Colombia after he lost his job in a car repair shop in Venezuela thanks to the government’s socialist policies. Snchez and others in the sex industry say Venezuelans dominate the trade now because they’re willing to work for less pay. ‘I would say 99 percent of the prostitutes in this town are Venezuelan,’ he said. Amid food shortages, hyperinflation, rampant poverty driven by socialism, and U. S. sanctions, waves of economic refugees have fled the country. Those with the means to do so have gone to places like Miami, Santiago, and Panama. But those who are less fortunate, have had to sink low to simply eat. A recent study suggested as many as 350,000 Venezuelans had entered Colombia in the last six years. With jobs scarce in the country though, many young (and some not so young) women are turning to the world’s oldest profession to make ends meet. According to the Miami Herald, prostituting for money to buy basic necessities has become commonplace for Venezuelan women.
This post was published at shtfplan on September 25th, 2017.