Tue May 7th, 2019 at 07:47:22 PM EST
LATEST NEWS: see updates below ...
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flies eastward out of Moscow ...
China vice-premier due in Washington for two days of trade talks ... Dow plunges nearly 600 points.
"Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will go to the United States on Thursday to continue trade negotiations, the Ministry of Commerce said. The trip, scheduled for two days, is shorter than expected. The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that Liu was preparing for the trip."
○ 'No more concessions'. Why is China playing hardball in trade war talks with the United States? | SCMP |
○ China warns US after warships sail in disputed South China Sea | DW |
More below the fold ...
Pompeo Abruptly Cancels Berlin Visit Due to 'Pressing Issues' | RFERL |
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has abruptly canceled a visit to Germany, hours before he was to arrive in Berlin on May 7, due to what a spokeswoman said were "pressing issues."
Meanwhile, Russian officials said that Pompeo was expected to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on May 14. It would be their second meeting in just over a week.
"Unfortunately, we must reschedule the Berlin meetings due to pressing issues," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. Ortagus added that the meetings, which had been scheduled with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, would be rescheduled.
Pompeo has been attending an Arctic Council meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, where he held face-to-face talks with Lavrov on May 6. He had been scheduled to travel to London and Greenland on the May 5-9 trip to Europe, but it was not immediately clear where he would go from Finland.
Pompeo's Berlin Visit Cancelled Over "International Security Issues" | Sputnik News |
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was slated to meet with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas for talks in Berlin on Tuesday.
Reuters has cited a German government source as saying that the US Administration cancelled Mike Pompeo's visit to Berlin over "international security issues".
The cancellation of the talks comes as Mike Pompeo travelled to Rovaniemi, Finland to take part in an Arctic Council meeting. It is unclear where the US Secretary of State will head next.
During his visit to Germany, Pompeo was expected to address the issue of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Pompeo Gives Speech on US Arctic Policies at Meeting in Finland
○ US warns Beijing's Arctic activity risks creating 'new South China Sea'
How serious are the security issues Pompeo spoke about?
Earlier this week the U.S. Pentagon threatened Iran and its proxies in the Gulf region ...
Iran accuses US of 'psychological warfare' with taskforce deployment | The Guardian |
Iran's top security body has labeled the sudden US moves to send an aircraft carrier and bombers to the Middle East a form of "psychological warfare".
The deployment was meant to send a message that "unrelenting force" would meet any Iranian attack on the US or its allies, and was in response to "troubling and escalatory" signs of a potential attack on US forces in the region, Bolton said.
"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard or regular Iranian forces," he said.
Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, added that the US was responding to a "credible threat" from Iran, but gave no details.
○ Iran Guard used drone to monitor US carrier Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf, report says
○ Iran TV Breaks News On Partial Resumption Of Tehran's Nuclear Activities | RFERL |
Pompeo arrives in Baghdad for surprise visit amid US-Iran tensions | RT |
US State Secretary Mike Pompeo has unexpectedly arrived in Baghdad for an unannounced visit, AFP reported citing Iraqi government sources. Pompeo had scrapped his visit to Germany, citing unspecified “pressing issues.”
Pompeo has reportedly met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. So far, no details of the surprise visit have emerged.
The development, if confirmed, explains the mysterious travel path of Pompeo’s plane, that was spotted flying towards the Middle East region earlier on Tuesday. The plane was tracked up to the airspace above eastern Turkey, where it apparently turned off its transponder while approaching Iraq.
○ U.S. Deploys B-52s To Gulf As Iran Says 'Despised' U.S. To Blame For Its Fear Of Attack | Forbes |
Pompeo remarks to traveling press: Incentives to become energy and security independent from Iran
So the reason we’re going is you’ve all seen the reports that there have been escalating – information that indicates that Iran is escalating their activity. I wanted to go to Baghdad to speak with the leadership there, to assure them that we stood ready to continue to ensure that Iraq was a sovereign, independent nation, and that the United States would continue to help build out partners in the region – the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Emiratis, all of the Gulf states who want to see a free, independent, sovereign Iraq. And so that’s the primary mission set.
There are also lots of business deals pending. I’m going to have the opportunity to talk about some of those, where these deals are important to Iraq – big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy, so also a central part of the conversation to be had.
And then I will obviously talk about the security situation there and the forces that we have on the ground in Iraq as well, and assure them that we’re going to continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces, the ISF – train them, professionalize them – so that the new leadership there in Iraq can have security control inside of their own country.
On visit, Pompeo sees Iraq guarantees on 'imminent' Iran threat | AFP |
Pompeo abruptly cancelled talks in Germany and made a lengthy detour from a European tour to spend four hours in Iraq, where he met both President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
"We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it's able to adequately protect Americans in their country," Pompeo told reporters after the meetings. They both provided assurances that they understood that was their responsibility."
Pompeo said he made the trip because Iranian forces are "escalating their activity" and said the threat of attacks were "very specific. These were attacks that were imminent," Pompeo said.
He declined to go into further detail on the alleged plot, which has been met with scepticism in numerous quarters, with leading Democratic lawmakers fearing that President Donald Trump's administration is seeking to spark a war with Iran.
In the latest US move, the Pentagon said it was sending several massive, nuclear-capable B-52s to the region. The deployment was in response to "recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces," the Pentagon said.
○ Rouhani in Baghdad seeks outlets against US sanctions | Al-Monitor |
○ US Congress Report: Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies (March 2019)
How additional U.S. sanctions on Iran prevents commitments made under the JCPOA treaty …
U.S. Cracks Down on Iran Uranium Production, Nuclear Plant | Reuters |
Until now, Iran was allowed to ship low-enriched uranium produced at Natanz to Russia before it hit the 300-kg limit, said David Albright of Institute for Science and International Security.
Beginning on Saturday, Ortagus said, the United States also could use sanctions to block any assistance to Iran to expand the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, the only such facility in the country.
The plant currently has one working Russian-built reactor, which began operations in 2011, and Iran plans to expand the facility. Moscow signed a deal with Tehran in 2014 to build up to eight more reactors in the country.
Ortagus said that the United States would no longer waive sanctions that allowed Iran to ship to Oman for storage heavy water produced at its Arak facility beyond a 300-tonne limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal.
Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.
○ US tightens restrictions on Iran's nuclear programme | Al Jazeera |
○ China to help complete the Pak-Iran gas pipeline
○ PM Imran Khan: Pakistan soil used for attacks in Iran | Dawn News |
○ Can Pakistan Be the Friend Iran Needs? | The Atlantic Council |