Iran naval drills designed to send message to US: general

In this June 30, 2018 photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, who heads the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard attends a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard's officers in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018

Iran naval drills designed to send message to US: general

  • The sanctions imposed on Tehran this week have already led banks and many companies around the world to scale back dealings with Iran
  • Trump responded by noting that Iran could face serious consequences if it threatened the United States

WASHINGTON: The general overseeing US military operations in the Middle East said Wednesday that an Iranian naval exercise around the Strait of Hormuz was meant to send a message to Washington before it reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran launched the exercise in the Gulf last week, sending dozens of small attack boats out into the Strait of Hormuz — a vital, oil-shipping waterway that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last month threatened to shut down.
“It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach the period of the sanctions here that they had some capabilities,” US Central Command head General Joseph Votel told Pentagon reporters.
The capabilities include ocean mines, explosive boats, coastal defense missiles and radars, he said.
Votel said he saw Qassem Soleimani, who heads the external operations Quds Force for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as being responsible for the exercise.
“He is an individual who is perpetrating a lot of this destabilizing activity,” Votel said.
“Wherever you see Iranian activity, you see Qassem Soleimani.”
The United States on Tuesday reimposed sanctions on Iran, after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.


European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

Updated 27 November 2020

European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

  • MEPs found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen Varosha weakened prospects of a solution to the conflict
  • Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots

ANKARA: The European Parliament has called for sanctions on Turkey following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial visit to Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), agreeing on a resolution in support of Cyprus, urged EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey’s illegal actions.”
The parliament’s non-binding resolution on Nov. 26 emphasized that Turkey’s gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean were illegal. EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels between Dec. 10-11.
MEPs also found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen the fenced-off suburb of Varosha, in the city of Famagusta, weakened prospects of a far-reaching solution to the decades-long Cypriot conflict.
The Turkish army fenced off Varosha in 1974 after its military intervention, while Greek Cypriots who fled from the resort town could not return to their homes.
“MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement,” the resolution said.
Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots.
The resolution was denounced by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, which criticized the European Parliament for “being prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus. 
During the EU summit some sanctions, on sectors such as shipping, energy and banking, are expected to be adopted, depending on Germany’s mediation efforts as the current holder of the EU’s six-month presidency.
Laura Batalla Adam, a political analyst and the secretary general of the EU-Turkey Forum, said that even if EU leaders were divided, the possibility of sanctions remained on the table.
“The decision to reopen Varosha just adds to an already extremely tense situation between Turkey and the EU,” she told Arab News. “The next days are going to be decisive as to what kind of sanctions could be imposed, depending on Ankara’s moves in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
According to Batalla Adam, a moratorium on drilling activities until the two sides can enter into negotiations to settle their dispute would be a way to ease tensions and start working on a more positive agenda.
Turkey will continue its seismic studies near Greek islands in the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 29 with its Oruc Reis research vessel.
Ankara pulled the vessel back in September to allow more room for diplomacy and negotiations with Greece, but sent it back to the disputed area, provoking a harsh reaction from EU members Cyprus, Greece, Germany and France.