Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

Trump considers ending Iran deal ahead of key deadline

September 18, 2017

Trump considers ending Iran deal ahead of key deadline, Washinton ExaminerSarah Westwood, September18, 2017

The October benchmark will be the first recertification to occur without Bannon and Gorka, two strong opponents of the JCPOA, on the president’s team.

Gorka said he was unsure if anybody left in the West Wing is pushing for a full decertification of the Iran deal. But he noted Trump will ultimately make his own decision, regardless of their counsel.

“I think the president is an army of one,” Gorka said. “My prediction is the president will not want to recertify.”

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President Trump is weighing whether to nullify the Iran nuclear deal next month, as proponents of the agreement rally to its defense ahead of a key deadline that will force Trump to reevaluate its future.

The president faces pressure to fulfill his campaign promise to end the Iran nuclear agreement, which he has called the “worst deal ever negotiated.” Known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal requires the State Department to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is still complying with the agreement under the terms ironed out by the Obama administration in 2015.

Some top Trump aides have urged the president to preserve the Iran deal at the next 90-day mark in October. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have cautioned Trump against scrapping the JCPOA despite his deep skepticism of the agreement, a source familiar with the talks told the Washington Examiner.

But others close to the president have urged him to follow through on his threats to dismantle the deal and have attempted to craft a new strategy for dealing with Iran in the event Trump ends the JCPOA.

Sebastian Gorka, former strategist to the president, said Trump resisted the recertification process at the most recent 90-day deadline in July, when he requested more information from his aides about how he could end the agreement.

“The president didn’t want it recertified last time,” Gorka told the Washington Examiner.

The former White House adviser, who stepped down last month, suggested Trump did not undo the Iran deal this summer only because he had not yet received from his team a set of satisfying alternatives to the agreement.

“Last time, he didn’t do it because he hadn’t been given an adequate path, the scenario hadn’t been provided to him” to decertify the deal, Gorka said.

But soon after Trump requested a draft plan to dismantle the Iran deal, Gorka said he and another top aide tasked with overseeing the creation of the plan, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon left the West Wing and were unable to pass on their findings to the president.

“Those options were never presented to him because of Steve’s resignation and my resignation,” Gorka said.

Bannon had enlisted the help of at least one outside adviser to give Trump options should he choose to exit the Iran deal.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in a late August memo published in National Review that Bannon had approached him shortly after the most recent recertification and asked him to prepare a “game plan” for withdrawing from the JCPOA.

“[S]taff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible,” Bolton wrote of his Iran deal withdrawal plan. “Although he was once kind enough to tell me ‘come in and see me any time,’ those days are now over.”

Bolton’s memo advises Trump to conduct “early, quiet consultations,” beginning with private phone calls from the president, with key allies like Israel and countries that had signed onto the deal, such as France and Germany. Those early conversations should provide a friendly warning about the decision ahead and should help those countries understand why the administration was pulling back from the agreement, Bolton wrote. Then, Bolton advised Trump to undergo an expanded diplomatic campaign aimed at rallying support around the world for new sanctions against Iran once the deal was no longer in place.

Proponents of the JCPOA argue the independent inspections Iran must undergo as a condition of the deal have so far turned up no evidence of explicit violations, proving it has been a success. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the organization that perform the inspections, reportedly conducted more than 400 site visits in 2016 and has informed the international community that Tehran remains in compliance with limits on its centrifuges and uranium enrichment.

The Trump administration has publicly given little indication of where the president plans to go with the JCPOA in the coming weeks. Trump has already recertified the deal twice, although in April, he called for a sweeping review of whether the sanctions relief Iran won as part of the deal remains in the U.S. national interest.

“We’re continuing to conduct a full review of our Iran policy. That has certainly not changed,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Sept. 12. “During the course of the review — and I’ll say this again — that we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its malign activities.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley began earlier this month to make the administration’s case for breaking with the deal. Instead of focusing only on whether Iran remains within the parameters of the JCPOA, Haley argued, the U.S. should take a broader view of all Iranian provocations, including the activity of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, support for Hezbollah, and ballistic missile development, and decide on a more comprehensive Iran policy.

“The question of Iranian compliance is not as straightforward as many people believe,” Haley said during a speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Sept. 5. “It’s not just about the technical terms of the nuclear agreement. It requires a much more thorough look.”

The administration moved quickly to signal its low tolerance for Iranian aggression after Trump took office. By early February, Trump had sanctioned more than two dozen people and groups in response to a ballistic missile test Tehran conducted in late January, and his then-national security adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn, had announced that Trump planned to put Iran “on notice” over its provocations.

Trump’s State Department reissued waivers in May that continued to lift sanctions on Iran, which the Obama administration had granted in exchange for compliance with the JCPOA. But Trump also hit several Iranian individuals and entities in May with fresh sanctions related to their aggression outside the terms of the nuclear deal.

And the Trump administration issued a new round of sanctions in July aimed at IRGC-affiliated groups that had engaged in ballistic missile development, among other provocative activities.

Fred Fleitz, senior vice president for policy at the Center for Security Policy, said some critics of the deal have presented options that would keep the JCPOA in place while punishing Iran more severely for bad behavior outside of it.

“They’re trying to find a way to allow the president to do something so he can make a big announcement without pulling out,” Fleitz said of that camp, noting their overall objection for the recertification next month would be to “wrap this in a big, new, anti-Iran policy.”

“The jury is out on what the president is going to do,” Fleitz said.

But Trump has spent months excoriating the deal and blasting the Iranian regime for its aggression. Fleitz said it would make little sense for Trump to continue approving an agreement he has described as dangerous.

“I just think it’s ridiculous to say the deal’s not in our interest and stay in it,” Fleitz said.

Any effort to abrogate the JCPOA would face fierce opposition from the Iran deal’s supporters, all of whom characterize the agreement as the only thing standing between the regime and a nuclear weapon.

However, Trump would earn applause from some members of Congress for following through on his threats to Iran.

Republican lawmakers — including Sens. David Perdue, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio — have urged Trump to reconsider the suspension of sanctions at the heart of the Iran deal.

Less than a month before the next recertification deadline, one source close to the administration told the Washington Examiner that Trump is “leaning towards decertifying” the Iran deal.

The October benchmark will be the first recertification to occur without Bannon and Gorka, two strong opponents of the JCPOA, on the president’s team.

Gorka said he was unsure if anybody left in the West Wing is pushing for a full decertification of the Iran deal. But he noted Trump will ultimately make his own decision, regardless of their counsel.

“I think the president is an army of one,” Gorka said. “My prediction is the president will not want to recertify.”

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

August 28, 2017

How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, National Review, John R. Bolton, August 28, 2017

(A very dispiriting article appeared at MEMRI today. It notes that

Within three months, the U.S.’s position in the Middle East has changed from one of might and deterrence against Iran to one of weakness, retreat, and being deterred by Iran. This situation, of course, in no way reflects the real balance of power between the U.S. and Iran, neither generally nor regionally. It is an image created jointly by President Trump’s policies and Iran’s offensive approach.

. . . .

It is the approach of the Trump administration – which has agreed to Iran’s regional expansion, under the cover of the war on ISIS – that has prompted this huge shift in the attitude of Iran, which also is relying on Russian backing.

It appears that some in the National Security Council and elsewhere in the Trump administration have intentionally deprived President Trump of information he needs in order to deal resolutely with Iran and Iran scam. –DM)

Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred. But no such options were forthcoming, despite “a sharp series of exchanges” between the president and his advisers, as the New York Times and similar press reports characterized it. 

Many outside the administration wondered how this was possible: Was Trump in control, or were his advisers? Defining a compelling rationale to exit Obama’s failed nuclear deal and elaborating a game plan to do so are quite easy. In fact, Steve Bannon asked me in late July to draw up just such a game plan for the president — the option he didn’t have — which I did.

Here it is. It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement. There is no need to wait for the next certification deadline in October. Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity.

I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.

If the president is never to see this option, so be it. But let it never be said that the option didn’t exist.

I. Background:

The Trump Administration is required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the July 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — JCPOA), and that this agreement is in the national-security interest of the United States.1 While a comprehensive Iranian policy review is currently underway, America’s Iran policy should not be frozen. The JCPOA is a threat to U.S. national-security interests, growing more serious by the day. If the President decides to abrogate the JCPOA, a comprehensive plan must be developed and executed to build domestic and international support for the new policy. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, the President must certify every 90 days that:

(i) Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement, including all related technical or additional agreements;

(ii)  Iran has not committed a material breach with respect to the agreement or, if Iran has committed a material breach, Iran has cured the material breach;

(iii)  Iran has not taken any action, including covert activities, that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program; and

(iv)  Suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement is – (I)  appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and (II) vital to the national-security interests of the United States.

(I)  appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and

(II) vital to the national-security interests of the United States.

U.S. leadership here is critical, especially through a diplomatic and public education effort to explain a decision not to certify and to abrogate the JCPOA. Like any global campaign, it must be persuasive, thorough, and accurate. Opponents, particularly those who participated in drafting and implementing the JCPOA, will argue strongly against such a decision, contending that it is reckless, ill-advised, and will have negative economic and security consequences.

Accordingly, we must explain the grave threat to the U.S. and our allies, particularly Israel. The JCPOA’s vague and ambiguous wording; its manifest imbalance in Iran’s direction; Iran’s significant violations; and its continued, indeed, increasingly, unacceptable conduct at the strategic level internationally demonstrate convincingly that the JCPOA is not in the national-security interests of the United States. We can bolster the case for abrogation by providing new, declassified information on Iran’s unacceptable behavior around the world.

But as with prior Presidential decisions, such as withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty, a new “reality” will be created. We will need to assure the international community that the U.S. decision will in fact enhance international peace and security, unlike the JCPOA, the provisions of which shield Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop deliverable nuclear weapons. The Administration should announce that it is abrogating the JCPOA due to significant Iranian violations, Iran’s unacceptable international conduct more broadly, and because the JCPOA threatens American national-security interests.

The Administration’s explanation in a “white paper” should stress the many dangerous concessions made to reach this deal, such as allowing Iran to continue to enrich uranium; allowing Iran to operate a heavy-water reactor; and allowing Iran to operate and develop advanced centrifuges while the JCPOA is in effect. Utterly inadequate verification and enforcement mechanisms and Iran’s refusal to allow inspections of military sites also provide important reasons for the Administration’s decision.

Even the previous Administration knew the JCPOA was so disadvantageous to the United States that it feared to submit the agreement for Senate ratification. Moreover, key American allies in the Middle East directly affected by this agreement, especially Israel and the Gulf states, did not have their legitimate interests adequately taken into account. The explanation must also demonstrate the linkage between Iran and North Korea. We must also highlight Iran’s unacceptable behavior, such as its role as the world’s central banker for international terrorism, including its directions and control over Hezbollah and its actions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The reasons Ronald Reagan named Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 remain fully applicable today.

We must also highlight Iran’s unacceptable behavior, such as its role as the world’s central banker for international terrorism, including its directions and control over Hezbollah and its actions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The reasons Ronald Reagan named Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 remain fully applicable today.

II. Campaign Plan Components

There are four basic elements to the development and implementation of the campaign plan to decertify and abrogate the Iran nuclear deal: 1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian

1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian behavior, and seek their input. 2.     Prepare the documented strategic case for withdrawal through a detailed white paper (including declassified intelligence as appropriate) explaining why the deal is harmful to U.S. national interests, how Iran has violated it, and why Iran’s behavior more broadly has only worsened since the deal was agreed. 3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure

2.     Prepare the documented strategic case for withdrawal through a detailed white paper (including declassified intelligence as appropriate) explaining why the deal is harmful to U.S. national interests, how Iran has violated it, and why Iran’s behavior more broadly has only worsened since the deal was agreed. 3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure

3.     A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure continued emphasis on the Iran threat as a top diplomatic and strategic priority.

4.     Develop and execute Congressional and public diplomacy efforts to build domestic and foreign support.

III. Execution Concepts and Tactics

1.     Early, quiet consultations with key players It is critical that a worldwide effort be initiated to inform our allies, partners, and others about Iran’s unacceptable behavior. While this effort could well leak to the press, it is nonetheless critical that we inform and consult with our allies and partners at the earliest possible moment, and, where appropriate, build into our effort their concerns and suggestions. This quiet effort will articulate the nature and details of the violations and the type of relationship the U.S. foresees in the future, thereby laying the foundation for imposing new sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear and missile technology or dual use technology to Iran. With Israel and selected others, we will discuss military options. With others in the Gulf region, we can also discuss means to address their concerns from Iran’s menacing behavior. The advance consultations could begin with private calls by the President, followed by more extensive discussions in capitals by senior Administration envoys. Promptly elaborating a comprehensive tactical diplomatic plan should be a high priority.

2.     Prepare the documented strategic case The White House, coordinating all other relevant Federal agencies, must forcefully articulate the strong case regarding U.S. national-security interests. The effort should produce a “white paper” that will be the starting point for the diplomatic and domestic discussion of the Administration decision to abrogate the JCPOA, and why Iran must be denied access to nuclear technology indefinitely. The white paper should be an unclassified, written statement of the Administration’s case, prepared faultlessly, with scrupulous attention to accuracy and candor. It should not be limited to the inadequacies of the JCPOA as written, or Iran’s violations, but cover the entire range of Iran’s continuing unacceptable international behavior.

Although the white paper will not be issued until the announcement of the decision to abrogate the JCPOA, initiating work on drafting the document is the highest priority, and its completion will dictate the timing of the abrogation announcement.

A thorough review and declassification strategy, including both U.S. and foreign intelligence in our possession should be initiated to ensure that the public has as much information as possible about Iranian behavior that is currently classified, consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods. We should be prepared to “name names” and expose the underbelly of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard business activities and how they are central to the efforts that undermine American and allied national interests. In particular, we should consider declassifying information related to activities such as the Iran-North Korea partnership, and how they undermine fundamental interests of our allies and partners.

3.      Greatly expanded diplomatic campaign post-announcement

The Administration, through the NSC process, should develop a tactical plan that uses all available diplomatic tools to build support for our decision, including what actions we recommend other countries to take. But America must provide the leadership. It will take substantial time and effort and will require a “full court press” by U.S. embassies worldwide and officials in Washington to drive the process forward. We should ensure that U.S. officials fully understand the decision, and its finality, to help ensure the most positive impact with their interlocutors.

Our embassies worldwide should demarche their host governments with talking points (tailored as may be necessary) and data to explain and justify abrogating JCPOA. We will need parallel efforts at the United Nations and other appropriate multilateral organizations. Our embassies should not limit themselves to delivering the demarche, however, but should undertake extensive public diplomacy as well.

After explaining and justifying the decision to abrogate the deal, the next objective should be to recreate a new counter-proliferation coalition to replace the one squandered by the previous Administration, including our European allies, Israel, and the Gulf states. In that regard, we should solicit suggestions for imposing new sanctions on Iran and other measures in response to its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, sponsorship of terrorism, and generally belligerent behavior, including its meddling in Iraq and Syria.

Russia and China obviously warrant careful attention in the post-announcement campaign. They could be informed just prior to the public announcement as a courtesy, but should not be part of the pre-announcement diplomatic effort described above. We should welcome their full engagement to eliminate these threats, but we will move ahead with or without them.

Iran is not likely to seek further negotiations once the JCPOA is abrogated, but the Administration may wish to consider rhetorically leaving that possibility open in order to demonstrate Iran’s actual underlying intention to develop deliverable nuclear weapons, an intention that has never flagged.

In preparation for the diplomatic campaign, the NSC interagency process should review U.S. foreign-assistance programs as they might assist our efforts. The DNI should prepare a comprehensive, worldwide list of companies and activities that aid Iran’s terrorist activities.

4.      Develop and execute Congressional and public diplomacy efforts

The Administration should have a Capitol Hill plan to inform members of Congress already concerned about Iran, and develop momentum for imposing broad sanctions against Iran, far more comprehensive than the pinprick sanctions favored under prior Administrations. Strong congressional support will be critical. We should be prepared to link Iranian behavior around the world, including its relationship with North Korea, and its terrorist activities. And we should demonstrate the linkage between Iranian behavior and missile proliferation as part of the overall effort that justifies a national-security determination that U.S. interests would not be furthered with the JCPOA.

Unilateral U.S. sanctions should be imposed outside the framework of Security Council Resolution 2231 so that Iran’s defenders cannot water them down; multilateral sanctions from others who support us can follow quickly.

The Administration should also encourage discussions in Congress and in public debate for further steps that might be taken to go beyond the abrogation decision. These further steps, advanced for discussion purposes and to stimulate debate, should collectively demonstrate our resolve to limit Iran’s malicious activities and global adventurism. Some would relate directly to Iran; others would protect our allies and partners more broadly from the nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats, such as providing F-35s to Israel or THAAD resources to Japan. Other actions could include:

End all landing and docking rights for all Iranian aircraft and ships at key allied ports;

End all visas for Iranians, including so called “scholarly,” student, sports, or other exchanges;

Demand payment with a set deadline on outstanding U.S. federal-court judgments against Iran for terrorism, including 9/11;

Announce U.S. support for the democratic Iranian opposition;

Expedite delivery of bunker-buster bombs;

Announce U.S. support for Kurdish national aspirations, including Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Syria;

Provide assistance to Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs, Kurds, and others — also to internal resistance among labor unions, students, and women’s groups; Actively organize opposition to Iranian political objectives in the U.N.

IV. Conclusion

This effort should be the Administration’s highest diplomatic priority, commanding all necessary time, attention, and resources. We can no longer wait to eliminate the threat posed by Iran. The Administration’s justification of its decision will demonstrate to the world that we understand the threat to our civilization; we must act and encourage others to meet their responsibilities as well.

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1 Although this paper will refer to “the JCPOA,” the abrogation decision should also encompass the July 14, 2015, statement by the Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, attached as Annex B to Security Council Resolution 2231. The JCPOA is attached as Annex A to Resolution 2231.

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review

August 17, 2017

Nikki Haley Increasing Scrutiny of Iran Amid Nuclear Deal Review, Washington Free Beacon, August 17, 2017

(Please see also, President [of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions. Will Ambassador Haley discuss — or be permitted to review — the limitations imposed on the IAEA under the “secret agreements” between it and the Iranian regime?– DM)

Nikki Haley / Getty Images

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has ramped up pressure on Iran ahead of a trip to Vienna next week, where she will meet with international atomic watchdog officials concerning Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Haley on Tuesday rejected threats from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who warned the country could walk away from its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States continued to impose new sanctions.

Rouhani said recently enacted sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program violated its pact with the United States and five other world powers, which aimed to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions related to the program.

Haley said the sanctions were separate from the deal and were instead imposed “to hold Iran responsible for its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”

“Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage,” Haley said in a statement directed at Rouhani. “The nuclear deal must not become ‘too big to fail.'”

Earlier this month, the United States, backed by Britain, France, and Germany, demanded the UN Security Council take action against Iran after the Islamic Republic launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space in late July.

The group, spearheaded by Haley, warned in a letter to the council that the Iranian missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear warhead” and therefore violated an international resolution.

Under UN Security Council resolution 2231, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from conducting “any activity” related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, “including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The Trump administration, which previously accused Rouhani’s government of failing to comply with the “spirit” of the nuclear deal, swiftly imposed sanctions on six Iranian companies for their role in the country’s ballistic missile program in response to the rocket launch.

Haley will meet next week with members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the deal, as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate the extent of Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The trip is part of a policy review ordered by President Donald Trump in April to evaluate Iran’s adherence to the 2015 agreement. The administration said the review will be completed before the deal is up for recertification in October.

If Trump rejects certification, his administration can reapply sanctions that were suspended under the pact.

Similar to Trump, Haley has repeatedly criticized the deal for empowering Iran and Russia while handicapping U.S. leverage over the Rouhani regime.

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.

President [of Iran]: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions

August 15, 2017

President: Iran Could Swiftly Return to Pre-JCPOA Conditions, Tasnim News Agency, (Iranian), August 15, 2017

(This appears to be an acknowledgment that — despite the JCPOA or because of its gaping loopholes —  Iran has continued its development of nuclear weapons and/or that its collaboration with North Korea has continued to flourish. Thanks again, President Reject Obama. — DM)

If the US opts to repeat its previous experiences, Iran will be capable of returning to conditions “much more advanced” in comparison to the pre-negotiations era in a short time – not a week or a month but within hours, he added.

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TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Should the US government decide to repeat the failed experience of imposing sanctions on Iran, Tehran can immediately acquire capabilities in its nuclear industry that would be much more advanced than those prior to the JCPOA negotiations, Iran’s president said.

The new US administration should know that failure of Washington’s policy of anti-Iran sanctions prompted it to go to the negotiating table with Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, in an address to a parliamentary session to defend his proposed list of ministers.

If the US opts to repeat its previous experiences, Iran will be capable of returning to conditions “much more advanced” in comparison to the pre-negotiations era in a short time – not a week or a month but within hours, he added.

Describing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany), as a symbol of peace and diplomacy’s victory over war and unilateralism, President Rouhani underscored that the JCPOA is not and will not be “the only option” for Iran.

He also pointed to US president’s repeated threats of ripping up the nuclear deal, saying Trump has been advised by his aides to accuse Iran of violating the spirit of the JCPOA for fear of US isolation in the international community in case of abandoning the nuclear deal.

Despite US claims, President Rouhani noted, seven reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency have confirmed Iran’s full commitment to the JCPOA.

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran?

July 19, 2017

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran? Gatestone InstituteHassan Mahmoudi, July 19, 2017

(Vocal support for regime change would be good. Declaring that Iran has violated the JCOPA, now that Iran has received all of the financial benefits from America that it will get, would be merely a symbolic gesture. — DM)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

American leadership expert John C. Maxwell defines a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” During his two terms in the highest office in the world, former U.S. President Barack Obama failed at all three, with disastrous consequences.

There is no realm in which Obama’s lack of leadership was more glaring than that of foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. His combination of action and inaction — pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran at all costs, while simultaneously adopting a stance of “patience” with and indifference to Tehran’s sponsorship of global terrorism and foothold in Syria — served no purpose other than to destabilize the region and weaken America’s position.

While hotly pursuing the nuclear accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and U.S.-led world powers in July 2015 — Obama enabled the regime in Tehran to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad in starving and slaughtering his people (with chemical weapons, among others) into submission. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama’s passivity, and the $1.7 billion his administration transferred to Tehran upon the inking of the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic was able to dispatch its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to recruit and train Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Syria, as well as militias in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.

Today, two years after the signing of the JCPOA, and six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, there is a growing rift between America and Europe over implementation of the deal, which officially went into effect in January 2016. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been wavering on whether to remain committed to the deal, which his administration and members of Congress claim has been violated repeatedly by Iran. The U.S. also has maintained certain sanctions, over Iran’s ballistic-missile tests, human-rights abuses and sponsorship of global terrorism.

European countries, however, have taken a very different approach, pointing to International Atomic Energy Organization reports confirming Iran’s compliance, and rushing to do business in and with Tehran.

At a ceremony on July 14, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the JCPOA a “success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver,” adding, “This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, that expects all sides to keep the commitments they took two years ago”

Meanwhile, when reports emerged about Trump being “likely” to confirm on July 17 that Iran has been complying with the deal — and because the law requires that both the president and secretary of state re-certify the deal every three months — four Republican senators sent a letterto Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with a copy to Trump, urging him not to do so.

The letter reads, in part:

“…In April, you certified Iran’s compliance for the first 90-day period of the Trump administration. That certification was understandable, given the need to grant time for the interagency review of the JCPOA that you described in the certification letter you sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“But now … U.S. interests would be best served by a sober accounting of Iran’s JCPOA violations … of regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology, and oppress the Iranian people. Iran’s aggression directly targets the United States…a continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran’s belligerence… German intelligence agencies in 2015 and 2016 reported that Iran continued illicit attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels.

“… Perhaps most concerning is Iran’s refusal to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities. International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) inspectors are entitled to visit any location in Iran to verify compliance with the JCPOA’s ban on nuclear weapons development. However, Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors physical access and other forms of access makes it possible-if not highly probable, given Iran’s history of duplicity-that it is concealing additional violations of the JCPOA.

“…it is highly questionable whether the United States can under current arrangements ever gain high confidence that Iran’s nuclear-weapons development has indeed ceased. …”

The senators are correct. Iran never had, nor has to this day, any intention of forfeiting its bid for regional and global hegemony.

Nevertheless, Trump decided, after all, to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Ahead of his doing so, however, the administration issued a series of reassurances — in the form of talking points — that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on Iranian government entities and individuals, to punish the regime for its nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, these include ballistic-missile development, support for terrorism and the Assad regime, cyber-attacks against U.S. targets, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of American citizens and others.

A few months into the current administration in Washington, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps strategist Hassan Abbasi boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American military and vulnerable targets:

“If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons. … It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerrilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

It was Obama’s refusal to recognize, let alone acknowledge, this Iranian ambition that led to his utter appeasement of Tehran and subsequent signing of the JCPOA. It is up to Trump to do more than merely keep the nuclear accord at bay by leaving certain sanctions in place — or even canceling it.

Hassan Abbasi, a strategist for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, recently boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American targets: “If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons…” (Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

At the annual “Free Iran” rally, held in Paris on July 1, 2017, an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries gathered to call for a renewed effort to topple the regime in Tehran. Members of the U.S. delegation to the event — among them former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq General George Casey — issued a joint statement saying, in part:

“We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition.”

Let us hope that Trump takes heed and turns out to be the leader who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations

July 18, 2017

Iran may withdraw from N-deal for “US violations, DEBKAfile, July 18, 2017

(Why not? Iran has already received all of the substantial U.S. financial benefits of the Iran Scam. Withdrawal would allow Iran to pursue its nuclear objectives without the minor conveniences of trying to hide them. Please see also, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: On Course, Underground, Uninspected. — DM)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told a National Interest interview Tuesday: “If it comes to a major [US] violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” This was his rejoinder to the Trump administration’s statement in certifying that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal while “in default of its spirit.”