The evidence is far from conclusive, but on balance Iran probably is behind the attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf last month and two more last Thursday. Those attacks carefully avoided human casualties, so if they were Iranian, what was its goal?
If it was Iran, the answer is obvious. Iran would be reminding the United States that it may be utterly out-matched militarily, but it can do great damage to the tankers that carry one-third of the world’s internationally traded oil through the Strait of Hormuz.
After the US tightened its sanctions last month in an attempt to destroy all of Iran’s foreign trade, including the oil exports which are its economy’s lifeblood, Iran declared that if it could not export its oil, no other country (in the Gulf) would be allowed to export theirs. Other economies would be hurt too.
There’s history here. Back in the mid-1980s, when the United States tried to strangle Iran’s Islamic Revolution in its cradle by encouraging Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to invade Iran, 543 ships were sunk or damaged in three years as each side tried to stop the other side’s oil exports. Another tanker war would be no fun at all.
But maybe the current pinprick attacks on tankers are just a general warning not to push Iran too hard. They would still be dangerous, because people could get killed and the situation could easily spin out of control. But the opposite hypothesis – that the attacks are a ‘false flag’ operation – is much more frightening, because it would mean somebody is really trying to start a war.
Who would be flying the ‘false flag’? The leading candidates are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two Arab countries that are doing their best to push the United States into a war against Iran on their behalf. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also love to see the US attack Iran, but one doubts that Israel’s de facto Arab allies would want Israeli special forces operating on their territory.
Which brings us to the weirder part of the story. All six tankers that have been attacked sailed from ports in Saudi Arabia or the UAE. The attacks have all reportedly been carried out using limpet mines, which cling to ships’ hulls by magnetic force but have to be placed by hand. That means they were probably placed while the ships were in port.
It’s almost impossible to place a limpet mine once a ship is underway. Other boats cannot come close enough without being spotted, and swimmers (including scuba divers) cannot keep up. So is security in Saudi and UAE ports so lax, even after the first attacks in May, that foreign agents can plant limpet mines on tankers before they sail?
It’s very puzzling, and even the aerial video ‘evidence’ of a small Iranian boat allegedly removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers makes little sense. Limpet mines are generally fitted with ‘anti-handling devices’ (i.e. they explode when you try to remove them), and yet everybody on that boat crowded onto the bow as if to get as close to the explosion as possible.
But of course, if it’s an Iranian mine, maybe they knew that it had no anti-handling device. You can get dizzy trying to figure this stuff out, and be no closer to the truth at the end. But let us hope that Iran is the culprit, because we know that it, at least, does not want a war. It wouldn’t actually lose, but it would suffer grievous harm.
The United States is even harder to read. Donald Trump certainly doesn’t want a war. He just wanted to destroy the treaty, signed in 2016 by Iran, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, that put Iran’s nuclear programmes under strict international controls for the next fifteen years.
That’s only natural, because the treaty was Barack Obama’s greatest diplomatic achievement and Trump is dedicated to destroying his legacy. But beyond that, what did Trump want? Probably just a Kim-style ‘summit’ with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Having created the crisis, Trump could then triumphantly ‘resolve’ it and bask in what he imagines to be the world’s admiration and gratitude. He is a man of simple desires.
Unfortunately, his two chief representatives in the ground, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, probably do want a war with Iran. They would never say that, but they spin every bit of data in as anti-Iran a direction as possible. That includes, of course, their analysis of who is behind these attacks.
Nevertheless, we should hope that they are right and that Iran is behind the attacks, because that would be a stupid but quite genuine attempt to stave off a full-scale war. If it’s a Saudi and UAE false-flag operation, with or without the tacit collaboration of Bolton and Pompeo, then the region is really headed for war.
Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work)’
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TURKISH Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is perfectly justified to be cross with ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay for holding a secret meeting with President Anastasiades without informing him. Akinci, like the rest of us, found out about the meeting from a Turkish Cypriot newspaper and received confirmation from the north’s ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar.
Akinci’s spokesman lashed out against Ozersay, for whom having meetings without informing the Turkish Cypriot leader had become a “behaviour stance” that was “incompatible with ethical political values”. It was a “lamentable stance”, said Burcu, but he also knows without mentioning it that Ozersay does as he pleases because he has the backing of the Turkish government, in contrast to Akinci who has been sidelined.
This secret meeting also raises questions for the Greek Cypriot side. What was Anastasiades doing secretly meeting Ozersay? He may be Ankara’s man but he does not have authority to engage directly in talks with the Greek Cypriot leader? Did they discuss ways of undermining Akinci, the only politician that sincerely supports a bizonal, bicommunal federation, or did Anastasiades want to open a channel of communication with the Turkish government through Ozersay?
What are we to conclude when our president snubs the pro-settlement Turkish Cypriot leader and has a secret meeting with a politician that is fully aligned with Ankara’s pursuit of partition? It was a “dinner of a social nature” Anastasiades said, citing the presence of their wives to back this claim, supported also by Ozersay. “I do not think I need to ask permission about who I will eat with or not, especially when it is a clearly social event,” said Anastasiades.
Of course the president does not need to ask anyone’s permission, but this was not just a dinner with some old friends, but with the ‘foreign minister’ of the north and it was kept a secret, immediately raising suspicions about the agenda on the menu. Ozersay was quite revealing on Wednesday when he said that “such dialogues are often more constructive than official meetings.” He was clearly referring to the Cyprus problem, as he subsequently said there were new ideas regarding a settlement – as a bizonal, bicommunal federation was no longer an option – and it was useful for these to be discussed.
And these, apparently, can be discussed at social dinners in the presence of wives. What new ideas was Anastasiades discussing informally with Ozersay, the man who hopes to become the Turkish Cypriot leader next year? Greek Cypriots have a right to know.
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The Strovolos municipal council will decide on a new study over the redevelopment of Tseri Avenue next month, mayor Andreas Papacharalambous said on Wednesday.
The mayor told the Cyprus News Agency that the study, carried out by London-based Markides Associates, was submitted to the municipality on Tuesday.
It will be presented to the municipal council and Strovolos residents on July 17.
After that, the municipal council will reach their conclusions and later on will present it to the ministers of interior and transport and competent state services.
The redevelopment of Tseri Avenue has been on hold for several years over disagreements concerning the number of traffic lanes and whether there should be a concrete barrier or median strip in the centre of the road separating opposite lanes of traffic. Shop owners strongly oppose such a construction.
The public works department had proposed a three-lane street – two travelling towards Nicosia, one towards Tseri – while the residents and shop owners would like a two-lane street without a median strip in the middle.
Strovolos’ municipal council last year rejected the government’s proposal for a three-lane road and opted for a scaled down version which is more business and pedestrian friendly.
“Our aim is to assess the study and promptly start works to materialise it,” the mayor said.
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Lawyer Andreas Pasiourtides, 35, was declared on Wednesday as the new AKEL MP in the Larnaca district in the place of outgoing Giorgos Georgiou who was elected as an MEP last month.
Larnaca district officer Odysseas Hadjistefanou said during the ceremony on Wednesday morning that Pasiourtides is next in line as regards votes for Larnaca district’s Akel candidates in the 2016 parliamentary elections and thus would replace Georgiou.
Pasiourtides had received 2,386 votes and was third following Georgiou and Evanthia Savva, also an Akel MP.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan intensified pressure on the opposition candidate in a re-run election for mayor of Istanbul by saying he would be barred from taking office if found guilty of insulting a provincial governor.
Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), narrowly beat the candidate of Erdogan’s AK Party in a March mayoral contest. After AKP appeals, the election commission annulled the result and ordered a re-run on June 23.
The AKP’s loss of Istanbul in the March 31 local elections was one of the worst setbacks for Erdogan since his Islamist-rooted party swept to national power in 2002. The AKP also lost control of the capital Ankara.
After keeping quiet on the mayoral race in recent weeks, Erdogan accused Imamoglu of being in cahoots with the network of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding a failed military coup in July 2016.
Erdogan also said Imamoglu would face consequences for allegedly insulting the governor of Ordu, a Black Sea province north of Istanbul, while campaigning there.
In a radio show on Wednesday, Erdogan said the governor, Seddar Yavuz, was set to take the matter to court.
“I cannot know right now what decision the judiciary will make. But the decision by the judiciary could block (Imamoglu’s) path in this (election),” he said.
Turkish media said Imamoglu got into a row earlier this month at Ordu airport after being barred from using the VIP lounge. AKP supporters said that in a heated exchange with airport officials Imamoglu called Yavuz “a dog”. Imamoglu denied this, saying he used a different word that sounded similar.
“This is a plot to pull the arguments on this issue to another level. He’s not the governor of the state, but rather of the ruling party, and that is how this should be seen,” CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said on Wednesday.
Erdogan previously said Imamoglu could not serve as mayor unless he apologised for the alleged insult, but Kilicdaroglu rejected this position, saying Istanbul’s mayor would be elected by the people, not appointed by Erdogan.
The decision to re-run the Istanbul mayoral election has drawn international ire and accusations from Turkey’s opposition that Erdogan is gradually dismantling democracy.
It has also unnerved financial markets and thrown a spotlight on the AKP’s management of Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub during its long years in power.
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AKEL et al are really living in dreamland!
If anyone thinks there is still the ‘ideal solution’ out there needs to receive counselling.
In my book Anastasiades needs to be applauded if he is gradually joining the ever-growing band of realists.
The two communities have been segregated since 1963 and perhaps Anastasiades at long last is realising that other than partition,there is no other solution out there.
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Presidential Commissioner Photis Photiou on Wednesday said he expects that a significant number of young couples would make use of a scheme that was approved on Tuesday by the cabinet giving incentives to those who want to resettle in villages in the north where Greek Cypriots are living.
Photiou told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that approximately 50 applications are already pending and will be examined now that the scheme has been approved.
Cabinet approved the scheme for couples up to 45 years old to resettle in Rizokarpaso, Ayia Triada and the Maronite villages of Kormakitis and Karpasha.
Photiou said the scheme, which will enter into force immediately, provides €15, 000 to families with children up to 18 years old and €10, 000 to couples with no children. An additional €2,000 will be given to purchase household goods, while another €3,000 could be given for occupation purposes.
The commissioner said there is no limit to the number of couples who can apply, noting that there are approximately 50 applications which are already pending and will now be examined., Photiou said he expects that a significant number of couples will make use of these incentives.
Photiou said that resettlement in the Karpasia area is particularly encouraged, recalling that there is a school for the children there.
He made clear that the decision taken by the cabinet was completely separate from plans announced this week by the Turkish Cypriot regime.
Turkish Cypriot ‘Foreign Minister’ Kudret Ozersay announced on Tuesday evening that contracts would be signed within the week to remove current residents living in 10 in 15 houses in the village of Karpasha to which former Maronite residents will then be able to return.
The announcement is linked with a 2017 decision – following the collapse of reunification talks – relating to the return of the Maronites to their villages in the north.
Ayia Marina, Asomatos, and Karpasha are the three Maronite villages controlled by the Turkish military since 1974. Ayia Marina and Asomatos are currently off limits, while Karpasha is also under military control but residents are allowed to live there. The fourth Maronite village, Kormakitis has been open to its original residents to resettle since 2003. At the moment, a total of around 200 Maronites, mostly pensioners, live in Kormakitis and Karpasha.
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Harley-Davidson Inc will partner with China’s Qianjiang Motorcycle Co to produce a new smaller model bike, making good on promises to build more motorcycles outside the United States that have angered President Donald Trump.
The company said the new bike would have an engine displacement of 338 cubic centimeters, by far the smallest-powered engine Harley has ever made and would be sold in China starting at the end of 2020.
President Trump last year threatened Harley with higher taxes in response to its plans to move production for European customers overseas, part of the company’s strategy for dealing with falling sales in its home market and increased costs due to higher trade tariffs.
Most Harley motorcycles sold in the U.S. are far larger, with engine capacities of more than 601 cubic centimeters.
The new model will initially be sold in China, one of the world’s largest motorcycle markets, before it is introduced to other Asian markets.
Harley-Davidson said it picked Qianjiang as a partner based on its experience developing premium small displacement motorcycles, supply base and the knowledge of emerging markets.
Qianjiang is majority-controlled by Geely, a Chinese company that owns the Volvo brand of cars.
The 116-year-old Milwaukee-based company, known for its heavy touring motorcycles, is trying to boost overseas sales and scrambling to revamp operations as its mainstay customer base ages.
The company said in 2018 that it plans to launch lightweight motorcycles in Asia and electric bikes globally, trying to revive demand as it faces falling sales in the United States and the threat of trade tariffs weigh on its costs.
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