Mixed messages in US sanctions on Russia

Donald Trump has indicated he wants to improve relations with Russia, as the US have imposed fresh sanctions on Russia for cyber-related activities.

CBS News: Trump open to lifting Russia sanctions, “most likely” to meet Kim Jong Un again

President Trump on Monday said he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if Moscow were to take steps towards working with the U.S. on issues like Russia and Ukraine. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview with Reuters.

It’s yet unclear exactly what kind of steps Mr. Trump would require to ease such sanctions. Mr. Trump insists he has been tougher on Russia than any other president, despite the laudatory way he speaks of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian response (Reuters):  Actions better than words, says Russia after Trump offer

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it welcomed statements by U.S. President Donald Trump indicating a desire to cooperate with Russia, but that it would welcome concrete steps to improve relations more.

Trump has repeatedly said he would like better ties with Moscow, but despite meeting President Vladimir Putin last month, relations have come under further strain as Washington announced new sanctions.

“We of course welcome statements that affirm a readiness to cooperate, but we would welcome even more some kind of concrete actions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov said the Kremlin would like to hear more details from the United States on any proposed cooperation in Syria and Ukraine, and that Kiev should also take positive steps.

“We need to be specific about what is expected from Russia in terms of Ukraine, and why nothing is expected from the Ukrainian authorities,” he said.

But at the same time U.S. imposes fresh sanctions for Russian cyber-related activity

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Russians, one Russian company and one Slovakian company for what Washington said were their actions to help another Russian company avoid sanctions over the country’s malicious cyber-related activities.

The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that the sanctioned companies, Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O., and the two individuals helped Divetechnoservices evade previously imposed sanctions.

In a statement on the Russian foreign ministry’s website, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the latest sanctions groundless and promised a response from Moscow.

Ryabkov’s criticism extended to separate sanctions Washington imposed on Tuesday on two Russian shipping companies that it said were involved in transferring refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of Unite Nations restrictions.

IOt’s hard to see any progress on better US relations while more sanctions are being imposed. No wonder Putin asked for action rather than words from Trump on lifting sanctions.

Trump invites Putin to White House meeting

Donald Trump seems to have decided to double down on his Helsinki debacle. He says he has invited Vladimir to another meeting, this time in Washington.

It’s hard to know whether eyebrows have been raised again, they stayed raised, or they have just given up oand been plucked.

Reuters: Trump invites Putin to Washington despite U.S. uproar over Helsinki summit

President Donald Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this autumn, the White House said on Thursday, a daring rebuttal to the torrent of criticism in the United States over Trump’s failure to publicly confront Putin at their first summit for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

NY Times: Trump Invites Putin to Washington, Blindsiding His Intelligence Chief

President Trump plans to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday — an invitation that stunned the nation’s top intelligence official, who said he was still groping for details of what the two leaders had discussed in their encounter this week in Helsinki, Finland.

Reuters: Russia ready to discuss Putin Washington visit: Ifax

Russia is ready to discuss a proposed new meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, Interfax news agency cited Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, as saying on Friday.

Meanwhile: Sanctions law behind Putin’s request to Trump for former U.S. officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to U.S. President Donald Trump for a joint investigation of former U.S. officials sought by the Kremlin for “illegal activities,” including a U.S. ambassador to Russia, is just the latest effort in a years-long campaign to undermine a U.S. law that imposes financial sanctions on Putin’s officials.

The Hill: White House Rejects Putin Proposal to Interview American Citizens

The White House on Thursday backed off a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin to question U.S. citizens over alleged crimes in Russia after initially indicating President Trump would consider the matter.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

Trump was widely criticised for being a pussy with Putin, so in typical fashion tries to sound like he is really tough: Trump: I’ll Be Putin’s Worst Enemy If Relationship Doesn’t Work Out

  • President Donald Trump vowed in an interview with CNBC that if his dealings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin don’t “work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had.”
  • But he also said that, “Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is postive, not a negative,” Trump said.

Also typically, he is all over the place, saying something for everyone in his support base.

Also typically he tries to portray Obama as weak (he was) in comparison to himself.

  • Trump blasted his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for having been a “patsy for Russia” — while claiming he has been “far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years. Maybe ever”.

Image result for trump russia

Trump back flips over Russian election meddling

As is becoming common with Donald Trump, he has changed his claims substantially over Russian meddling in the US election.

Did he blunder, listen to advice and is now trying to repair the damage?

Does he simply say things to suit an audience – praising Putin in Helsinki but singing a different song in the US? He did similar in his UK visit, slamming them before the visit and then claiming things were wonderful to their faces.

Or is this another example of a deliberate shock and retreat strategy?

@ReutersPolitics:

UPDATE: Trump says Russia actions had no impact on outcome of elections, accepts U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddling took place.

Trump has always been obsessed with his claims he won the election on his own merits, but that clashes with the claims of Russian interference.

Trump says he meant to say in Helsinki that he saw no reason why it would not be Russia that interfered in elections.

Whoops, he said the opposite to what he meant. Again. Is this believable?

Trump says his administration will move aggressively to repel any efforts to interfere in 2018 election.

So that the Republicans can win on their own merits?

US democracy is a basket case.

Is Trump an extreme symptom, or is he a masterful opportunist?

Whatever it is, US credibility is suffering, and is at risk of democratic failure one way or another.

See “What we are living with is pre-fascism”

UPDATE: Trump has just said that when he came back to the US facing flak for his Putin/Russian meddling comments, he reviewed the transcript of what he said and now claims he meant the opposite to what he said.

But he is all over the place. He admits saying the opposite to what he now says he meant, but also blames it on the media.

 

Trump backs Putin over US intelligence on Russian interference in US elections

There has been widespread shock and condemnation after Donald Trump accepted Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia did not intefer in the US election in 2016. This is contrary to the views of the entire US intelligence community and most US politicians.

Fox News: Trump blasts Mueller probe, Putin denies meddling as leaders tout summit as ‘success’

President Trump and Vladimir Putin tackled allegations of election meddling in unprecedented terms following their one-on-one summit Monday, with Trump opening the door to an unusual offer of cooperation in the special counsel probe and the Russian president suggesting he indeed favored the billionaire businessman in 2016.

But Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

The two leaders spoke at a freewheeling joint press conference following a pair of meetings — one private — in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin both touted the summit as a success, vowing to improve ties on a range of issues.

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump declared.

NY Post: Trump refuses to accuse Putin of election meddling

President Donald Trump on Monday refused to accuse Vladimir Putin and Russia of interfering in the US election after their one-on-one sitdown in Finland.

Asked directly if he believed Putin or his own intelligence community, which concluded that the Russians were behind the hacking and other interference, the president did not directly answer.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said as Putin stood several feet away.

Trump then said he saw no reason why Russia would interfere in America’s elections.

Putin, meanwhile, admitted he had been rooting for Trump to beat Hillary Clinton.

“Yes, I did, yes I did, because he talked about bringing US-Russia relations back to normal,” Putin said.

Trump also praised the Russian strongman for offering to help special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigate the well-documented Russian meddling. “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators. I think that’s an incredible offer,” he said.

Trump then launched a stunning series of political attacks on Democrats and Clinton while standing on foreign soil — and suggested that he believed Putin’s denials.

“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?” the commander-in-chief said.

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails, 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”

He also said the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was poisoning relations between the US and Russia.

“It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. Virtually, none of it related to the campaign,” he said.

Trump then defended his campaign and hailed his surprise victory.

“They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her and I’m not even saying from the standpoint, we won that race,” he continued.

Fox News – Media slams Trump following Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president’

The media came down hard on President Trump following Monday’s joint press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with pundits and anchors on both sides of the political aisle bashing the American leader’s performance.

Trump was primarily criticized for the way he handled questions about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S., claims that have been paired with allegations Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to win the election. Trump said he raised the issue of election meddling during their one-on-one meeting prior to the press conference, but ripped Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the news conference, declaring there was “no collusion.”

Trump also passed on a chance to side with the American intelligence community, which claims Moscow meddled in the election.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire and Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason were both praised by journalists for asking tough questions, but Trump’s answers drew scorn.

“Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least,” Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted.

NBC News’ online headline said Trump’s performance “advances conspiracy theories,” pointing to him bringing up 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that the president said are missing.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper called it “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president” immediately after the press conference. Cooper’s name immediately began trending on Twitter after making the comment, which resulted in a variety of media members agreeing with the CNN star.

Former CIA John Brennan:

Reuters – U.S. Rep. Schiff: Trump comments give Putin OK on 2018 interference

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence panel said President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki on Monday essentially gave Russian President Vladimir Putin permission to interfere in November’s midterm election.

“President Trump just attacked our intelligence agencies and law enforcement for doing their jobs while standing next to a dictator who intervened in our election to help elect Trump. Putin will take this as a green light to interfere in 2018, and it is. Cowardly and shameful.”

It’s hard to find support or praise of Trump’s post-summit performance, but Rush Limbaugh manages to go against the flow: Comedy Gold As American Journalists Beclown Themselves

Hey, folks, parts of this joint press conference here between Trump and Putin were comedy gold. Parts of this press conference were some of the funniest stuff that’s been on American television since Trump was elected. I mean, I have been laughing myself silly. I don’t laugh out loud much watching television anymore. It’s a sad reality, but watching TV does not make any laugh anymore. But I have been laughing out loud — uncontrollably at times — watching this joint presser. What makes it is that the United States media regularly beclowns itself, makes fools of themselves because they really have it in their heads…

I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if they really do believe that Trump and Putin colluded to steal the election, if they’ve been reporting that for so long that they actually now believe it. Because even with Mueller, there isn’t any evidence of it. Which reminds me, Mueller’s indictment… Wait ’til you hear what the Drive-Bys are trying to do with this indictment! It is craziest thing! It is laughable, because our media has become a collective joke.

That sounds like a manic sort of defence of Trump, resorting to the old ‘attack the media’ approach with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

BBC: Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit

US President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said, adding that there was “no question” Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.

He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”

Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.

Trump succeeded in dominating the headlines, but he has been dominated by Putin and savaged by most in the USA. Including the Director of National Intelligence.

Putin-Trump meeting

One of the criticisms of Donald Trump’s meeting in Singapore with Kim Yong Un was that Trump was legitimising Kim and giving him significant international exposure and credibility.

The same is being said of the Trump-Putin meeting.

How Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world will be affected by the meeting.

But there is pressure on Trump to confront Putin:

Somehow I don’t think this is likely.

Trump is more likely to come away from the meeting saying that it was a great meeting, he got on very well with Putin and they would work well together in the future somewhat more embellished probably).

12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign

The US Justice department has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for alleged hacking of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.

Fox News:  12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign, DNC emails

The Justice Department announced charges Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein held a news conference earlier in the day to discuss the charges, which stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Aspen Daily News: White House sees vindication in indictment

The White House is stressing that the new indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers contains no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the Trump campaign or that the hacking the Russians are accused of conducting affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters adds in her statement that “this is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

It is nothing like vindication, it just means that Trump or his campaign are not implicated in this indictment. In fact it trashes a Trump conspiracy theory – see below.

Rosenstein said the investigation is continuing.

There could be more to come. And that may or may not drag the Trump campaign into the legal actions.

The Kremlin is reaffirming its denial of meddling in the U.S. election.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov reaffirmed that “the Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in U.S. elections.”

Ushakov spoke Friday, just hours before the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking into Democratic accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He said the Kremlin believes there are “no objective reasons” for the current tensions, and that Moscow and Washington must join efforts to tackle global challenges such as international terrorism.

Putin and President Donald Trump are meeting Monday in Helsinki.

This latest legal move could add tension to that meeting (on top of Trump blasting Germany for dealing with Russia.

NY Times: Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller officially rebuke a major Trump conspiracy theory

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Friday announced the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials on charges stemming from the hacking of Democrats during the 2016 election.

And with that, yet another President Trump conspiracy theory is thoroughly rebuked by the Russia investigation.

Trump has regularly cast doubt upon the idea that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians — and that it was hacked at all. At one point he even reportedly dispatched a conspiracy theorist to meet with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (Pompeo is now secretary of state.)

“This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate,” Trump said in a statement after the DNC hack was revealed in the summer of 2016. “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.”

So Trump’s claims of ‘no collusion’ have to be viewed with scepticism, given his growing record of making false claims.

PBS: Read Mueller’s full indictment against 12 Russian officers for election interference

 

 

England, Croatia win world cup quarter finals

In the early hours (NZ time) England beat Sweden 2-0 in the third football world cup semi final. Hoes of something great are rising in England.

WTF is SWEENG?

England’s semi-final opponent is still to be determined, with the Russia versus Croatia game due to start soon.


Russia v Croatia 1-1 after 75 minutes of game time.

Still 1-1 at the end of normal time, so the game will go in to extra time.

Both scored goals in extra time, ending 2-2, so now a penalty shootout.

Croatia win the shootout 4-3.

Russia did very well to get this far, they were ranked 70 going into the tournament. Croatia was 20.

Semi finalists:

  • France versus Belgium (Wednesday 6:00 am NZ time)
  • England versus Croatia (Thursday 6;00 am NZ  time)

 

‘Accurate’ claims that Russia meddled to help Trump beat Clinton

After reviewing intelligence reports a US Senate committee says that findings that Russia ramped up attempts to interfere in the US election in 2016 and helped Donald Trump win were accurate.

Intel Committee Releases Unclassified Summary of Initial Findings on 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment

Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the Committee’s unclassified summary of its initial findings on the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian activities in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Committee finds that the overall judgments issued in the ICA were well-supported and the tradecraft was strong. The course of the Committee’s investigation has shown that the Russian cyber operations were more extensive than the hack of the Democratic National Committee and continued well through the 2016 election.

Chairman Burr

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions. The Committee continues its investigation and I am hopeful that this instalment of the Committee’s work will soon be followed by additional summaries providing the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”

Vice Chairman Warner

“Our investigation thoroughly reviewed all aspects of the January 2017 ICA, which assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to target our presidential election and to destabilize our democratic institutions. As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on point.  The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.  While our investigation remains ongoing, we have to learn from 2016 and do more to protect ourselves from attacks in 2018 and beyond.”

Investigations like this are for finding out what happened and try to prevent future interference.

Fox News – Findings that Russia meddled to help Trump beat Clinton were ‘accurate and on point’: Senate intel panel

The FBI’s and CIA’s “analytical disagreement” with the NSA over whether Russia sought to bolster the Trump presidential campaign was “reasonable,” the report also said.

While the FBI and CIA had “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin aspired to help Trump’s election chances by denigrating opponent Hillary Clinton, the NSA had only “moderate confidence” in that assessment, according to the January 2017 analysis.

The disagreement among agencies “was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated among the agencies and analysts, with analysts, managers and agency heads on both sides of the confidence level articulately justifying their positions,” the Senate intelligence committee’s findings said.

This further confirms what is fairly widely accepted – that Russia meddled in the election trying to help Trump.

Trump is due to meet with Vladimir Putin next month.

US sanctions Russians for cyber attacks

The US has announced sanctions on three Russian individuals and five companies, who have been cited as ‘malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities’ against the US ‘and it’s allies’ – which could include New Zealand.

Reuters: U.S. sanctions Russians over military, intelligence hacking

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five companies on Monday, saying they had worked with Moscow’s military and intelligence services on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the United States and its allies.

“The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Mnuchin said, using an acronym for Russia’s Federal Security Service.

The Treasury said Russia’s “malign and destabilizing cyber activities” included the NotPetya attack last year, which spread across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The White House in February blamed Russia for the attack, saying it caused billions of dollars in damage and was part of the Kremlin’s effort to destabilize Ukraine.

The Obama administration sanctioned Russia’s FSB in December 2016, citing the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the 2016 presidential election.

Washington imposed additional sanctions against the intelligence services in March, when President Donald Trump’s administration slapped sanctions on 19 individuals and five entities.

At the time, the administration publicly blamed Moscow for the first time for a campaign of cyberattacks that targeted the U.S. power grid, including nuclear facilities, and stretched back at least two years. Russia has denied trying to hack into other countries’ infrastructures.

There’s a good chance Russia will retaliate with sanctions of their own.

GCSB (February 2018): New Zealand joins international condemnation of NotPetya cyber-attack

The Director-General of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Andrew Hampton has today added New Zealand’s voice to international condemnation of the NotPetya cyber-attack.

NotPetya caused wide spread damage and disruption to computer systems around the world in June 2017.

Mr Hampton says the GCSB’s international partners have today attributed the NotPetya cyber-attack to the Russian Government.

“While NotPetya masqueraded as a criminal ransomware campaign, its real purpose was to damage and disrupt systems,” Mr Hampton said.

“Its primary targets were Ukrainian financial, energy and government sectors. However, NotPetya’s indiscriminate design caused it to spread around the world affecting these sectors world-wide.

“While there were no reports of NotPetya having a direct impact in New Zealand, it caused disruption to some organisations while they updated systems to protect themselves from it.

“This reinforces that New Zealand is not immune from this type of threat. In a globally connected world our relative geographic isolation offers no protection from cyber threats.

“We support the actions of our cyber security partners in calling out this sort of reckless and malicious cyber activity.”

In the 12 months from June 2016 to June 2017 nearly a third (122) of the 396 serious incidents recorded by the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre involved indicators that have previously been linked to state-sponsored actors.

I think it’s unlikely New Zealand will join the US with sanctions.

Plan A: threats, sanctions, military attacks – no Plan B

After pulling out of a nuclear accord President Donald Trump has threatened “the strongest sanctions” against Iran, and if they don’t negotiate a new deal then “something will happen”.

The USA has no support in their withdrawal from the international legal agreement, except from Israel who has followed up on the US move they had strongly Trump to take with attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Given the volatile history of the Middle East, Iran’s involvement in a number of countries and Russia’s military support of Iran this is a high risk situation.

Reuters: Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire

Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.

It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the 2011 start of the civil war in which Iranians, allied Shi’ite Muslim militias and Russian troops have deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The confrontation came two days after the United States announced its withdrawal, with Israel’s urging, from a nuclear accord with Iran.

The timing doesn’t seem coincidental.

Israel destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Syrian state media said Israel launched dozens of missiles and hit a radar station, Syrian air defense positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

Wider escalation is always a risk in the region.

In the meantime Trump Bets Sanctions Will Force Iran to Bargain. There’s No Plan B.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he expects Iran to continue to comply with the terms of the 2015 deal that limits Tehran’s nuclear program, even as the United States violates it by reimposing what he called “among the strongest sanctions that we’ve ever put on a country.”

Beyond betting that Iran’s leaders will return to the negotiating table, and seek a better deal, once they feel the sanctions’ bite, the president appeared to acknowledge that he has no Plan B for dealing with Tehran.

“Iran will come back and say, ‘We don’t want to negotiate,’” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And of course, they’re going to say that. And if I were in their position, I’d say that, too, for the first couple of months: ‘We’re not going to negotiate.’”

“But they’ll negotiate, or something will happen,” Mr. Trump said. “And hopefully that won’t be the case.”

But Iran are trying to isolate the US and continue to talk with Europe, Russia and China.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Tuesday that he had instructed his foreign minister to determine if negotiators from European nations, Russia and China could make up for the economic benefits that Iran would lose after the American withdrawal.

Only then would he decide, Mr. Rouhani said, whether to instruct Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to resume the enrichment of uranium.

After Mr. Trump announced his decision, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for a United Nations Security Council resolution that formally endorsed the accord. The European leaders asserted that the resolution was the applicable international law governing the Iranian nuclear problem — a way of suggesting that the United States is the first country to violate the accord.

They also noted that Mr. Trump’s own intelligence officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was serving as C.I.A. director — have said he saw no evidence that Iran had violated the deal.

So Trump not only has to deal with a markedly different position taken by other major world powers, he is at odds with US intelligence – and also some republican politicians.

Even Republicans who had their qualms about the shortcomings of the nuclear deal — especially its “sunset clauses” that gave Iran the right to produce nuclear fuel after 2030 — expressed concern that the White House appeared more interested in scrapping the accord than coming up with a comprehensive way to deal with Tehran.

Few in the Pentagon expect the Iranians to back down. Intelligence analysts expect that Iran will grow more active in Syria and Iraq, in part to make the United States and its allies pay a price.

So Trump is being bold or brash, and there is no way of knowing which way this may now go. It is a much higher risk and more complex situation than with North Korea.

Michael Singh, who worked on Iran issues during George W. Bush’s presidency, wrote in Foreign Affairs:

One of the chief criticisms leveled against former U.S. President Barack Obama by critics of the JCPOA was that he focused on the nuclear issue to the exclusion of all others and that the agreement itself institutionalized this focus by trading comprehensive sanctions relief for Tehran’s restraint solely in the nuclear realm.

Ironically, first by emphasizing the need to fix the agreement, and now in insisting that a new deal be negotiated, Trump risks repeating the error.

A different bad agreement to Obama’s may be the best outcome that Trump achieves.

While the United States has debated the JCPOA, Iran has advanced in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere with little resistance, and prospects for war between Iran and Israel, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, have increased significantly. What Washington really needs is a new Iran policy, not just a nuclear policy – and the will to roll up their sleeves and carry it out.

If Plan A doesn’t work I’m not sure that Trump is a roll his sleeves up type of president.