Archive for the ‘Iran and North Korea’ category

US Diplomacy: When failure became an accepted option

August 15, 2017

US Diplomacy: When failure became an accepted option, Israel National News, Meir Jolovitz, August 15, 2017

(Please see also, President [Rouhani of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions. — DM)

For what it’s worth, future historians will judge the North Korean crisis as the less significant one of our generation – simply because China is able to control it. The more formidable and dangerous threat is the nuclearization of Iran. The occasional terror attacks in Europe, murderous as they are, pale in comparison.

In kind, the geopolitical threat that has already been unleashed – remarkably with more support than opposition by the West – is the facilitation of an Iranian nuclear capability. With the overt and covert support of the Obama Administration – despite its denials – the Iranians were fast changing the rules of the game. Unless stopped forcibly in the next year or two, Iran will be in possession of the bomb. Correction: bombs.

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It’s been said by many, in various forms, that “hindsight is everyone’s favorite perspective.”  The problem is, few grasp when “it” is happening until “it” has happened.

Political analysts and pundits are seemingly in concert: the most disquieting crisis that confronts our world today is the realization that North Korea presents a horrifying threat that remains unchecked. It didn’t have to be.

When Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017, admitted this past week that the two-decade-old US strategy on preventing North Korea from obtaining a nuclear capability was a “failure,” our hindsight was offered some unclouded perspective.

And yet, it was her other comments that made us understand that the lessons of history remain unlearned. Rice, with a criticism directed at President Donald Trump, opined that pragmatism dictates that we should simply accept, and tolerate, a nuclear North Korea.  Worse was the quiet acquiescence:  “The fact of the matter is, that despite all of these efforts, the North Korean regime has been able to succeed in progressing with its program, both nuclear and missile. That’s a very unfortunate outcome; but we are where we are.” Rice added: “It will require being pragmatic.

Pause to laugh, and cry.

Trump, luckily, did not hire Rice as an adviser, and did what he thought was right.

In 1967, a couple of years before he achieved notoriety as the controversial founder and voice of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane coauthored a book – The Jewish Stake in Vietnam –  whose implications were largely ignored. One might still find it on the shelves of some antiquarian book store, but the book is largely lost. Its relevance, decades lately, offers food for serious thought.

While the book’s theoretical message was clear, the practical implications remain undeniable.

The radical rabbi argued that the anti-Vietnam war sentiment that had targeted the hearts and minds of a confused American population that was increasingly drawn to slogans of “peace,” “liberation,” and “democratic freedom” – would pressure its government to abandon an ally, South Vietnam. The implication, seemingly unthinkable even to Jewish liberals in the aftermath of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, was that if the United States could not stand firm in its commitment to support an ally in Southeast Asia, it would one day be willing to abandon its commitment to its only ally in the Middle East as well. Ergo, the Jewish state.

Times have changed, and with it, America’s foreign policy. Israel is no longer considered America’s only ally in a still-troubled Middle East. In fact, the United States counts many, mostly as a result of a misbegotten reinterpretation of what allies are, thanks in great measure to the US State Department’s purposeful redefinition of American interests in the region.

One recalls the comment most often attributed to Charles de Gaulle: “Nations don’t have friends, only interests.”

Despite the very strong relationship that ostensibly exists between President Trump and Israel – at great contrast with that of his predecessor – his State Department and the National Security Council are still adherents of ‘interests before friends’. And, they mistakenly and quite foolishly attribute American interests to the wrong side. Governed by the belief that the “occupied” territories and the settlements are the reason of the impasse to the conflict between Muslims and Jews, Trump is ready to dispatch his son-in-law to once again bridge the unbridgeable gap.

In an oil-thirsty world, the Muslim states (we include here of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran) seemed to have gained a leverage that was simply unthinkable in 1967. The Europeans seemed the first to turn the other cheek when Arab terror spread, still in its nascent stages – mostly one would think, because it was not their cheeks that were being most often slapped.

Over the years, the terror in Europe proliferated. And correlatively, so did the finger of blame that was directed at Israel. As long as the Muslim antipathy was directed at the Jewish State – and more telling, Jews everywhere – the Europeans would assuage the perpetrators. It was Israel that was called to make compromises, territorial and (axiomatically) ideological. The more threatening and damaging the terror, the more shrill the calls for Israeli capitulation.

Undeniably, the greatest threat to the ever-elusive peace in the Middle East, and the invariable spill-over of violence into a Europe that is fast becoming a battlefield, is the terror that so many of its nations have voluntarily imported with the jihadis who carry the torch of Islam.

For what it’s worth, future historians will judge the North Korean crisis as the less significant one of our generation – simply because China is able to control it. The more formidable and dangerous threat is the nuclearization of Iran. The occasional terror attacks in Europe, murderous as they are, pale in comparison.

In kind, the geopolitical threat that has already been unleashed – remarkably with more support than opposition by the West – is the facilitation of an Iranian nuclear capability. With the overt and covert support of the Obama Administration – despite its denials – the Iranians were fast changing the rules of the game. Unless stopped forcibly in the next year or two, Iran will be in possession of the bomb. Correction: bombs.

Meanwhile, the new Trump foreign policy team, despite its frequent criticism of the Obama-Iran nuke deal, has yet to do anything significant. Worse, it has twice certified that Iran remains compliant. Of a deal that Trump called “the worst in diplomatic history.”

Yes, allies are often sacrificed on the mantle of political expedience. The US national security apparatus prefers to call it pragmatism.

And count on it. Susan Rice will one day again be interviewed by the New York Times and CNN, in a joint appearance with President Trump’s National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, admitting another failure. This will be the statement that they will issue: “The fact of the matter is, that despite all of these efforts, the Iranian regime been able to succeed in progressing with its program, both nuclear and missile. That’s a very unfortunate outcome; but we are where we are.” McMaster, resplendent in his uniform and its military regalia, will add: “It will require being pragmatic.”

After all, we are where we are!

Today, despite the unmistakable danger that Iran poses to Israel directly, it is more than simply a Jewish stake. This is an American interest. The message is quite clear. The practical implications are quite ominous. Let us hope Trump deals with Iran as he is dealing with North Korea.

Pause to cry.

Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.

What Iran Replacing China as North Korea’s Global Best Friend Means to Us

July 29, 2017

What Iran Replacing China as North Korea’s Global Best Friend Means to Us, BreitbartJames Zumwalt, July 28, 2017

(Collaboration on Nukes and missiles between Iran and North Korea is clear and well documented. But why would Kim let Iran take the “glory” of nuking America? He can escape death by going to Iran for “consultation” shortly before one of his nukes hits America.– DM)

Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP / AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

What we must recognize, however, is that a North Korea capable of striking the US with nuclear weapons will result in nuclear conflict. Interestingly, this will not happen as a result of an attack initiated by Pyongyang. Kim is smart enough to understand the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) by which any nuclear attack he launched against the US would lead to his own annihilation—obviously an outcome no narcissistic despot desires.

It will lead to a nuclear conflict in which Kim intends not to be a party, but a spectator.

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The only thing more difficult than attempting to stop one rogue nation from acquiring nuclear weapons is attempting to stop two rogue nations collaborating to do so.

As we explore our options in shutting down North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, we must recognize we are also dealing with Iran’s programs, which have piggybacked upon Pyongyang’s. Ever since Iran’s war with Iraq (1980-1988), during which North Korea began providing Tehran with SCUD missiles, both countries nurtured a relationship that would allow them eventually to gain membership into the nuclear arms club.

In recent years, the evolution of this relationship has allowed Iran to step into the shoes of North Korea’s former and longtime best friend, China. It is also why China has been unresponsive to U.S. calls to reel Pyongyang in.

North Korea’s leadership behaves as if it has determined that it no longer needs China as its “big brother,” as Iran is committed to seeing Kim acquire a nuclear arsenal and delivery system for it. Tehran’s mullahs have not hesitated to use Pyongyang over the past several years as a test case for American resolve. As such resolve has been non-existent, Iran came to recognize it could move forward simultaneously and in coordination with Pyongyang.

Having developed this close working relationship, Iranian observers began showing up at North Korean military tests. It was also this relationship that led to North Korean technicians working secretly to build a nuclear facility in Syria. Its development was closely monitored by Israel which, after the U.S. refused to take action to stop construction, destroyed it in an air attack in September 2007.

Undoubtedly, this nuclear facility was yet another effort by Iran – this time using its Syrian proxy, President Bashir Assad – to test our resolve. While Tehran found ours lacking, Israel’s was not. One can only imagine, had Israel not destroyed it then, ISIS seeking to capture it later.

As we weigh what option to take with North Korea, we must recognize, first of all, decades of diplomacy and sanctions have never worked. Kim will only use any future diplomatic efforts to extract concessions, as has been done in the past, lulling us to believe the crisis is over when it is not. Kim will relentlessly continue his missile and nuclear program. His motivation for doing so is twofold: to achieve a nuclear deterrent and to add to his prestige as a world leader. He has vowed never to give up his nuclear program and, as such, would lose face in the eyes of his people if he does now.

What we must recognize, however, is that a North Korea capable of striking the US with nuclear weapons will result in nuclear conflict. Interestingly, this will not happen as a result of an attack initiated by Pyongyang. Kim is smart enough to understand the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) by which any nuclear attack he launched against the US would lead to his own annihilation—obviously an outcome no narcissistic despot desires.

It will lead to a nuclear conflict in which Kim intends not to be a party, but a spectator.

The North Korean strongman has received millions of dollars from the Iranians to continue his programs to develop nuclear weapons and a delivery system. Undoubtedly, much of this funding has come from the billions of dollars Obama sent the mullahs while negotiating the nuclear deal. Such weapons will then be acquired by Tehran as well. And, as firm believers in the eschatological Mahdi prophecy, the mullahs view MAD not as a threat to their existence but as a means of attaining their afterlife in Paradise.

For Kim, it is all about money and prestige. But if we fail to take military action to deny him his nuclear goal, we do need to forewarn him that any nuclear attack by Iran against the US or an ally will be deemed an attack by North Korea as well.

Unfortunately, at least nine U.S. presidents have believed reason ultimately would trump North Korea’s behavior. It has not. In fact, dozens of acts of aggression by its leadership against the U.S. and our allies have been documented in a 2007 report to Congress—from attacking and capturing a US Navy ship to shooting down a US military plane to assassinating South Koreans to kidnapping Japanese to sinking an ROK frigate—all failing to generate a military response. It has only emboldened additional bad behavior, leading today to a situation in which the Pyongyang/Tehran nexus has stacked the deck against us as our viable options can only be described as “lousy.” It now leaves us more threatened than ever before by a nuclear attack.

Sadly, threatening Kim’s personal survival in the event such an attack by Iran occurs may be the only card we have left to play.

Report: Iran Building Long-Range Ballistic Missiles in Syria

July 12, 2017

Report: Iran Building Long-Range Ballistic Missiles in Syria, Washinton Free Beacon , July 12, 2017

A long-range Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran on March 9, 2016. AFP / TASNIM NEWS / Mahmood Hosseini (Photo credit should read MAHMOOD HOSSEINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran is said to be building new long-range ballistic missiles at a Syrian weapons factory identified by the United States as developing non-conventional weaponry, according to regional reports alleging that Russia and North Korea are aiding in the endeavor.

The Syrian opposition news website Zamanalwsl.net recently published multiple reports and pictures of a weapons factory in Syria that it claims is under direct control of Iran.

The reports appear to confirm other recent news articles indicating that Iran has begun manufacturing advanced missile technology in Syria with permission from embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

The reports claim that Iran is constructing long-range ballistic missiles in a factory operating under the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, which the United States had identified as the key government agency behind the country’s contested non-conventional weapons work, including chemical weapons.

Assad is reported to have visited the Iranian factory recently, where he met with Iranian and Syrian weapons experts, according to a translation of the articles conducted by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

“The facility is producing long-range missiles as well as M600 ballistic missiles, which are a Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh 110 missile,” according to MEMRI’s readout of the report. “This facility has a branch in western Hama province for producing chemicals, and that that there is a Russian military base in the region, where North Korean officers once served.”

The facility is said to be shrouded in secrecy, despite evidence that agents from Russia, North Korea, and Iran are freely moving around the site.

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars

April 18, 2017

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars, The Australian, Michael Oren, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran. DM)

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

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The US has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes — Syria and North Korea — brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from Donald Trump. But the third agreement — with Iran — is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honouring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.

The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognised that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both ­assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.

All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed ­intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the US and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.

Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a US Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frame­­works and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of ­America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.

Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfil its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behaviour and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state: Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.

This, for Israel and our neighbouring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.

A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a ­future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime — which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009 — has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the present regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.

How can the US and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalising Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as UN restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate ­Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their ­tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire.

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

Michael Oren is Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, a member of the Knesset and a former ambassador to Washington.

What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran

April 18, 2017

What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran, Gatestone InstituteAlan M. Dershowitz, April 18, 2017

(The proposed legislation should explicitly authorise military action whenever Iran develops nukes; not merely after the Iran Scam permits their development. — DM

If we are not to make the same mistake with Iran that we made with North Korea, we must do something now – before Iran secures a weapon – to deter the mullahs from becoming a nuclear power, over which we would have little or no leverage.

Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran’s reaffirmation that it will never “develop or acquire nuclear weapons” is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States. It is too late to change the words of the deal, but it is not too late for Congress to insist that Iran comply fully with all of its provisions, even those in the preamble.

Congress should authorize the President “to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program if it were to cross the red lines….”

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We failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. As a result, our options to stop them from developing a delivery system capable of reaching our shores are severely limited.

The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before they became a nuclear power is that we MUST stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interests than a nuclear North Korea. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores. Its fundamentalist religious leaders would be willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to destroy the “Big Satan” (United States) or the “Little Satan” (Israel). The late “moderate” leader Hashemi Rafsanjani once told an American journalist that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, they “would kill as many as five million Jews,” and that if Israel retaliated, they would kill fifteen million Iranians, which would be “a small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world.” He concluded that “it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Recall that the Iranian mullahs were willing to sacrifice thousands of “child-soldiers” in their futile war with Iraq. There is nothing more dangerous than a “suicide regime” armed with nuclear weapons.

The deal signed by Iran in 2015 postpones Iran’s quest for a nuclear arsenal, but it doesn’t prevent it, despite Iran’s unequivocal statement in the preamble to the agreement that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added). Recall that North Korea provided similar assurances to the Clinton Administration back in 1994, only to break them several years later — with no real consequences. The Iranian mullahs apparently regard their reaffirmation as merely hortatory and not legally binding. The body of the agreement itself — the portion Iran believes is legally binding — does not preclude Iran from developing nuclear weapons after a certain time, variously estimated as between 10 to 15 years from the signing of the agreement. Nor does it prevent Iran from perfecting its delivery systems, including nuclear tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

 

If we are not to make the same mistake with Iran that we made with North Korea, we must do something now – before Iran secures a weapon – to deter the mullahs from becoming a nuclear power, over which we would have little or no leverage.

Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran’s reaffirmation that it will never “develop or acquire nuclear weapons” is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States. It is too late to change the words of the deal, but it is not too late for Congress to insist that Iran comply fully with all of its provisions, even those in the preamble.

In order to ensure that the entirety of the agreement is carried out, including that reaffirmation, Congress should adopt the proposal made by Thomas L. Friedman on 22 July 2015 and by myself on 5 September 2013. To quite Friedman:

“Congress should pass a resolution authorizing this and future presidents to use force to prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear weapons state … Iran must know now that the U.S. president is authorized to destroy – without warning or negotiation – any attempt by Tehran to build a bomb.”

I put it similarly: Congress should authorize the President “to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program if it were to cross the red lines….”

The benefits of enacting such legislation are clear: the law would underline the centrality to the deal of Iran’s reaffirmation never to acquire nuclear weapons, and would provide both a deterrent against Iran violating its reaffirmation and an enforcement authorization in the event it does.

A law based on these two elements — adopting Iran’s reaffirmation as the official American policy and authorizing a preventive military strike if Iran tried to obtain nuclear weapons — may be an alternative we can live with. But without such an alternative, the deal as currently interpreted by Iran will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In all probability, it would merely postpone that catastrophe for about a decade while legitimating its occurrence. This is not an outcome we can live with, as evidenced by the crisis we are now confronting with North Korea. So let us learn from our mistake and not repeat it with Iran.

Re-isolate Iran now

January 27, 2017

Re-isolate Iran now, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, January 27, 2017

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that one of the top items on his agenda for consultation with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next month is countering Iranian aggression. With good reason. The net result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been to foster Iran’s rise to regional hegemon.

While the JCPOA suspended a part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years, the ayatollahs see it as providing time to advance their centrifuge capability and regional sway.

In a Hoover Institution paper published this month, Professor Russell Berman and Ambassador Charles Hill call Iran a “de facto Islamic caliphate,” and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps an “Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces.”

They call former President Barack Obama’s declared goal — of finding and bolstering so-called moderates in Tehran via the JCPOA — an “illusion.” Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners, they write. It is a revolutionary theocracy masquerading as a legitimate state actor. So the first thing Trump must do is recognize the consistently hostile character of the regime.

Alas, Obama was obsessed from the advent of his presidency with making nice to Iran, and was willing to subordinate much of American foreign policy in service of that goal. He sent many secret letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that recognized the prerogatives of the Islamic republic and foreswore regime change. He cut funding to anti-regime groups and abandoned Iranian moderates during the early days of the Green Revolution in 2009, after the regime fixed an election. He effectively conceded Syria as within Iran’s sphere of influence.

In his penetrating book, “The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East,” Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon exposes the money trail that accompanied this strategic sellout to Iran. In exchange for talking, Obama gave the Iranians hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, stabilizing their economy. And in the end, Obama offered Iran a deal that legalized full-blown uranium, plutonium, and ballistic missile work on a timeline, and did not force the country to disclose its previous nuclear cheating. The deal also released roughly a hundred billion dollars to Iran; had American officials traveling to drum up business for Iran; and removed restrictions on a range of Iranian terrorists.

Along the way, the administration abandoned the powerful sanctions leverage it had over Iran. Solomon chronicles the ramp-up of severe banking sanctions on Iran that were having a disastrous impact on the Iranian economy. “Iran’s economy was at risk of disintegrating, the result of one of the most audacious campaigns in the history of statecraft. The country was months away from running short on hard currency. The budget had a $200 billion black hole. And the U.S. Treasury Department had made sure Iran had no way to recover. Iranian ships and airplanes were not welcome beyond Iran’s borders, and oil revenue was frozen in overseas accounts.”

And then, behold, Obama backed off. Administration officials all of a sudden claimed that tightening the noose on the Iranian economy would cause the sanctions policy to collapse! And Secretary of State John Kerry was sent to cut a sweet deal with Iran; a deal that squandered — and then reversed — a decade’s worth of effort to constrain Iran.

Now Trump must act to constrain Iran all over again.

Over the past year, Iran has intensified a pattern of aggression and increased its footprint across the region. Iranian advisers with Shiite militias from as far away as Afghanistan have flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean.

Khamenei says that Iran’s massive military presence (alongside Hezbollah) in Syria is a supreme security interest for the regime — a front line against Israel — and that Iran has no plans to leave.

This has grave implications for Israel. Netanyahu must demand of Trump (and Putin) to include the removal of all foreign forces, especially Iran, in any future agreement regarding Syria. This will be very difficult — especially since Russia has just signed a long-term agreement to greatly enlarge its military presence in Syria, including the port in Tartus and air base in Latakia.

Iran, too, is aggressively expanding its naval presence in the Red Sea region and eastern Mediterranean. Since 2011, it has been sending warships through the Suez Canal, and has used maritime routes to send arms shipments to Hizballah and Hamas. (Israel has intercepted five of these armament ships.) And in the Strait of Hormuz, IRGC speedboats have repeatedly engaged in provocative encounters with American warships, including the conduct of surprise live rocket fire exercises in proximity to U.S. Navy vessels.

Then there is Iranian terrorism. IRGC agents have been caught planning attacks on Israeli, American, British and Saudi targets in Kenya. Over the past five years, Iranian agents were exposed while planning to attack Israeli diplomats in Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Nigeria, Thailand and Turkey. Hezbollah operatives supported by Iran carried out the bus bombing of Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport.

Also: The detailing of Iranian terrorism in Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia could fill this entire newspaper.

Then there is Iran’s ballistic missile program. In December, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz sent a seven-page letter to three senior officials of the Obama administration, detailing his well-founded concerns that North Korea and Iran might be working together on developing nuclear missiles. (Not surprisingly, the Obama officials never answered.)

Cruz’s basic question was: Why does Iran, having promised not to make nuclear weapons, continue to pour resources into developing long-range ballistic missiles, including numerous missile tests this past year? If not for nuclear weapons, then for what?

The intrepid analyst Claudia Rosett continually has raised the suspicion that North Korea’s nuclear program is secretly doubling as a nuclear backshop for Iran. It’s very possible that the $1.7 billion in air-freighted cash that Obama granted Iran is being used to finance nuclear weapons and missile research in North Korea. It’s even possible that Iran may be bold enough to buy warheads from North Korea.

Only Washington can stop this, by re-isolating and pressuring Iran. Netanyahu should travel to Trump with a comprehensive plan to influence U.S. policy toward Iran, as well as plans for joint action against Tehran.

This should include an end to the secrecy surrounding many sections of the JCPOA. All side agreements should be disclosed relating to Iranian technology acquisitions, raw material quantities, uranium and plutonium enrichment levels, sanctions relief and financial transfers. Loopholes and exceptions made surreptitiously by Obama should be closed.

Penalties should be set firmly in place for Iran’s prohibited missile programs. (Such penalties do not exist in the JCPOA or in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.)

U.S. and Israeli resources should be pooled, in a renewed and formal U.S.-Israel agreement, to uncover and eliminate any undisclosed sites within Iran connected to nuclear weapons technology; to counter Iranian terror threats across the region; and to subvert any Iranian bases in Syria and Lebanon.

In fact, the U.S. and Israel should reach an accord on a basket of responses to Iranian violations and aggressions, including the placement of a military option against Iran’s nuclear program back on the table.

Trump and Netanyahu must together promulgate an approach for combating the malign influence and hegemonic ambitions of Iran.

New UN Security Council Resolution Strengthens Sanctions Against North Korea

December 1, 2016

New UN Security Council Resolution Strengthens Sanctions Against North Korea, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, December 1, 2016

kim

But Iran, freed of sanctions, is likely to be the spoiler.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2321 (2016) on November 30th. It condemns the North Korean (DPRK) regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while its people continue to suffer under inhumane conditions. The resolution strengthens previous UN-imposed sanctions on the DPRK in response to its fifth nuclear test conducted on September 9, 2016.

The prior resolutions have failed to slow, much less eliminate, the DPRK’s nuclear program involving the development and testing of both nuclear device and ballistic missile capabilities. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out in his remarks to the Security Council following the vote, “The Council first adopted a resolution on the DPRK nuclear issue in 1993. Twenty-three years and six sanctions resolutions later, the challenge persists.”

The new resolution is intended to put more of a financial squeeze on the DPKR regime than ever before by closing loopholes and cutting the DPRK off from sources of hard currency that can be used to fund its nuclear bomb and ballistic missile programs.

Most notably, the new resolution places tighter restrictions on the DPRK’s export of coal. There will now be an absolute cap on how much coal the DPRK can export per year, closing a loophole that had allowed an exemption from any coal export limitations so long as the transactions were determined to be exclusively for “livelihood” purposes. Member states must report all transactions promptly to the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, which is directed to monitor total volumes and notify states when the allowed quantities have been reached and all procurement of coal from the DPRK must end.

The binding export cap will potentially cut the DPRK’s largest export, coal, by approximately $700 million per year from 2015 (more than 60%). Considering the fact that China is the DPRK’s principal purchaser of coal, the new restrictions agreed to by China are significant if fully implemented.

In addition, the new resolution imposes further restrictions on the sale or transfer of copper and other non-ferrous metals. It also places a ban on the supply, sale or transfer from the DPRK of statues, which has proven to be a lucrative source of hard currency needed by the regime. The resolution contains travel bans and assets freezes directed to individuals and entities not previously listed for such punitive actions, who are determined to be involved in the development, production, and financing of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, as well as the DPRK coal and conventional arms trade. There are more dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods and technology that will be subject to the embargo covering transfers to and from the DPRK.  Strict new sanctions on the DPRK’s illicit transportation activities are imposed.  Inspections of cargo transiting to and from the DPRK by rail, sea, air and road are to be expanded. And the new resolution contains further measures to isolate the DPRK from the global financial system and to prohibit financial support for trade with the DPRK in the form of export credits, guarantees, insurance and the like.

Resolution 2321 emphasizes, for the first time, a human rights dimension beyond the DPKR’s proliferation activities – the need for the DPRK to respect and ensure the inherent dignity of people in its territory. It also warns the DPRK that it is subject to being suspended from its UN rights and privileges.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who led the negotiations of the text primarily with her Chinese counterpart, heralded the new resolution. She said it “imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK regime for defying this Council’s demands.” She admitted, however, that “No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Ambassador Power stressed that for the resolution to have any material impact on the DPRK’s behavior “all Member States of this United Nations must fully implement the sanctions that we have adopted today.” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while lauding the new resolution for including “the toughest and most comprehensive sanctions regime ever imposed by the Security Council,” reinforced Ambassador Power’s admonition. He warned that “sanctions are only as effective as their implementation. It is incumbent on all Member States of the United Nations to make every effort to ensure that these sanctions are fully implemented.”

The problem with such an expectation for full implementation by all member states is Iran, which is known to have a tight collaborative relationship with the DPRK to bolster both countries’ nuclear weapons and missile programs. Iran has flouted UN Security Council resolutions in the past aimed at its own nuclear program. And despite the nuclear deal under which Iran is expected to curtail its nuclear program, it is continuing the testing and development of ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons. When I raised the concern about Iran’s relationship with the DPRK to Ambassador Power after she delivered some brief remarks to the press, she refused to answer my question and walked away. It is not surprising in this case why she ducked my question. The concessions President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made in order to reach agreement with Iran on the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have provided a huge loophole for Iran and the DPRK to exploit together.

More specifically, the JCPOA contains a long “Specially Designated Nationals” list of individuals and entities that will no longer be subject to previously instituted nuclear-related sanctions. This delisting includes entities involved in supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, which Iran is now arguably freer to pursue thanks to other concessions offered by Obama and Kerry.

One of the entities removed from both the UN and U.S. sanctions lists is Bank Sepah, a large Iranian state-owned financial institution. Bank Sepah had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department back in 2007 for “facilitating Iran’s weapons program” and providing “support and services to designated Iranian proliferation firms.”   The bank had also been listed as an entity “involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities” in UN Security Council Resolution 1747.

In addition to supporting Iran’s own missile program, Bank Sepah has also been involved, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, in transferring large sums of money from Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization to a North Korean firm associated with the Korea Mining Development Trading Bureau (KOMID), “a North Korean entity designated for providing Iran with missile technology.”

The DPRK’s Tanchon Commercial Bank, which has been designated by the US and the UN Security Council for sanctions due to its suspected proliferation-related activities, has served as the financial arm for KOMID.  “Since 2005,” according to a statement issued several years ago by the Treasury Department, “Tanchon has maintained an active relationship with various branches of Iran’s Bank Sepah…the U.S. has reason to believe that the Tanchon-Bank Sepah relationship has been used for North Korea-Iran proliferation-related transactions.”

Bank Sepah now is no longer hobbled by sanctions as a result of the JCPOA and a follow-up Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA and terminating the previous UN sanctions resolutions against Iran. This means not only more funding for Iran’s missile program, which Iran is continuing to pursue without any consequences. It also means a potential source of hard currency for North Korea’s nuclear program – precisely the opposite of what Ambassador Power said was the intent of the new DPRK Security Council sanctions resolution. And this is only scratching the surface of how the unfreezing of billions of dollars of Iranian assets and removal of sanctions on Iranian entities involved in nuclear-related activities, which have had ties with North Korean entities involved in nuclear-related activities, will help accelerate the nuclear weapons and missile programs of both rogue regimes.

In short, for the Obama administration, “The one hand giveth; the other hand taketh away.” Hopefully, the new Trump administration will do a better job in connecting the dots in the dangerous collaborative relationship between Iran and the DPKR and undo the damage the Iran nuclear deal is likely to do in helping to further that relationship.