U.S. says it has exposed Iranian shipping scheme aided by businessman
The Treasury Department announced sanctions Thursday against a Greek businessman for his alleged dealings with Iranian oil.
March 14th, 2013
07:14 PM ET

U.S. says it has exposed Iranian shipping scheme aided by businessman

By Jamie Crawford

The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday detailed what it called an "intricate Iranian scheme" helped by a Greek shipping magnate in an effort to avoid oil export sanctions.

Dimitris Cambis established a network of front companies to purchase multiple oil tankers in an elaborate scheme to disguise the origin of Iranian oil, the Treasury Department said.

"Today we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions," David S. Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a written statement. "We will continue to expose deceptive Iranian practices, and to sanction those individuals and entities who participate in these schemes."
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Filed under: Iran • Sanctions • State Department • Treasury
Papal diplomacy is not just pomp and circumstance
Pope Francis leads a mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on Thursday a day after his election.
March 14th, 2013
06:21 PM ET

Papal diplomacy is not just pomp and circumstance

By Jamie Crawford

As Pope Francis assumes his role as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he is also the newest head of a sovereign state that accepts and accredits foreign envoys while sending its own diplomats around the globe to advance its interests.

There currently are 179 diplomatic missions with ties to the Vatican.

To the casual observer, the post may seem like a dream assignment, full of pomp and circumstance in one of the world's most historic and beautiful cities. But there is more to the job than what meets the eye.

"It's really in a unique position to engage with the world's largest faith-based organization," Miguel Diaz, the most recent U.S. envoy to the Holy See, told CNN. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor to Diaz, who stepped down in November.
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Filed under: Diplomacy
March 14th, 2013
01:32 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Iran confronts U.S. drone over Persian Gulf

By Barbara Starr

An Iranian fighter jet targeted an unarmed U.S. Predator drone over the Persian Gulf this week, the Pentagon says.

It was the latest Iranian move aimed at thwarting American military airborne intelligence efforts in the region.

Defense Department spokesman George Little said on Thursday the unmanned MQ-1 drone was conducting routine classified surveillance over international waters on Tuesday when approached by an Iranian F-4.

The two aircraft came within 16 miles of each other.
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Top US commander in Afghanistan warns Karzai comments increase risk
March 14th, 2013
12:43 PM ET

Top US commander in Afghanistan warns Karzai comments increase risk

By Barbara Starr

The commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is warning his top commanders of new risks of attacks due to rising tensions between NATO forces and the Afghan president, an ISAF official told CNN Thursday.

The personal e-mail Gen. Joseph Dunford sent Wednesday is not a formal threat advisory, said the official, who did not want to be identified.

The tensions between the NATO-led coalition forces - especially those from the United States - and President Hamid Karzai escalated after a bomb blast in Kabul last weekend that killed nine people.

Karzai said afterward that there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."

Dunford quickly denounced Karzai's remark.

"We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage," he said.

In the e-mail sent Wednesday, Dunford told commanders that Karzai's recent statements "could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces - he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk."

ISAF is currently in discussions with the Afghan government about the terms for the turnover of the detention facility at Bagram to the Afghans, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from Wardak Province following still unsubstantiated complaints about U.S. troop misconduct there.

Dunford met with Karzai Wednesday to discuss the transfer of the detention center. The general said it "must be done in a way that meets the needs of Afghan sovereignty while mitigating the real threats that some of these detainees pose to Afghan and coalition forces.

"We will complete the transfer when the remaining issues have been resolved," Dunford said in a statement on ISAF's website.

Several media reported Karzai gave a speech Tuesday in which he suggested the government would take unilateral actions to assume control of the detention center if the transfer was delayed much longer.

In his e-mail, Dunford calls Karzai's remarks about Bagram "inflammatory speech."

ISAF called the general's warning "prudent given increased coalition casualties in recent days."

"ISAF routinely conducts assessments and adapts its protection posture to ensure our forces are prepared to meet potential threats and that they have a common understanding of the situation here in Afghanistan," the ISAF statement said. "General Dunford's e-mail is simply an example of this vigilance."