Iran seizes US Navy boats and crew

Iran is holding two US Navy boats and 10 US sailors, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday, just hours before President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told the Associated Press that the boats were sailing between Kuwait and Bahrain when the US lost contact with them. Just a few weeks ago, Iranian gunboats fired unguided missiles near the US aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman which was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have previously predicted that the nuclear deal could moderate Iran. However, the deal appears to have emboldened hardliners, as Iran has stepped up its destabilizing activity in the region since the nuclear deal was reached. The Iranian regime conducted two ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, arrested two US persons, convicted a US citizen under false charges, launched cyberattacks against the US State Department, held anti-American rallies, violated international travel bans, and exported weapons to Syria and Yemen in violation of the arms embargo on Iran. Iran has also escalated its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

Experts have long worried that the nuclear deal with Iran would both embolden Iranian hardliners and constrain the US from responding, because the Iranians would threaten to use any US response as a pretext for walking away from its obligations under the deal. Reacting to the latest incident, former State Department Middle East advisor Aaron David Miller tweeted, “Iran detains US sailors. Released promptly or not, a hostile act by a regime that acts w/o US cost/consequence.”

When lobbying in favor of the deal, President Obama vowed to push back against Iran’s troubling regional behavior. However, last month the administration backed away from imposing sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile activity. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration with the delay and are introducing legislation to exact a price on Iran in response to its violations and aggressive behavior.

A senior Iranian official denied that Iran has deactivated its Arak heavy water reactor, contradicting claims made earlier this week by the semi-official Fars news agency, The New York Times reported Tuesday.The Fars report, which said that Iran dismantled the core of its Arak reactor and filled it with cement, as per the nuclear deal’s requirements, was dismissed by Iran’s deputy nuclear chief Ali Asghar Zarean.

Zarean added that Tehran planned to sign a deal with China next week to modify Arak, which is capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.

The nuclear deal requires Iran to ship out most of its enriched uranium, dismantle several hundred centrifuges, and decommission the Arak reactor in exchange for an estimated $100 billion in sanctions relief.

In November of last year, Iran announced that it had stopped dismantling centrifuges at two uranium enrichment plants, despite its obligations under the deal.

In December, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors voted to close the nuclear watchdog’s investigation into Iran’s past illicit nuclear weapons research. The decision came despite an IAEA report proving that Iran had lied about its past nuclear research and worked on developing a nuclear weapon as recently as 2009.

North Korea’s claim last week that it detonated a hydrogen bomb raised questions on whether the nuclear deal will be able to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Retired Army Major Gen. Robert Scales told Fox News last week that Pyongyang’s test “says Iran is able to circumvent [the nuclear deal] by using their technological colleagues in Pakistan and their test site facility in North Korea to push their own nuclear ambitions.”

In The Looming Global Nuclear Weapons Crisis, which was published in the January 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Emily Landau described how Iran violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with impunity and why accepting Iran’s illicit gains undermines the nonproliferation regime. (via TheTower,org)

 

The prized fungi known as truffles are fabulously expensive – a four-pound white truffle fetched $61,250 at a Sotheby’s auction last year – mainly because nobody has figured out how to farm this edible, wild mycorrhizal fungus cost-effectively. However, Israeli agricultural researchers have successfully mass cultivated another form of mycorrhizal fungi as a natural method for boosting plant crop yield and nutrition. “Simply put, our mission is to cover the world’s arable land with mycorrhiza,” says Groundwork BioAg cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing Dan Grotsky. Groundwork’s Rootella is a desert-hardy, highly concentrated strain of mycorrhizal fungus that results from 25 years of breeding, research and field trials in cooperation with Israel’s Volcani Institute Agricultural Research Organization. This “good” fungus extends plant roots by a factor of up to 100, allowing plants to better absorb water and soil nutrients from fertilizers and compost. “As the plants get more nutrients, farmers get higher yield and that’s what counts most,” Grotsky tells ISRAEL21c. “Secondly, they save on water and fertilizers.” The process is completely eco-friendly and natural, he adds. “Mycorrhiza exist nearly everywhere in the world, but they’ve been depleted by modern agriculture techniques. We’re not introducing chemicals but rather an organism that is an important part of healthy soil. We are restoring the natural balance.” (via Israel21c)


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