Archive for May 21, 2018

Pompeo to Iran: Get ready for “strongest sanctions in history”

May 21, 2018

Ed Morrissey May 21, 2018 Hot Air

Source Link: Pompeo to Iran: Get ready for strongest sanctions in history

{I suggest the Mullahs pay attention. – LS}

Mike Pompeo offered both a clenched fist and an open hand to Iran in his first major policy speech. At the Heritage Foundation this morning, the new Secretary of State pledged never to “repeat the mistakes of past administrations” and rejected entirely the effort to “renegotiate the JCPOA,” the executive agreement created by the Obama administration. Instead, Pompeo offered to open full diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran, but only if they comply with twelve “basic requirements” for non-proliferation and the end of state-sponsored terrorism:

Otherwise, Iran will face a much tougher sanctions regime — and presumably, so would anyone else doing business with them:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is threatening to place “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran if its government doesn’t change course.

Pompeo on Monday called for a new nuclear agreement with Iran following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. He says the Trump administration prefers for it to be a treaty that is ratified by Congress.

Pompeo is laying out an onerous list of 12 “basic requirements” demands on Iran that he says should be included. He says Iran must “stop enrichment” of uranium and never preprocess plutonium. Iran must also allow nuclear “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country.”

Pompeo says Iran must also “release all U.S. citizens,” end support for Houthi rebels in Yemen, “withdraw all forces” from Syria and stop threatening Israel.

Iran’s not likely to agree to any of this, of course, especially about Israel. The mullahcracy in Tehran has its mission to destroy Israel and to spread its Shi’a Islam to dominate the region. Its ultimate goal is control over Mecca and Medina, which makes Saudi Arabia a higher priority than even Israel or propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, at least for Assad’s sake. Their encirclement strategy around Riyadh is too important to worry about diplomatic and economic engagement with “the Great Satan,” even if it was nice for a while not to have economic obstruction from the US.

The real target for this speech wasn’t Tehran, though. It was the capitals of Europe, especially Berlin, Paris, and London. Pompeo intended to lay out the case that the Obama administration and the P5+1 group essentially funded Iran’s aggression in the region over the last few years with the execrable JCPOA, and that they are responsible now for cutting off that flow of funds in order to slow Tehran’s encirclement strategy:

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, is expected to call on European countries to help ramp up economic pressure on Iran as he outlines America’s ‘Plan B’ to the nuclear deal.

Delivering his first major foreign policy speech since taking the job, Mr Pompeo will double down on the United States’ decision to quit the agreement earlier this month.

He is expected to frame the 2015 deal as allowing Iran to increase its malign influence across the Middle East on the back of funding from renewed trade with the West.

Mr Pompeo is also expected to urge other nations to join America in reimposing economic sanctions on the regime in a bid to bring it back to the negotiating table.

Pompeo wants to underscore just how serious the Trump administration is about putting the shackles back on the Iranian regime. The existing, re-imposed sanctions will already put European businesses at risk for sustaining major economic damage if they continue to work with Iran. Pompeo made it clear in his speech today that the US does not intend to find ways to avoid that damage. The “strongest sanctions in history” only work as long as the US enforces them strongly enough to make them work as deterrents. The best way for Europe to avoid getting hurt in that exchange is to join up with the US in imposing them.

This won’t prompt any immediate change from either Iran or our allies. It’s a marker laid down by Pompeo and Donald Trump, not yet an action in itself. Our allies will try to work Pompeo and Trump to mitigate those consequences, and perhaps Trump will be willing to negotiate around the edges. But Pompeo’s making it clear that the US plans to take a very hard line on Iran, and not just in nuclear-weapons proliferation.

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveils next steps on US-Iran policy | Monday, 21 May 2018 

May 21, 2018

 

 

 

Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all

May 21, 2018

12,232

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/388549-stopping-robert-mueller-to-protect-us-all

The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming.

At this point, there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton “matter,” but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done. It is hard to see how a year-long investigation of this won’t come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey and perhaps even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who definitely wasn’t playing mahjong in a secret “no aides allowed” meeting with former President Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac.

With this report on the way and congressional investigators beginning to zero in on the lack of hard, verified evidence for starting the Trump probe, current and former intelligence and Justice Department officials are dumping everything they can think of to save their reputations.But it is backfiring. They started by telling the story of Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, as having remembered a bar conversation with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. But how did the FBI know they should talk to him? That’s left out of their narrative. Downer’s signature appears on a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. You don’t need much imagination to figure that he was close with Clinton Foundation operatives who relayed information to the State Department, which then called the FBI to complete the loop. This wasn’t intelligence. It was likely opposition research from the start.

In no way would a fourth-hand report from a Maltese professor justify wholesale targeting of four or five members of the Trump campaign. It took Christopher Steele, with his funding concealed through false campaign filings, to be incredibly successful at creating a vast echo chamber around his unverified, fanciful dossier, bouncing it back and forth between the press and the FBI so it appeared that there were multiple sources all coming to the same conclusion.

Time and time again, investigators came up empty. Even several sting operations with an FBI spy we just learned about failed to produce a Delorean-like video with cash on the table. But rather than close the probe, the deep state just expanded it. All they had were a few isolated contacts with Russians and absolutely nothing related to Trump himself, yet they pressed forward. Egged on by Steele, they simply believed Trump and his team must be dirty. They just needed to dig deep enough.

Perhaps the murkiest event in the timeline is Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of a special counsel after he personally recommended Comey’s firing in blistering terms. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions shoved out of the way, Rosenstein and Mueller then ignored their own conflicts and took charge anyway. Rosenstein is a fact witness, and Mueller is a friend of Comey, disqualifying them both.

Flush with 16 prosecutors, including a former lawyer for the Clinton Foundation, and an undisclosed budget, the Mueller investigation has been a scorched-earth effort to investigate the entirety of the Trump campaign, Trump business dealings, the entire administration and now, if it was not Russia, maybe it’s some other country.

The president’s earlier legal team was naive in believing that, when Mueller found nothing, he would just end it. Instead, the less investigators found, the more determined and expansive they became. This president and his team now are on a better road to put appropriate limits on all this.

This process must now be stopped, preferably long before a vote in the Senate. Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again.

Its prosecutions have all been principally to pressure witnesses with unrelated charges and threats to family, or just for a public relations effect, like the indictment of Russian internet trolls. Unfortunately, just like the Doomsday Machine in “Dr. Strangelove” that was supposed to save the world but instead destroys it, the Mueller investigation comes with no “off” switch: You can’t fire Mueller. He needs to be defeated, like Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton.

Finding the “off” switch will not be easy. Step one here is for the Justice Department inspector general report to knock Comey out of the witness box. Next, the full origins of the investigation and its lack of any real intelligence needs to come out in the open. The attorney general, himself the target of a secret investigation, needs to take back his Justice Department. Sessions needs to act quickly, along with U.S. Attorney John Huber, appointed to conduct an internal review of the FBI, on the Comey and McCabe matters following the inspector general report, and then announce an expanded probe into other abuses of power.

The president’s lawyers need to extend their new aggressiveness from words to action, filing complaints with Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility on the failure of Mueller and Rosenstein to recuse themselves, and going into court to question the tactics of the special counsel, from selective prosecutions on unrelated matters, illegally seizing Government Services Administration emails, covering up the phone texts of FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and operating without a scope approved by the attorney general. (The regulations call for the attorney general to recuse himself from the investigation but appear to still leave him responsible for the scope.)

The final stopper may be the president himself, offering two hours of testimony, perhaps even televised live from the White House. The last time America became obsessed with Russian influence in America was the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. Those ended only when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) attacked an associate of the U.S. Army counsel, Joseph Welch, and Welch famously responded: “Sir, have you no decency?” In this case, virtually every associate and family member of the president has been subject to smears conveniently leaked to the press.

Stopping Mueller isn’t about one president or one party. It’s about all presidents and all parties. It’s about cleaning out and reforming the deep state so that our intelligence operations are never used against opposing campaigns without the firmest of evidence. It’s about letting people work for campaigns and administrations without needing legal defense funds. It’s about relying on our elections to decide our differences.

Mark Penn served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during his impeachment. He is chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.

Muslim nations condemn Israel and US at emergency summit 

May 21, 2018

Source: Muslim nations condemn Israel and US at emergency summit – Israel Hayom

( Erdogan is Israel’s 2nd most dangerous enemy after Iran.  It is beyond absurd that an Islamist country remains a member of NATO.  Time for some Trump realism… – JW )

Israel’s spy chief: It is a great pleasure to steal from the Persians 

May 21, 2018

Source: Israel’s spy chief: It is a great pleasure to steal from the Persians – Israel Hayom

Report: US looking to restart nuclear negotiations with Iran 

May 21, 2018

Source: Report: US looking to restart nuclear negotiations with Iran – Israel Hayom

Report: Explosions heard at Iranian facility near Damascus

May 21, 2018

Source: Report: Explosions heard at Iranian facility near Damascus | The Times of Israel

Sky News Arabia says blasts target electronic warfare facility used by Tehran south of Syrian capital; no confirmation

An explosion is seen coming from an army base, allegedly used by Iran-backed militias, outside the northern Syria city of Hama on April 29, 2018. (Screen capture; Facebook)

An explosion is seen coming from an army base, allegedly used by Iran-backed militias, outside the northern Syria city of Hama on April 29, 2018. (Screen capture; Facebook)

Explosions reportedly rocked an area thought to house an Iranian facility near Damascus early Monday morning, according to a report in Sky News Arabia.

There was no immediate confirmation of the explosion and it was not clear what may have caused the blasts, which came days after another mysterious explosion at a Syrian base.

Sky News said locals reported hearing explosions in the area of Najjah, a neighborhood south of Damascus which houses a military academy.

According to the report, the blasts are thought to have occurred at an Iranian electronic warfare facility there.

There was no immediate word from Syria, which was said to be on the verge of pushing the last pockets of Islamic State resistance out of southern Damascus on Monday.

Israel has increasingly taken aim at Iranian facilities in southern Syria over recent months as it attempts to keep Tehran from gaining a military foothold on its doorstep.

The sorties, which Israel rarely admit to openly, have led to increased tensions in the border region and earlier this month sparked a barrage of 20 missiles at northern Israel, drawing a massive Israeli reprisal attack.

The explosions were reported after mysterious blasts tore through weapons and fuel depots on Friday at a military airport in Syria’s Hama province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killing at least 28 people.

Syrian state media reported the blasts at the time but did not provide any details, while the Observatory had said they were likely due to a technical malfunction.

However, the Sky News Arabia outlet reported that the explosions were caused by an attack on an advanced Iranian air defense system, despite it coming in the middle of the day, when Israel rarely carries out airstrikes.

After maintaining an official policy of refusing to comment on such strikes, the Israeli military last week revealed that it had been conducting air raids against Iranian targets in Syria as part of a mission dubbed “Operation Chess.”

The purpose of “Operation Chess” was to prevent Iran from carrying out reprisals for an Israeli airstrike against the Iranian-controlled T-4 air base in central Syria on April 9, which killed at least seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including a senior officer responsible for its drone program.

Iran had also used the T-4 base to launch an attack drone carrying explosives into Israel in February, according to the Israel Defense Forces; the drone was shot down.

The IRGC’s al-Quds Force in southern Syria launched 20 rockets at northern Israel last week. Four of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses, the army said, and the rest fell short of the border.

In response, the Israeli Air Force conducted strikes against over 50 Iranian military targets in Syria and destroyed several Syrian air defense systems that had fired on Israeli jets, the army said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that the Jewish state will not accept Iranian entrenchment in Syria and is prepared to take military action in order to prevent it.

Last week, the Israeli army reportedly told senior ministers that it believes the current round of hostilities was over, but tensions in the north will persist, and that border incidents are still possible.