- U.S. President told Congress 'no options off the table' but door remains open to peaceful talks with Tehran
- Germany, France and Britain make rare joint statement, warning Iran it would face economic isolation
- Tehran remains defiant and says it will block the sensitive oil-important Strait
Last updated at 6:59 AM on 25th January 2012
President Obama used his State of the Union speech last night to ramp up pressure on Iran after Europe sent battleships to the Gulf.
The U.S. President warned Iran that America would focus on its disputed nuclear program with 'no options off the table' but said the door remained open to talks for a peaceful resolution.
The President's comments came as European nations sent an international flotilla of warships, led by U.S. carriers, through the sensitive Strait of Hormuz on Sunday as a 'clear signal' to Tehran.
Iran has threatened to close the strait - through which 35 per cent of the world's tanker-borne oil exports pass - in retaliation for sanctions against its oil exports.
In Washington last night, Obama told Congress that Tehran was isolated and facing 'crippling' sanctions that he said would continue so long as the country kept its back turned to the international community.
He said: 'America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.
'But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.'
When he came to office in 2009, Obama broke with his Republican predecessor George W Bush and offered an olive branch to Iran, saying he wanted a new beginning with the country that Bush had labeled part of the 'axis of evil'.
However tensions have escalated over the Iranian nuclear program that Tehran claims is for energy purposes and the West fears is to build a nuclear weapon.
In the State of the Union address, which focused mainly on the U.S. economy, Obama also said he was sure that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad 'will soon discover that the forces of change can't be reversed' and said the U.S. would stand against violence and intimidation in the Middle East and beyond.
He also sought to assuage concerns among Jewish voters in the United States about his stance on Israel.
'Our iron-clad commitment - and I mean iron-clad - to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history,' the President said.
Iran's nuclear program is a major concern for Israel, which has not ruled out a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites.
The strong words from President Obama followed a rare joint yesterday where German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British prime minister David Cameron warned Tehran it would face economic isolation unless it abandoned its nuclear ambitions 'immediately'.
They added: 'We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. But the Iranian leadership has failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.'
Flotilla: The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (left), takes over from the USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea. The USS Abraham Lincoln later led the convoy through the Strait of Hormuz
The statement, which concluded a day of intense activity, was backed up by an 'unprecedented' package of EU sanctions, designed to suck the lifeblood from the regime – including the ban on importing Iranian oil into Europe.
Tehran responded with defiance, with elements of the ruling regime warning it would shut the strategically critical Strait of Hormuz – a move that would effectively close the Gulf to shipping and send oil prices rocketing.
The United States has warned Tehran that closing the Strait, which carries one-fifth of the world's oil exports, would trigger a massive military response from the West. The message was underlined at the weekend when Britain, the U.S. and France sent six warships through the Strait.
Mr Cameron said the UK 'will not accept' Iran's bid to develop a nuclear weapon while the country's defence secretary Philip Hammond warned that reinforcements will be available if needed.
Mr Hammond was speaking at a press conference in London following the annual round of talks between UK and Australian foreign and defence ministers. Australia's foreign minister Kevin Rudd said his country would enforce the same ban on Iranian crude oil exports agreed by the European Union yesterday.
Under pressure: USS John C. Stennis (L) and USS Abraham Lincoln (R) pictured last week. President Obama said in his State of the Union speech last night that the U.S. would keep at Iran to end its nuclear program
Between them, EU member states import almost 600,000 barrels a day of Iran's crude oil exports – more than a fifth of the total. A ban on exports of gold, precious metals and diamonds from Iran has also been imposed, along with more economic and travel bans on members of the hardline regime.
Leading figures in Tehran responded furiously. Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and security committee, said: 'If any disruption happens regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the Strait of Hormuz will definitely be closed.'
Senior politician Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh added: 'In case of threat, the closure of the Strait of Hormuz is one of Iran's rights.'
Sources believe full closure of the Strait remains unlikely because it would bring 'huge negative consequences' for Tehran. But they fear Iran could engage in months of threats and disruption which would ramp up oil prices in the West without sparking a full military reprisal against Iran.
A U.S.-led carrier group passed through the strait, which is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. The USS Admiral Lincoln, an aircraft carrier with a fleet of 90 planes, headed the group. It was escorted by British ship HMS Argyll, a guided missile cruiser and two destroyers from the U.S. Navy and a French warship.
Threats: Iran has stepped up threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's crude oil flows, in retaliation for facing sanctions
Insiders said it was unusual for a flotilla made up of ships from three separate navies to pass within a few miles of the Iranian coastline.
A defence source rejected suggestions that it was a provocative move intended to increase pressure on Iran, adding: 'It is a statement that makes abundantly clear that these are international waters and all countries need to respect that. This shows that we are working in partnership and solidarity.'
Professor Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at the think-tank Chatham House, said he doubted Tehran would carry out its threat to blockade the strait, for fear of sparking a 'shooting war' with the U.S. Instead, he said, an oil blockade would encourage hardliners in Iran to launch a wave of terror attacks.
Professor Stevens said an oil blockade was unlikely to succeed, because Tehran could ship its oil, which makes up 50 per cent of its revenues, through pipelines to Turkey and Egypt. He added: 'History is littered with failed oil embargoes. However, the lessons of history appear to have passed by the decision makers of the EU.'
Threat: The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis during the handover in the Arabian Sea. The departure of the USS John C Stennis prompted Iran to warn the Americans not to send any more carriers
World map illustrating global sea trade in oil and highlighting the Strait of Hormuz
Iran is building a nuclear power station, and the IAEA confirms there is no evidence that Iran is building weapons. Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is allowed to have nuclear power, medical isotopes, and other industrial uses of nuclear material. Indeed, under Article IV of the NNPT, the United States is obligated to assist Iran in building their power stations, and were the US in compliance with its own treaty obligations, there would be no question that Iran's power station is indeed nothing more than just a power station. The United States is in violation of its international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty first by refusing to honor Article IV and second by using the threat of force to coerce Iran to surrender their rights under the NNPT. The United States is legally in the wrong here.
Accusations that Iran is building nuclear weapons are coming from Israel, which in 1981 bombed the Iraq nuclear power station at Osirak under the same claim; that Iraq was building nuclear weapons in a hidden laboratory under the power station. Following the invasion of Iraq, experts from the IAIA carried out a full inspection of the runs of the power station and found no evidence of clandestine weapons facilities in the wreckage. To date, the only known weapons manufacturing plant hidden under a power station is the not-as-clandestine-as-they-hoped weapons lab hidden underneath Israel's own Dimona. In short, Israel is batting zero at correctly identifying weapons labs in other nations and we should not be taking their lead today with regard to Iran.
Finally, we were all tricked into war with Iraq on this very same claim of a threat of nuclear weapons. After smashing that nation and hanging Saddam, no nuclear weapons were ever found. Fool me once ...
1. Last Spring, Rose Gottemoeller, an assistant secretary of state and Washington's chief nuclear arms negotiator, asked Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel refused.
2. The United Nations passed a resolution calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to submit to inspections. Israel refused.
3. The IAEA asked Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to submit to inspections. Israel refused.
4. Iran's formal notification to the IAEA of the planned construction of the backup fuel-rod facility underscores that Iran is playing by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which Iran has signed.
5. Iran allows IAEA inspections of all its facilities.
6. Contrary to face-saving claims, it appears that the US and Israel were both caught off guard by Iran's announcement of a planned underground (to avoid being bombed) enrichment facility. The reasoning is simple. Had the US or Israel announced the existence of he new facility before Iran's notified the IAEA, it would have put Iran on the defensive. As it is now, the US and Israel seem to be playing catch up, casting doubt on the veracity of Israel's claims to "know" that Iran is a nuclear threat.
7. The IAEA and all 16 United States Intelligence Agencies are unanimous in agreement that Iran is not building and does not possess nuclear weapons.
8. In 1986, Mordachai Vanunu blew the whistle and provided photographs showing Israel's clandestine nuclear weapons factory underneath the reactor at Dimona.
9. Israel made the same accusations against Iraq that it is making against Iran, leading up to Israel's bombing of the power station at Osirik. Following the invasion of 2003, international experts examined the ruins of the power station at Osirik and found no evidence of a clandestine weapons factory in the rubble.
10. The United Nations has just released the Goldstone Report, a scathing report which accuses Israel of 37 specific war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza earlier this year. Israel has denounced the report as "Anti-Semitic (even though Judge Goldstone is himself Jewish), and the United States will block the report from being referred to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, thereby making the US Government an accessory after-the-fact.
11. Recently revealed documents prove not only that Israel has nuclear weapos, but actually tried to sell some to Apartheid South Africa. Who else Israel approached to sell nuclear weapons remains an unasked question.
12. In 1965, Israel stole over 200-600 pounds of weapons-grade uranium from the United States.
13. Declassified documents from the former South African regime prove not only that
Israel has had nuclear weapons for decades, but has tried to sell them to other countries!
We all need to be Joe Wilson right now. We need to stand up and scream, "LIAR!" at every politician and every talking media moron that is pushing this war in Iran. And we need to keep dong it until they get the message that we will not be deceived any more.
Israel wants to send your kids off to die in Iran, and YOU are the only one that can stop them.
Please forward this comment to your social networks.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2091450/Obama-uses-State-Union-speech-warn-Iran-change-course-nuclear-ambitions.html#ixzz1kUiDCYaA