*(FROM THE RELIGION OF PEACE) – Defiant Iran Conducts More Ballistic Missile Tests; This Time From Naval Vessel

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By Tyler Durden

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to mount, the semi-official news agency Tasnim is reporting that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has successfully conducted yet another ballistic missile test, this time from a navy vessel.  Called the Hormuz 2, these latest missiles are designed to destroy moving targets at sea at ranges up to 300 km (180 miles).

Reports on the latest test quotes Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, who confirmed that “the naval ballistic missile called Hormuz 2 successfully destroyed a target which was 250 km away.”

The missile test is the latest event in a long-running rivalry between Iran and the United States in and around the Strait of Hormuz, which guards the entrance to the Gulf. About 20% of the world’s oil passes through the waterway, which is less than 40 km wide at its narrowest point.

Of course, this latest provocation follows additional tests conducted earlier this week in which Iran test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles into the Gulf of Oman and subsequently proceeded to provoke a U.S. Navy ship in the area.  For those who missed it, here is what we wrote earlier this week:

Trump’s geopolitical headaches continue to mount.

One day after North Korea launched 4 ballistic missiles, 3 of which fell into the East Sea inside Japan’s economic exclusion zone, and which have painted a spotlight on how Trump will react to this latest provocation, Fox reports that Iran also test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles this weekend into the Gulf of Oman, with one missile destroying a floating barge approximately 155 miles away.

The launches of the Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles were the first tests of the missile in two years, one official said. It was not immediately clear if this was the first successful test at sea — raising concerns for the U.S. Navy, which operates warships in the area.

According to one quoted official, Iran launched the two short-range ballistic missiles from Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bases in Bandar-e-Jask, in southeastern Iran. The first missile was fired on Saturday, but missed its target, though it landed “in the vicinity,” one official said. A day later, Iran made another attempt and was successful. The Iranian Fateh-110 Mod 3 has a new “active seeker,” helping the missile locate ships at sea, according to one official.

“It’s a concern based on the range and that one of the missiles worked,” said one official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the launch. Two years ago, Iranian cruise missiles destroyed a large barge designed to look like an American aircraft carrier. Iranian state-television broadcast the images publicly at the time.

The new Iranian short-range ballistic missile launches come a week after Iran successfully test-fired Russian surface-to-air missiles, part of the S-300 air defense system Russia sent to Iran recently.

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran has conducted as many as 14 ballistic missile launches since the landmark nuclear agreement in July 2015. A senior U.S. military official told Fox News that Iran had made great advances in its ballistic missile program over the past decade.

Late last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Iran’s behavior had not changed since the White House put the Islamic Republic “on notice” following Iran’s successful intermediate-range ballistic missile test-launch in late January.

This launch appears to be in addition to what we reported on Saturday, in which Iran successfully test-fired a sophisticated, Russian-supplied S-300 air defense system, according to the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday. The drill took place during a recent military exercise named Damvand, and was attended by senior military commanders and officials according to Tasnim.

In a separate report, Reuters notes that Iranian vessels came within 600 yards of U.S. Navy ship in Strait of Hormuz, forced it to change direction, Reuters says in tweet, citing unidentified official.

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It is unclear as of this moment if the two incident were related, and whether the White House plans on responding to either the North Korean ballistic missile launch or the latest moves by Tehran as the Trump administration has vowed to do.

Iran confirms new successful missile test as tensions with US mount

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have successfully test-fired a new ballistic missile, officials have said, amid escalating tensions with the United States.

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In Iran’s latest missile launch, the Hormuz-2 naval missile destroyed a seagoing target from a distance of 250 kilometers, Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh confirmed to Tasnim News Agency on Thursday.

The agency does not mention the exact date of the test, saying merely it has been conducted “in the past days.”

This would seem to confirm earlier reports on Fox News, which on March 6 cited claims from the US military that Iran had recently conducted two missile tests, one of which was at sea.

The Hormuz-2 is a naval-based ballistic missile, locally constructed in Iran, that can hit targets from a distance of up to 300 kilometers (180 miles).

This latest missile test comes amid additional tension with the United States, where President Donald Trump has been taking a much harder line against Iran than his predecessor, Barack Obama.

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In February, Trump and then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn announced that Iran had been formally put “on notice” for its test of a Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile on January 29, which flew 600 miles before exploding, though they did not specify what this meant.

Ballistic test launches carried out last year were criticized by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said they were not in the spirit of Iran’s nuclear accords, signed in 2015 under the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] agreement.

Ban Ki-moon’s report came under fire from Russia, Iran and the US.

In January, Iranian lawmakers voted to increase military spending to 5 percent of the state’s budget, with a special focus on developing missile systems. The law, part of Iran’s Sixth Economic Development Plan, aims to boost the capabilities of both the conventional armed forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with a particular focus on missiles, drone systems and cyber warfare.

Iran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful and its missile arsenal purely defensive.

Iranian vessels cause US Navy ship to change course in Strait of Hormuz – US official

A US Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz was forced to change directions after it came within 600 yards of multiple Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels, a US official says.

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Multiple Iranian vessels stopped once they came within about 600 yards of the USNS Invincible, a tracking ship, which was accompanied by three British Royal Navy ships, the official told Reuters. The Invincible and its entourage were forced to change course.

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The incident was “unsafe and unprofessional,” the official told Reuters. He added that the Invincible’s attempts to communicate over radio were not answered.

The Strait of Hormuz is off the Iranian coast, east of the Persian Gulf. The official did not say where in the strait the interaction occurred.

The incident comes amid increasing tension between Iranian and US forces in the Strait of Hormuz. On February 26, the Iranian navy conducted its annual drill near the area, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea is transported. The drill did not involve Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

In early January, the USS Mahan, a US Navy destroyer, fired three warning shots at Revolutionary Guard vessels in the Strait of Hormuz after the boats did not heed a US order to halt its course.

In November, a small Iranian vessel allegedly pointed a gun at a US Navy helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz, in international waters, according to the Pentagon.

Trump issues new travel ban for 6 Muslim-majority countries, excludes Iraq

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President Donald Trump has issued a new executive order, temporarily blocking travel to the US for residents of six Muslim-majority countries pending revision of visa procedures. The previous travel ban, issued in January, was blocked in federal courts.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new executive order to reporters on Monday.

The order halts the issuance of new US visas to citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for the next 90 days.

Iraq, which was included in the January ban, was left off the list this time after the government in Baghdad agreed to increase cooperation with the US on background checks for its citizens applying for visas, AP reported.

Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal called the decision “an important step in the right direction” that “consolidates the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Washington in many fields, and at their forefront the war on terrorism.”

Tillerson thanked the government in Baghdad for working with the State Department on improving vetting, and called the order “a vital measure for protecting our national security.”

The new order also imposes a 120-day halt on refugee admissions from the six countries. Legal permanent residents (‘Green Card’ holders) from the countries will not be affected, however, Reuters reported citing a fact sheet supplied by the administration.

“Nothing in this executive order affects existing lawful permanent residents,” Kelly said, adding that Homeland Security will enforce it “humanely, respectfully and with professionalism.”

Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway provided confirmation in an interview with Fox News on Monday.

“If you have travel docs, if you actually have a visa, if you are a legal permanent resident, you are not covered under this particular executive action,” Conway said, adding that the new order will go into effect on March 16.

The new order also includes exemptions such as business or medical travel and gives room for waivers on a case-by-case basis.

In the 90-day review period, Homeland Security is supposed to define a new set of requirements for travel to the US, and recommend restrictions for countries that do not comply.

“Like every nation, the US has a right to control who enters our country and to keep out those who would do us harm,” said Sessions, adding that the Department of Justice regards the new executive order as “a lawful and proper exercise of presidential authority” and will both enforce and defend it.

Groups that opposed the original travel ban have vowed to protest the new one as well, calling it religious discrimination.

“Trump’s revised executive order is the same Muslim ban with a fresh haircut,” Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, said in a statement. “There’s no evidence that banning travelers based on nationality actually protects anyone.”

More

Iran stages massive navy drill over 2mn km²

Iranian naval forces have staged large-scale military drills over an area covering some two million square kilometers amid rising tensions with the US.

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The latest exercise, stretching from the Strait of Hormuz and Oman Sea to north of the Indian Ocean, marks the last phase of war games that started in 2016, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.

The drills, codenamed ‘Velayat 95’, kicked off in Iran’s south following an order from Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.

The commander said that the war games include electronic warfare, missile tests, intelligence operations, the deployment of submarines, and relief and rescue operations, as cited by Tasnim.

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Apart from the main drills, Iran’s Navy commando units are conducting special operations in the southeastern Makran region.

Last June, Sayyari said that Tehran was planning to carry out 20 military drills before March 2017.

Iranian officials insist that the war games do not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the nuclear deal between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) signed in January of 2016.

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Saturday that Iran has been found to be in full compliance with the nuclear deal, but the report comes against a backdrop of rising tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Earlier this month, then-US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said that “Iran had been put formally on notice” after Tehran fired a ballistic missile.

Later in February, President Trump tweeted that “Iran is playing with fire,” promising that he won’t be as “kind as [former President] Obama.”

In response, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, blasted the US, saying Tehran remains “unmoved” by threats, but will use weapons “only in self-defense.”

Last month, a US Navy destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian military ships that were allegedly approaching them at high speed near the Strait of Hormuz.