Friday, October 31, 2014

Iran, U.S., EU to Meet in Muscat

Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Katherine Ashton will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on 9-10 November in Muscat, Oman. The trio will push for a comprehensive deal before the 24 November deadline. Muscat was the site of secret meetings between Iran and the U.S. that led to interim nuclear deal, JPOA, last November. Formal talks on final deal will be held between P5+1 and Iran starting 18 November in Vienna.

Iran Oil Revenues Drop by 30 Percent - Rouhani

Iran oil revenues dropped by 30 percent because of the recent decline in global oil prices, said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“International conditions are such that the country’s main source of income, i.e. oil revenues, has been cut by some 30 percent,” Rouhani told Majlis. “We have to deal with the new conditions and the global economic conditions.” [Shana (Iranian Oil Ministry news site)/Bloomberg, 30 October]

The benchmark Brent crude has plunged nearly 25 percent since peaking in June at about $115 a barrel, as supply boosted by U.S. shale production outpaced demand. Brent traded at $86.52 today.

Meanwhile, the Joint Organization Data Initiative reported that Iranian oil exports fell to the lowest level on record in August, mainly due to slowdown of the economy and energy demand in China, Iran’s biggest customer. (Bloomberg, 30 October)

File photo: Iran’s oil export terminal at Kharq Island (Getty Images)

Media buzz on Rear Admiral Shamkhani

Above: Secretary of SNSC Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani (photo: PressTV)

There has been an uptick in media buzz on Iran’s current Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Rear Admiral (Upper Half) Ali Shamkhani. among which is an opinion piece penned by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, dated 30OCT14. Highlights provided below proceeded by commentary:
An intriguing figure is gaining prominence in the Iranian government just as regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria intensify and nuclear talks with the West move toward a Nov. 24 deadline.
The newly prominent official is Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s national security council. He played a key role last summer in the ouster of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister. In interviews over the past few weeks, Iraqi, Iranian, Lebanese, European and U.S. officials have all described Shamkhani as a rising political player.
COMMENTARY: It is the opinion of this writer Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani should not be considered “newly prominent.” In addition to previously commanding IRGC-N and IRIN, Shamkhani actually ran for president in 2001 (he ranked third in votes received, among a field of ten).
“He is a person in the middle,” with close links to both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, says Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian official who teaches at Princeton University and knows the leadership well. “Shamkhani can play an influential role in managing the crisis in the Arab world,” he argues, in part because he is from an Arabic-speaking region of southern Iran.
COMMENTARY: It shouldn’t necessarily be considered remarkable for the head of Iran’s Navy to be an ethnic Arab-Iranian (Shamkhani is from Ahvaz). Current commander of Iran’s Navy Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Sayyari is also an ethnic Arab-Iranian.

However what is noteworthy is the fact that Shamkhani is holder of the Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud-- highest Medal in Saudi Arabia-- bestowed in 2004  “for his prominent role in the design and implementation in developing relations with Arabic countries in the Persian Gulf.”
Shamkhani’s rise is noteworthy because he appears to bridge the radical and moderate camps at a time when opinion in Iran is divided about a nuclear deal. Khamenei will have to bless any agreement made by Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“In contrast to Iranian foreign ministry officials, Shamkhani is a former Revolutionary Guard [IRGC] commander who has the clout to challenge his former comrades,” says Karim Sadjadpour, a leading Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A European intelligence official agrees that Shamkhani may be “an honest broker” between Rouhani and Khamenei.
COMMENTARY: Rear Admiral Shamkhani and current Defense Minister Brigadier General Dehghan share a related rise during liberal and moderate presidential administrations. During the liberal administration of President Khatami, the two held posts of defense minister and deputy defense minister, respectively. Later, during the Ahmadinejad years, the two receded as head and deputy of Armed Forces Strategic Studies Center. Now, during the moderate administration of President Rouhani, Rear Admiral Shamkhani has risen to Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and military advisor to Khamenei, with Brigadier General Dehghan as Minister of Defense.
“Since this summer, Shamkhani has taken on a more prominent role in Iranian regional policy, especially in Iraq, which previously was the exclusive purview of the IRGC Quds Force commander, Qassem Suleimani ,” explains a U.S. official who follows Iranian events closely.
“His star continues to rise,” says the U.S. official. But he cautions against assuming that Shamkhani’s new ascendancy means any diminution for Suleimani, who “remains firmly in charge of Quds Force activities” and whose “overall standing in Tehran does not seem to have tapered off.”
COMMENTARY: It is the opinion of this writer that the roles of Shamkhani and Soleimani should not be considered exclusively in terms of contesting relative standing and influence.

The Iranians view the war against ISIL and al-Qaida affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Lebanon in terms of crises every bit as much as their American counterparts; perhaps more so given the fact this conflagration is taking place in Iran’s geographic region.
Shamkhani’s role in Maliki’s ouster was described by two Iraqi officials. They said the Iranian visited Najaf in July to meet with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shiite religious leader, and carried back his message that it was time for the polarizing Maliki to go. At the time, the Iranians appeared to be holding out for Maliki or another pliant Iraqi politician, but they acceded in the eventual, U.S.-backed choice of Haider al-Abadi.
Shamkhani’s regional stature was also evident in September in a visit to Beirut, where he floated the idea of Iranian support for the Lebanese military. Lebanese officials say such aid won’t be accepted, but it’s an interesting sign of how Iranian policy is working in parallel with that of the United States, which is the Lebanese army’s main supplier of weapons.
COMMENTARY: It should be pointed out that Shamkhani has also met with officials from other regional states militarily engaged against ISIL and al-Qaida affiliates, including officials from Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria (see below).

Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria are recipients of Iranian military assistance, so the offer to Lebanon shouldn't necessarily be considered extraordinary.

Kurdistan Region Premier Nechirvan Barzani with Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, dated 16JUN14: (photo: Fars News Agency).

Syrian Arab Republic Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi with Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani in Tehran, dated 30NOV13 (photo: PressTV)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peshmerga, Free Syrian Army Fighters in Turkey, to Cross into Kobane - UPDATES

UPDATE: Peshmerga forces on ground, U.S. warplanes above, FSA supporting, to help YPG defend Kobane, the Kurdish Stalingrad
Kurdish KDP Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army fighters arrived in Turkey Wednesday night to cross a land bridge into Kobane to help Kurdish forces defend the city against ISIL invasion.

Meanwhile, U.S. CENTCOM announced 12 airstrikes against ISIL positions in Syria since Wednesday, including 10 in Kobane.

UPDATE I: The first contingent of Syrian Free Army fighters arrived in Kobane on Thursday 30 October.

UPDATE II: Forward elements of Peshmerga have entered Kobane in the early afternoon on Thursday 30 October.

UPDATE III: Peshmerga forces, in a dozen trucks and jeeps, escorted by armored vehicles, crossed from Turkey into Kobane on Friday 31 October. U.S. warplanes bombed ISIL positions in and around the city heavily to prevent it from attacking Peshmerga convoy heading into Kobane.

Photo above: In a hugely symbolic moment, the Peshmerga convoy was greeted by the cheering Kurds on the Turkish side of the border (Photo credit: Twitter)

Photo below: Peshmerga and FSA fighters in Kobane assessing the battlefield with YPG; 30 October 2014 (Photo credit: DIHA/Twitter)

‘The Rise of ISIS’- PBS Frontline

Description from PBS video page for Frontline documentary “The Rise of ISIS,” first aired 28OCT14:
FRONTLINE investigates the miscalculations and mistakes behind the brutal rise of ISIS. Correspondent Martin Smith, who made "Truth, War & Consequences," "Beyond Baghdad," "Private Warriors" and "Gangs of Iraq," reports from Iraq on how the country began coming undone after the American withdrawal and what it means for the U.S. to be fighting there again.
“The Rise of ISIS,” Chapter 1

“The Rise of ISIS,” Chapter 2

“The Rise of ISIS,” Chapter 3

“The Rise of ISIS,” Chapter 4

“The Rise of ISIS,” Chapter 5

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

U.S.-Iran relations move toward effective state of détente: WSJ

Above: Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, photo dated 13JUL14

A very interesting piece has been penned by Jay Solomon and Maria Abi-Habib, published 28OCT14 at Wall Street Journal. Highlights provided below, proceeded by commentary:
The Obama administration and Iran, engaged in direct nuclear negotiations and facing a common threat from Islamic State militants, have moved into an effective state of détente over the past year, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials.
[R]ecent months have ushered in a change as the two countries have grown into alignment on a spectrum of causes, chief among them promoting peaceful political transitions in Baghdad and Kabul and pursuing military operations against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to these officials.
The Obama administration also has markedly softened its confrontational stance toward Iran’s most important nonstate allies, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese militant and political organization, Hezbollah. American diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry , negotiated with Hamas leaders through Turkish and Qatari intermediaries during cease-fire talks in July that were aimed at ending the Palestinian group’s rocket attacks on Israel, according to senior U.S. officials.
U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly tipped off Lebanese law-enforcement bodies close to Hezbollah about threats posed to Beirut’s government by Sunni extremist groups, including al Qaeda and its affiliate Nusra Front in Syria, Lebanese and U.S. officials said.
“This shows that although we see Turkey and Arab states as our closest allies, our interests and policies are converging with Iran’s,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a former Obama administration official. “This is a  " at this moment, more than a conscious U.S. policy.”
[T]hese officials said the intensive negotiations the U.S. has pursued with Iran since last year on the nuclear issue could help stabilize the Mideast and have improved understanding.
“The world is clearly better off now than it would have been if the leaders on both sides had ignored this opening,” Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator with Iran, said last week.
Iranian officials, including President Hasan Rouhani, have said there could be more cooperation with the U.S. in the war on Islamic State, but only if a nuclear accord is reached.
Since the U.S. resumed military operations inside Iraq in August, however, the Revolutionary Guard, or IRGC, has explicitly ordered its local proxies not to target American military personnel conducting and coordinating attacks against Islamic State from bases around Baghdad and Iraq’s Ku
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Guard’s overseas operations known as the Qods Force, specifically instructed Iraqi Shiite militias long at war with the U.S., such as the Mahdi Army and Kata’ib Hezbollah, that American efforts to weaken Islamic State were in the long-term interests of Tehran and its allies, said these officials.
“It has gone quiet because these guys have been told by the IRGC not to attack,” said a U.S. intelligence officer who tracks Gen. Soleimani. “The Iraqi Shiite groups went to Soleimani and said they wanted to go after the American embassy and target Americans. Soleimani said: ‘No, No, No. Unless they get into your areas of control, don’t attack.’”
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is planning to play down and avoid publicity for the annual minesweeping exercise being organized by U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In past years, the exercise has been used to highlight unified opposition to Iranian activities in the Persian Gulf, according to a U.S. official.
Some officials say de-emphasizing deterrence against Iran could be destabilizing, signaling to the Revolutionary Guard that the U.S. isn't going to take steps to counter their measures.
However, the U.S. now has gone beyond the use of signals. American officials said the Obama administration has passed messages to Tehran by using the offices of Iraq’s new Shiite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam’s most senior clerics.
The U.S. has also made it clear to Tehran that its stepped-up military strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria won’t be turned on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to U.S. officials.
Mr. Assad is Iran’s closest Arab ally. And the Revolutionary Guard and Gen. Soleimani have mobilized Iranian military personnel and Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite militiamen to fight inside Syria in support of the Damascus regime. Any U.S. strikes on Mr. Assad’s security forces could end up hitting Iranian or Hezbollah soldiers and military advisers, sparking a broader conflict, U.S. and Arab officials said.
“They [the U.S.] want to focus on ISIL and they are worried about antagonizing the Iranians, which they say may cause them to react –or the Shiite militias in Iraq to react –against our embassy and interests in Iraq and derail the [nuclear] talks,” said a senior U.S. defense official working on Iraq. “They are articulating in high-level interagency meetings that they don’t want to do anything that’s…interpreted by the Iranians as threatening to the regime.”
The détente that has taken hold is filtering into other theaters of traditional American-Iranian conflict, said U.S. and Arab officials.
Washington for years has sought to weaken Hezbollah’s political and military power in Lebanon through sanctions and the backing of rival political parties in Beirut. But the threat posed by Islamic State, Nusra Front and other Sunni extremist groups to Lebanon has changed the security dynamics there, said U.S. and Arab officials.
COMMENTARY: If this reporting is accurate, this represents a sound position for U.S. to adopt in the war against ISIL. Indeed, Vali Nasr's term of "geostrategic reality" would provide an apt description of this move toward an effective state of détente between the U.S. and Iran.

There is further evidence of this geostrategic reality taking effect in the war against ISIL in Syria. In response to a 25OCT14 published interview question posed by Asharq al-Awsat media, Gen John Allen, USMC (Ret.) had this to say:
What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize. There is not going to be a military solution here [in Syria]. We have to create so much credibility within the moderate Syrian opposition at a political level . . . that they earn their spot at the table when the time comes for the political solution. Now, there could be FSA elements that ultimately clash with the regime, that may well be the case, as they seek to defend themselves and those areas that they dominate and as they seek to defend their families and their ways of life . . . it could be an outcome. But the intent is not to create a field force to liberate Damascus—that is not the intent. The intent is that in the political outcome, they [the moderate Syrian opposition] must be a prominent—perhaps the preeminent voice—at the table to ultimately contribute to the political outcome that we seek.
Gen John Allen is tasked as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. What's striking by his candid response is how relatively close it approaches the official Iranian position on Syria. For years, the Iranians have been of the position that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, and that the opposition engage the Syrian Arab Republic in a political solution.

Iranian media has recently been publishing a stream of photos portraying IRGC-QF Commander Maj. Gen. Soleimani inside Iraq among Shia militia forces, most recently engaged in the successful operation to retake Jurf al-Sakhar.

Above ISNA photo published earlier this week by Tabnak portraying (left to right) Hadi al-Ameri, head of Badr Organization; Sheikh Adnan Shahmani, Iraqi MP and Shia militia leader; Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, IRGC-QF Commander; Seyyed Mohammad Tabatabai, Deputy Commander of AAH.

Iranian media identifies Iraqi "social media"sources in referring to Maj. Gen. Soleimaini as "general who liberated Amirli.”

There has been quite a bit of media and pundit speculation as to the reason for all the recent publicity of Soleimani in Iranian media. This writer is of the opinion that the Iranians are keen to portray their Iran-led component of the war against ISIL, particularly in Iraq where it is readily conceded the IRGC-QF possesses freedom of action. In this theater of war against ISIL, they're also keen to portray the IRGC and allied Shia militia's role in the defense of Baghdad, as well as the reataking of Amerli and now Jurf al-Sakhar. Evidence to support this writer's opinion on Iranian intention can be seen by comments made earlier this week by Iranian MP Habib Aghajeri, where he stated:
“What is striking about this success [at Jurf al-Sakhar] is it again shows the crucial role of community groups led by Iraqi forces and by Commander Soleimani.  Western media sources and officials all acknowledge Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s power and influence in the region.”
The Iran-led coalition effort against ISIL to retake Jurf al-Sakhar was named Operation Ashura, of which according to Iranian media AAH played a prominent part.

Above: Still from video claiming to depict artillery in action during operation to retake Jurf al-Sakhar. Note, in foreground: Iranian vehicle-mounted HM 27 rocket launchers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations

White House Thinks “Chickenshit” Bibi Won’t Bomb Iran
Today, Jeffery Goldberg has written an explosive piece in the Atlantic, saying the White House does not believe Israel has the guts to bomb Iran. Goldberg, who commands vast knowledge of U.S.-Israel relationship, quotes senior officials in Obama Administration as describing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu as “chickenshit” , “coward” , and having “no guts.”

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat… He’s got no guts,” the official said.

Another senior official describes Netanyahu as “chickenshit” on peace process, and a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat: Ultimately Bibi couldn’t bring himself to “pull the trigger.”

Naftali Bennett, leader of Israeli right-wing party The Jewish Home, and the country’s minister of economy said of Golberg’s piece: It proves Obama Administration plans “to throw Israel under the bus.” (Twitter/@ChemiShalev)

Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz, said: “Obama-Bibi relations have gone from very, very bad, to very, very, very bad.” (Twitter/@JeffreyGoldberg)

To read Goldberg’s piece, please click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/the Atlantic

Nizami Ganjavi 4 catamaran landing craft (L-CAT)

Bow view of Iran's newly constructed Nizami Ganjavi 4 catamaran landing craft (L-CAT), as built at  Farasahel Ship Building complex under the supervision of Bahr Gostaresh Hormuz, near Bandar Abbas. [source: Mehr News Agency, dated 27OCT14]

Nizami Ganjavi 4 on slipway for launch

Nizami Ganjavi 4 claimed "capable of carrying 90 automobiles, 20 containers and 20 trucks," according to Mehran Broushan, director of the project. [Source: Mehr News Agency]

Stern view of catamaran-type hull of Nizami Ganjavi 4 landing craft. Previously constructed Nizami Ganjavi landing crafts employ conventional, single-hull type design.

For comparative sizing of Nizami Ganjavi 4 landing craft, see below:

Above is Iranian-built Nizami Ganjavi 3 landing craft. Built in 2007, vessel gross tonnage is 487, deadweight 1000 t, with length x breadth of 49.5m x 15m. Nizami Ganjavi series of landing crafts typically shuttle machinery, cargo containers and vehicles between ports in Iran and UAE.

Photos: Ahmad Jafari at Mehr News Agency, and "reshadsol"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Iran: No Extension of Nuclear Talks on Agenda

Iran’s official news agency IRNA, quoting an unnamed senior member of Iranian nuclear negotiating team, reported that extending the nuclear talks beyond the 24 November deadline is not on the agenda. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported that major world powers were discussing whether to extend the talks for another six months.

“The paper’s report is not true and the extension of the negotiations is not on the agenda. All the attention is focused on the serious continuation of negotiations until November 24,” said the Iranian officials (IRNA/Press TV, 27 October)

Meanwhile, Press TV reported that according to Iranian negotiating team the main stumbling block in reaching an agreement with the West remains the removal of all sanctions against Iran, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment. Press TV is probably referring to a demand for immediate removal of all sanctions, including those imposed by the UN, upon signing of the final agreement, as opposed to a phase-in period for their gradual removal.

NIOC: Budget Should Be Based on $70 p/b for Iran Oil

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said today that Iran’s next year budget should be based on $70 per barrel oil revenue. The current Iranian budget is based on $100 per barrel, creating major budgetary shortfall due to declining oil prices. The government has not proposed new pricing for next year’s budget.

“The figure of $100 per barrel presented by the government (for next year’s budget) is not based on the oil experts’ views,” said Mohsen Qamsari, NIOC’s director of international affairs. (IRNA, 27 October)

Qamsari added there were no real prospects for rising oil prices in the coming months, with oil prices expected to stabilize at current levels

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fighting between Islamists and Lebanese Army Enters Third Day - UPDATE

Tripoli and Lebanon’s North Under Attack
Lebanese army troops battled Islamist militants in Tripoli and across northern Lebanon for a third day on Sunday, Reuters reported today. Militants began fighting the army on Friday. Dozens of soldiers, militants and civilians have been killed in the clashes.

Reuters reported that fighting spread to Arsal, the frontier town in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which militants briefly seized in the summer. The Islamist killed 20 soldiers and captured many more before withdrawing from the town.

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam called on residents of Tripoli to support the government during “these difficult times” and said the city would not be abandoned. (Reuters, 26 October)

Lebanese security sources told Reuters that the militants include both Lebanese and Syrian affiliates or supporters of Islamic State and the Nusra Front. The insurgents, who are overwhelmingly Sunni, accuse the army of working with Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shia movement and militia force, which has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to fight against the Sunni opposition forces.

UPDATE: The Lebanese Army started evacuating residents from Tripoli districts affected by the fighting, KUNA reported on Sunday. Some Tripoli neighborhoods, especially Bab al-Tabana, have been the scene of fierce fighting between the army and the Islamist militants since Friday.

Photo credit: Lebanese army soldiers take positions during clashes with Islamist militants in Tripoli; 26 October 2014. (Reuters)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Iran Nuclear Talks Could Be Extended for Six Months - Report

The Los Angeles Times reported today that major world powers have begun discussing whether to extend Iran nuclear talks for another six month. Striking a deal by the current deadline of 24 November seems increasingly unlikely, and the extension of talks might be a more convenient option at this time than complete collapse of the talks.

“Our priority is still to work hard and try to reach an agreement,” a Western official told the LA Times. “But clearly, it would be extremely, extremely challenging.”

Iraqi and Kurdish Forces Push Back ISIL in Iraq

Quds Force Supporting Shia Militias in Jurf al-Sakhar Victory; U.S. Airstrikes Supporting Peshmerga in Zumar Victory
In significant defeats for the Islamic State forces in Iraq, the Shia militias and Iraqi security forces on Saturday retook the town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad, while the Kurdish Peshmerga retook the northern town of Zumar. Meanwhile U.S. forces conducted 22 airstrikes targeting Islamic State units, buildings, positions and vehicles in Mosul Dam area, as well as locations in Fallujah and Baiji.

Jurf al-Sakhar is a town south of Baghdad, on the border between Anbar and Karbala provinces, which is regarded as key to the security of predominantly Shia southern Iraq. The Badr Organization and As’ab Ahel al-Haq (AAH) Shia militias, supported by Iraqi security forces, spearheaded the attack against the Islamic State positions in the town. Iran’s Quds Force officers were reportedly directing the battle for Jurf al-Sakhar. The recapture of the town is indeed a major victory for the Quds Force, Shia militias and the ISF.

Zumar had been under IS control since early August, when they captured the predominantly Kurdish town in a lightening advance. Kurdish security forces, the Peshmerga, tried repeatedly to win it back, and finally succeeded today. U.S. intensive airstrikes on IS positions in Zumar preceded the final push by the peshmerga forces. The Kurdish forces are now in firm control of the town and 17 nearby villages, and positioned to launch their offensive for liberation of Sinjar, about 50km to the southwest.

Photo credit: Peshmerga forces near Zumar (EPA)

Iran Navy commander meets China's defense minister in Beijing

Above: Commander of Iran Navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari with China Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan in Beijing, dated 23OCT14 .

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan on Thursday met with visiting Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on naval cooperation.
Chang said the two armed forces have seen good cooperation on mutual visits, personnel training and other fields in recent years. Exchanges between the two navies have been fruitful and their warships have paid successful visits to each other.
Chang, also a state councilor, stressed China is willing to work with Iran to further pragmatic cooperation and strengthen military-to-military ties.
Praising the achievements of the Chinese Navy, Sayyari said Iran attaches great importance to its relationship with China and is ready to enhance bilateral exchanges to push forward cooperation between the two armed forces, especially in naval cooperation.
COMMENTARY: According to DefaPress, IRIN Commander Rear Admiral Sayyari visited the North Sea Fleet Headquarters at Qingdao Naval Base on the second leg of his China trip, aimed at strengthening military ties and bilateral cooperation between Tehran and Beijing.

China's People's Liberation Army Daily separately reported that Sayyari had been given tours of a Chinese submarine and warships, where he "listened to an introduction on equipment ability and weapons systems". [source: Reuters]

North Sea Fleet (NSF) includes Jianggezhuang Nuclear Submarine Base, home to five Type 091 Han class attack submarines and China's single Type 092 Xia class ballistic missile submarine.

As reported by UOI, earlier in the week Rear Admiral Sayyari met with Commander of Shanghai Naval Base Senior Captain Wang Yung, of the East Sea Fleet (ESF).

File photo: PLAN Type 092 (406) Xia class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Peshmerga armor aboard transporters, headed for Kobane

Stills from video posted 21OCT14 claiming to show Iraqi Peshmerga forces towards transiting Turkey, to join fight against ISIL at Kobane, Syria. Above: Peshmerga MT-LB armored tracked vehicle aboard tank transporter.

Peshmerga MT-LB armored tracked vehicle, SPAAG variant

Peshmerga EE-9 Cascavel 6×6 armored car, of a type used by Iranian military

Peshmerga T-55 medium tank, of similar type used by Iranian military

Peshmerga ZSU-57-2 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, of a type used by Iranian military

Scania R-series tractor pressed into Peshmerga tank transporter service

Volvo FH-series tractor pressed into Peshmerga tank transporter service

Volvo FH-series tractor pressed into Peshmerga tank transporter service

What appears to be Walker Military Fuel Servicing Truck, possibly ex-Iraqi Army

Complete Video:

Kurdish Flag Over Kubane Hillside

Kurdish fighters raise flag over Kobane hillside (above), where ISIL banner was destroyed in a U.S.-led airstrike last week (below).

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boeing sales figures to Iran, third quarter 2014

Above: Iran Air Boeing 747-286BM undergoing D Check in 2010 without manufacturer support

According to Reuters:
Boeing said on Wednesday it had sold aircraft-related goods to Iran Air in the third quarter, marking the first acknowledged dealings between U.S. aerospace companies and Iran since 1979.
The Chicago-based aerospace and defense company said in a filing that it sold aircraft manuals, drawings, navigation charts and data to Iran Air to help improve the safety of Iran's civil aviation industry.
The sales did not include spare parts for aircraft, which were thought to be likely since Iran Air's fleet of planes includes vintage Boeing and Airbus jetliners delivered as long ago as 1978.
Boeing and General Electric (GE.N) said in April that they had received export licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control allowing them to sell parts for commercial aircraft to Iran under a temporary sanctions relief deal that began in January.
Boeing said it may sell parts in the future but declined further comment. The sales generated about $120,000 in revenue and about $12,000 in net profit in the quarter, miniscule amounts for a company that reported $23.7 billion in sales in the latest quarter.
COMMENTARY: It is amazing Iranian carriers have for decades managed maintenance and overhaul operations without manufacturer support. Few nations are capable of such pluck and improvisation.

Specified technical and navigation materials will certainly be helpful.

This writer would be interested to know the number of cycles these vintage aircraft have seen.

One can't but wonder about the diplomatic undertones of providing these materials to Iran, as a means of indicating potential future rewards for forgoing their indigenous, industrial-scale nuclear power program, as well as accept subordination within the American-led regional security order. This writer would wager some of those maintenance crew members at Mehrabad may be wishing for just such an outcome.

Likewise Boeing (and Airbus) executives would also be delighted given the opportunity of selling new commercial aircraft to Iran, were relations to improve to the point where this is possible. This would represent potential American job growth in the high tech manufacturing sector, as well.

General Electric CF6-50C2 on Iran Air Airbus A300B2-203, undergoing maintenance in 2008 without manufacturer support

File photos: Majid Khodaei