Patterico's Pontifications


Boris Johnson elected UK Prime Minister

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 6:27 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

Boris Johnson, newly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: Britain’s new leader Johnson vows to get Brexit done.

Boris Johnson, the Brexiteer who has promised to lead Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by the end of October, will replace Theresa May as prime minister after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party on Tuesday.

His convincing victory catapults the United Kingdom towards a showdown with the EU and towards a constitutional crisis at home, as British lawmakers have vowed to bring down any government that tries to leave the bloc without a divorce deal.

Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit referendum, won the votes of 92,153 members of the Conservative party, almost twice the 46,656 won by his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

May will step down Wednesday.

An apparent admirer of Donald Trump, Johnson was congratulated by Trump and his daughter Ivanka – who unfortunately botched the name of his country.



Iran claims it has arrested 17 CIA Spies (Updated x2)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 7:41 am

[Headline from DRJ]

Iran says it has arrested CIA spies; UK to unveil response to ship crisis:

Iran said on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA and sentenced some of them to death, an announcement President Donald Trump dismissed as “totally false” amid an escalating international crisis over tankers in the Gulf.

The Iranian announcement came hours before Britain was due to unveil its response to Iran’s seizure of a British oil tanker, a move that has escalated a three-month confrontation that nearly drew the United States and Iran into a shooting war.

“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot-down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!” tweeted Trump.

The “spies” were reportedly arrested from April 2018 to March 2019 but this escalation seems like an attempt to drag in the US.

UPDATE: Britain to seek European maritime mission to counter Iran’s ‘piracy’.

UPDATE 2: I doubt Spain will be joining the “European maritime mission.”



Update on UK Tanker Held by Iran

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 11:05 am

[Headline from DRJ]

Splash 247 — All British ships told to avoid Strait of Hormuz:

All British ships have been told by the UK government to avoid transiting the Strait of Hormuz for an indefinite period following Friday’s seizure of the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker.

Iranian authorities have claimed the ship hit an Iranian fishing trawler, sparking a special forces operation to take the tanker, which has since been broadcast on local television.

Other British ships in the area have resorted to switching their AIS off while transiting in recent days.

The decision follows the release of audio from moments before the seizure:

The recording from maritime security risk firm Dryad Global was obtained by NBC News on Sunday. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence confirmed its authenticity to NBC News.

“If you obey, you will be safe,” a member of the Iranian navy is heard telling the British-flagged tanker on the radio exchange, while demanding it change course.

A British naval officer aboard the HMS Montrose, according to a call sign referred to in the audio, responds with a warning to Iranian forces.

“Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board,” the British voice says.

The audio at the link includes the Iranians advising they wish to inspect the tanker “for security reasons” and the British warship Montrose responding that the Iranians “must not impair, impede, obstruct, or hamper the passage” of the MV Stena Impera tanker through international waters.

TankerTrackers confirms the Stena Impera appears to be moored near Bandar Abbas.

The incident(s) have triggered responses in the shipping industry:

Splash also understands that many shipowners are now discussing quitting the UK ship register, a flag that has already been hard hit in recent months with a significant exodus ahead of Brexit.



Iran Seizes British Tanker(s) — UPDATED

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 1:25 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Iran ‘hijacks’ two British oil tankers with dozens of crew members on board:

A British tanker has been seized by Iranian authorities as the diplomatic crisis between Iran and the West deepens.

Iran has confirmed that the Stena Impero – carrying 23 crew members – was intercepted in the Strait of Hormuz

The second vessel, the Mesdar Crude Oil Tanker, was reportedly stopped before being allowed to continue on its original route.

Trump: ‘We’ll See What Happens’ After Iran Seizes Two Oil Tankers:

“American commercial ship passing through the Strait of Hormuz is being protected by U.S. military aircraft, reports CNN. The Pentagon believes the tanker captures were premeditated by Iran.”

Trump quoted as saying:

“We heard one, we heard two” of #Iran seizing oil tankers today, says @POTUS in reply to my question. But he declines to say if this crosses a line and how US will respond except to say there’s an agreement US has with #UK on maritime security.

UPDATE: Deborah Haynes, Sky News:

BREAKING: Britain advises all UK shipping to stay away from Strait of Hormuz for an “interim period”.
UK also says its response to seizure of British-flagged tanker by Iran will be “considered and robust”. There will be “serious consequences” if situation is not resolved.

BUT …CNN — “UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says the UK is “not looking at military options” at this time.”



UAE Tanker missing in Strait of Hormuz (UPDATED)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 8:26 am

[Headline from DRJ]

United Arab Emirates oil tanker vanishes after drifting into Iranian waters:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US.

It isn’t clear what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late on Saturday night.

However, its last position showed it pointing toward Iran. Oil tankers have previously been targeted as the Persian Gulf region took center stage in a crisis over Iran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

A former Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander recently threatened to seize a British oil tanker in retribution for the British Royal Marines detaining an oil tanker in Gibraltar last Thursdsy. It was suspected of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Iran described the seizure as a dangerous game, and Britain said it would release the tanker if Iran provided certain assurances.

UPDATE: Iran Says Missing Tanker Had Problems and Was Towed for Repairs:

The disappearance was first reported by CNN, which said U.S. intelligence increasingly believed the tanker had been forced into Iranian waters by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but that some Gulf sources suggested the ship simply broke down and was towed by Iran.

Earlier, a United Arab Emirates official said the ship isn’t owned or operated by the U.A.E. and hadn’t sent out a distress call.

While details are unclear, if the Riah was seized, it would seem an unusual target for Iran. The vessel is 30 years old and tiny. Its capacity is 2,000 dead weight tons, according to the MarineTraffic website. That’s only a fraction of the almost 160,000-ton capacity of the British Heritage, the U.K. oil tanker harassed by Iranian ships last week while exiting the Persian Gulf.

Coincidentally, it had to turn off its tracker, too.

UPDATE 7/18/2019: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards impound foreign ship in the Gulf: state TV

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Gulf, state television quoted Iran’s elite force as saying in a statement on Thursday.
Iranian state TV earlier said the seized vessel was the same one Iran towed after it sent a distress call on Sunday, but there was no confirmation of this in the statement issued by the Revolutionary Guards about the impounded vessel.

UPDATE 7/20/2019: Splash 247:

Iranian state television, quoting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said yesterday the Riah, a 1,899 dwt product tanker managed by Dubai’s Prime Tankers, was intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island on Sunday after issuing a distress call. According to, Larak Island is where empty Iranian tankers tend to wait for loading instructions.

“A foreign vessel smuggling 1m litres of fuel in the Larak Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized,” the TV station said. “The vessel that Iran towed to its waters after receiving a distress call was later seized with the order from the court as we found out that it was smuggling fuel.”

The Riah has 12 crew onboard.



China threatens Trade Freeze over Taiwan Sales

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 7:10 am

[Headline from DRJ]

China says will freeze out U.S. companies that sell arms to Taiwan:

China’s government and Chinese companies will cut business ties with U.S. firms selling arms to Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, declining to give details of the sanctions in a move likely to worsen already poor ties with Washington.

China claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. China regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive issue in its relations with the United States.

Last week, the Pentagon said the U.S. State Department had approved the sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, which are manufactured by Raytheon (RTN.N).

Should Trump be the only leader allowed to use trade as a weapon?



Terror Attack in Somalia kills 26, including 2 Americans

Filed under: International,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:24 am

[Headline from DRJ]

BBCKismayo attack: At least 26 dead as gunmen storm Somali hotel:

A suicide bomber rammed a car containing explosives into the Asasey hotel in the port of Kismayo, and gunmen then stormed the building.

Journalist Hodan Naleyah and her husband are thought to be among the dead.

Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed the attack.

The article notes that while terror attacks are common in Mogadishu, “after al-Shabab was driven out of Kismayo in 2012 the port has been relatively peaceful.” The report also notes al-Shabab is affiliated with al-Qaeda.



UK Diplomat Resigns

Filed under: International,Politics — DRJ @ 6:16 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

The GuardianKim Darroch quits as UK ambassador to US ‘after Johnson remarks:

Sir Kim Darroch, the UK ambassador to Washington who has been at the centre of a diplomatic row over leaked cables criticising Donald Trump, has resigned.

The Guardian understands he concluded that his position was untenable after watching Tuesday’s Conservative leadership debate, in which the frontrunner, Boris Johnson, stopped short of backing him.

In a letter to Simon McDonald, the most senior official at the Foreign Office, Darroch said the row, in which Trump called the ambassador “a pompous fool” and “very stupid”, meant he could not continue.

Johnson, the apparent next PM, is getting pressure for not supporting the Ambassador:

Darroch’s decision will put pressure on Johnson, who was criticised by some Conservatives after Tuesday night’s debate for refusing to give Darroch his support, even as his rival, Jeremy Hunt, said he would expect the ambassador to stay in post until his planned retirement.

When pressed on the point, Johnson gave only mild criticism of Trump and said a good relationship with the US was “of fantastic importance”.

Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office minister, said Johnson had thrown Darroch “under the bus to serve his own personal interests ” and accused him of “contemptible negligence”.

Meanwhile, at the Daily Mail:

The Purell president: Germaphobe Trump tells visitors to wash their hands in bathroom near Oval Office and an aide follows him with bottle of hand sanitizer – but staff escape from him by faking a cough.

Diplomacy isn’t just for Ambassadors. Trump’s staff uses it, too.



Leaked UK Documents Tar Trump (UPDATED)

Filed under: International,Politics — DRJ @ 8:38 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

Daily MailBritain’s man in the US says Trump is ‘inept': Leaked secret cables from ambassador say the President is ‘uniquely dysfunctional and his career could end in disgrace’:

Britain’s Ambassador to Washington has described Donald Trump as ‘inept’, ‘insecure’ and ‘incompetent’ in a series of explosive memos to Downing Street.

Sir Kim Darroch, one of Britain’s top diplomats, used secret cables and briefing notes to impugn Trump’s character, warning London that the White House was ‘uniquely dysfunctional’ and that the President’s career could end in ‘disgrace’.

His bombshell comments risk angering the notoriously thin-skinned President and undermining the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with America.

The Guardian has the bottom line:

Sometimes leaks from within the government are striking not just for their content, but also for the motive behind them.

The content of telegrams sent from Washington by Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the US, and disclosed by the Mail on Sunday, is a case in point. The leak is also striking for what it tell us about the struggle for influence at the top of a Boris Johnson-led Conservative party.


Much will depend on how the president, and the most likely new British prime minister react. The danger is that Trump will tweet something dismissive, but then harbour a deep grudge against Britain’s professional diplomatic service. Some might tell him the Whitehall machine is a nest of snobbish anti-populist opponents of Brexit.

The real challenge though is actually facing the likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, who prides himself on his proximity to the Trump family, including Jared Kushner, despite their quite different personalities.

One of the first decisions on the in tray for a Johnson premiership will be a replacement for Kim Darroch, who is due to depart at the end of the year anyway.

Politics: It’s not just in America.

UPDATE 7/8/2019 — Maturity is for Losers: Trump: We Will No Longer Deal With The British Ambassador Who Criticized Me In Private Diplomatic Cables.



Cory Booker goes to Juarez

Filed under: Immigration,International — DRJ @ 6:54 am

[Headlines from DRJ]

El Paso Times — Presidential candidate Cory Booker visits Juárez to help escort migrants seeking asylum:

JUÁREZ, Mexico — Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker walked five Cuban and Honduran asylum seekers over an international bridge Wednesday.

The New Jersey senator was joined by attorneys from Las Americas and organizers with the group Families Belong Together, in escorting the five women over the bridge, their faces obscured by manila folders.

Las Americas attorney Linda Rivas said the women were victims of sexual assault and labor trafficking in Juárez and intended to claim fear of returning to the border city. Rivas said Booker “is supporting our clients in his role as a senator, which is a pretty powerful support.”


Undermining a Republican President’s foreign policies is what some Democratic Senators do.


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